Historians urge Home Office to correct slavery information in citizenship test

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More than 180 historians have urged the government to review its citizenship test – arguing it glosses over colonialism, overlooks the role of colonised people in the building of Britain and misrepresents the nation’s role in the Atlantic slave trade.

The Life in the UK test has formed a core part of citizenship applications since 2005 when it was introduced by the then-Labour government.

However academics have warned the research material provided for those looking to gain citizenship is “fundamentally misleading and in places demonstrably false” in an open letter published in the journal History. “This official, mandatory version of history is a step backwards in historical knowledge and understanding”, the letter states “Historical knowledge is and should be an essential part of citizenship. Historical falsehood and misrepresentation, however, should not.”

Among the areas of contention is the claim in the text that “While slavery was illegal within Britain itself, by the 18th century it was a fully established overseas industry”, with the historians arguing “ In fact, whether slavery was legal or illegal within Britain was a matter of debate in the eighteenth century, and many people were held as slaves”.

“It also states that ‘by the second part of the 20th century, there was, for the most part, an orderly transition from Empire to Commonwealth, with countries being granted their independence’. “In fact, decolonisation was not an ‘orderly’ but an often violent process, not only in India but also in the many so-called ‘emergencies’ such as the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya”.

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