Saturday, 27 February 2021

Euphemisms about British History

There's so much coded language in this piece from the Times February 24 that I can't pick out the nuggets.

Ministers will set up a working group to draw up guidelines for heritage bodies to implement a “retain and explain” policy for contested monuments.

The announcement followed talks with 25 organisations, including the National Trust, English Heritage and the British Museum.

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, had been expected to use the closed meeting to urge curators not to be selective in their portrayals of British history or to denigrate the country’s past. He discussed the government’s position that memorials linked to slavery or colonialism should be contextualised rather than taken down.

Afterwards a spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “This was a very useful conversation about how we work together to protect our heritage for future generations. We will now set up a working group to produce national guidelines on how culture and heritage bodies can put the government’s ‘retain and explain’ policy into practice so that more people can engage in our shared past.”

The meeting follows months of dispute and protests over portrayals of Britain’s imperial past. The retain and explain policy will be backed by legislation previously announced by Robert Jenrick, the local government secretary, who said that the rules would save monuments from “baying mobs” backed by “town hall worthies and woke militants”.

A number of memorials to figures linked to the slave trade or empire have been taken down since last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and hundreds of others, including to Sir Francis Drake, Winston Churchill and Lord Nelson, have been named on an online “hit list”.

Hilary McGrady, director-general of the National Trust, which was criticised by Conservative MPs over a recent report on its properties’ historic ties to slavery and colonialism, said that yesterday’s meeting had been “a helpful and productive discussion about the challenges and opportunities we all face when exploring and communicating our history”.

Some heritage professionals have expressed dismay, however, over the government interventions, suggesting that organisations would lose funding if they did not toe the line. This week the Prospect, PCS and FDA unions wrote to Sir Ian Blatchford, convenor of the National Museum Directors’ Council, saying that their members in the heritage sector were deeply worried by ministers’ “seeming desire to ride roughshod over the arms-length principle”.

Blatchford, director of the Science Museum Group, said yesterday that the talks had been a “timely exchange about the importance of telling a balanced and well-researched history of Britain” and a moment to dispel “mischief-making” about the event. He said that the independence of museums was not at issue.

The meeting came after a museum chairman said that they had to consider taxpayers’ views on colonial history and not only “strident voices”. Samir Shah, of the Museum of the Home in east London, said the “vociferous” calls to topple statues were drowning out other voices and the culture secretary was justified to remind state-funded institutions that “we have an obligation and a duty to the taxpayer”.

Shah told the BBC that he did not agree that Dowden was covertly threatening to withdraw money from state-funded institutions.

On the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Kim Wagner, professor of global and imperial history at Queen Mary University of London, said he thought it was a “quite disturbing intervention” by Dowden. He said that the minister had felt that it was the duty of museums to “essentially present a narrative that makes British people feel proud”. That would result in a “whitewash version of history”.
Mark Bridge, David Sanderson

Why does the government want us all to feel "proud"? What is worth all this obvious propaganda?


baying mobs:
town-hall worthies: jumped-up minor functionaries with too much power
denigrate the country's past, mischief-making:
mention Britain's involvement in the slave trade
strident, shrill, vociferous: left-wing, wrong
tax-payers: Tory voters

More euphemisms here, and here.

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