Britain’s departure from the European Union has regrettably re-ignited a sense of love, admiration and longing for its long-lost empire amongst its public and right-wing politicians. There has been, for instance, talk of “Empire 2.0” and the need to influence the Commonwealth nations to instil Western, liberal values in the former colonies. While the intention to remove archaic laws from the former colonies’ constitutions and thereby to liberalise them may be good in intention on the surface level; however, it is a flawed, ignorant and ill-conceived view in practice. A majority of people in the UK, for example, believe that the British Empire is “something to be proud of”. According to a YouGov survey, 59 per cent of British people think that people should be proud of its colonial history as opposed to 19 per cent who think that it is “something to be ashamed of”. Critics of Britain’s colonial history have argued that these statistics explicitly illustrate the lack of understanding of its own past amongst the public. “The British public is woefully ignorant of the realities of the British empire, and what it meant to its subject people,” wrote Shashi Tharoor, an Indian politician and former Under-Secretary-General at the UN, in his book, Inglorious Empire — What the British Did to India. As a student in the British education system, I can certainly attest to Shashi Tharoor’s judgement. From my early school days, I remember that the only negative colonial aspect which is taught in schools is that of slavery. While it is applaud able to see that the inhumane horrors of slavery are taught, it is simply not sufficient. All of the other adverse effects are simply brushed under the carpet — out of sight and away from daylight. Most importantly, there is no time and effort put into teaching people about the horrors of the British Raj in the Indian subcontinent. Instead, they dwell only on the positive facts that they introduced newspapers, the English language and parliamentary democracy to their former colonies. Dictatorship or democracy, parliamentary system or presidential system, codified constitutions or uncodified ones — these are some of the most pressing dilemmas former colonies are still pondering over to this day. The blame for this lies squarely with British imperialism. Nations usually arrive at a golden stage after centuries of experimentation. They try out different systems of governance and a gradual change in values occurs through internal tension. The Indian subcontinent was, however, denied this opportunity as they could not experiment. Unfortunately, they were dictated and denied the opportunity to test out different ways of living. Additionally, there is very little talk about how the economies of colonised nations were destroyed. Little attention is invested in the fact that countries were looted of their wealth and that they were stripped of their right to self-determination. For instance, Britain’s industries became a success largely due to the destruction of Indian industries, but there is no expression of sorrow. Instead, the reality of the British Raj in India is distorted and romanticised through programmes such as India Summers, a TV series that certainly contributed to the revived nostalgic view towards the empire. Very little thought is given to the fact that Britain’s industrial revolution was a success at the expense of colonised nations’ economies. Towards the beginning of the British Empire, India represented 23 per cent of the world’s economy, but towards the end, that figure only stood at a ghastly three per cent Not once would one hear the analysis of how badly the Indian economy was destroyed by harmful economic policies. Towards the beginning of the British Empire, India represented 23 per cent of the world’s economy, but towards the end, that figure only stood at a ghastly three per cent, as per Angus Maddison, a British historian. Not much time is spent discussing the fact that the colonised nations were taxed exclusively to fill the state treasury back home. Very little thought is given to the fact that Britain’s industrial revolution was a success at the expense of colonised nations’ economies and the input of the Commonwealth nations in Britain’s war effort is significantly downplayed. The fact that the contribution of India’s resources and effort is not adequately acknowledged is personally disheartening as some of my own ancestors fought in the British Indian Army in Burma, a war that was exclusively fought for imperial interests. Rather than contributing to the ignorance of the public’s understanding of colonial history, politicians should instead implement initiatives to educate people about the country’s shameful past. “The past informs the present,” wrote Cara Black, an American writer. It is therefore pivotal that the British public must be aware of its past to be able to make sound decisions as it leaves the European Union in the present moment. Otherwise, people will regret the present due to their distorted understanding of the past. The writer is the author of Diary of a Foreigner: Thoughts on Brexit. He Tweets at @muhammedRaza786 and can be contacted at muhammedHussain1998@gmail.com Published in Daily Times, July 15th 2018.