The debate shouldn’t be over whether to be proud of our history, but over what parts to be proud of

The problem with people in politics who most talk about wanting to be proud of our country’s past is what they choose to be proud of.

There are many things to be proud of, and even look back fondly on. Such as the way the government after 1945 gave a permanent home in the UK to so many Poles (and in defiance of public opinion at the time).

Or the way Britain in the nineteenth century was so often a safe home for political refugees fleeing from authoritarian governments.

Or the pioneering use of data and mapping to understand public health issues over cholera.

Or even the role of highly innovative meteorological work, using science to better understand nature and so help get the timing of D-Day right.*

So it’s really weird how those who talk most about wanting to be proud of our past don’t pick the examples of tolerance, science, public health and the like but instead seem so often drawn to the far less admirable parts of our past.

We can be proud of many things in our history if we are also wise in what we pick.


* The full story about the competing different meteorology theories that were behind big debates over the weather forecast to give Eisenhower ahead of D-Day is fascinating. Some of it featured in an excellent West End play, though the play’s necessary simplifications wrote out of the story the brilliant renegade Norwegians.

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3 responses to “The debate shouldn’t be over whether to be proud of our history, but over what parts to be proud of”

  1. I disagree. I think we should acknowledge our history and how it has affected our today but we did not do those things so why should we be proud or apologise?

    I will happily join in our many traditions but I did not allow the Poles in after WW2 nor did I abandon those who remained to subjugation of Soviet Russia – despite our reason for going to war being to protect Poland.

    Neither pride nor despair at the actions of previous inhabitants of this land belong to me but perhaps a duty to learn from their triumphs and disasters.

      • Pride in oneself.
        Pride in those we love, including our parents and grandparents.
        Love of country, pride in its achievements, our defeat of totalitarianism in WW2, pride in the welfare state, NHS, universal suffrage, abolition of slavery.
        Pride in humanity, the good that many, many people have achieved in all walks of life.
        Yet, pride should not be blind, populist, nationalistic, imperialist.
        Pride should be accompanied by an honest appraisal of history.
        Learn from the past, create a better future.

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