‘Heroes into zeroes'? The politics of (not) teaching England's imperial past

2017-06-29T08:56:46Z (GMT) by Peter Yeandle
© 2014 Taylor & Francis.This article revisits the fiercely contested national curriculum history debates of the 1980s and 1990s. Although these debates have been subject to intense academic scrutiny, from educationists and historians alike, too little attention has been paid to the various assumptions about the inclusion (or exclusion) of hero figures in the curriculum. The article situates debate about heroes in the context of both late twentieth-century educational reform and wider historiographical analyses of Britain's (or, better put, England's) perceptions of itself as a post-imperial power. In the battle to define the content of school history, certain commentators invoked hero figures to help press their cause. What becomes clear from analysis of media intervention, however, is an ambiguity about the place and cultural/political purpose of specifically ‘imperial’ heroes. This ambiguity, I argue, reflects contemporary unease about how to confront the imperial past.