The sun may never set on British misconceptions about our empire

But then what could our teachers have said? Empire was an uncomfortable subject. By the 1950s, an approach that stressed glorious conquest and the benefits of British rule was no longer tenable, and not only for moral reasons. What had been bloodily won was now being lost, usually peacefully but sometimes not, no matter that we would all be friends in the equitable-sounding Commonwealth. National decline would have been an unhappy theme in the classroom. Rather than this awkward mixture of past and present – one that might intimately involve us – it was safer to concentrate on the sufferings of the Paris commune.

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