Rosa Legeno-Bell, the founder of Diverse History — “the home of diverse educational consultancy and tutoring” — has two new projects, each promoting a more diverse history curriculum, for children of primary school age to enjoy and engage with. The projects bring new perspectives to England’s and Britain’s history of engagement with African people going back to Tudor times, the subsequent involvement of Africans in the British Empire and the impact of Britain’s involvement specifically on the culture and peoples of Benin. Both projects offer an opportunity for all children — whatever their ethnic background — to better understand the diverse society that is modern Britain.
Population figures for England and Wales in 2011 — the most recent census data available — confirm the increasing diversity of people living in twenty-first century Britain:
It is evidence such as this, of a country more diverse than ever, that makes it imperative that all children of primary school age become familiar with Britain’s long history of involvement with peoples from other continents and cultures.
I have an interest in the city of Liverpool. A Scotsman by birth, I settled in Liverpool very many years ago and delved into its fascinating history, a hugely important aspect of which is the slave trade, which operated out of Liverpool, shipping goods to Africa, slaves to the Americas and cotton back home — bringing enormous wealth to the city and region.
It is little wonder that the Liverpool black community is, according to the National Museums Liverpool website, “the oldest in Europe. In the 1750s black settlers included sailors, freed slaves and student sons of African rulers. Despite challenges, black presence has grown and contributed to all aspects of Liverpool life.”
Liverpool also has the oldest Chinese community in Europe, dating back to the 1830s, through the employment of Chinese sailors and trade links with China. And Liverpool’s demographic now encompasses people from many different ethnic backgrounds — Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, black African, black Caribbean, Chinese, white British, white Irish and what is commonly referred to in officialese as ‘White Other’.
Diverse history reinforces the fact of Britain as a multi-ethnic society, with people from all backgrounds contributing to the rich diversity that is Britain today. Britain is also a democracy, the definition of which is power invested in all its citizens to the greater good and harmony of all in a society where all have equal rights under the law. But more than this, every individual in the society has a contribution to make in welcoming, respecting and benefiting from the diversity of its peoples, whatever their ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or social standing. Every individual has a role to play in implementing the spirit of the law.
The image of the Benin Bronzes at the head of this article is from the British Museum.