Are we really entitled to lecture Britain about remembering?

It is intellectually lazy to cast British history as a malign story of imperialism

President Michael D Higgins talks of the ‘uncomfortable interrogations’ he and the nation have gone through in understanding the forces that shaped Ireland. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

President Michael D Higgins talks of the ‘uncomfortable interrogations’ he and the nation have gone through in understanding the forces that shaped Ireland. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Books about the British Empire are flooding shelves; debates about the propriety of tearing down monuments to slave owners erupted over the summer; in Ireland questions of how best to commemorate centenaries gather momentum. History is in vogue, so to speak.

We have even been granted new knowledge about the history of pestilence: How many of us knew before last year the death toll of the 1918 Spanish flu? Or how familiar were we with the plague that decimated the population of Athens in 430 BC, claiming the great statesman Pericles?

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