top of page

There is no public appetite for erasing British history - by David Abulafia for the Telegraph

The appetite for renaming buildings, libraries, streets and institutions with a 'suspect' history continues apace according to David Abulafia in an article for the Telegraph on the 4th December. Ironically, the entire exercise, taken to its logical conclusion, becomes entirely self-defeating as well as wildly impractical:

"If people’s names are forgotten, what will happen to the memory of the acts of which they are accused? Actually, it is physically impossible to excise their names. Take the case of libraries. In Oxford, the Fellows of All Souls, who include some of the cleverest people in the land, seem to have forgotten that each and every book acquired before Codrington’s name was removed from the great library he endowed carries his name on the book plate."

The Seeley historical library in Cambridge is under similar pressure to change its name. Its founder, Sir John Seeley was a nineteenth century Regius Professor of History, remembered only for his remark that the British Empire was acquired 'in a fit of absence of mind.'

"No students ever noticed that his motto, emblazoned on the glass doors of the library, is IMPERIUM ET LIBERTAS, ‘Empire and Freedom’, but of course even elementary Latin has not been required for admission to Cambridge for over half a century. Is every volume to have all its book stamps solemnly blotted out with cleansing fluid?"

The only people who 'win' in this destructive re-naming process are the branding companies. Yet the implications are very serious for all of us as the author can testify:

“The dragon in Cambridge Post Office who recently, in defiance of Royal Mail rules, refused to hand over a parcel addressed to my wife because I showed her a utility bill in my name, but not hers, will have even more cause to hold on to mail addressed to a street that no longer exists. And this problem will then be replicated thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of times, in homes, shops and offices across the country.”

The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:

Article for the Telegraph by David Abulafia - There is no public appetite for erasing Brit
Download • 51KB

The Seeley Historical Library

38 views1 comment
bottom of page