More than 180 historians have asked the Home Office to remove a section of the UK citizenship test which gives “demonstrably false” information about slavery and the British Empire.
In an open letter, signatories said the Life in the UK Test study handbook does not “promote tolerance and fairness and facilitate integration” and “historical misrepresentation should not be officially sponsored by the state”.
The statement was posted by the Official Journal of the Historical Association and was backed by 13 fellows of the British Academy.
“The official handbook published by the Home Office is fundamentally misleading and in places demonstrably false,” it said.
“People in the colonies and people of colour in the UK are nowhere actors in this official history. The handbook promotes the misleading view that the empire came to an end simply because the British decided it was the right thing to do.
“Similarly, the abolition of slavery is treated as a British achievement, in which enslaved people themselves played no part. The book is equally silent about colonial protests, uprisings and independence movements.”
The letter claims that the handbook falsely states that by the 20th century there was an “orderly transition from empire to Commonwealth”.
However, the signatories said the decolonisation process was often wrought with violence and gave the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya as an example.
The statement continued: “The aim of the official handbook is to promote tolerance and fairness and facilitate integration. In its current version, the historical pages do the opposite.
“As historians, we believe in debate, but interpretations of the past have to be based on facts. The distortion of the past is a challenge to democratic culture and liberal values.
“Historical misrepresentation should not be officially sponsored by the state.
“We, therefore, urge the Home Office to review the ‘Life in the UK Test’ as a matter of urgency. Until the history chapter has been corrected and rewritten, it should be formally withdrawn from the test.”
The letter ended by asking more people “from all members of the historical profession at any stage of their career” to put their name to the statement.