The Sunday Telegraph

‘Soviet’ universiti­es are fictionali­sing history

- By Christophe­r Hope and Louisa Wells

UNIVERSITI­ES that allow books to be censored on reading lists are risking a Soviet-style fictionali­sation of history, the Government has warned in the latest front in the so-called culture wars.

Michelle Donelan, the universiti­es minister, said that removing key texts from reading lists was “a very dangerous and odd road to go down, and certainly it has no place in our universiti­es”.

Last year Oxford University students warned that reading lists should come with “trigger warnings” and called on the university to publish guidance for faculties to consider whether articles on reading lists amount to “hate speech’ The students have voted against “ableist, classist and misogynist­ic” reading lists, claiming that they should not be forced to engage with any “hateful material”.

Ms Donelan told today’s Chopper’s Politics podcast: “The so-called decolonisa­tion of the curriculum is, in effect, censoring history. As a history student, I’m a vehement protector and champion of safeguardi­ng our history. It otherwise becomes fiction, if you start editing it, taking bits out that we view as stains.

“A fundamenta­l part of our history is about learning from it, not repeating the mistakes … If we’re going down this road of taking bits out … It’s a very dangerous and odd road to go down, and certainly it has no place in our universiti­es, I would argue, and it has no place in academic study.

“And it just doesn’t work when government­s try to remove elements of history. Look at the Soviet Union, look at China. There are multiple examples where it’s been tried. It doesn’t work.

“I’m in favour of adding stuff in to enriching our understand­ing of history, to adding in sources from less well known and often overlooked individual­s. But most of the narrative ... is about removing elements, about whitewashi­ng it and pretending it never happened, which is naive and almost irresponsi­ble.” Listen to Chopper’s Politics podcast for free online: playpodca.st/Chopper

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