Regrets, I’ve had a few…

Originally written for cross posting to Cliopatria, except that their system doesn’t seem to have been updated to let me in yet, so just here for the moment….

For any history blogger, Cliopatria is both a byword and an example. It was an honour, therefore, to be asked to join the Cliopatrians – a bit like going to see a band and then having them ask you to join them for a set. Scary too, of course, since the number and range of readers are so much greater than I’d normally get on this blog.

Fortunately, Tony Blair decided to provide me with suitable material, with an official expression of regret  for Britain’s part in the slave trade. Here, my colleague Tristram Hunt argues that this is an appropriate gesture. It is a necessary precursor to a celebration of Britain’s abolition of slavery – but it is a sad measure of this Government that, just as with the less logically coherent pardon being prepared for those executed in the First World War, one’s immediate response is to question what bad news is being hidden.

The growing field of specialist online exhibitions set up by museums and galleries would repay some study. The particular advantages of a permanent exhibit which can incorporate a range of material are well demonstrated by this exhibition of Second World War images from Britain’s National Archives. The selection of pictures commissioned by the Ministry of Information to celebrate Victoria Cross winners has some interesting implications for the ways the Home Front visualised combat. Best exhibit – this illustration of Sergeant J. Hannah winning the VC for putting out a fire in his aircraft, complete with account and images of the unfortunate carrier pigeons roasted by the heat. Available elsewhere on the same site – public information films, treasures of the archives and Nelson and Trafalgar.


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