… Queen Elizabeth II. Many British people mourn their loss and some businesses and government agencies scramble to find novel ways to mark the solemn occasion (e.g. supermarket chain Morrisons turned down the volume of their self-checkout scanners).
Nobody’s death is trivial and, of course, as we look back on someone’s life, we focus on the highlights and the good they have done. That’s as it should be and there is a lot of that going on in the press and the media in general. There are re-runs of documentaries on all streaming platforms and TV stations in which we hear of the achievements of the „hard-working old lady“ and her „steadying influence“. However, we must be wary of blind nostalgia and, in due course, evaluate the former monarch’s role in the history of her incredibly long reign. Some first attempts at this have already been published and may be worth your while.
Afua Hirsch explores the establishment’s ability to gloss over some of the cruelties of empire. Many former colonies „gained“ their independence during Queen Elizabeth’s reign, but what did that actually entail and how has it been framed and celebrated? Find out in her comment.
Priya Satia discusses how the monarchy has „enabled Britons to remain proud of rather than reflective about empire and its destructive impact today“. This piece on climate change discusses the destructive impact of imperialism on our climate today. It’s a reading recommendation, as it also explores the ever-changing attitude of the Western world towards nature throughout history.
Elizabeth Kolsky revisits the Queen’s early reign and the conduct of the British in Kenya. During the height of postwar decolonisation (50s – 70s), „Operation Legacy“ removed and destroyed files in many countries (e.g. Kenya, Malaya, Nigeria, …). The rediscovered records of human rights violations in Kenya between 1952 and 1963, which had been hushed up for so long, paint a grim picture of the empire.
Lastly, Clive Lewis explores the concept of monarchy and its place in the 21st-century. In his comment he asks why „would so many people, often with so little, show such deference to an institution that is the very embodiment of the inequalities of wealth and power that permeate“ the UK? While reading be aware, though, that this is an opinion piece written from a republican perspective.