English Imperialism

In general I am a big fan of the History Channel and their website. However I am consistently dismayed at the ethnic and religious bias I see in their post regarding Queen Elizabeth I of England. The age of English imperialism still impacts us today, in both good and bad ways. She was a powerful queen at a time when her gender was considered a hindrance so much more than today.

I first saw this bias last year on the lead story of the “This Day in History” page entitled “Elizabethan Age Begins”. It was clearly ignoring the horrible oppression brought about under this queen for whom the heralded age of English dominance was named. I emailed them following comments on their website:

Flight of the Earls 1607. Irish leaders forced to flee in search of help during Plantation, similar to Israeli settlements today in the West Bank.

Flight of the Earls 1607. Irish leaders forced to flee in search of help during Plantation, similar to Israeli settlements today in the West Bank.

The November 17th Day in History about the Elizabethan Age shows a distinct Anglo bias and a strong discrimination against Catholics. It discusses the cruelty of Mary I but then ignores the cruelty of Elizabeth I. Both killed thousands of the opposing religion. Elizabeth enacted the first genocide against the Irish, which was continued throughout the Elizabethan Era. Finally you mention voyages of discovery but fail to mention her open support for pirate terrorism, which England would continue up to the Opium War. 

A year later I saw it featured again as the lead story. Guess what – the post has not been changed to address my points above. It fails to acknowledge the complete history, thereby insulting the thousand of Irish killed through ethnic cleansing and the millions oppressed under Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Second it focuses on cruelty by a Catholic predecessor yet not Queen Elizabeth whom you would think would be the primary topic of the article. So I am left with no choice bought to include this experience in my blog as a cause for social justice.

Even growing up in a solid Irish Catholic community, with my San Franciscan-born Irish grandmother living with us, an Irish priest in residence, and Irish teachers in my grammar school, a lot of this reality was not known to me until college. To learn that the English perfected their colonial tactics before reaching the non-white areas of the world has become quite intriguing. To know this truth is important as a way to remember and know my ancestors. My life is because of them.

I don’t mean to harp of the cruel side of England’s history and I know I’m pitting myself against a strong presence of anglophiles in America. There is no doubt that England has contributed so much to our world and they continue to be a model nation in our modern times. And in fact I rather enjoy being an English speaker. However, until the mainstream can acknowledge and teach the truth I will continue to point it out.

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About Daniel Roddick

Daniel has a B.A. in American History with minors in both Ethnic Studies and Sociology. He also has an M.Ed. in College Administration and Counseling. Daniel has worked in the financial aid industry for over a decade. He has presented all over the country on financial aid issues related to equity, inclusion, and access to education. He is also a writer of poetry, fiction, and this blog, all of which touch on identity.
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One Response to English Imperialism

  1. Kathleen says:

    Hi Daniel,
    The English/Irish history – and skipping versions and interpretations etc is not the first or last to show a biased perspective on history. Personally I like this guy – Ravi’s perspective and approach to presenting history from multiple perspectives. I’m sure we are years away from getting something this fun and interactive – but who knows…. http://www.ted.com/talks/raghava_kk_shake_up_your_story.html

    check it out.

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