A TOP historian has called for schools in the UK to teach the history of all four nations.
David Olusoga has said the fact that A-level pupils don’t learn much about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and vice versa means children often struggle to understand contemporary political issues, including Scottish independence.
Speaking to The Guardian before the launch of a new documentary exploring the past, present and future of the Union, Olusoga said: “I just don’t think ignorance is ever really a positive background factor in nations being drawn together.
“Not knowing each other’s stories is a weakness we are one day going to have to address.”
He continued: “When you talk about the Union in Scotland, everyone knows what you mean.
“When you use the word in England you realise it’s not a phrase you hear very often. I think we are in England less familiar with the architecture of our country and the history that explains it.
“That’s why I really advocate better teaching of this.”
He added that “other nations (in the UK) need to be encouraged to feel like partners rather than small players”.
Olusoga also cited a recent IPPR report on the “ambivalent Union” which found less than half of voters in any UK nation see the Union being maintained in its current form as a priority.
He said: “It seems very strange that we are discussing something that would be so seismic with one of the key emotions around it being ambivalence and (a lack of interest).
“The irony is that we think what poses a risk to the Union is strong anti-Union sentiment rather than just indifference.”
The historian explained he first realised how little history is taught about other nations at GCSE and A-level when he first arrived at university and made friends from Northern Ireland.
He thought this lack of awareness led to stereotypes about other parts of the UK and that it leads to a view that the Union is purely an “English project” and a failure to recognise that “our ancestors crossed borders”.
Olusoga said he believed the UK is in “quite a strange state” and added: “What we mustn’t do I feel is imagine that we on these islands are separate from the great forces of history.”
He added that his new documentary has come about because Brexit has made this a “moment when people are thinking about the Union, one of the many moments of turbulence in its history”.
“Many of the forces that have made the Union successful and acceptable to a great number of people are in decline”, he said, citing the wealth and opportunity which was created by the Industrial Revolution.