Changing patterns of imperialism and education: the United Kingdom

Leslie Bash


Education has been central to the maintenance of modern empires. Educational policies and practices under British imperialism reflected the complexities, tensions and conflicts in the different territories of the Empire. This is illustrated with specific reference to inter-war Palestine and Imperial India where education policy sometimes had unintended consequences in divided societies. Cultural imperialism was an inherent aspect of colonial education with curricular implications for schooling in the United Kingdom. As the British Empire underwent change and eventually declined, education also changed in response. However, the change was not linear, with the legacy of empire continuing both in the former colonial territories and in the UK itself up to present times, with implications both for the formal and informal dimensions of learning. Importantly, the English language is maintained, in different forms, as a continuing symbol of empire, together with diverse and sometimes complex responses at a time when interculturalism, post-colonialism, and globalisation have affected the discourse on the British Empire. At the same time, the discourse is sometimes complicated by an apparent resurgence of imperial sentiment while the arts continue to reflect critical attitudes towards past imperial power. The article concludes with the view that the development of a critical understanding of the relationship between education and empire is necessary to ensure changes in pedagogy with regard to greater inclusion of those with histories of marginalisation and subordination.


empire; imperialism; education; power; hegemony; culture

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