The History Thieves : secrets, lies and the shaping of a modern nation

In 1889, the first Official Secrets Act was passed and created offences of ‘disclosure of information’ and ‘breach of official trust’. It limited and monitored what the public could, and should, be told. Since then, Britain’s governments and civil service have been engaged in the greatest identity fraud of all time – the dishonest and manufactured creation of our understanding of the British nation, our history and our culture.

Many people are probably familiar with the phrase Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, but what happens when you aren’t allowed to know the facts of the present, let alone those of the past. How can you ever learn anything when everything is a secret?

The History Thieves is a fascinating book that looks at a culture of secrecy grew into Official Secrets Acts and laws that made everything official a secret. And all this in a country that prides itself on being open, honest, and honourable. Of course, those countries that have experienced British rule may have a different view of the country. As this book makes very clear.

It is in many ways a disturbing book to read. Not only because of the horrific things that the British State did, rape, torture, murder etc., but also because when these facts come to life and are publicised nobody seems to care. Cobain recounts cases from Kenya, Northern Ireland, and elsewhere that clearly indicate that the British state was directly involved with terrible crimes and yet no reaction, no outrage, apart from the people directly involved. It was all for the good of the country, seems to be some sort of mantra used in its defence, but I’m not one who believes in the ends justifying the means. Jack Bauer is not a hero to emulate!

I would recommend that everyone read this book. It’ll open your eyes to the horrors that are not so far away from you as you may think.

It also made me think of that Star Trek episode, was it Voyager, or TNG? where the crew encounter a planet that eradicated part of its population and then covered that fact up ((I googled. The answer is Star Trek : Voyager ad the episode is Remember )). If no one is around to remember a crime did the crime take place? In case you’re wondering I’d argue, hell yes, the crime took place, and part of the crime is that no one acknowledges it.

You cannot be forgiven or something when you don’t try to make amends, if you don’t recognise what you did as wrong, if you pretend you never did it, then you aren’t really sorry. You’re just ashamed, as well you should be.

The British government has a lot to be ashamed for. But I’d guess that every government has its own history it would rather not reveal. The terrible thing is that we, those who elect them, don’t really seem to care either.

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