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Widening Participation Event at the British Museum

On December 18th 2018 I was involved in the Departmental organisation of what, we are told, was the biggest ever off-campus Widening Participation event in Warwick's history. The event was staged at the British Museum in London, and we had almost 150 Year 11 and Year 12 students attend. It was called 'The Politics of Memorialisation', and I spoke to the theme 'Memorialisation through Speech: The Politics of Apologising for the British Empire'. It was fitting that this talk took place in the British Museum, where a number of the exhibits are now deemed controversial because they came to the UK as a direct consequence of Empire. The day included a tour of the Museum conducted by our undergraduate student ambassadors, who showed the participating school students the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone and Hoa Hakananai'a, all of which have been the subject of ongoing campaigns for repatriation from people who treat their presence in the UK as evidence of imperial plunder. My talk sparked a heated debate amongst the students about the rights and wrongs of issuing historical apologies for actions that were undertaken in other times and under the influence of a very different system of morals to the one in place today. The debate itself has had an important afterlife, as it has sparked more invitations to schools to provide talks and more invitations to engage with school-aged students on the continually controversial question of how Britain made international markets for itself through Empire.