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Doing justice to their history: London’s BAME students and their teachers reflecting on decolonising the history curriculum


Robert Guyver


This paper examines qualitative data emerging from interviews in five London schools with different groups of BAME ([British] Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) students aged between 14 and 18 (a total of 33), and seven of their teachers. The students are questioned about their reactions to the taught curriculum especially in the light of their sometimes complex but common postcolonial identities. The methodology followed here, that of Bourdieusian relational phenomenology (Atkinson, 2020), mirrors both the literature review and the conclusions, in that the history of the movement of peoples as a consequence of colonisation and empire not only explains the way Britain is but also defines an imperative for societal and curriculum change. The contextual literature relates to some of the history of migration and settlement including in London, and to some aspects of historiography, especially the work of Peter Fryer (1984/2018), Catherine Hall (2002), Rosina Visram (1994, 2002) and David Olusoga (2014, 2015) to demonstrate that Black history is British history and that there is a mutual responsibility to rediscover what has been hidden and forgotten. But that history, with its power relations, is also intertwined and interrelated with relationships between citizens in society today. The core and periphery paradigm (Mycock, 2017) is clearly reflected in the concept of double-consciousness (Du Bois, 1903; Gilroy, 1993) as both a personal and curriculum dimension. The findings demonstrate the importance of a history education that connects migration, empire and postcoloniality, for all citizens, including those wielding official power. Four themes emerge for analysis: double-consciousness; curriculum and pedagogy; understanding power relations; and citizenship, social justice and curriculum change.


Double-consciousness, Core and metropole, Relational phenomenology, Habitus and field, Power relations, Social justice, Curriculum and society, Colonisation, Empire, decolonisation

How to Cite:

Guyver, R. (2021). Doing justice to their history: London’s BAME students and their teachers reflecting on decolonising the history curriculum. Historical Encounters, 8(2), 156-174.


  • Published 6 May 2021

  • Double Blind Peer Reviewed

  • Author Retains Copyright

  • Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 License

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