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#RewritingHistory

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Should the UK leave the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth of Nations is home to 2.6 billion people and comprises 54 member states, most (but not all) with links to the former British Empire. The Queen has been head of the Commonwealth for more than seven decades, and Prince Charles has been agreed, in principle at least, as her successor. But as the UK considers the next chapter of the monarchy, would the Commonwealth be better off without the UK in it? Only 9% of UK trade is with the Commonwealth – despite all the talk of it being a major trading opportunity post-Brexit. With our greater understanding of the long-term impact of colonialism, is our continued involvement in the Commonwealth just an attempt to paper over the cracks caused by Britain’s imperial past, or do we still have a responsibility to be involved? editor and invited experts Jeevan VasagarClimate Editor Dr Sue OnslowDirector & Reader in Commonwealth History, Institute of Commonwealth Studies Kojo KoramLecturer at the School of Law at Birkbeck College, University of London Lord HowellFormer President of the Royal Commonwealth Society; Chairman of the Council of Commonwealth Societies

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Should the UK return the ‘Elgin Marbles’?

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available.For nearly 200 years, the collection known as the ‘Elgin Marbles’ has been in the care of the British Museum. Removed by Lord Elgin in 1801 at a time when Greece was a stateless nation under the Ottoman Empire, he later sold them to the British Museum – who have always maintained that they were acquired legally with all the necessary permissions. The Greek government is optimistic that a combination of a troubled British PM, growing public support, the promise of loans of other priceless antiquities, not to mention the threat of legal action could finally reverse two centuries of cultural piracy. Public opinion appears to be in favour of returning the collection – but if they are sent back to Greece, what other antiquities should be considered for repatriation? Where is the line between fair claims of ownership and ‘heritage nationalism’? editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Dominic SelwoodHistorian; Barrister; Author of ‘Anatomy of a Nation: A History of British Identity in 50 Documents’ Dr Errol FrancisArtistic Director and CEO, Culture& Vicky PryceGreek born economist and author of ‘Greekonomics’

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Racial privilege: can White Debt ever be repaid?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn. The myth often taught in schools is that Britain’s role in slavery was as the abolisher, but the reality is much more sinister. ​​Why are people still reluctant to engage in any meaningful way with the British legacy of slavery? When the award-winning author Thomas Harding discovered that his mother’s family had made money from the slave plantations worked by people of African descent, what began as an interrogation into the choices of his ancestors soon became a quest to learn more about Britain’s role in slavery. Is the national amnesia that masks the role of the British in this devastating period finally lifting? Join us for a provocative Thinkin where we’ll explore how future generations of those who benefitted from slavery need to acknowledge and take responsibility for the white debt. editor and invited experts James Harding Co-founder and Editor Cleo Lake Former Lord Mayor of Bristol Professor Robert Beckford Academic and theologian. Professor of Climate and Social Justice, University of Winchester Thomas Harding Award winning author and journalist. Author of White Debt

thinkin

Should the UK leave the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth of Nations is home to 2.6 billion people and comprises 54 member states, most (but not all) with links to the former British Empire. The Queen has been head of the Commonwealth for more than seven decades, and Prince Charles has been agreed, in principle at least, as her successor. But as the UK considers the next chapter of the monarchy, would the Commonwealth be better off without the UK in it? Only 9% of UK trade is with the Commonwealth – despite all the talk of it being a major trading opportunity post-Brexit. With our greater understanding of the long-term impact of colonialism, is our continued involvement in the Commonwealth just an attempt to paper over the cracks caused by Britain’s imperial past, or do we still have a responsibility to be involved? editor and invited experts Jeevan VasagarClimate Editor Dr Sue OnslowDirector & Reader in Commonwealth History, Institute of Commonwealth Studies Kojo KoramLecturer at the School of Law at Birkbeck College, University of London Lord HowellFormer President of the Royal Commonwealth Society; Chairman of the Council of Commonwealth Societies

thinkin

Should the UK return the ‘Elgin Marbles’?

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available.For nearly 200 years, the collection known as the ‘Elgin Marbles’ has been in the care of the British Museum. Removed by Lord Elgin in 1801 at a time when Greece was a stateless nation under the Ottoman Empire, he later sold them to the British Museum – who have always maintained that they were acquired legally with all the necessary permissions. The Greek government is optimistic that a combination of a troubled British PM, growing public support, the promise of loans of other priceless antiquities, not to mention the threat of legal action could finally reverse two centuries of cultural piracy. Public opinion appears to be in favour of returning the collection – but if they are sent back to Greece, what other antiquities should be considered for repatriation? Where is the line between fair claims of ownership and ‘heritage nationalism’? editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Dominic SelwoodHistorian; Barrister; Author of ‘Anatomy of a Nation: A History of British Identity in 50 Documents’ Dr Errol FrancisArtistic Director and CEO, Culture& Vicky PryceGreek born economist and author of ‘Greekonomics’

thinkin

Racial privilege: can White Debt ever be repaid?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn. The myth often taught in schools is that Britain’s role in slavery was as the abolisher, but the reality is much more sinister. ​​Why are people still reluctant to engage in any meaningful way with the British legacy of slavery? When the award-winning author Thomas Harding discovered that his mother’s family had made money from the slave plantations worked by people of African descent, what began as an interrogation into the choices of his ancestors soon became a quest to learn more about Britain’s role in slavery. Is the national amnesia that masks the role of the British in this devastating period finally lifting? Join us for a provocative Thinkin where we’ll explore how future generations of those who benefitted from slavery need to acknowledge and take responsibility for the white debt. editor and invited experts James Harding Co-founder and Editor Cleo Lake Former Lord Mayor of Bristol Professor Robert Beckford Academic and theologian. Professor of Climate and Social Justice, University of Winchester Thomas Harding Award winning author and journalist. Author of White Debt

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Victoria, Succession and Stephen: is drama better at news than journalism?

“I don’t know any writer really who is set out to become a writer.” Roald Dahl, 1989 documentary Roald Dahl was a former fighter pilot and spy from Cardiff who went on to sell 300 million children’s books. “If you could find a good plot, that’s the first step in writing… then you’ve got to embroider it and enlarge it and it’s got to be something fairly crazy.”Roald Dahl, 1989 documentary Over a 55-year career, he wrote dozens of novels, short stories, and poetry collections, including Matilda, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr Fox. “I think the BFG is a bit of a favourite character of mine, because he’s kind and people think I only write about beastly things.”Roald Dahl, 1989 documentary His books have been enjoyed by generations of children but the author was no stranger to controversy. Roald Dahl was accused of racism after depicting the Oompa-Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Family as slaves imported from, quote, “the deepest and darkest parts of the African jungle”. And he was a vocal antisemite. “In one notorious interview with the New Statesman magazine, the bestselling children’s author said: ‘There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity. Maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-jews. I mean there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere. Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.’”Sky News Australia Roald Dahl’s books were for kids, but they were laced with cruelty… and that’s why some parts have been rewritten. “A new generation of readers might find passages that have been altered from the original text. Britain’s Telegraph newspaper detailing hundreds of word changes made to UK editions by Dahl’s publisher and the Roald Dahl Story Company.”TODAY Roald Dahl’s publisher Puffin has made a host of revisions to the latest versions of his books. Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is no longer enormously fat, just enormous.  Trunchbull in Matilda no longer calls her pupils a bunch of midgets but a bunch of squirts.  And Mrs Twit from The Twits is no longer ugly. Puffin said it was “not unusual for publishers to review and update language, as the meaning and impact of words change over time”. And whilst there was some support from public figures, others, like writer Salman Rushdie and the prime minister Rishi Sunak, criticised the decision. So Puffin backtracked a little. The publishing house announced that they would release The Roald Dahl Classic Collection, keeping the earlier texts in print and giving parents a choice between the originals and the reworked versions. But what was behind the decision to change them in the first place? In a conversation with the painter Francis Bacon that was released by the Guardian last month, Roald Dahl railed against the idea that people might change his books after he died. “I’ve warned my publishers that if they, later on, so much as change a single comma in one of my books, they will never see another word from me. Never! Ever!“When I am gone, if that happens, then I’ll wish mighty Thor knocks very hard on their heads with his Mjolnir.”Roald Dahl But revisions have been fairly common in children’s literature.  For example, abridged versions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Little Women were published in the 20th century. And these latest changes to Roald Dahl’s books were signed off by his family.  The Dahl estate sold the rights to his books to Netflix in 2021, for a reported $686 million dollars.  But it was a year earlier that Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company, an offshoot of Roald Dahl’s literary estate led by his grandson, began a review of the writer’s works. They used an organisation called Inclusive Minds, which says it works with the children’s book world to support them in, quote, “authentic representation”. It doesn’t edit or rewrite texts. It just advises the publisher. Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company would have made the final decision about what to change in Roald Dahl’s books. Ever since the Daily Telegraph published its story about the rewriting of Roald Dahl’s books a lot has been written about the role of sensitivity readers in the publishing industry. They are people who read texts to spot cultural inaccuracies, representation issues, bias, stereotypes or problematic language. Here’s one talking to Tortoise in 2021. “Something I tell every one of my authors is that I am not here to tell you what to put or not to put in your novel, your piece, whatever it is. I am here to basically give you a better informed sense of what you’re writing about… if people are going to be engaging with topics that they have limited experience with, I’m here to help approach them a little bit more knowledgeably.”Ronkwahrhakónha Dube, Tortoise ThinkIn, October 2021 They’re a normal part of the editing process, because publishers want to avoid being embarrassed by things they publish and if they’re relying on a book to make them money they want it to be right for the intended audience. They mainly read unpublished manuscripts to make sure they’re right before publication, but classics like Roald Dahl’s novels continue to sell. His publishers initially defended its revisions by saying they had a significant responsibility to protect younger readers and that the changes were minimal. But it’s also likely there was a big commercial impulse too, especially for the Roald Dahl Story Company which made £27 million in 2020, and £26 million the year before. With new Netflix adaptations on the way these books need to be palatable for a new generation of readers. This may be less about sensitivity, and more about making money. This episode was written by Xavier Greenwood and mixed by Imy Harper.

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A House Through Time: a ThinkIn with David Olusoga & Melanie Backe-Hansen

David Olusoga and Melanie Backe-Hansen reveal the secret history hidden in the walls of our own houses. Our daily digital ThinkIns are exclusively for Tortoise members and their guests.Try Tortoise free for four weeks to unlock your complimentary tickets to all our digital ThinkIns.If you’re already a member and looking for your ThinkIn access code you can find it in the My Tortoise > My Membership section of the app next to ‘ThinkIn access code’.We’d love you to join us.Hidden in the walls of homes across the country are secrets which reveal more than we might think about who we are, and who we have been. Historians David Olusoga and Melanie Backe-Hansen from the TV series and recent book A House Through Time join us for a ThinkIn in which we explore the history that is all around us, every day. In exploring the history of our houses, we uncover the forces of industry, disease, mass transportation, crime and class that shaped, through the lives of our ancestors, the cities, towns and villages where we all live today. Chair: James Harding, Editor and Co-founder, TortoiseHow does a digital ThinkIn work?A digital ThinkIn is like a video conference, hosted by a Tortoise editor, that takes place at the advertised time of the event. Digital ThinkIns are new to Tortoise. Now that our newsroom has closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, we feel it’s more important than ever that we ‘get together’ to talk about the world and what’s going on.The link to join the conversation will be emailed to you after you have registered for your ticket to attend. When you click the link, you enter the digital ThinkIn and can join a live conversation from wherever you are in the world. Members can enter their unique members’ access code to book tickets. Find yours in My Tortoise > My Membership in the Tortoise app.If you have any questions or get stuck, please read our FAQs, or get in touch with us at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.comWhat is a Tortoise ThinkIn?A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. It is a place where everyone has a seat at the (virtual) table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise.

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A Tortoise ThinkIn with Mary Beard

Spend a happy hour in the company of the incredible Dame Mary Beard. The New Yorker call her “learned but accessible”, Tortoise call her “the woman who puts the classy in classicist”. We’ll talk civilisation, imperialism, rape and Ancient Rome, witchcraft, the purpose of a university education – “to complicate, not simplify”, graduate footwear, internet trolls, Lucretius ….Hell we’ll talk about everything and she’ll be interesting about all of it. Chair: Merope Mills, Editor and Partner, Tortoise This special ThinkIn is exclusively for Tortoise members. If you’re not yet a member but would like to come, you can buy a ticket for £50. The ticket includes entry to the Mary Beard ThinkIn for you and a friend, and one year’s Tortoise membership. As a member, you get access to our app, Sensemaker emails, the Tortoise Quarterly as an ebook and 10 ThinkIn tickets for the year. What is a Tortoise ThinkIn? A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. Modelled on what we call a ‘leader conference’ in the UK (or an editorial board in the US), it is a place where everyone has a seat at the table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It’s where, together, we sift through what we know to come to a clear, concise point of view. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise. Drinks from 6.00pm, starts promptly at 6.30pm. If you are late to a ThinkIn you can ‘SlinkIn’! If you would like to contribute to this ThinkIn, let us know by emailing thinkin@tortoisemedia.com We film our ThinkIns so we can watch them back, edit the best bits and share them with members who weren’t there in person. Members can find their ThinkIn booking code in My Tortoise, under My Membership.

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Decolonising museums and galleries

Britain’s arts and heritage sectors have endeavoured to open the doors to diversity and inclusion in recent times. What does ‘decolonisation’ actually involve and how far have they come and how much further is left to go? This discussion will take in debates around quotas, diversity schemes, repatriation of objects and overcoming structural inequality to create a richer, broader arts and heritage landscape in terms of its workforce and audiences. Our special guests include: Subhadra Das, a historian, history of science communicator, comedian, writer and museum curator at UCL Culture where she works with the UCL Pathology and Science Collections. Her main area of research is the history of science and medicine in the 19th and 20th Centuries, specifically the history of scientific racism. Dr Errol Francis, Artistic Director and CEO, Culture& Melanie Keen, Director of Wellcome Collection, London. She was previously  Director and Chief Curator of Iniva (the Institute of International Visual Arts), has worked as an independent curator and consultant and as a senior relationship manager at Arts Council England. She is an Independent Advisor to the Government Art Collection, sits on the British Council’s Visual Arts Advisory Group Priya Khanchandani, a specialist in the dissemination of ideas about contemporary design and South Asian culture through writing, curating and arts management. A Royal College of Art graduate with Distinction, with four years’ experience working at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Priya is an accomplished curator, writer and commentator. She was previously the Head of Arts Programmes for the British Council in India Chair: Arifa Akbar, Chief Theatre Critic, The Guardian What is a Tortoise ThinkIn? A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. Modelled on what we call a ‘leader conference’ in the UK (or an editorial board in the US), it is a place where everyone has a seat at the table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It’s where, together, we sift through what we know to come to a clear, concise point of view. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise. Drinks from 6.00pm, starts promptly at 6.30pm. If you are late to a ThinkIn you can ‘SlinkIn’! If you would like to contribute to this ThinkIn, let us know by emailing thinkin@tortoisemedia.com We film our ThinkIns so we can watch them back, edit the best bits and share them with members who weren’t there in person. Members can find their ThinkIn booking code in My Tortoise, under My Membership.