I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Imperial Warrior

Angus Mitchell
The Deluge: A Personal View of the End of Empire in the Middle East, by Sir Kennedy Trevaskis, IB Tauris, 352 pp, £27.50, ISBN: 978-1784538279 The writing of this review coincided with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the weeks of protest proclaiming that Black Lives Matter. Around the world, city centres were brought alive by voices condemning the legacy of colonial history and the embedded inequalities in how modern society works. Statues were toppled, defaced, smeared with paint and smashed. To someone like myself who was raised and educated within a system of white male privilege, such moments inevitably force a reflective reassessment. My alma mater, Oriel College, benefited massively from the Rhodes endowment. As an Oxford undergraduate studying Modern History back in the 1980s, I remember hearing stories of how Rhodes paid his fees with handfuls of diamonds. After leaving Oxford, I returned a decade or so later to work over two summers at Rhodes House on the papers of the Antislavery and Aborigines’ Protection Society. It was impossible to ignore the irony that the archive of a society that triggered the interrogation of the legitimacy of empire and documented some its worst atrocities should end up in a building endowed and named after Britain’s arch-imperialist. We should not doubt that Rhodes’s statue was placed high up on the front of Oriel College facing St Mary’s Church to keep it out of harm’s way. In the days after the Floyd death, I followed the news of the attacks on Leopold II’s statues in Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels because I was conscious of how Leopold II’s reputation had been so carefully managed and sanitised. The attacks on Leopold’s memorialising took me back to a visit in the winter of 2004 to Tervuren, the great palace he built on the outskirts of Brussels, which is now the Africa Museum. One of my companions during that journey – a senior counsel at the Irish Bar – commented after we’d left the museum that the entire building should be “bulldozed”: not the kind of language you expect from a barrister. Perhaps the most striking thing about the museum was the vast gilded statue of Leopold towering over those who entered the great marble foyer. More shocking was the fact that in the extravagant gardens surrounding the palace a recent statue had been unveiled to Leopold II in 1998 to commemorate…

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