Telling difficult stories about the creation of Bangladesh

Teaching History article

By Nathanael Davies, Taslima Rakib and Anam Zakaria, published 21st September 2022

Why have some stories of 1971 been so difficult to tell?

Nathanael Davies recognised that previous efforts to diversify the history taught at his school by weaving new stories into the curriculum had made little impression on his students’ assumptions about what really counted as history. Planning a new enquiry on the creation of Bangladesh was intended both to bridge a divide between ‘home’ and ‘school’ histories and to focus directly on the agency of historical actors other than those associated with Britain. But the complex and contested nature of this history and the trauma of the events associated with the country’s violent birth meant that he needed to tread carefully. In this article, which includes reflections by Taslima Rakib, a colleague of Bangladeshi heritage who taught the enquiry and by the oral historian, Anam Zakaria, whose work inspired it, he explains how he developed an enquiry rooted in these challenges by asking ‘Why have some stories of 1971 been so difficult to tell?’

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