May: Should governments apologise for crimes of the past?

Sunday 5 May 2019

With the May History IB examinations imminent, we wish the best of luck to all of your students!

Here we ponder the signficance of some more anniversaries and give you an update on this month's additions to the site.


Yet more anniversaries have been in the news providing interesting perpsectives on past events and highlighting why such events are still relevant today.

The 100 year anniversary of the Amritsar massacre raised once again the issue of whether countries should apologise for actions that were committed by previous generations of politicians.

In response to requests for an official apology for this terrible event which took pace during the British Rule of India, British High Commission for India, Dominic Asquith, stopped short of a formal apology: ‘You might want to rewrite history, but you can’t...What you can to learn the lessons of history. We will never forget what happened here.’

However, this did not satisfy the Indian government.

The reason behind the British failure to offer a full apology is most likely that expressed by Lord Meghnad Desai who, according to the the New York Times explained that 'hesitation for a fuller reckoning was linked to the fear of opening a floodgate. If one colonial-era atrocity were atoned for... calls to do so for other instances of exploitation and violence could follow. “Where do you start and where do you end?” he asked.’

After 100 years, still no apology for Amritsar massacre (the Guardian)

A wreath and May's words of regret fail to satisfy opinion in India

On a similar theme, Cambridge University is investigating whether or not it has gained wealth from slavery and if so what form of reparations it should make. As the following BBC article indicates, universities in the US have also tackled this issue:

Cambridge investigates its slavery links (BBC News)

The University of Cambridge is to investigate whether it gained financially from the slave trade.


It is also the 100 year anniversary of the May Fourth movement in China. This article from the New York Times discusses why this event still has political importance to both China’s ruling Communist Party and also the critics of the Communist Party.

Why Does a Student Protest Held a Century Ago Still Matter in China? (

A demonstration that became known as the May 4 Movement was a watershed for China. Here’s why.

Site update

In this last month, we have added several pages to the site for Paper 2 - Cold War, and Paper 3 - Post-war developments in the Middle East and Political Developments in Latin America.

2. Arab-Israeli conflicts, 1956 to 1973

This page examines the causes and consequences of the military conflicts that took place between Israel and the Arab states in 1956, 1967 and 1973.

3. Nations affected by Cold War tensions: Egypt

This page examines the economic, social and cultural impact of the Cold War on Egypt during the rule of Nasser.

3. Populist leader: Getúlio Vargas

This page examines the rise to power and rule of the Brazilian leader Getúlio Vargas, 1930 to 1945.

4. Populist leader: Juan Perón

This page examines the rise and rule of Juan Perón who was elected President of Argentina three times. Alongside his wife, Eva, he created a controversial political movement known as Peronism.

5. The rise of military dictatorships

The 1960s and 1970s saw military dictatorships established in many states in Latin America. This page examines the general reasons for this phenomenon and focuses on Uruguay as a case study.

Political developments in Latin America: Essay planning

On this page you will find suggestions for essay questions and essay planning activities.



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