Younger and older Britons have radically different views of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the British Empire. Just 20 percent of those aged between 18 to 24 now have a positive attitude towards Churchill, compared to 58 percent of those aged 65-plus.
The polling for the Policy Exchange think tank found only 17 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds say the British Empire did more good than harm, compared to 61 percent of those in the older age group.
The research also exposed concern about how British history is taught in schools.
Only six percent of respondents “completely” agreed with the statement that “children today are taught about British history in a balanced way, with as much about the positive aspects as the negative” – with 13 percent agreeing “somewhat”. In contrast, 14 percent completely disagreed and 17 percent somewhat disagreed.
The findings alarmed Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny.
He said: “It is little short of tragic that our schoolchildren are being taught such a relentlessly untrue and unfair view of Winston Churchill and the British Empire, and that this has seeped into the way these important aspects of our history are viewed by young people. .
“For the vast majority of the native peoples of the Empire for the vast majority of the time, the benefits of being in the Empire far outweighed the drawbacks, but all that woke teachers want to concentrate on today is the latter.”
Tory and Labor voters also have strongly different views about British history.
While 63 percent of Tory voters think the British Empire did more good than harm, this was true for only 21 percent of those who supported Labor at the last election.
Sixty-one percent of Conservative voters have a largely positive view of Churchill, compared to only 22 percent of Labor voters.
At a national level, 36 percent of the public have a positive view of Churchill and just seven percent hold a negative view.
There is also significant support for the British Empire, with 38 percent saying it did more good than harm, and 29 percent saying the reverse.
And 42 percent of the public say Britain should be more proud of its role in ending the Atlantic slave trade than ashamed at taking part in it, while 30 percent believe the opposite.
However, only 24 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds say Britain should be “more proud” compared with 45 percent who say the country should be “more ashamed”.
This compares with 61 percent of people aged 65-plus who say Britain should be “more proud”, with only 23 percent opting for “more ashamed”.
Liberal Democrat voters were the most likely (25 percent) to say that children are taught in a balanced way, ahead of Conservative voters (21 percent) and Labor voters (17 percent).
The findings follow high-profile controversies about whether statues and monuments with links to slavery should be removed.
Policy Exchange launched a “History Matters” project in 2020 – led by former Equality and Human Rights Commission chairman Sir Trevor Phillips – to “address widespread national concern about the growing trend to alter public history and heritage without due process”.
He said: “We have recently plotted the popular appetite for destruction of the past narratives through real-world votes on the changing of names, the moving of statues and so on, conducted by relevant authorities, such as local councils.
“Almost without exception, the answer from the people has been: explain the thing better by all means, but please leave it alone. It is part of who and what we are, and you who take the taxpayer’s money should have better things to do than destroy our past.”
Churchill biographer Mr Roberts praised Policy Exchange for “trying its best to move the dial on historical ignorance and bias” but said it is “an uphill and currently losing battle”.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “We are supporting schools in teaching pupils the analytical skills to think critically, weigh evidence, sift arguments, and develop perspective and judgement.
“It is built upon our political impartiality guidance, which enables pupils to have a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of our history and contextualises how Britain has influenced and been influenced by different societies.
“Earlier this year, we also established an expert panel of historians, history educators and school leaders to develop a new knowledge-rich Model History Curriculum by 2024 which will support high-quality teaching of our complex past.”