Having run my own little gardening firm for over fifteen years, I cannot say that I enjoy the practice. However, it is a huge comfort to many people, particularly in these stressful times.
In fact, can there be a more harmless, innocent diversion than pottering about in a garden? We are continually told by the ‘experts’ that it is good for body and soul, as well as for our mental health. But I fear that the green-fingered ranks of Britain’s gardeners are in for a shock – according to a new book, by pruning our roses or digging the vegetable patches, we are all somehow perpetuating the evils of racism.
Last week Corinne Fowler, Professor of Post-Colonial Literature (Can that really be a subject for study?) at the University of Leicester published a three hundred and sixteen-page book examining the links between the British countryside, racism, slavery and our colonial past. What new woke madness is this?
This idiotically politically correct academic insists that gardening has its roots in racial injustice.
The title of the book, Green Unpleasant Land, gives us an indication of Professor Fowler’s thoughts on the countryside. One might expect her writings to be consigned to academic obscurity, but no, her views on rural Britain are in fact very influential.
Because this female turnip is at the centre of the ‘culture war’ that has overwhelmed one of Britain’s largest and best-loved charities, the National Trust. I am not a member of the Trust but have thought about joining at times, if only to see some of the magnificent mansions in their care. That though was in the past. I have completely lost interest in the entire organisation, but they do still wield enormous influence.
Professor Fowler is one of the principal authors of a report published in September last year that ‘outed’ many of the properties belonging to the Trust for their links to slavery and Britain’s colonial past. Among them were Buckland Abbey, the Devon seat of Sir Francis Drake, Ham House in West London, Wales’s Powis Castle and, most controversially of all, Chartwell, the family home of Sir Winston Churchill.
The report infuriated not only grand families who had bequeathed their homes to the Trust, but also many of the charity’s five and a half million members who resigned over this ‘woke’ agenda, arguing that the Trust’s role is to preserve our ancient houses and monuments, rather than get involved in what many saw as a highly political witch-hunt.
Such was the anger that the head of the Charities Commission publicly suggested the National Trust should focus on looking after stately homes – not waging ‘broader political struggles.’
Yet the Trust had already ‘doubled-down’ in its determination to exhume the unsavoury history of its properties with another project, which started in 2018 – and Professor ruddy Fowler was in charge of that one too.
She describes the scheme – Colonial Countryside: National Trust Houses Reinterpreted – on the Leicester University website as ‘a child-led history and writing project which seeks to make historic houses’ connections to the East India Company and transatlantic slavery widely known.’
It involves a team of historians working with one hundred primary school children to explore these links at eleven Trust properties. To me it seems somewhat obscene to use children for this, but the Trust received lottery grants amounting to £160,000. Under the scheme, the Trust had been inviting teams of children to lecture staff and volunteers – presumably about the evils of colonialism. Surely that is deeply damaging to all concerned.
Amid criticism of the project last month from MPs – one of whom complained the charity had been ‘overtaken by divisive Black Lives Matters supporters’ – the Trust defended it, saying: ‘We always look for excellence, fairness and balance in the assessment of all aspects of the history at National Trust places, often working with external partners and specialists to help us.’
Primary school children? How can that be justified?
And just how fair and balanced are Professor Fowler and her team of academics? Are they impartial historians – are they hell! There is a viciously biased political agenda behind their interpretations of the past?
Professor Fowler insists that our ‘green and pleasant land,’ as the poet William Blake put it, is anything but. The countryside, she suggests, is a hotbed of oppression, racism and exploitation – and it is time for its dark history to be exposed.
The professor also writes that her parents gave her a love of country walking. She appears to have rambled tirelessly along country lanes finding evidence to prove her central premise – that the British countryside is somehow linked to racism and colonialism.
‘The countryside is a terrain of inequalities,’ she writes in her book, ‘so it should not surprise us that it should be seen as a place of particular hostility to those who are seen as not to belong, principally black and Asian Britons.’
I am sorry and admit that my aged brain is probably not as acute as that of the professor but try as I might, I cannot see the connection.
Yet this silly woman tells us that ‘many great estates were financed by slavery and colonialism, and the origins of gardening were fundamentally elitist. Knowledge about gardens and plants, in particular botany has had deep colonial resonances,’ she says.
‘The scientific categorisation of plants has at times engaged in the same hierarchies of ‘race’ that justified empire and slavery . . .
‘Inevitably, then,’ she adds, ‘gardens are matters of class and privilege.’
Oh God! How much more of this over-zealous cant can we take from these so called academics who have little experience of real life but are sadly responsible for teaching future generations?
Somehow it has to be stopped before mass madness sweeps through the nation even faster than has the Coronabug.