Shalina Patel, a National Teaching Award-winning teacher, has written a book called The History Lessons, which celebrates hidden histories often overlooked in school history classes. The book takes a fresh look at established narratives and addresses uncomfortable truths about colonialism and Britain’s role in the slave trade. Patel uses a whistlestop tour of history to give previously overlooked stories and voices their rightful place in the timeline, ranging from the Romans to the Second World War, with stops at Tudor courts and medieval castles. Her journey into the past offers a narrative that places unsung women and people of colour in the context that everyone already knows, placing Indian soldiers and Chinese workers alongside the ‘Tommies in the trenches’.
Appealing to both history enthusiasts and neophytes, Patel said the book contains information that even the most nerdiest of historians would not have thought of previously. After sharing the stories of unsung heroes and giving them space in her classroom for 15 years, Patel’s book takes the stories out of the classroom, giving the general public a chance to learn about aspects of history they’d missed out on before.
Patel’s interest in secret histories was piqued more than six years ago when she discovered the story of Indian-Born Suffragette Sophia Duleep Singh. She then won a National Teaching Award for a lesson on British second world war spy Noor Inayat Khan. She later started the popular Instagram account @thehistorycorridor highlighting fresh takes on historical events.
Patel’s inclusion of three figures in her book, including Nur Jahan, who was once the de-facto head of India’s ruling Mughal empire, Eighteen-year-old Dorothy Lawrence, who was desperate to become a war reporter and Sophia Duleep Singh, who was an Indian princess and the goddaughter of Queen Victoria, is a vehicle for educating others on the origins of British colonialism

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