In answer to the question ‘why do people travel for history?’ I would argue the answer to be ‘why do people travel at all?’
It is impossible to fully appreciate a new place without first recognising the significance of its history; both the good and bad contribute to the make-up of a country’s culture. Each country captures its own unique past through examples from memorialisation and architecture, museums and artefacts to the oral histories of the population.
Young aristocrats had once travelled to other countries to further their education, and thus the influence of travel is delicately intertwined with the history of the countries. No better example of this can be shown than through the impact of colonisation and occupation.
This in turn points to the layers of history each country presents to the traveller. As in many colonised countries, their history had been previously repressed, so you need to consider both pre-colonial and postcolonial history when you’re visiting different monuments, museums and historical sites; after all – history is multidimensional.
Further justification for implementing colonial history was used to glorify the socalled ‘superiority’ of European colonialists. Memorialisation has proved to be provocative in this area. In Singapore for example, the statue of Stamford Raffles, ‘modern Singapore’s founder,’ is still described as a ‘national icon’.
In India, the remaining statue of Queen Victoria in Bangalore remains a source of political contention. Colonial powers have obviously left their mark on these nations’ histories, and we need to be aware of this when we’re visiting these contries as tourists. The history of a country is further complicated when the coloniser appropriates and steals a nation’s history.
This case has been argued by India over their claim for the Koh-i-Noor diamond and the Sultanganj Buddha. The Benin Sculptures were taken from the West African city by the British in 1897 and the acquisition of Indigenous Australian Art by British Museums are but a few examples of the complex moral effects of colonial rule.
Indeed, this leads to the argument that historical artefacts should be repatriated to their country of origin; after all, cultural history is best preserved within its own country’s borders and thus, cultural imperialism should remain in the past. Travelling to discover more about a nation’s history is an important cultural pursuit. The legacy of colonialism is a controversial part of a country’s past.
The effects of colonialism should be considered within a larger historic framework; they are only representative of a certain aspect of the country’s past. Saying this, patriotic sentiment dictates that countries should be allowed to be proud of their precolonised history and challenge the acquisition of national artefacts by colonialist forces.