Beth Bhargava


Department of History

Research student


Thesis title: Teaching British Imperial History to Children in English Secondary Schools, 1945-1990




Thesis abstract:

Recent discussions in press and parliament have identified certain elements of the school curriculum (Shakespeare; the Second World War; the ‘benefits’ of the British empire) as a fundamental cultural heritage without which the nation would collapse. Such commentary identifies demands to decolonise education as an unprecedented and existential threat to national survival – yet neither these demands, nor the anxiety they have provoked, are in any way novel. The history of education in mid- to late-twentieth century Britain is characterised by a number of clashes between reformist and traditionalist voices.

My thesis will trace the history of these clashes. It will examine the intricacies of change in educational theory and – more importantly – classroom practice, in order to determine how the history of the British empire was taught to English school-students in the latter half of the twentieth century. The story here is not one of linear, progressive development, as is so often assumed in commentary on race and empire. In reality, the visibility and influence of decolonial understandings fluctuated over time in response to the determined campaigning of people of colour and the demands of teachers, pupils, politicians, journalists, and any number of other political actors. While mainstream curricula have, in some respects, remained strikingly unchanged during the period under examination, there have been moments of slippage where more radical histories of British imperialism may be glimpsed.

  • PhD History, University of Sheffield, 2021- present
  • MA Historical Research, University of Sheffield, 2021
  • BA (Hons) History, University of Cambridge, 2017
Teaching activities

 Teaching Assistant 2022-23 academic year: 

  • HST117: The Making of the Twentieth Century
Professional activities and memberships
  • 2021-2022 academic year: History in the City – Widening Participation Leader
  • December 2019 – February 2020: Research Assistant at the Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning, working on the ‘Access and Participation Plan: Participatory Action Research Project’
Publications and Conferences
  • Beth Bhargava, ‘Racism Should Have No Place in Publishing, But it Does’, Bad Form, 10 August 2021 (
  • Beth Bhargava, ‘“British Values”: The Colonial Crimes Education Forgets’, Bad Form 3 (2020).
  • Beth Bhargava, ‘Are we Running out of Time? Climate Crisis in Young Adult Fiction’, Bad Form 2 (2020).