James Heartfield argues that reparations should not be used as an easy way to buy apologies for past wrongdoings. In many instances, he argues, reparations have worked in favour of the colonisers, rather than the colonised. By looking through the history of reparations, including the Atlantic Slave Trade, James argues that these often represent the interests of the compensating power, not the compensated. No act of reparation will ever satisfy the disappointment that its champions feel, he writes, because the problem they are trying to deal with is their lack of authority in the present, not the injuries done to their forbears in the past.

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James Heartfield writes and lectures on British history and politics. His latest book is Britain’s Empires: A History, 1600-2020. He is also the author of The Equal Opportunities Revolution, The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and Unpatriotic History of the Second World War.

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