Classic children’s tales now under fire  

Are Peter Pan and Alice racist?

The Mad-hatter's tea party. Credit: John Tenniel/Public domain - Creative

Is it time to re-evaluate the classics? York St John University has taken a bold step by applying ‘content warnings’ to classic children’s literature.

Two of the books that come under scrutiny are Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, over concerns of racism and white supremacist themes.

This decision, sparked a significant conversation about the presence of offensive material in historical texts.

A collection with a warning

The Rees-Williams Collection, housed by the university and spanning works from the late 18th to the early 20th century, now carries a detailed disclaimer.

This cautionary note surpasses the collection’s description in length. It alerts potential readers to the existence of content that might be considered racist, endorsing colonialist narratives and white supremacy.

The university underscores its dedication to acknowledging ‘the racist marginalisation’ prevalent in literature from that era.

Historical context and current understanding

The disclaimer elaborately states: ‘Within the 150 years of children’s writing which is represented in the collection, there is a widespread occurrence of colonialist narratives which centre white supremacy, and racist and orientalist methods of both fictional and historical storytelling.

‘As such, it is possible, if not likely, that items consulted from the collection will include language and visual imagery which is racist, and many people may find their contents upsetting and offensive.’

The statement further explains: ‘. . .it is our duty to recognise their historic and current power in the marginalisation of the peoples who are subjects within them, and examine why we continue to preserve and house such items when their ability to cause damage endures.’

The university’s position

This stance is part of the institution’s broader commitment to combating racism, further supported by its status as a Race Equality Charter Bronze award holder.

The university’s approach encourages ongoing dialogue and research into how this collection should be managed, highlighting a path towards understanding and addressing the complexities of historical literature in contemporary contexts.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.


    • Dave Dickenson

      30 March 2024 • 09:20

      The world is doomed, these headcases want trigger warnings on everything. Utter madness, no wonder the fake mental health issues are gaining momentum. Our daft dangerous Wokies are making our world a very dangerous place with all their nonsense claims, just grow a pair and grow up.

    • John McLean

      30 March 2024 • 12:42

      ONly one word describes this “PATHETIC”

    • John Little

      30 March 2024 • 14:05

      The only people likely to be offended are the very people from places described in the books. And that is because we have let hordes of them into our once mono ethnic country . Dave Dickenson is spot on.

    • CCW60

      30 March 2024 • 14:07

      As the previous person stated…”daft dangerous wokies” are destroying our societies and culture. Isn’t it funny that generations of people have been reading these books or having them read to us and NONE of us ever once considered they may be racist or white supremacist. NONE of us were harmed or traumatized by them. But hey, let’s put warning labels on classics like these and allow porn type books in school libraries?!!! The mentally ill are running the insane asylum is most certainly taking on a real meaning in our world today.

    • Geoff Brooks

      30 March 2024 • 14:45

      Madness! These are not historical texts; they are fictional tales for kids which have entertained children for many generations. Unfortunately many of the generation of our youths who are passing through these universities will be brainwashed by their tutors to think such trigger warnings are sensible when to most grown ups they are ridiculous. Sadly those brainwashed zombies will one day be in charge of running this country. Not much common sense to look forward to, eh?

    • John Parkinson

      30 March 2024 • 16:36

      The people who put these woke statements foreword are a minuscule percentage of the population but they are not shouted down because so called intellectuals are afraid of being called racist,etc.
      The more we look away and say nothing gives these idiots more opportunities to bring forward dangerous opinions which will go unchallenged.
      It would be nice if our politicians grew a pair and openly challenged them in Parliament as it would get publicity and hopefully the vast majority of us normal people would rise up ,get a voice,and show the woke brigade up for what they are and reveal their secrets as to their real sinister inteintentions

    Comments are closed.