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When memories burn

The Brazilian National Museum fire was a political accident

A taste of the latest from Prospect online: Julia Blunck

The first thing to burn were memories. Physical registries of history were gone in minutes. Written documents dating from early Portuguese colonisation and a vast archive of the Portuguese-Brazilian monarchy, never digitised, mixed into the black smoke.

It wasn’t simply colonisers’ bookkeeping being erased from memory. This was a democratic tragedy: registries of indigenous people burned too, alongside testimonials on the lives of slaves, fossilised remains, mummies, pottery, and much else from among the 20m pieces that comprised the Brazilian National Museum’s collection.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s October issue: Rafael Behr argues that politics has been poisoned by Twitter—the platform often drives the political news agenda, encourages people to descend deeper and deeper into echo chambers and sees MPs and their families regularly abused. Meanwhile, former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger explains how Oxford picks its students and says that more needs to be done for the colleges to be more inclusive. Also, Jasmin Mujanovic outlines how Bosnia’s elections this month could tip the country back into conflict. Elsewhere in the issue: Alex Dean highlights the alarming decline in the number of students studying a foreign language at GCSE and beyond. Will Self reviews a series of new books about liberalism, arguing that “we need more than just social freedoms and the free market.” Aimee Cliff charts the story of the dying dream that London would be a 24-hour city.