Skip to comments.The British Empire -- Vindicated
Posted on 11/04/2011 6:50:09 AM PDT by Kaslin
As many Americans no longer believe in American exceptionalism and others believe America's greatness is guaranteed to extend perpetually, we could all benefit by reviewing the history of the British Empire, the realm from which we sprung and acquired so much.
By the time most baby boomers were born, the British Empire had declined. The Nazis and Japanese had been defeated in World War II, and two major military powers -- the United States and the Soviet Union -- were faced off at the beginning of a nearly half-century-long struggle we call the Cold War.
The great British Empire, which dominated the world mere decades before, was rarely in our current events radar, and it got little better treatment in our history courses, except as the villain we had to defeat in two wars to attain our independence and as the waning world power whose chestnuts we had saved from Adolf Hitler's fire. Oh, how much we missed, not just of British history but of our own, because we can't fully appreciate our greatness without understanding much more about our immediate ancestor.
But there's an easy way to make up for all that lost time, a way to fill in the gaps and much more. My friend Harry Crocker's "Politically Incorrect Guide to the British Empire" has just been released, and it's a one-stop shop for telling us all we should have learned about that empire and precisely how much we owe it.
We remain in awe of the enormity and dominance of the Roman Empire -- and rightly so -- but did you realize that at its height, the British Empire was the largest empire ever, covering a quarter of the world -- even half, if you consider its control of the oceans -- and governing a quarter of the people on the planet?
Though it is de rigueur today to condemn British colonialism, Harry not only defends the Brits' colonial achievements but also unashamedly champions them. "The empire," he writes, "was incontestably a good thing. The fact that it is controversial to say so is why this book had to be written. In the groves of academe, colonialism and imperialism are dirty words, the fons et origo of Western expansion with all its alleged sins of racism, capitalism, and ignorant, judgmental, hypocritical Christian moralism."
In keeping with the book's title, Harry rejects this politically correct view. To him, "to hate the British Empire is to hate ourselves, for the United States would not exist if not for the British Empire." Harry means that the British not only established our chartered colonies but also largely populated those settlements and gave us our language, culture, government and, most importantly, our ideas of liberty and the rule of law, including our critically important common law heritage.
The empire has far from a perfect record, and Harry doesn't hide the blemishes, but he also gives us the other side -- finally -- and that other side is impressive.
Long before continental Europe went through its turbulent revolutionary period, which ultimately led to republican government, the British had firmly established the roots of free institutions, limited government and impartial justice. And if not for the British command of the high seas and its fierce resistance to French imperialism -- a wholly different kind of imperialism from the British variety -- Napoleon Bonaparte might have completed his world conquest and we could be speaking French today -- a circumstance that many of our liberal elites would undoubtedly welcome.
Moreover, despite America's essential intervention in World War II, there was a point in that war in which Britain, led by the extraordinary statesman Winston Churchill, stood alone against Hitler's Third Reich, which was backed by the Soviet Union, Benito Mussolini's Italy and Imperial Japan. Had Britain lacked just a little bit of resolve, the war might have been over before we entered. I shudder to think what might have happened, how different our own history would have been.
There is also no question that Britain did more to abolish the slave trade (1807) and slavery itself (1833) than any other nation or empire. It also led the pack in the Industrial Revolution, which did more to accelerate the advance to modernity than the advent of democracy in continental Europe.
We read a lot about the evils of British colonialism, but it's time to look at the other side of the coin. There's no doubt that in their colonial expansion, the British were partially (and justifiably) guided by their self-interest -- pride, profit and patriotism -- but the ultimate justification for retaining the empire was the benefits it brought to the governed.
This book is thorough -- covering all periods and all territories of the empire -- and it's refreshing. And, as is the case with all of Harry's books, it is eminently fascinating and highly readable.
Most of the places which were former British Colonies, have better social/political/economic national standing and infrastruture NOW than places which either never were colonies of ANY power or were colonies of OTHER nations.
It was probably about 30 years ago that I read in National Review that former British/European colonies were much better off than non-former colony third world countries. Seems pretty obvious. European colonizers brought their advanced social/political/cultural systems.
The most important thing that the British empire did is establish the rule of law in places that had been ruled previously by rule of whoever was in charge at the time.
“to hate the British Empire is to hate ourselves, for the United States would not exist if not for the British Empire.”
Doesn’t he realize that the by and large liberal segment of the US does “hate ourselves”, precisely because we are a product of the British Empire, and, by extension, Western culture and the Judeo Christian culture.
Compared to what the FedGov has become since Mr. Lincoln’s war, one could argue the colonies had more freedom under King George III than what we have now. If George Washington could have been shown what was going to happen to the republic that he fought so hard to create, would there even have been a war in 1787? These questions need to be asked.
Schools, Churches, libraries, hospitals, courts, industry, agriculture, mining, roads, construction, police, military.
When the British were thrown out of some colonies - these institutions survived...confirmation that the British were not a blight but a blessing.
This is so true throughout the African continent (don't forget about India), for example, where any country that they were in charge of had increased life expectancy, better sanitation, better education, better governments, much more human rights, etc., etc.
They should be proud of themselves especially when you look at the living conditions in absolutely every country they were chased out of.
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We should get dibs on Prince William !!!!!
Yup. Just look at the differences between former British colonies and French.
I’ve long thought that virtually all of the British colonies have been much, much more successful after independence than those of the French, Spanish, etc.
The Brits were - simply better.
However, the Muslims will take care of that......
I noticed the same thing when I did a paper on African countries back in school. There was a systematic difference between countries that had been British colonies versus the non-British colonies. The colonial institutions provided a foundation that gave lasting benefits. It’s a shame that the colonizers are demonized in such a biased fashion today without recognizing the good impact they had.
The scorched earth war against the Boers, with 24,000 women and children dead from malnutrition in the world’s first concentration camps, would argue rather differently. There are those who would argue that it was unintentional, but the failure of a 500,000 man army to quell the rebellion and the decision to take out ALL domestic food production to force the Afrikaners to submit bespeaks of such a degree of intent that responsibility for the consequences must be assumed.
Fair and balanced article.
It started a result of cultural resentment between the Boers (Dutch settlers) and immigrating British. It began as an uprising of British immigrants against the Boer government. The British Empire, seeing their subjects misteated, decided to get involved. At first the war was fought with the honor typically associated with the British, but, in the end, it turned nasty.
By and large, at the end of the imperial era the former British colonies did better than the former colonies of other European states or those few that had not been colonies at all. However, even in the former British experience, the results were uneven. In those ex-colonies like Ghana were the British officials were sent packing fairly soon after independence and the locals took full control, things went to pot very quickly. In other countries like Kenya, where the British administrators were encouraged to remain and continue to run the day-to-day business of the country, they did very well.
To some extent it was that the British ran their colonies better for the benefit of the locals, and to another extent...well, you draw your own conclusions about who was qualified to run a country.
That is false. Take Asia, the only country that was not a European colony was Siam/Thailand.
Arguably it is better off than Indonesia (Dutch colony) and was better off than Malaysia (British colony).
And the reason for that is that the Indians were at the same (or arguably) higher level of civilisation than the Brits when the English first came in the 1600s. This did not change until late 1773 when the British won the battles of Plassey. From that point on, you can also trace the rise of English industrialization and their domination of India -- both happened at the same time. They wrapped up their domination of India by the mid-1800s and then had the Indian Mutiny in 1857. overall their empire there was abotu 120 years at the least and about 250 odd for some places (like the cities of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta they founded).
though technically the British were a “French colony” (tongue-in-cheek) under the Normans and Angevin dynasties who spoke only Gallo-French and not Anglo-Saxon/Old English/Middle English.
true. Also to note was that the first concentration camps were built by the British against the Boers. Not sure if they were also the first to use chemical weapons.