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.
Otherwise known as an "invasion" for which the British are responsible. Oh yes, and of course the British were justified in sending troops to protect their citizens from the nation in which they freely chose to live, seeing as there were tons of gold, diamonds, and other minerals to exploit. The Dutch, having saved Britain's butt from the Spanish, deserved better than this kind of imperialism. They were a tolerant middle class nation of entrepreneurs, welcoming foreign investors, but the Brits clearly desired more than the deal they struck to get in.
No. If you like a country and are willing to abide by the rules to which you agree upon entry, fine. That deal includes respect for that nation as sovereign. If they change the rules and you don't like it, tough, you accepted said sovereignty upon entry; you are free to leave. If you won't keep the deal you made to gain entry get the hell out. But don't go into a country at their forbearance and then try calling the shots.
A tiny island nation controlling half the world is just amazing......to understand how so few could control so many see the movie "White Cliffs of Dover". My favorite movie of all time. hint: NATIONAL CHARACTER
The chemical weapons were first used by the Germans at
Ypres IIRC. Chlorine gas.
This on top of shooting Belgian civilians out of hand, taking all the food, taking the able bodied for labor in Germany...their Austrian friends did similarly in Serbia,
hanging women because their men were partisans.
They were called Huns for a reason. Give me the Empah of Victoria any time.
I was not there - but as I understand it - the Dutch invaded the African territory - and then those British immigrants - ungrateful bunch of savages!!!!
More from the article:
Problems began with the discovery of gold in the Transvaal. Thousands of British miners flooded into the Boer culture, almost overnight. This disruption caused the Boers to resent the new immigrants. They decided to make the British second-class citizens; paying high taxes and not getting the right to vote. The British miners understandably unhappy with this situation. They decided to follow the example set by the French and Americans, they revolted.
America effectively used the same ‘Oh, we’re only here to do business’ / ‘protect our citizens’ strategy against the Indians, the Spanish, and Mexico. However effective productive were the results and despite how incompetent were the victims, ends do not justify means. I fear that we were merely being used by the money powers that lay outside our comprehension, effectively employed to enable a global financial governance.
In comparison they look pretty good, but they were no saints and yes they did set up the first concentration camps in the modern world.
They really did shoot civilians in Belgium and they really did burn the Leuven Univeristy library. Not a myth, not propaganda.
Buchananites aside, I’ve always wondered why the concept of “empire” got such a bad rap. From Alexander the Great onward, most “conquered peoples” — the ostensible “victims” of empire — fared better (or at least no worse) commercially and in terms of personal security than they did before they were overrun. The Gauls under Caesar, the Anglicized Normans after William the Conqueror, the aboriginals in Africa (and arguably even in the US and Australia to the degree they aligned with the victors) — all saw their primitive, bellicose societies organized into cohesive units that could advance and protect individual property rights, education of the masses, and the security of their citizens.
Why is that such a bad thing?
Interesting article. It’s clear that political correctness and socialism always hates the righteous and successful, which is why the PC amongst us invariably hate both the British Empire and the USA.
Certainly the empire wasn’t perfect, especially when viewed from the 21st century perspective, but it was the most benign and fairest of all empires.
To judge the British Empire by the Boer war is as foolhardy and ignorant as to judge the United States of America by the Vietnam war.
True, but in both cases, the alternative was/would have been worse. Other empires or countries would have eliminated the Native Americans totally.
“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.”
More technically we were a Norse colony as the Normans were ‘Norsemen’, not French who just happened to be living in a bit of France they captured a few years earlier! Not of course that the Angles or Saxons were native to the British isles either, you really need the celts for that.
Nonetheless, our small damp mongrel nation went on to punch above our weight and the result was some of the very best countries in the world. ;)
"What!? Oh... Peace, yes... shut up!"
They showed the world its pirates' end, at the end of British yardarms hewn of good New Hampshire oak.
Only Alexander, among the great conquerors, came as close to justifying his ambition as the British did. Their laws and civil service rules are still the model for half or more of the human race.
And all while they were doing these things, to borrow Claude Raines's line, they'd on the whole still rather have been in Tunbridge Welles.
The very Leftist UK is leading the West into the abyss of destruction. Time to nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.
Doesn't look like it
2004 GNP Comparison:
Hong Kong (pop. 6,940,432) ... $31,560 - (Ex-Brit)
Japan (pop. 127,463,611) ... $29,810 - ( Ex-USA)
Singapore (pop. 4,492,150) ... $27,370 - (Ex-Brit)
South Korea (pop. 48,846,823) ... $20,530 - (Ex-USA)
Malaysia (pop. 24,385,858) ... $9,720 - (Ex-Brit)
Russia (pop. 142,893,540) ... $9,680 - (????)
Thailand (pop. 64,631,595) ... $7,930 -
Turkey (pop. 70,413,958) ... $7,720 - ( Ex-Ottoman)
Kazakhastan (pop. 15,233,244) ... $6,930 - ( Ex-Russia ?)
China (pop. 1,313,973,713) ... $5,890 - ( Ex-Mongols)
Rollie the Ganger was a Dane. Dane first, and called Norman by people who didn't care about the difference between Danes and Scandinavian Norsemen.
The United States has never claimed sovereignty over the ROKs, Japan, or for that matter Iraq.
And the last non-Chinese dynasty to rule China was the Manchus in the 19th century, to 1912.
There is a tradition out there that holds that Washington WAS indeed shown!
Words of Washington according to this tradition:
“...The scene instantly began to fade and dissolve, and I at last saw nothing but the rising, curling vapor I at first beheld. This also disappearing, I found myself once more gazing upon the mysterious visitor, who, in the same voice I had heard before, said, ‘Son of the Republic, what you have seen is thus interpreted: Three great perils will come upon the Republic. The most fearful is the third, but in this greatest conflict the whole world united shall not prevail against her. Let every child of the Republic learn to live for his God, his land and the Union.’ With these words the vision vanished, and I started from my seat and felt that I had seen a vision wherein had been shown to me the birth, progress, and destiny of the United States.”
For the whole article, see this:
1. I said Thailand IS better off than Indonesia, a Dutch colony. Thailand is at #7 spot, and if you remove Russia and Japan -- note of course that Japan was not a colony, it is at #5 behind HKG, SGP (two English colonies), S. Korea (again, never a European colony) and Malaysia (and English colony). Indonesia is not even on the charts and the countries following Thailand are Turkey (never a European colony), Kazakhstan (a Russian "colony" but actually an integral part of Russia) and China ("never" a European colony -- with a caveat of course that it was dominated in the 1800s)
2. I said Thailand was better off than Malaysia -- and I can add WAS better than Hong Kong and Singapore (again English colonies) -- I should have specified the WHEN :) -- I meant immediately at the end of the colonial period. Say look at 1965 and compare Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. I don't have data with me at hand and am not completely certain, but I'm pretty sure that Thailad was better off.
Also do note the in the case of Hong Kong and Singapore and Malaysia, the British provided the structure (very important) but the actions of the local Chinese were also key to the development of these countries
And of course Japan was not a European colony yet built itself up
touche! Yes, Francofied (?!) Norsemen were the ones who conquered ye. Ye damp mongrel mix o’ Celts, Norsemen, Dane, Angls, Saxons, Jutes, etc. etc. did do well :)
What were the key changes? I'd guess it was the defeat of the Dutch and then the French that put England on it's 180 year run at the top of the leagues (and it was THE superpower for 103 years from the defeat of Napoleon until the end of WWI.
Actually, my impression has been that the most radical, socialist types were likely to be in the forefront of domestic politics when the colonial powers left, so they would be the rulers of the new regime...and we all know what happens when liberals run a government.
The original post claimed that countries never colonised by the west were better off than those that had been. To whatever greater of lesser degree of influence the "colonial" western power exertedm, the balance of evidence favours the postulate that those countries that were colonised/occupied by western countries are better off economically as a result.
The constitution of post war Japan was essentially written by two senior US army officers over the objections of the post war Japanese politicians. The Japanese politicians wanted to amend the Meji constitution but were over-ruled by the US " Shogun". The rights of women in Japan would have been trampled on had it not been for the US imposing a western democratic model on the Japanese. Japan did not regain its soverignty until 1952. It may not have been a colony in the 19C sense of the word but it was in fact a protectorate of the US, which continues to a limited extent to this day. South Korea likewise owes its existence to the UN (read US and allies) and has been pushed and prodded into a Western Democratic model when it was flirting with authoritarian rule.
The British did not set out to build an Empire. Their interest was in trade, and much of their acquisition of empire was an attempt to protect their source of spices, etc. and their trade routes. In some cases, it was the result of protecting their citizens who had settled in foreign lands for their own reasons, as in N. America.
There were radical socialist types and then there were radical socialist types. The first kind left the colonial administrators in place to run things as they had before, only there was a new boss to rake in the profits. Those former colonies tended to keep some semblance of order and prosperity and the slide into the miasma of socialism was gradual. The other kind kicked out the colonial administrators, and then pancaked the country fairly quickly. Rhodesia/Zimbabwe is a very good recent case study on how that works.
The British did not invent the concentration camp.
The very word is an Anglicisation of the Spanish word ‘recontrados’. It was the Spanish who invented them, in Cuba.
It was unintentional, and when the full horror of the camps became known in Britain, there was a huge press, political and public outcry. The camps were immediately handed over to civilian control, and hundreds of doctors and nurses and thousands of tons of equipment headed to South Africa.
The deaths happened because the military made a terrible balls-up of running the camps, aliied to the Boers having a genetic suseptibility to certain diseases due to interbreeding (the Boers did not breed with the other European groups).
And your point about responsibility can be made just as much by me about YOUR treatment of the Native American (which makes the British treatment of the Boers look benevolent). Or are the Limeys only sinners?.