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Not an Evil Empire.

#1
At last, someone stands up for the British Empire.
We've had to get used to sneering comments of how 'brutal' and 'inhumane' we were to the poor inhabitants of the 'oppressed' lands which made it up. Now, in an article in the Sunday Times, Lawrence James writes a spirited defence....

''Empires of one sort or another have been a constant of history. They grow, wither and leave their legacies. I believe that on balance the British empire was a force for good and should be a source of national pride. It provided an interlude of stability in which countries divided by race and religion could develop and, in the case of India, discover a national identity.

Alongside railways, schools, universities, hospitals and sanitation projects, the empire introduced political and social ideas dear to the British. These included extending civil rights to women, a free press and, most important of all, a culture of popular consent and reasoned debate. English spread as the language of learning, law and commerce.''

Full article:- http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-2230453,00.html

What is your opinion?
 
#2
I would have to go with Churchill on this one when asked about the legacy of the British Empire

“While it can not be said that it was always good, It was undoubtedly great”
 
#3
It may seem bad by current standards but I often wonder if that's very fair. Perhaps by future standards our societies will be judged as abysmal.
 
#5
The British Empire was made Great by the Nation that started it, Britian. All those countries that were honoured to be part of it won in the lottery of life. If they hadn't been where would they be now?

Well apart from Africa, the French mucked that continent up anyway.
 
#6
I should have recalled the fact yesterday that the British Empire almost singlehandedly wiped slavery from the face of the earth. Far from evil, that is one of the most admirable endeavors in the history of mankind.
 
#7
IMHO If the Commonwealth and Europe had continued with Victorian values to this very day, had expanded and not been crushed by two world wars and now Central European Govt. we would all be thinking along the lines of Lawrence James. Bit it has not. It's now one big mucky pool of deceit and we are now being blamed for it. We're the poor cousin aren't we?
 
#8
IMHO If the Commonwealth and Europe had continued with Victorian values to this very day, had expanded and not been crushed by two world wars and now Central European Govt. we would all be thinking along the lines of Lawrence James. Bit it has not. It's now one big mucky pool of deceit and we are now being blamed for it. We're the poor cousin aren't we?
 
#9
IMHO If the Commonwealth and Europe had continued with Victorian values to this very day, had expanded and not been crushed by two world wars and now Central European Govt. we would all be thinking along the lines of Lawrence James. Bit it has not. It's now one big mucky pool of deceit and we are now being blamed for it. We're the poor cousin aren't we?
 
#13
On balance, although not held together by daisy chains, the Empire was more a force for good than bad in the World. A good overview is provided by Niall Ferguson's "Empire", 2003 (Penguin pb 2004), ISBN 0-141-00754-0.

Most impressive, however, was the relative speed,efficiency, good grace & civility with which the whole vast & complex imperial system was dissolved in the two decades post WW2 - not wholly a matter of economic necessity! This contrasts markedly with the conduct of other imperial powers during the same period, notably the French. And yet we're the ones continually criticised for not getting over our imperial past!

When I was born (1960) my Father was away engaged in one of the many "savage wars of peace" characteristic of the decolonisation era: to his dying day he corresponded regularly with a number of his former troops in the ex-colony, and time after time all of them lamented the end of British rule, wanted us back, hated/ feared the present regime etc. Many of them still contact me regularly today, usually on the anniversary of his death. Speaks volumes, I feel.
 
#14
If the experience of British colonisation was so bad you have to ask why so many former colonies have voluntarily kept up their association with Britain and each other through the Commonwealth (alas no longer officially the BRITISH Commonwealth). Indeed, didn Mozambique joined at their request despite NOT having been colonised by the Brits (Britain 1 Portugal 0).
 
#16
Bit of a red herring, CF. Most personnel in the NHS are public-sector workers, if not strictly civil servants. As it's the world's third-biggest employer that's a lot of people - porters, nurses, whathaveyou. The Indian Civil Service only included the very top grades, much more like the Home Civil Service's "First Division". The shit jobs were in the Indian Administrative Service, mostly filled by Indians. And, of course, there were quite a lot of public employees - railways, telegraphs/post and such - who weren't in either but don't count in the comparison. As the Indian State Railways employ more people than the NHS, that's a pretty big chunk to miss out.
 
#17
Escape-from-PPRuNe said:
Bit of a red herring, CF. Most personnel in the NHS are public-sector workers, if not strictly civil servants. As it's the world's third-biggest employer that's a lot of people - porters, nurses, whathaveyou. The Indian Civil Service only included the very top grades, much more like the Home Civil Service's "First Division". The s*** jobs were in the Indian Administrative Service, mostly filled by Indians. And, of course, there were quite a lot of public employees - railways, telegraphs/post and such - who weren't in either but don't count in the comparison. As the Indian State Railways employ more people than the NHS, that's a pretty big chunk to miss out.
That may be true, however it is a fact that in 1914 in the Foreign and Colonial offices plus embassies the total employees to administer the Empire was about 10/% of the strength of the Foreign Office at present - and we don't have an Empire or Colonial administration! they do write loads of reports and memos though....
 
#18
intli said:
That may be true, however it is a fact that in 1914 in the Foreign and Colonial offices plus embassies the total employees to administer the Empire was about 10/% of the strength of the Foreign Office at present - and we don't have an Empire or Colonial administration! they do write loads of reports and memos though....



Yeah I have often wondered how the Foreign Office can justify so many workers today. Especially when all communication
are dealt with quickly today through email and telephone were as in Imperial times was dealt with letter and telegram.
You think technology would do away with the beurocrat and administrators but alas we see an increase :(
 
#19
hansvonhealing said:
At last, someone stands up for the British Empire.
We've had to get used to sneering comments of how 'brutal' and 'inhumane' we were to the poor inhabitants of the 'oppressed' lands which made it up. Now, in an article in the Sunday Times, Lawrence James writes a spirited defence....

''Empires of one sort or another have been a constant of history. They grow, wither and leave their legacies. I believe that on balance the British empire was a force for good and should be a source of national pride. It provided an interlude of stability in which countries divided by race and religion could develop and, in the case of India, discover a national identity.

Alongside railways, schools, universities, hospitals and sanitation projects, the empire introduced political and social ideas dear to the British. These included extending civil rights to women, a free press and, most important of all, a culture of popular consent and reasoned debate. English spread as the language of learning, law and commerce.''

Full article:- http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-2230453,00.html

What is your opinion?
To be honest, I haven't met a colonial or post colonial historian (new fashionable term for Imperial historians) who holds such a traditional Marxian view. Even the most anti-Imperialist acknowledge that empire for some did have benefits, after all you can not subjugate a people by force alone!

But such legacies need to be looked through their contemporary light.
 
#20
The Empire also kept straight books, a global benchmark of good practice that still benifits the UK, the Chinese even today refer to the period when our chaps ran the Chinese Imperial Customs service as the only time when Beijing could rely on customs reciepts being genuine.
 

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