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Thread: The British Empire

  1. #1

    Default The British Empire

    In terms of how we (in Britain at least) are taught in Schools and Universities, the attitude towards the British Empire has changed drastically during the past 50 years. The change within media and academic discussions has paralleled this. Once the world's largest formal Empire, the British Colonialism overseas has gone from being viewed as a triumph to a travesty.

    However, I still don't think it's all clear cut. So...fellow ADISCers:

    Is colonising any other country, especially one which is resistant to foreign influence always wrong?

    Does the fact that many of the countries which were reasonably stable under the empire - such as Nigeria and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) - and have since deteriorated justify or even promote the idea that Colonialism can be a good thing?

    And is bringing more 'formal' Western Cultures and moral attitudes to culturally different countries something which brings more progress or more problems?
    Last edited by Sanch; 21-Feb-2015 at 19:57.

  2. #2

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    Can i correct you on one thing Zimbabwe was Rhodesia not other way round ,
    But it doesn't all ways work as we the British couldn't tame Afghanistan in the late 19th century nor the Russians in the 1980's

  3. #3

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    To be blunt, you guys really broke a lot of what you touched and basically went around the world with a reverse Midas touch. Yes, removing an indigenous population's right to self-determination is wrong.

    Part of the problems in places like Africa and the Middle East today stem from the fact that the colonizers had no idea of or respect for existing borders, populations, and cultures. Instead, they went in, drew some lines on their maps, and decided they now ran the joint. Do not mistake the ability to maintain law and order as stability. Mashing together tribes and cultures that didn't particularly care for each other is a big part of why parts of Africa are war-torn shitholes now. The Colonials were there long enough to establish new ideas of what the territories should be (i.e. those new lines on the map and the new nations/states those lines represented), but they weren't there long enough to completely overwrite the indigenous culture. Instead, the end result was a bastard hybrid of British colonial attitudes, indigenous prejudices and conflicts, and revised ideas of who should be where. We see how that's ended up in multiple instances. South African apartheid, tribal fighting in Iraq, these are lingering effects of colonialism.

    I think we're seeing it again with the U.S. and the Middle East. We decided that we needed to go kick over their sand castles and replace them with our own. After over a decade of being there, we've effectively created ISIS or ISIL or whatever we're calling them this week. Iraq is a fucked-up mess. We destabilized the entire region by showing up. I can only wonder how much of a mess a lot of these places that got colonized were in the couple of decades following the arrival of the Colonials.

    More progress? I doubt it. More problems? Oh yes.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by parcelboy2 View Post
    Can i correct you on one thing Zimbabwe was Rhodesia not other way round ,
    But it doesn't all ways work as we the British couldn't tame Afghanistan in the late 19th century nor the Russians in the 1980's
    Should've proofread my post, and I might've noticed I'd put them the wrong way around! The Afghanistan situation is fascinating. I saw Sherard Cowper-Coles, the former Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan give a talk on Britain's involvement in Afghanistan, and was amazed by how far it goes back.

    Whilst we're talking 1980s, I'd say the Falklands War has to be the last and perhaps most controversial piece of colonising done by Britain.

  5. #5

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    Progress and prosperity are concepts which belong to the perceptions of a given culture. One people's notion of this may drastically differ from another's.

    Of course in the 2015, centuries after mass colonisation by a few western powers, the proverbial horse has bolted. Things can't go back....globalisation is here to stay.

    However, I doubt strongly that early indigenous people's enjoyed very much having their entire cultures, social structures etc torn apart, and forcibly replaced with another.

    The scary thing now is that a different wave of colonisation, (religious) is attempting to sweep the world.....surely this can only lead to further displacement anger and war.

    I often think about the privilege I enjoy living in Australia as a result of English colonialism, but several generations on, and in the eyes of the indigenous, I am still an outsider, an invader. Funny thing is .... now I'm the displaced one.

  6. #6

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    When you compare how former British colonies are doing compared to former French, Dutch or pretty much any other countries colonies the British ones are probably the least screwed up. Not that that is saying much.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by MasterPython View Post
    When you compare how former British colonies are doing compared to former French, Dutch or pretty much any other countries colonies the British ones are probably the least screwed up. Not that that is saying much.
    Most of the British colonies that are doing well are colonies where the native population was wiped out (through a combination of natural factors and genocide) and/or politically marginalized. Plus the Commonwealth did spawn it's fair share of basket cases like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and New Jersey.

  8. #8

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    There is certainly a credible case that many countries would be better off if they were still part of the BE, particularly the level of inequality seen in countries like India. I can see the UK absorbing Hong Kong again within the next 20 years, under the Sino-British Declaration China has to allow HK it's autonomy otherwise they will invalidate the agreement, indeed during the recent troubles there was widespread support in HK for returning to British control.

  9. #9

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    From a colony perspective, I hate the British Empire and all that it has done to betray it's colonies.

    In hindsight, countries where British citizens became the majority were better off. Not the native populations but I know Australia is better off than before. But that's all subjective. What's better? Health? Medicine? Roads? Cities?
    Or living off the land? Lack of disease? Healthy bodies due to physical exercise? Environmental balance? No great extinction? No feral animals destroying the country? Uranium not being pulled out of the ground to make weapons for other countries?

    I prefer the first one because in that one I'm alive but I'm not sure Australia is still better off. There used to be 500 languages in Australia but they've been whittled down to very few.

    Example 1 of betrayal - Mau Mau Uprising
    My pet hate was Kenya for British colonialism. The Mau Mau people of Kenya. The British had this idea that their way was the right way. So they "bought" all the land and gave it to white farmers. They didn't understand the culture and didn't try. In the Mau Mau culture a young man can only take a wife if he has land. So now that no men had land no men could take wives. The only option left to them was to take the land back which was the "Mau Mau Uprising" of 1952-1960. Because there are no official reports, estimates run the civilian deaths in concentration camps between 10,000 and 50,000. (Some predict 300,000 but that doesn't seem believeable and is based off who filled out a census). These estimates don't count children under 10 as they didn't show up on reports. Civilians were known to be sexually abused, castrated, electrocuted and other such tortures. Eventually this was changed to only be allowed to be done to the top half of the body. Rebel deaths were around 20,000 with 1000 executed. (The french never exectued that number in Algeria!) Still, there are officially documentated cases of thigns like burning a baby alive, rape, forced insertion of objects. The police commissioner for Kenya resigned over how bad the camps were without being allowed to investigate.

    (Note: The Mau Mau rebels also did a lot of bad things as well both to white settlers and to other Africans)

    Compensation claims by civilians were thrown out of British courts in the 90s. This included a 2 castrated men and a women who had a bottle of boiling water pushed up her vagina. The claims are being pushed again from 2002.

    Example 2 - Australia
    Australia got it's fair share of the raw end of the stick as a colony too. People were sent here for crimes that weren't crimes. The youngest was 8 and he had stolen a tomato from a trash can. They were forced slaved labour and forced colonists. When war came about, Australia was called up to war. Boer war came first and next was WW1. 320,000 men were sent out of a population of 4 million. It was nearly 10% of our country and the majority of the young men. The casualty rate was 65%. Dead and wounded. It is well documented that colonialists were used first if there was a choice. Case in point was the battle of Villers-Bretonneux where Australian's were ordered to attack a town against ten times their number. A suicide mission for no reason since the first version of the tank was coming. No-one, including the soldiers, understand how they won but they lost 1200 men taking the town. "Let Us Never Forget Australia." Is written above their schools blackboards.
    Gallipoli is written into a book called "Worst Battlefield Blunders" and comes in the top 5. A famous book by an Australian soldier called A Fortunate Life quotes a commander going "Gosh. What's that stink?" "No mans land. Dead bodies sir." "Well, why not just send some of your men over to collect them?" "But sir.. they'll die?" ................................"What's a few men?"

    Then in WW2 Australia sent troops to help in Africa against Rommel. Australia, England and India handed Rommel his first defeat at Tobruk. (Look up Rommel. A German hero. "War without hate." He refused to treat allied prisoners any less than he'd treat his own men. He refused orders from Hitler to execute commandos on sight) From there Australia fought a lot through Africa until Japan reared it's head. When our PM requested the return of Australian troops Churchill said "Nope. They're mine." So Australia was forced to defend against the Japanese with it's reserves. Churchill said he was defending Singapore but in his notes it was revealed he had written it off without telling Australia. As a result, 30,000 men were taken prisoner. If it wasn't for the USA winning the Battle of the Coral Sea, Australia would have lost thousands on the Kokoda Trail leaving Australia open to invasion. He told Australia that he was sending the British fleet to prevent the Japan invasion of Australia. Another lie. No fleet was ever ordered in our direction. When it was getting really desparate the PM asked Churchill for assistance and said "we helped you in Germany, Africa and the Middle East" and Churchil made a point that no help would come for Australia. This was after Germany had been basically beaten.
    The Japanese would have still invaded because Australia was basically undefended because Churchil had the majority of our troops. My Grandad, a truck driver with flat feet, was used in beach landings in the pacific because Australia had no infantry left. The only thing that really stopped the invasion of Australia in the end was our size. They calculated they needed 6 million troops to effectively control Australia and they didn't have enough to do that and keep the pacific secure. Yay for big empty nothingness.

    So Australia put a thing into our laws that said Australia would never be commanded by a non-Austraian again. All because of how Australia was treated by English. An expendable resource and not an ally to be helped. Hence why we always have to have a general high up in any situation we're involved in. Jim Moylan was our general for Iraq and was 2IC for a few years. Australian foreign policy is mostly geared to the USA now as well since they helped us.

    So yeah. Screw the empire and most of all screw Churchill. England sees him as a hero but he is a villain who would have never survived setting foot on Australian soil after what he did.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Near View Post
    Most of the British colonies that are doing well are colonies where the native population was wiped out (through a combination of natural factors and genocide) and/or politically marginalized. Plus the Commonwealth did spawn it's fair share of basket cases like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and New Jersey.
    Haha...are you referring to Chris Christie's New Jersey? I had to laugh if you are. Sadly, I to am a disillusioned refuge, displaced by the ruddy British, never to return to my beloved New Jersey

    . I have to agree with GoldenDragonetc, and others who have so excellently discussed the problems resulting from colonization. I might add that not only the British, but the Dutch and others had no problem making the indigenous inhabitants into their slaves, and when they didn't work to their liking, they also had little moral compunction to shoot them dead.

    As another example, and I apologize if it's already been mentioned, the creation of countries out of the continent of Africa. Many of the wars being waged presently are a result of not understanding the many tribes and how varied and diverse a people they were and still are.

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