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In defence of defending empire Why are anti-colonialists suppressing a book instead of challenging it?

It's taboo, but it's true: many were proud to be colonial subjects. Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

It's taboo, but it's true: many were proud to be colonial subjects. Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images


November 19, 2021   6 mins

Within living memory, writing the biography of an obscure colonial official would have been considered towards the unremarkable end of the academic spectrum. The sort of worthy scholarly chore undertaken by some unambitious don in the twilight of his career, and published by a dutiful university press that would run off a few hundred copies, destined to lie undisturbed on the shelves of faculty libraries. But today, it is the sort of thing that gets you cancelled and earns you death threats — and that academic presses, intimidated by their own staff, shun like the plague.

Bruce Gilley, Professor of Political Science at Portland State University, first had a taste of such treatment in 2017, when he published a now famous, or notorious, article entitled, “The Case for Colonialism”. It was peer reviewed and published by a reputable scholarly journal. But then came the storm: a collective letter signed by hundreds of colleagues denounced him; editors of the journal resigned; terrified publishers pleaded with him to withdraw the article to protect them from possible violence; and abuse and death threats came flying his way.

What was his crime? To suggest, in careful and moderate terms (judge for yourselves — the piece is available here), that European empires did some good. And that some similar arrangement, through which advanced democracies might adopt some of the duties of government in failed states, might do some good today. Of course, one could object that not all European empires were benevolent or effective. One could equally suggest that few (or no) developed countries would be willing to shoulder the burdens of quasi-colonial government today. Many, even most, people might think Gilley’s ideas one-sided or unrealistic. So what? Debate — often heated — has for centuries been the way we have advanced knowledge and reached agreed position: thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

But Gilley was not being offered debate. He was being threatened and silenced, labelled a heretic. Needless to say, this has become a familiar sight in Western academic life. Fortunately, he seems to have a secure tenured position; and admirably, he seems not to be easily intimidated. His new book, The Last Imperialist: Sir Alan Burns’ Epic Defense of the British Empire, takes the battle to a different level. “The Case for Colonialism” was a general survey: a birds-eye view of empire. A biography, of course, is the opposite: a worms-eye view from the grassroots.

Burns, who died in 1980 at the age of 92, was a distinguished man in his field, and a witty and dedicated public servant. But he was not a maker of high policy or an intellectual of wide influence. I had never heard of him; I expect few historians have. This, of course, is part of the attraction, if you want to show what governing the British Empire meant in everyday terms — not the view from Whitehall, but from an office in Nassau, a mud hut in Benin, or ultimately Christiansborg Castle in Accra. Burns started at the bottom of the colonial administration, as a 17-year-old junior revenue officer in St Kitts, and he ended as Governor of the Gold Coast. He was a true son of empire, born in the Caribbean, one of that rather small occupational class (his father was a local official), who for a few decades managed the largest empire in history on a shoestring.

Perhaps Gilley was drawn to Burns because he was “the last man” to make a principled defence of empire, as his career drew to an end at the United Nations. “It is the fashion today to decry colonialism,” Burns wrote in his memoirs, “but it has saved millions of people from worse evils 
 slavery and human sacrifice, corrupt judges and tyrannical chiefs, famine and disease.” Merely to say this is to break a contemporary taboo: “on balance, we have nothing to be ashamed of.” But Gilley clearly agrees.

He goes further in this lively, accessible, often amusing and frequently exciting story: he hammers home facts that outrage the “woke” consensus on colonialism. That many of its peoples wanted to be part of the empire. That they were proud to be colonial subjects. That opposition to colonial rule was rarer than the desire for more of it. That its peoples showed loyalty, even to the point of fighting for it. That officials like Burns were popular with the people they governed.

One small episode is intriguing in today’s context. As reforming governor of poverty-stricken British Honduras (now Belize) in the 1930s, Burns got the British Museum to return Mayan relics that had been recently discovered by a British doctor and sent to London. His plan was to set up a local museum to foster Mayan self-respect: “We see that the people have their bread but too often forget to let them have some butter with it”. The colonial government in Ceylon repatriated the royal regalia of the pre-colonial Kandy kingdom for similar reasons. But Burns never regarded the acquisition of these artefacts as theft. The Mayan ones, for instance, had been saved from oblivion.

Over the course of the period covered by Gilley’s book, and Burns’s career, the empire reached its apogee and its end. Two world wars and then the Cold War shattered its foundations. Burns became governor of the Gold Coast (Ghana) in 1941, surrounded by Vichy-controlled territory. The colonies proved, he wrote, “true loyal friends” at this time: had they wished “to push us into the sea there was little to prevent them.” Instead, they provided donations for Spitfires and volunteers for the army. Visiting Americans were astonished that Burns travelled the country without a bodyguard.

But Burns knew that the war meant the days of British rule were numbered. He was to face growing political opposition. Bizarrely, his worst problem stemmed from a case of ritual human sacrifice. The victim had been gruesomely slaughtered to mark the accession of a new chief. Important men were involved. Nevertheless, the authorities arrested the murderers, who were sentenced to death. Burns supported severity — he regarded human sacrifice, which still lingered on, as something he had a duty to suppress. But the case became politicised, opposition led by a nationalist lawyer, Joseph Danquah, who won support in Westminster against what was presented as excessive colonial harshness. Even Churchill denounced Burns.

More broadly, nationalist opposition, though limited in its popular support, acquired backing not only in Britain, but internationally. Burns foresaw all this. Indeed, he had long understood his task as being to prepare for independence, and had tried to reduce racial inequality. He forcefully promoted “Africanization”. But he believed that premature independence would endanger “the mass of the population”, especially if the Soviet Union (or indeed the Americans) weighed in.

Gilley begins his book with a poignant story that encapsulates the tragedy that ensued after the British released the reins in 1957. Burns’s erstwhile opponent, Danquah, who had seemed destined to rule Ghana, soon ended up in prison under the new dictator Kwame Nkrumah. The darling of Western progressives, feted by John F Kennedy and decorated by the Soviet Union, Nkrumah caused the economy of Ghana, hitherto Africa’s richest country, to collapse. Shortly before Danquah died of ill treatment in 1965, he wrote to Nkrumah from prison about justice and compassion, reminding him that:

“it was our people’s love of justice that compelled them to ask the British in 1843 to come back to Ghana 
 Now the British people have gone away 
 and already some people are asking 
 “Is this justice?”’ 

This, then, is potentially a very controversial book — unless Gilley’s adversaries manage to have it written off as the work of a lone extremist, published by an obscure press and hence systematically ignored. There is an interesting story behind its publication — of at least one contract rescinded by a mainstream publisher after protests by their staff.

But why has the subject of empire become so explosive that a minority voice like Gilley’s must be silenced? If his general argument about empires were obviously false, it would be easy to refute. If his scholarship on Burns were faulty, the book could be effectively criticised. The orthodox view in academe today — that the empire was essentially repressive, exploitative, racist, violent, destructive, and so on — is backed up by numbers, research funding, and patronage. Even though its scholarship and intellectual bases are sometimes embarrassingly shoddy, it is in no danger of being overthrown.

But this is clearly not the point. Anger is aroused by Gilley’s work not because what he says is false, but because much of it is evidently true. Scholarship aside, mere common sense suggests that a system as huge as the British Empire, which the Cambridge scholar Ronald Hyam describes as “a global mosaic of almost ungraspable complexity and staggering contrasts,” must have had some good effects. Perhaps those idealistic young people who volunteered for the colonial service, like Burns, were sometimes arrogant or naïve. But they often worked hard and selflessly to keep the peace, create economic development, provide medical treatment, build infrastructure and promote education. As Gilley’s book shows, they believed they were making the world a better place.

This is what cannot be admitted. It explodes the idea of the British empire as purely violent exploitation. It exposes the fragility of nationalist myths about struggles for freedom. Above all, it undermines the view that empire created a permanent legacy of racial oppression that still weighs on us today.


Professor Robert Tombs is a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge, and the author of The English and Their History


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Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

The British Empire gave more, and greater, good to the world than any other Nation or Empire in history.

The British gave the modern world most of that which is good, the science, enlightened Politics, industry, Rule of Law, Jury Trials, Common Law, ending of Slavery, Suffrage, literature, Philosophy, Medicine, Architecture, technology, Transport of roads, sea, and rail, Missionaries, Education, Trade, Infrastructure, Universities, Science, Maths, Arts, Peace, Freedom, Rights, and ENLIGHTENMENT and so much more, in what was an unenlightened World.

Great Britain has been the greatest of all Nations (although that word may not be technically proper as GB is really an Island, not a country) in history. That anyone cannot see that means they are either ignorant, or misled.

And read ‘The Life of My Choice’
by Wilfred Thesiger, the very last of the truly Great British Gentleman explorers and adventurers. He died in 2003, I have letters from him to my family, and his signed books – If you wish to read one of the greatest autobiographies – one of 90+ years spent in the most remote and wild parts of the world – this is the book, his kind will never been seen again https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_Thesiger

Lee Jones
Lee Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Galeti Tavas. You are utterly mad! I like that in a person, do carry on.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I was brought up to believe that. I dont any more, but nice to read someone write the perspective with such enthusiasm. I was working remotely with some Indians last year who were calling Mumbai Bombay. Apparently even now, at least in certain parts of south west India among the non Hindus, there remain many young Inidans who still believe the same.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

Yes the Mumbai/Bombay debacle was interesting. Most people from there still call it Bombay, at least they did when I was there in the 00s.
My understanding was that it was a politically powerful but minority tribe who call it Mumbai and pushed for its change, against the wishes of most of the inhabitants who think nothing of the sort.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

‘Mumbai’ is a completely artificial neologism. Very simple, it is neither an English nor Marathi name, but from the Portuguese for ‘Good Bay’.

The current made up name is one of a number of fairy tale origin stories are told by many Hindu Nationalists.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Chenai is another one. How did Madras become that?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Ok. I’m reverting to calling it Bombay.

L Walker
L Walker
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Me, too. As a heavy reader of history, I came to view the Empire.as mostly good. I think, possibly, if George had had all his faculties, my country would be part of the commonwealth today. Just speculation. I’ve always looked on England as where my ancestors were from.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

Are the Hindus resentful of the ending of Suti ? (Having to visit granny can be such a drag )
Or do they long for the time when the caste system meant untouchables knew their place and blame the British for the increase in mixing between classes .

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

The problem with all empire is that it is founded on the invasion of a weaker nation. When one looks for good things built on such a bad foundation, the perspective is wrong. I think it’s ok for oppressed people’s to highlight the good of their oppressors but better for oppressors and their descendants not to

Fergus Mason
Fergus Mason
2 years ago

And I think people like you are the problem. It’s fine to disagree with, challenge, debate and refute what someone says; it is not fine to decide it isn’t OK for them to say it.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Fergus Mason

These aliens walk among us, even on Unherd it seems. Thanks for dealing with this one.

L Walker
L Walker
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

I agree with you and Fergus.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Why call me an alien rather than debate the issues.? Is Unherd only for people who agree with authors.? I sometimes agree with them and sometimes not

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

UnHerd is definitely one-sided. Free discussion is rare. It is good to have a different viewpoint. Please don’t be put off.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Having been personally involved in a number of disagreements and arguments on UnHerd, and read quite a few others, I think you are definitely wrong.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

And this by definition is another.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Thank you for your kind words

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Fergus Mason

I disagreed but I did so respectfully. I do not support cancelling anyone and have never suggested that

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago

You beg the question of what is to count as a nation.
As a Yorkshireman am I oppressed by London rule? Am I oppressed by rule by the EU? As a Hindu am I oppressed by the rule of the Moslem Moghuls?
In most instances people will always end up with rule by remote elites, and the question is one of practicalities as to which will be the least exploitative, cruel and unjust. It’s not hard to imagine that this will often have been the British.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

There have always been ruling class ‘oppressors’, whether indigenous or through conquest, but only Western states have ever acknowledged the concept.

The Mughals wealth depended, as in all state agrarian societies, living off the back of the peasantry. As did an untold numbers of previous dynasties.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

It’s much more complicated than that – with a lot more issues involved. The British were mostly militarized traders who tended to play off one faction against another in their dealing and, in so doing, manipulated themselves to take control of governance, typically with relatively small armed forces. Though they did battles, the process was more of tilting the field in favour of one group of locals against another – so a system of coups and distablisations in joint ventures with local princes, rather than invasions (the British typically operating out of the ‘factories’ and forts that they used for their trading stations).
In creating a tenuous balance of power, the British could then control the situation, and eventually take all of the power to impose ‘the British way’ for British interests – normally to control trading rights, but not so much to directly to control peoples which was typically too expensive and disrupted trade. Meaning that existing systems remained in place with local rulers and customs, but overseen by the British.
The contrast is with the Spanish Empire, where Spanish-ness was imposed on the conquered peoples – with the imposition of buildings like Cathedrals and required religious conversion. The British approach, by contrast, didn’t really have an objective to disrupt local cultures or religions, but lived with them, and infused British viewpoints, sets of laws and administration into existing institutions. The outcome was a blend of local and British that was more than the individual parts.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

“British were mostly militarized traders who tended to play off one faction against another in their dealing and, in so doing, manipulated themselves to take control of governance,”

Not really, or everywhere they went would be in endless Civil War. Instead they did as you say, but then by providing fair and just Rule Of Law and commerce in peace they ‘Ruled By Consent’ as even the factions who lost to the British supported ones came to see this Peace meant greater prosperity and much more livable for their family and people.

They did not control much of the world without the greater consent of the colonized. And that came by enlightened leadership which re-paid the colonies for their consent through peace and prosperity.

In other words they did not just sell stuff, they sold an enlightened system of governing, and the people were willing to buy both.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

You paint British colonialism in the best possible light, ignoring atrocities and derelictions of duty like the Great Hunger, the Bengal famine, the Mau Mau uprising and concentration camps in SAfrica and Kenya, to name a few examples

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

There are obviously pluses and minuses. Today there is incredible tribal warfare in many African countries and, whilst the British might have treated the Africans as inferiors they still managed to prevent most of the tribal warfare. When the British left things reverted to the old ways.
Today China is building the empires in Africa and trying to look friendly as it does that. But really it is safeguarding its stock of raw materials for the future. Giving more and more money to Africa seems only to buy more comforts and arms for the dominant tribe. Whatever your views, things are not simple and just to blame Britain for its actions during one relatively small part of history seems a bit naive.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

We were not responsible for any tribal warfare when we were not involved but once we got involved, we did it for our own ends, we were a part of the problem and we left a mixed legacy. Much better never to have got involved in the first place and now to recognise that mistake fully, doing our own Aufarbeitung, rather than endlessly relativising our involvement.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

So Shaka Zulu did not carve out an empire the size of Europe with his impis? There was no slavery in Africa before the arrival of Europeans! There were no deaths in the Kenyan election a few years ago due to conflicts between Kikuyu and Lo tribes?The Shona and Ndebele lived on peace before the British arrived?Hutsis and Tutsis lived in peace ?

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago

A balanced view of ‘Empire’ should be taught in schools. It’s hard to see how certain possible ‘advantages’ of colonization can be offered up as justification for waltzing in and taking over. Stick to your guns, you have a legitimate point Michael. We, the British, have not faced up squarely to some of the smellier details in our past.
I’m extremely proud to be British, I love my Queen, (always watch her Christmas speech) but we were a bunch of rum buggers in the past.
There, I’ve said it.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Karl Francis

Sierra Leone (and the West African Territories) were set up to help with policing the suppression of the Atlantic slave trade.
Is that the sort of justification that strikes a chord with you?

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

I was responding to your claim that the British Empire was founded on invasion and oppression. It over used aggression at times, but surprisingly rarely given the size of the Empire. The picture is much more subtle because it involved complex relationships and political manoeuvring, commercial interests and mutual interests leveraging trade-offs between different needs that required cultural intelligence and selective mutuality that is far from the cartoon colours you present.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Cartoon colours? The facts of our colonial history are plain to see. If British people grew up really learning about the grim facts of e.g. the Great Hunger instead of avoiding them, we might have a chance of getting to the other side and seeing also the positives of empire in their correct context. But until then, we’re on the ship named HMS Colonial Amnesia – until we fall off the edge of the world.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago

“The facts of our colonial history are plain to see.”
Jeez. Here’s someone who believes everything he reads.

Last edited 2 years ago by Arnold Grutt
Peter Rigg
Peter Rigg
2 years ago

Well why not? There is no shortage of people painting it in the worst possible light,is there?

Peter Rigg
Peter Rigg
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

The picture you paint is of simple local people without agency,mere puppets. I think this is insulting but more importantly, wrong. It’s quite a stretch to suggest this as an accurate description of the peoples of a quarter of the World!

David Shaw
David Shaw
2 years ago

Michael, there simply was no invasion. The British went to trade and the locals were happy to trade. Then the locals got unhappy with the British traders and beat them up and killed them. The traders then protected themselves and formed Militias- as with the East Indian Company, they offered more to the locals than the Moguls-Maharajas. The Government/British Army came in much much later.
Where exactly do you think the British invaded?

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  David Shaw

Here’s a list. https://www.indy100.com/discover/uk-great-britain-invasion-empire-war-conquest-globe-invaded-2017-7460711 If you have a more subtle definition of invasion, then perhaps we can agree that the UK used its power to inveigle its way into positions of supreme authority in a large number of foreign lands, without the consent of the majority of their peoples.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago

Without popular consent the British wouldn’t have held any of their colonies for more than five minutes. Not that that was a test anyone thought was of any relevance before the 20th century.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

“The problem with all empire is that it is founded on the invasion of a weaker nation.”

Not necessarily. The region might not be a nation at all in any legitimate sense, and there are plenty of examples in history where Empires have emerged following the expansion of trade and wealth into new territory without that territory needing to have been militarily conquered.

And even in cases where there are “weaker” nations, what is “weak” in this sense? Well for starters the nation by definition couldn’t protect the people from an aggressor, so getting absorbed into a stronger system might very well have been brutal for the political and economic elites of that weaker nation, but might easily be very good for the rest of the society in question. This is in fact referred to in the article above, where huge numbers of Empire subjects remained loyal to Britain because Empire had improved their lives.

As for your last sentence, it is nonsense. There is either a good that exists or not; who you are when you observe it makes no difference to the truth or otherwise of the claim.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

The fact of some local people benefiting from “uninivited occupation” by a foreign power, let’s call it, doesn’t justify it. I would say that we need to prioritise our own working-off of our colonial guilt for a long time before we start focusing on the good things of the British empire. It’s manifestly obvious to the world that we as a nation are in a state of deep denial over our colonial legacy.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

There were 26 invasions of Hindu and Buddhist India between 1000 and 1750 AD. K S Lal puts the death toll at 80M plus.

L Walker
L Walker
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

BY the English?

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

And the vast bulk of that death toll is attributable to the Muslim conquest of India fairly early on in that time span. What pray tell does this have to do with the virtues and vices of British imperialism?

Last edited 2 years ago by David Yetter
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  David Yetter

Would India be a democracy today with entry to professions and promotion based upon exams and how would the Hindus, Sikhs, Parsees, Jains and Buddhists be faring today without the British?

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

That’s not relevant to this debate

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

Yes it is. It is whether British Rule provided any benefits. Britain introduced the idea of freedom and through self improvement one could better oneself which was threat to Mughul Muslim Rule and Brahmin Domination of the Cast System. J Brownowski considered that the British Industrial Revolution was our social revolution which removed the forces which led to class war in other countries. The British had the freedom to innovate and benefit from it. Many untouchables converted to Islam to escape the Cast System.

  1. The English Language helped to unify the vast Indian -Sub Continent and enabled those countries to take part in the modern Industrial World. Try getting a job in Sillicon Valley, Calfirfornia in the software industry if one onlys speak the language Kannada ?
  2. Where would the Indian IT Industry be if they only spoke the langauge of Kannada or Tamil or Malaylam?
  3. The creation of the Indian Army, ICS, The Law , Railways and Police plus business in general, provided a country where Muslims outside of the ruling families and Non- Brahmins could better themselves and improve their quality of life.
  4. Parsees fled from persecution in Persia, settled in India and psospered, for example Sir A Cursetjee FRS. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ardaseer_Cursetjee
  5. Muslims such as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan realised the meritocratic system of education which was taken up by non- Muslims was leaving them behind, so he set up universities.
  6. Britain created literate numerate NCOs/Foremen( ArmedForces /Railways) which enabled poor men to achieve well paid high status jobs so they could afford decent housing, healthcare and education for their families and enabled their children to enter the professional middle /officer classes. To acheive Havildar Major or even higher Subedar Major was an achievement eivement. The Havildar Major would have final say on whether a British Officer was suitable not the OC or Lt Colonel.
  7. The Armed Forces, The Railways, Police, ICS, The Law, Newspapers, telegraphs, Colleges/Universities and business in general allowed upward mobility very rarely possible under the Mughul Muslim Rule and Brahmin dominated cast system.
  8. The creation of a large professional middle class meant at Partition, those who were non- Muslims fled to India. High born Muslims often stayed in India. The consequence was in places like Sindh in Pakistan there were only a few highly educated landowners likes the Buttos and large numbers of ill educated rural workers with the The Armed forces providing by far the largest cadre of educated middle class professionals.Part of the problem Pakistan and Bangladesh have is that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan concerns that the Muslims have not taken up Western Technology with the same alacrity as the non-Muslims has been vindicated. Why is it Pakistan and Bangladesh have not created IT Industries to match India ?
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

I was uncertain whether to respond to your comment since so many have already done so. The problem with your comment is that it looks at historical events with a superficial 21st century anti-colonial lense. Before the introduction of universal voting rights, for the most part during the 20th Century, the “people” were “oppressed” by elites that were sometimes ethnically similar and sometimes not. Empires were often built not by conquest but by the intermarriage of royal families. Where conquest occurred it was not the conquest of one people by another but the replacement of the elite of one area by the elite of another.
In the case of India there was no Indian nation in the sense of voting citizens owing allegiance to a nation of India until after the end of the British Raj. The Mughal Empire, which was in decay during the increasing assertiveness of a private company whose headquarters were based in London but whose direction was often local called the East India Company, controlled large areas of India but was a conquering Moslem elite ruling over a largely Hindu people. In any case there were large numbers of independent or semi-independent elites ruling various principalities. In some cases the populations shared the same religion and in some cases not. The British government reluctantly took over the territories of the East India Company from the newly bankrupt company that had failed to administer their territories satisfactorily. The British Government did not conquer India nor did they oppress the people more than the previous rulers may of whom they left in place to administer their territories. Indeed, they were able to rule over India precisely because they had widespread support provided they didn’t do anything idiotic like using pig or cow fat on the cartridges which offended their soldiers religious sensibilities.
Of course, a time came when universal voting rights began to be introduced in Europe and elsewhere when many local Indian elites that had been educated in British Universities started to feel that something similar should be introduced into India and agitated for “Indian independence”. In the event these elites were not able to agree on Indian independence and ended up with an Indian nation and a Pakistani one.
Finally, it is an idiotic idea that it is only the “oppressed people” that have the right to comment on historic events concerning the area they live in. We all have the right and indeed I would argue the duty to correct partial and inaccurate versions of history whatever ethnic group we belong to. Nor, of course, do you know what ethnic group people comment here belong to.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Research shows that the British impoverished India during our time as rulers, extracting as much wealth from it as possible, for our own good. We also left millions of Indians to die of starvation on our watch. What would have happened in our absence, no one knows, but our decision to get involved was ill-fated for many 100s of millions of ordinary Indians. It’s up to them if they want to see the good of the British empire, in my view. Our priority is to acknowledge the horrifying reality of what our forebears did to innocent people. It’s too big for us to cope with so we prefer to ignore it and divert by focusing on the good we did.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

Between 1870 and 1941 Indian population doubled from 200M to 400M.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 years ago

History you don’t remember will likely be repeated. If you put your hand in the fire, would you want to forget that or remember it?

Ann Ceely
Ann Ceely
2 years ago

Not founded on invasion necessarily.
The British were traders in the 16th century, renting land for their trading posts, and sharing protective Trading Caravans with the natives.

We British were the impoverished Europeans!

Last edited 2 years ago by Ann Ceely
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

C Northcote Parkinson says it is the collapse of civilisation /nation which creates a vacuum which draws in more vigorous people. The Mongols were less civilised than the Chinese who though being affluent had become effete and it is the same since Sumer. Only the Egyptian who were invaded by the Hyksos were revitalised.
The Greeks conquered Greece in 146 BC because they said the latter had lost their martial valour. However, the Romans adopted Greek culture. A Toynbee in his ” Study of History ” also looks at the rise and fall of civilisations. One can look at Islam, founded by the Arabs, they lost power to Persians who adopted Islam, Seljuk Turks then Ottoman Turks. All those who came after the Arabs adopted Islam and Arabic ideals and ruled Arabs. The Arabs revolting against the Ottoman Turks in 1915 under the Sherif of Mecca.
What is ignored is whether people adopt others culture and religion because it is of benefit ? After all if The British Empire was so bad why is much of the Modern World fashioned from our ideas; for a start why use English. One could argue that Sanskrit is superior to English as a language, more advanced and refined but would airline pilots use it ? Why does modern science use the work of Newton, Watt, G Stephenson and Clerk Maxwell and wear suits if the British Empire was so bad?
Apparently after the telescope was discovered the Pope sent one to the Sultan and Mughul and Chinese Emperors . What did they do with them ? Newton and England gave the World “Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica” , perhaps the greatest work of science ever produced with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution coming second. What would be the World like if Britain reclaimed all the knowledge and technology it had produced, saying it was cutlural appropriation if other cultures used it?
Barnes Wallis out genius for ingenuity was due to our freedom. Why did ‘nt other cultures out perform Britain after all we are a collection small damp foggy islands with a small population about as far away as possible from the great civilisations of the past?

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

The British empire certainly supplied us with abundant material resources from other lands for a large section of our population to enjoy their lives and develop knowledge and science. The issue is whether that exploitation of other lands was just or not, despite the later benefits from using those spoils for the good of society. English became a lingua franca precisely through the extent of colonial power across many peoples. It’s also a particularly versatile language in its own right, for interesting linguistic reasons, which is why e.g. the EU will never abandon it.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

B Wallis says the British genuis for ingenuity was due to freedom and Wellingtom said our greatest trait was honesty – my word is my bond.Honesty and freedom are not material and both are needed to underpin the ethos of The Royal Society founded in 1660. India has had the capability to make railways ever since it made iron( it also has coal which can be turned into coke ) so why did it not do so? Railways increased speed of transport from 3 mph to at least 30 mph if not 45 mph, a 15 fold increase which reduced costs. In 1601 the Mughul Empire was much wealthier than England so why did it not develop naval power and the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, the scientific break throughs of Newton, Boyle, Hook, dalton, Faraday, Clerk Maxwell plus others ? Britain was happy to share all it’s technological breakthroughs with Indians by allowing them to attend our universities and setting up universities in India. Nehru attended Harrow and Read Natural Sciences at Trinity College Cambridge.
In 1700 The Mughul Empire was far wealthier and larger than Britain and we were still recovering from the Civil War, so why did we become so influential in India?The populatiion of Britain in 1800 was only 10M.
How was it that a collection of small islands on the extreme fringes of civilisation, cold, damp, foggy and windy with a population of 10M in 1800 become so influential ?

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago

Are you talking about empire as colonialism? Also, are your good and bad moral judgements a result of judging past events by modern ethical norms? Can you briefly lay out why you think it is not ok for the descendants of oppressors to highlight the good, or the bad for that matter?

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago

can we judge Hitler by modern standards? yes. We can judge the good and bad of empire but we’ve not had a national reckoning on our colonial legacy and so efforts by Brits to find the good of empire have to be seen in this context of national amnesia.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

That is quite a list of properties attributed to “The British”. I know that each and every property did not arise out of thin air, but had to be invented, designed, prototyped, modified and enacted by human beings. What were the properties of these beings with such civilizing potential? Was there any societal or evolutionary causal factors?; or was this progress sure to arise by chance somewhere in the World and the British were just lucky. Based on the last couple of centuries of my own humble North British ancestry, I could offer some clues, but which regrettably are taboo to publicly voice today.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

IQ is genetic based, and the Han Chinese and upper caste Indians have more of it than the Europeans as a mean – but there are other kinds of abilities which seemingly have genetic components.

I believe the British people have a sort of leadership IQ, and one which produces creative innovations, literature being an example – (the British do the best literature in the world, but that could be a function of the English Language – ), possibly an inherent desire for freedom and justice.

I tend to think the Chinese are smarter than us, but they have not quite got our creativity in the less tangible. Look at their history – once Confucianism ruled all was decided on what was perfection – and so any creativity outside that was outlawed. They never had Philosophers, say, as that was all decided. Not much Literature as the right and wrong was established. Their art and governing and social interactions all set in stone. The people taught their place, and this for thousands of years.

Unlike the constantly changing British society where individualism was the norm. I think there is a culturial basis to a great degree – but if it stays fixed for thousands of years there may be a genetic component – maybe a very tenuous one…

A kitten is a meat eater and wishes to kill mice, a rabbit does not. This is innate genetic behavior. At the human level we have equally strong and universal genetic controlled behaviors, and I think an entire spectrum from those down to virtually zero.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that, beyond the purely physical, ‘genetic’ factors affect our behaviour in any meaningful way. Language is far more important, and is the prime difference between humans and animals. The main point about human language is that it is a means of contradiction, unavailable anywhere else in the Universe.

Last edited 2 years ago by Arnold Grutt
pratima_mitchell
pratima_mitchell
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

And read Malcolm Darling’s accounts of his time in the I.C.S in the Panjab. A wise, selfless administrator with a huge affection for the rural people he served.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

The more books like this, that provide a sensible balance to the anti-colonial myths and exaggerations, become better known the sooner we will return to some semblance of sanity in public discourse about our past and hence a more balanced view of contemporary life.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The snag in yout thinking is the elites have set out to destroy Western People as a People, by 2050 Native British will becoming a minority in their land, as London now is less than half Native British. The Elites do not like Westerners, too troublesome, so you are to be replaced, and within 100 years will be.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Great to see all these groups coming together to oppose this contemporary blizzard of nonsense that we have to endure. Thanks to Robert Tombs et al for History Reclaimed:
https://historyreclaimed.co.uk/category/featured/
And a shout out to the Free Speech Union:
https://freespeechunion.org/

Last edited 2 years ago by Peter LR
A Spetzari
A Spetzari
2 years ago

Good article
I think one of the things that it’s easy to forget is how most Imperialism was not as planned or centrally controlled as we assume.
Most of Empire was created before the telegram, before powered sea travel. Word and people could take the best part of a year just to reach the furthest flung reaches.
It was less some top-down megalomania from Europe, more the spread of ideas, entrepreneurialism and development.
Britain, the most prolific imperialists, had a small army that could not possibly have taken what it did at the end of a bayonet, nor could have ever hoped to control as much as it did without buy-in from the many peoples who lived in those territories.
It’s not an excuse of some of the brutalities and excesses of empire – particularly latter empire building, but a simple reflection on the reality of it.

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Indeed. Bringing to mind the much quoted remark of Sir John Robert Seeley, “we seem, as it were, to have conquered half the world in a fit of absence of mind.”

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

The one quality respected throughout the World is courage, the willingness to risk one’s life for others. Another aspect is the willingness to learn the languages,religions, customs and history of other races in order not to offend. An example from antiquity is Alexander the Great who respected other religions and promoted soldiers, even officers in his army and Lawrence of Arabia more recently.
Volunteers from the Empire fought and died bravely because British officers learnt the languages, customs, religions and histories of the those who they led in combat. People do not follow those into combat who abuse their religion and customs and are cowards. Britain was different to other colonial powers because the Empire was run by people who were intensely curious and learnt languages, religions, custums, histories and undertook archaeological investigations. In addition Britain set up learned societies to study Asia and Africa and the School of Oritiental and African Studies.Britons were able to learn Persian, the language of the Mughul Empire because it is Indo- Aryian and they knew Greek. Tamil and Malayalam are Dravidian Languages are far more difficult to learn. ICS and most Army Officers learnt 4 Indian Languages and Richard Burton spoke at least 12.
B 1750s the Mughul Empire had collapsed into feuding states due to decline in tax. The taxation of Hindus at 50% led them only cultivating enough land to feed themselves producing a collapse in tax revenue. The Mughul asked The EIC to become tax collectors for the states of Bengal, Orissa and Bihar in about 1750. This led EIC changing from just about being a company to an administrator.
In 1601 the Mughul Empire was more powerful than England. Northcote Parkinson said the Chinese and Indians though they developed cannons, never created a numerate and literate NCOs who could manoeuvre them on a battlefield and fire them in quick and coordinated manner in batteries. The NCOs are the backbone of the British Armed Forces.In the 18th century Indian rulers employed French and British Officers, mainly artillery and engineers to train their armies but only under British Rule was a large cadre of competent NCOs created.
From 1828 when the first medical school was founded, Britain transferred knowledge and technology.
It was the English Language, Law, ICS, Army, Telegraph, Railways, Police and Newspapers which united a multitude of states into India.
Those who went ” Up Country ” ICS, Army Officers, Surveyors, Forestry Inspectors,Engineers,etc had to be careful not to cause offence otherwise they would be killed and/or they would not get a good days work out of people. One has to be careful not to cause offence, especially when dealing with people of diferent religions, casts, tribes, clan and sub-clans. The sort of swearing and losing one’s temper which is common place on a British construction site causes great offence on the Indian Sub- Continent. A reason for the success of the Burma Campaign was attention to the different peoples religious based food and washing requirements.
Are there any examples of Left Wing Middle British people who criticise The British Empire of leading volunteers into combat or undertaking civil engineering projects such as designing and building railways, dams, irrigation projects, water supplies, sewage works, etc ?

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Are there any examples of Left Wing Middle British people who criticise The British Empire of leading volunteers into combat or undertaking civil engineering projects such as designing and building railways, dams, irrigation projects, water supplies, sewage works, etc ?
Yes there are. The good aold Guardian, of course, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/08/india-britain-empire-railways-myths-gifts, and politians in India (Shashi Tharoor). Apparently railways were a colonial con and inherently racist.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

Obviously ignores the scholarship of K S Lal who has written extensively on Muslim rule of India. The Indian Mutiny was quite localised and people like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan did not support it.

Michael James
Michael James
2 years ago

You are quite right that ideas are cancelled or silenced because they might be true. It’s now a matter of power, not knowledge, and power is always scared of truth. But think how much cowardice it must take to allow this disaster to happen in a democracy.

Last edited 2 years ago by Michael James
Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago

Sounds good. Ordered the hardback. Thank you for an interesting article.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

Just bought Kindle edition. Next book on my list.

Edward Jones
Edward Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

Me too!

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago

The current huge movements of people across the world is never really going to be stopped by walls and asylum processes.

Ultimately it can only be stopped by installing competent government in the countries they’re leaving.

Any attempt at good soft power projection, using some of the suggestions in Gilley’s article (well worth following the link) will, of course, be stymied by a combination of woke shrieking and our own governmental incompetence.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Bollis
Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

What do the peoples of those countries want in terms of help from richer countries

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago

It’s a really interesting question.

I would imagine, if you asked the man on the Harari omnibus, his instinctive answer would probably be something like “more aid” or “debt restructuring.”

If if you ask him what he wanted from his own government it would probably be something like “the ability to earn a decent wage in a decent job in a functioning economy.”

If you asked him “do you want to go to the west and what would you hope to get there?” it would probably be all of the above.

Would he articulate that functioning, and relatively uncorrupt, political and legal systems are pre-requisites for a functional economy, as is a relatively uncorrupt police police force? Maybe not, though many politically active people in the third world, outside the current power structures, might. They know these are the things that many Third World countries so desperately need.

Could the West help provide them? Almost certainly not in an environment where many Western elites are trying to undermine these foundational elements of Western success, essentially provided for us by the enlightenment

Is the only way to stop migration flows, ultimately, to make the source nations better? Almost certainly, which makes the issue just one of the many, seemingly irresolvable, problems we face today.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

All they neeed to do is copy the successful parts of Western Civilisation from Greece onwards. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. F=ma and it has not changed in over 300 years. The language of the Universe is mathematics.

Patrick Heren
Patrick Heren
2 years ago

Having been born in Singapore in the dying days of Empire, I know the record was mixed, but that there was much good that came out of it is undeniable. In the case of the British Empire, I would contend the balance was positive. S. Rajaratnam, Singapore’s first foreign minister (and at 25 years the world’s longest-serving foreign minister) told me that while nobody likes being ruled by another country, the British did it better than anyone else. Let’s hope that we will be able to argue the toss without being cancelled or vilified by the Gauleiters of the new academe.
But that’s arguing about the past. We have a massive challenge today, which manifests itself in rising uncontrolled migration from the impoverished developing world to the rich countries of Europe and America. It may soon get much worse, and despite our liberal principles a time will surely come when our own people refuse to accept the continuing rush. Then, rather than fiddling around ineffectually with border fences and patrol boats, we may have to find ways to bring peace, prosperity and order to the countries from which the millions are fleeing. Their people want the rule of law, property rights and flush toilets, but in too many cases their rulers are only interested in enriching themselves. A new, hopefully benign, imperialism looms.

Last edited 2 years ago by Patrick Heren
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Patrick Heren

We are being replaced, this is being done from the inside. The greatest weapon in the Elites arsenal used to destroy the West as a society and People is the Post-Modernism race self-loathing which this article illustrates. This system was created in Weimar Germany by the ‘Frankfurt School’ and now has Captured the education, Tech, and Political systems.

President Biden said ‘White Supremacists’ were the greatest danger USA faces in the world, and called them Domestic Terrorists and sent the massive security apparatus created by the ‘Patriot Act’ in 2002 on them. USA is now at war against its own people – with the goal of replacing them with foreigners. Biden just today passed an $80 Billion for the IRS to persecute the people who make a fair living – and citizenship path for illegals (to the tune of MANY $ Billions budgeted for this) and Billions for the ones who fail to make their own living to be paid to have children, wile the tax system makes having children too expensive tor the working. The Democrats are out to destroy America.

I have never met a ‘White Supremacists in America, I doubt they exist but for a tiny non-organized rabble. Naturally I would be labeled one, but I am not. Here I always argue as Pro Islam, I have lived with many peoples, in several countries, I respect them. I happen to like Western Culture and Society and see no reason to replace it – but within 100 years it will be replaced – The West is self-genociding intentionally (The Global Elites with their Useful Idiots and lackeys are driving this as the Western Middle class and Working Class is too independent in money, ethics, and politics to be controlled – so are to be changed to become divided, poor, and powerless and wrecked) – and if you say that is not good you will be destroyed, as the article shows.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Patrick Heren

That new imperialism is highly unlikely. In 1900 white people were 35% of the world’s population controlling 90% of the GDP. By 2100 white people will be at best 5% of the world’s population and the west (which won’t be the same as white people by then) will have at a maximum 15% of world GDP. It’s more likely to be 10%. Half the world’s population will be in sub Saharan Africa.

Neither Europe nor the US will have empires. China will probably dominate, but they may not given they also have demographic problems.

As to the countries from which people are now fleeing, for the most part they are fleeing from the effects of western intervention. The US in particular has destroyed the region for purposes of revenge.

This is the opposite of British imperialism if this book is true, destroy and leave rather than stay and trade.

And I don’t think I that the west is the best run part of the world now anyway, nor that people just want the rule of law, or property rights. They want stability – which is what they had under Arab dictators until that was blown to smithereens. In any case the US is not going back to Afghanistan nor is it going to fun Iraq as a full featured colony. And Europe certainly isn’t. That’s a fantasy.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

That was a very interesting read. Thanks.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

Referring to the despicable attempt at censorship of Professor Bruce Gilley by the academic establishment, I would like to point out that as an indirect consequence of their efforts, I have read his article in full, and also bought his latest book.

Without the attempt to shut down free speech on their part, I would never have heard of Professor Gilley, known what his views are, or bothered to buy any of his books.

David Shaw
David Shaw
2 years ago

Another good article Robert. I have ordered Gilley’s hardback. This fight against the Liberal Intelligentsia(and BBC) is one we must win. No doubt they, like their ancestors who had no part in building an Empire that made the modern World and brought so much good to so many people, were kicked around in the playground at school and in retribution try to crush any kind of strength and stoicism with their pens and their cancel culture.

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago

Gillie’s view, even in its application to the present is sound. Had we Americans been proper imperialists, rather than merely being tarred with than name for our foreign adventures on behalf of either our national interests or the misguided notion of “spreading democracy” (why not spread limited government, division of powers and the rule of law?), we might have managed to do what George W. Bush set out to do in Afghanistan: we’d have intended from the first to stay for the long haul, set up an Afghan Office in the State Department to run the place, with the help of local leaders (you remember, the ones maligned a “warlords”) the way the Raj ran India, introduced democracy gradually, first at the local level (Yes, the local warlord would be elected governor, in the first election or three, but so what? He was running the region anyway), and stayed for two or three generations, by which time a competent non-corrupt local elite could be established and the appeal of the Taliban would have waned.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Yetter
Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
2 years ago

The British colonies were not limited to India and Africa. There was also what is now the USA, Australia and Canada. How have they dealt with British colonialism today?

pdrodolf
pdrodolf
2 years ago

It’s hard to comprehend that the people living in the DRC are better off now than they were under their Belgian “oppressors” pre-1960. But don’t let the facts get in the way.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
2 years ago

Ugh, I’ll get rid of this comment. People keep misreading this and I’m not interested in provoking people.

Last edited 2 years ago by Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Alastair Herd
Alastair Herd
2 years ago

Have you ever heard of the Brighton Pavilion? I’ll leave it at that.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago

Good comment.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

I don’t understand this – are you saying that the British colonial power should have completely destroyed the Mayan culture and the fact it didn’t marks it out as inconsistent? That it wasn’t sufficiently authoritarian? That any attempt at benign rule is somehow wrong? It would seem that what you are doing is the trick of defining something as you want it to be (i.e. colonialism – bad) and then getting angry at those impolite enough to not fit themselves into your set definition. I don’t hold an uncritical pro-colonial stance, but I also do not accept that it was an evil of unparalleled proportions, the evidence does not support that; however,I do weary of the constant barrage of inaccurate and over-blown rhetoric of the anti-colonialists – they almost make me into an imperialist.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
2 years ago

I am not criticising Britain. I am criticising those that killed each other in pointless wars, ate each other, and then had the temerity to demand “self-respect” for themselves. I do not mean the colonial governers that tried to save such a native people from themselves.

If Englishness is the gentlest form of civilisation, then why not force people to be purely English?

Last edited 2 years ago by Geoffrey Simon Hicking
A Spetzari
A Spetzari
2 years ago

If Englishness is the gentlest form of civilisation, then why not force people to be purely English?

In the spirit of what you’re arguing – that wouldn’t then be English would it?
Worth considering that there are different types of nationalism. France, the USA and others tended towards a more inclusive type of nationalism – you are French or American if you adhere to their principles – George Washington was an honorary citizen of France for example.
Then there was nationalism along ethno-centric lines – see Germany’s rise and fall c.1860-1945.
England and Englishness has historically been an odd one not really fully being either of the above except by exception. But definitely characterised by moderation. Too much of anything has almost universally been seen as not very English behaviour.
Look at our most celebrated heroes and “victories” – fictional (even deluded if you will!) included. Celebration of the underdog. Even at the height of power, we celebrated Robin Hood, the legend of Arthur, Dunkirk, A Coruna, the Armada.
Even our favourite grander victories are victories are tinged with underdog status – Agincourt, Trafalgar, Blenheim, Waterloo, Battle of Britain.
It’s actually a bit odd when you think about it.

Last edited 2 years ago by A Spetzari
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I just want to like other cultures without constantly being told their flaws all the time. I get enough of that from anti-english wokists that hate tradition.

Last edited 2 years ago by Geoffrey Simon Hicking
John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

I must say this wasn’t all that obvious from your first comment.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Of course it wasn’t. I am sick and tired of people looking for monsters to destroy.

“Surely those people did not care or want for those artefacts? A true colonialist would have told them to get over themselves…”

That bit should make it obvious.

Last edited 2 years ago by Geoffrey Simon Hicking
John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

I have to say that I still mostly don’t know what you’re on about. You clearly do feel strongly about it though, whatever it is.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

We aren’t supposed to give up artefacts.

Then a colonialists does just that.

I tried my utmost to take a Macauley-esque position, trying to see non-European culture as deserving of total change by Britain, and then some colonialist undermines that, and it set me off. Why should people try to be pro-empire when imperialists undermine their own position? It is irritating. I have tried to turn 180 degrees on something, which is hard and painful, and embarrassing, and then someone that I am trying to agree with just casually undermines it. What is the point in trying to agree with pro-empire people in such circumstances?

I’m sorry if you find that hard to understand. Maybe I should just go back to having pride in the times we left people alone, like with Bikaner or Mewar. It would just be easier.

Last edited 2 years ago by Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
2 years ago

I try to be as robustly pro-empire as possible and 23 people dislike it? Eh? I thought the Benin Bronzes were supposed to stay British?

Geoffrey Wilson
Geoffrey Wilson
2 years ago

Strange argument. I assume you are wanting to debate the issues here, using rational arguments. If so, why are you so oddly asserting that “those people” did not care about artefacts, history and culture. The British Empire administrators, as clearly evidenced in this excellent article, put enormous effort into understanding, preserving and valuing each Empire member’s culture. Why deny this – it suggests your mind is closed to the idea that colonialists could possibly do good things.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
2 years ago

Nevermind.

Last edited 2 years ago by Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Wilson
Geoffrey Wilson
2 years ago

Further comment after reading more below. It appears you are arguing that “those people” namely the natives did not have a valuable past culture worth preserving, and they should have been taught British ways. Well, a large area for discussion indeed! I would say that all peoples around the world best develop a good civilisation in a gradual manner, building on and improving themselves, and rarely respond well when outsiders try to impose “better” culture on them. So British administrators preserving native culture is to me wholly creditable.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
2 years ago

Fine, I give in. I am just tired of colonialists undermining their own argument. There are times when they do this. “Don’t give back artefacts”. Then they give them back. I might as well go back to mild-anti-imperialism at this rate.

Last edited 2 years ago by Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago

As a nation, we have done everything in our power to avoid facing up to our history of colonial exploitation, even when it comes to Ireland, our closest neighbour. So scholarship in the 21 st century seeking out positives from empire brings out a sigh in me. Worth drawing comparisons with post war Germany and learning from them. At same time, no excuse for academic cancelling.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
2 years ago

Understand the gist of what you’re saying but completely disagree.
Most European colonialism is not comparable to Germany in the 1930-40s. As the article points out – the details are important. Would you not agree that the eradication of the international slave trade and upward drive of global living standards were good things?
But what have we done to avoid facing up to it? What do you propose we do? Apologise like Tony Blair? What does that change?
We cannot change the past, but a good start would be a sober appraisal of what happened. Defending perfectly defensible aspects of our past is part of that. As would be facing up to the negatives (which is all we seem to do at present).

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

“What do you propose we do? Apologise like Tony Blair?”

I suppose it makes some people feel better. For others that like us we celebrate the good stuff, is apologising for the bad stuff a problem?

Last edited 2 years ago by Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

“As a nation, we have done everything in our power to avoid facing up to our history of colonial exploitation”

Do you work for ‘The National Trust”? Because I remember this line from their Mission Statement literature.ï»ż

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

The regular chime of standard left-wing tropes (e.g. ‘Bengal Famine’) sounds throughout his posts.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago

It ill behoves Brexiteers to complain about the controlling nature of Brussels while defending the British empire.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

Surely we Brexiteers are the oppressed who have managed to break free of our colonial masters after 40 long years of resistance. As per your comment above, unlike the imperial forces in Brussels, we have the right to examine the good and bad of the EU. As a nationalist movement who fought for and won democratic self-government you should be applauding our struggle, not oppressing us further with your neo-imperial micro-aggressions. You Remainers are like old Sepoys defending the Raj long after its demise because you did so well out of the old regime. You should check your privilege!

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Love this, put a smile on my face 🙂

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

He is too busy ‘checking your privilege’. to check his own.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Yes. ‘Remain’ was literally a vote for the ‘status quo‘.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

One can oppose EU membership while acknowledging its merits, just as one can oppose Empire while recognising its benefits. It’s the kind of absolutist thinking contained in your comment that is the problem de nos jours.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago

We’re not complaining about the ‘controlling nature’ of Brussels (Europeans are welcome to it, as they obviously enjoy it). More the fact that it was imposed upon our different kind of control without our being asked until it was a 2 year old fait accompli (that’s French by the way).
The very people who say at boring length that the old cannot bind the young by their votes expected us to kowtow to a vote taken in 1975.