The historical myths about Britain that actually need correcting
It's not the joys of empire — and hasn't been for generations
Time tends to distort in our minds, so that we take on board the collective memory of older generations and assume it happened to us, too. This perhaps explains why there are so many books aimed at countering the history we were supposedly taught at school or were raised to believe, all of them actually aimed at the history our grandparents were taught.
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The latest is Otto English’s Fake History, but there is a whole range from James Felton’s 52 Times Britain Was a Bell End, to Afua Hirsch’s We Need to Talk About the British Empire.
The authors are all around my age or younger, and when I was at secondary school in the 1990s it’s safe to say none of my teachers were members of the Empire Loyalist movement. We didn’t have a map of the world painted pink; we were never taught Our Island Story. The idolisation of Empire did once exist, but it’s been gone for generations. English, Felton and Hirsch are arguing against a ghost.
The very reason their books are so popular is because the average book-buying member of the public has been largely raised in a milieu that agrees with them.
The West’s cultural revolution is more than five decades old now; it would be like a book being published in the Soviet Union in 1970 countering all those tsarist myths you were taught at school. 52 Times Imperial Russia was a Bell End.
France v Germany in 1914 was something akin to a battle between civilisation and barbarism. No one in Britain cheered the arrival of war and no one said “it would be over by Christmas”, while lots of generals died rather than sitting back at HQ with Capt Darling.
The second myth is that the industrial revolution was wholly negative (certainly the impression that I was given at school). The focus was on the first half of the 19th century, when living standards remained static and conditions in industrial cities were very grim; life expectancy fell to the teens for some social classes in industrial England.
Much of this stems from Engels, who was writing in the 1840s and whose work went onto influence Arnold Toynbee in the early 20th century when the Victorians became unpopular. Yet life certainly wasn’t idyllic for the agricultural forefathers of these workers either. From around 1850 living standards rapidly shot up, and even working-class Britons in, say, the 1880s were immeasurably better off than any of their predecessors in history. The industrial revolution was great!
Between the Norman Conquest and the Second World War Britain had very little immigration, with only two significant waves from outside the UK, the Huguenots and Russian Jews – and there would have been vanishingly little racial diversity outside of ports.
National myths say more about prejudices of their own age than about the history they claim to represent. It’s therefore the myths we still believe that we should pay the most attention to.
I find it incomprehensible that anyone would buy and read a book by Afua Hirsch, who is one of the most sinister and despicable grifters of all time.
That aside, I am often forced to point out to the woke that most people below the age about 70 neither know nor car that there was once a British Empire. I also point out to them that life as a worker on, say, a British tea plantation, was probably preferable to life as a factory worker in Bolton. (Funnily enough I am currently reading Kenneth Tynan’s diaries and he makes the same point).
I agree about Afua Hirsch who is very good at applying modern standards to the past in an entirely anachronistic way. I would dispute the point about conditions for slaves on plantations which were often beyond appalling – I do not think comparisons like that should be made.
I think you are confusing tea plantations in Ceylon in the C20 with sugar plantations in the West Indies in the C 18.
Tea plantation workers in Ceylon were not treated well. In Sri Lanka, after independence, this continued. Most of the workers were not even given citizenship by the new state, and there was little or nothing in the way of medical care or education. In the post-war years, the children of Bolton’s mill workers would have had vastly more opportunity.
A generation that encouraged free thought, dissent against orthodoxy, and loathed and ridiculed the oily self-serving worm (or “despicable and sinister grifter”) allow men like Tynan to shine.
A generation that upholds little of those qualities drifts into the entropy that allow the catastrophic dysfunction and lack of drive in the West Indian/Jamaican community to stand as proxy indictment of ‘society’, ond that is stunted and deformed by the perma-adolscence of 68 radicalism, or droopy pop cultural centre leftism which is merely slower working in its cultural and political lethality, though the state of the arts in Britain and the intellectual state of the Labour Party suggest it has reached its terminal limits, that celebrates radicalism in the grotesque bloviating and utter fraudulence of the race grifter like Hirsch, as if the 50 years of black urban ‘radicalism’ didnt provide the empirical indictment of its consequences *for poor innocent decent blacks* that culture begets – had the lethal consequences of black crime been borne by the “white priveledged” middle class for even one year, nevermind 50, the whole radical posturing would have been closed down and measures to protect “white priviledge” – not least a strong and pre-emptive police force – would have been employed without hesitation, and it says everything of the suspect motives of a “sinster (race) grifter” like Hirsch that in such an environment, Hirsch would have certainly kept her mouth shut for fear of the consequences for her own life, and may well have grifted the other way, indicting black nilhilism.
If, as Ed West contends, there is an instinctive measure of parricide from one generation to another then it is 68 radicalism, and the black experience on which the parasites prey, and the enfeebled pop cultural/Blairite mentality that needs demolitioning.
The institutional complicity of educational establishment, and the BBC and the arts in this suicide pact, mean new ways of funding must be devised to grow institutions and encourage individuals who celebrate the passion, wit and critical honesty of Tynan, rather than the demeaning race hustle of Hirsch.
But other than that you’re a big fan of hers. I used to watch a programme called culture after newsnight until i realised how pretentious & dreary it was. Fancy having to be in the company of these people ‘I felt the wood on the sculpture was very honest’ sort of rubbish , all the time-they deserve each other. Sadly we deserve better.
Each of your paragraphs include a single sentence, which is fine if the paragraph is short. Unfortunately, the second is exceedingly long, even as a paragraph.
“…it has reached its terminal limits, that celebrates radicalism in the grotesque bloviating and utter fraudulence of the…”
to bloviate – to talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way.
We probably all do it more than we realise, sadly.
You beat me to it. I gave up reading after the first 7 lines. These were different sentences joined by a comma. I was taught to write for the reader.
Intoxicated wth the exuberance of his own verbosity?
And sorry, my grammar nazi can’t resist:
Each of your paragraphs include a single sentence…
Each of your paragraphs includes a single sentence…
“Each” is singular and takes a singular verb.
A similar rationale, comparing the fate of an elderly retired slave, living out his days in a pastoral idyll, compared to the appalling death toll in Dickensian slums, was used to justify slavery as a positive good by Senator (and former Vice President) JC Calhoun in a famous speech in 1837. Slave Codes prevented Plantation owners from dumping old slaves onto the mercies of the state.
The Founding Fathers had expected slavery to whither away when the Slave Trade was banned in 1808 due to appalling mortality rates. Instead, the Upper South got an economic boost by raising slave families, Thomas Jefferson, who said that all men are created equal in 1776, commented in 1820 that he preferred women of breeding age to the strongest hand on the farm, since they added to his capital.
About a million people were sold down the river to the Deep South cotton plantations in Georgia, “Carolina Gold” rice plantations and the sugar plantations of Louisiana. The slave population grew despite the fact that a Black child only had a 50:50 chance of seeing his first birthday, about twice the mortality rate of white infants.
What’s that got to do with British history ?
You seem very committed to fight slavery. In present day in Mauritania, Libya and Middle East people are enslaved. What do you do about that?
Personally, I would use multi-lateral coalitions to give teeth to the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (resolution 317(IV) of 2 December 1949). Apply diplomatic suasion and work on education, particularly female literacy, as well as state actions to eliminate slavery. Britain ultimately played its part superbly in ending the transatlantic slave trade in the nineteenth century using the West Africa Squadron, which at its peak took up to one sixth of imperial naval resources. It would be nice to see the international community follow that example in other parts of the world.
Cheap jibes don’t deserve such thoughtful replies, but well said anyway!
Bolton was actually a fine old town. True it has a lot of rain fall – but other than that it was fine. I lived there for a year – and got to know some of the older people who had been factory workers, good solid Lancashire men and women.
“This perhaps explains why there are so many books aimed at countering the history we were supposedly taught at school or were raised to believe, all of them actually aimed at the history our grandparents were taught.”
I’ve often thought this. I was a schoolboy in the 1990s, attending a private school with history teachers who were definitely not “woke” (or “politically correct”, as we would then have said). Yet thirty years ago, the account of the Crusades in my first-year textbook on medieval history definitely took a pro-Muslim line. Then when the Iraq War started I found myself reading solemn articles suggesting that Western historiography still celebrated the Crusades!
Apart from anything else, how on earth could it have done so? The outcome of the Crusades was a defeat for Christendom.
Or in reality a second defeat.
The first was the conquest of the homeland of Christianity by the Muslims in 637.
I remember reading Runciman’s History of the Crusades in the 1980s. No sense of western triumphalism, quite the opposite. ‘Throughout his history Runciman portrayed the crusaders as simpletons or barbarians seeking salvation through the destruction of the sophisticated cultures of the east. In his famous “summing-up” of the crusades he concluded that “the Holy War in itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is a sin against the Holy Ghost.” (Thomas Madden, New Concise History of the Crusades, 2005).
Runciman’s magnificent anathema deserves citing in full: “High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed, enterprise and endurance by a blind and narrow self-righteousness,” he wrote, “and the holy war itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is a sin against the holy ghost.” Extraordinary that a historian could still write with such flair within living memory!
Of course, Runciman’s perspective was quite unusual; he denounced the crusaders, but he wasn’t very keen on their Muslim opponents either. He thought the great tragedy of the whole episode was that Byzantium, which he regarded as the centre of civilisation at that time, ended up as collateral damage.
Yes, Runciman wrote beautifully. And I think he was right to say ‘a plague upon both your houses’, and to identify Byzantium as the real loser.
Have you read ‘God’s War’ by Christopher Tyreman?
Quite an improvement on ‘Uncle Steve’ I think you will find.
No, but will look it up!
The Romans* appealed to the West for help after the catastrophe of Manzikert in 1071.
(* Incorrectly referred to as the Byzantines since the mid 16th century.)
He might have written beautifully, does his writing holds up against scrutiny?
You might well regard the Crusades as just another land grab by the Normans. Not content with England, they were on “Crusade” in the Iberian Peninsula before they went to the Holy Land to carve out Kingdoms and Principalities. Byproducts of this Crusading spirit were the conquests of Cyprus, Southern Italy and Sicily. In the latter they established one of the most tolerant of medieval kingdoms for Christians, Jews and Moslems. They could be bloodthirsty or tolerant whichever was politically more expedient. They certainly were not “simpletons or barbarians” as Runciman suggests and the Byzantine Empire was already in decline before the Crusaders arrived.
Conveniently ignoring the fact that there never was a Byzantine Empire, nor Emperor nor Army, nor Church.
Even their enemies called them Rum or Rom.
On the final day Tuesday 29th of May, 1453, just before lunch, the besieged inhabitants of Constantinople were still. cheerfully shouting that they were “Romanaioi”and who can deny them?
I wonder what Voltaire would have said about it!
Presumably he read Gibbon?
He could only have read Volume 1 (published in 1776) since he died in 1778; Volumes 2 and 3 were not published until 1781; the rest later in the 1780s.
I was of course referring to his famous witticism about the other (Holy) “Roman Empire”.
Yes, but he was on safer ground there as it certainly wasn’t either Roman, Holy nor an Empire!.
I misunderstood your earlier comment and thought that Voltaire may have made some remark about Gibbon’s Magnum Opus!
Dario Fernando Moreira in his book, “The Myth of Andalusian Paradise” mentions the same thing, that the Greeks called themselves, “Romanoi”. Very interesting. BTW, it is an excellent book, worth reading it.
According to Leftist thinking only greed can motivate behaviour, because they project their own power hunger and greed on others. A Leftist cannot comprehend that people can be motivated by something higher than material gains, even if humans are feeble and fall prey to temptations very often.
So Runciman didnt like Christianity!
I don’t think it was that he didn’t like Christianity, but like many Anglicans he was drawn to eastern Orthodoxy. Not sure how complicating a factor his homosexuality was.
His anathema is pronounced in unmistakably Christian terms. He’s saying the Crusaders committed an unforgivable sin.
Sacking Constantinople in 1204 was perhaps the greatest crime since Alaric had sacked Rome in 410.
This being said, it doesn’t mean that the Crusades per total were a bad enterprise. Muslims waged Jihad and we had to defend ourselves. Period.
Anybody who reads the history of Eastern Europe knows that they had to fight constantly the Ottoman Turks. Only God knows how many millions were enslaved by them for their insatiable need of money and work force.
A crime and worse than a crime – a mistake!
Really? I thoughts Enrico Dandelo was an avaricious geriatric who would stop at nothing to recoup his ‘investment’?
I do not know how can a historian be so blind, unless wilfully is for some reason. Perhaps hates Christianity and used the Crusades to inject the venom. Because who takes the time to study what caused the Crusades, will understand that without them, there would be no Christendom. Muslims first occupied the Arabian Peninsula which was the cradle of first Christians, then waged war in N Africa, spread to Spain in the West and the Byzantine Empire in the East. It was a moral imperative to fight Muslims so we don’t end up being a caliphate.
Serious moral handicaps are plaguing academia and we have to speak up, because as we see, ideologies have consequences.
“ so we don’t end up being a caliphate…”
If that was a goal, the Crusades were a dismal failure, surely? – at least, unless one counts the Reconquista as part of the Crusades. The wars in the Holy Land, aimed as they were for ideological reasons at the strategically useless target of Jerusalem, were never going to achieve anything sustainable, nor did they strengthen the position of Christendom in the long term. A Crusade aimed at Egypt (still probably majority Christian at the time) might have done so.
Astonishingly both Dunkirk 1940 & Arnhem 1944 are listed as British Battle Honours*!
Are you not aware that ‘honour’ and ‘victory’ do not have the same meaning?
What are you suggesting?
However, 50 years ago, the teaching of the Crusades was that Christians, in the land in which Christianity was born, were being persecuting and were asking for help.
It’s quite simple; it’s the ‘strawman’ argument. It’s like that Labour MP saying that she wasn’t taught about slavery. All I can say is that my school in the 1950s was clearly better than her’s, and I vividly remember the accounts of the suffering of slaves during the transatlantic crossing. It would, of course, have been distinctly odd not also to have included the abolition of the slave trade and its enforcement by the RN (did that accord with international law?), and then the emancipation of slaves within the British Empire.
Regarding lots of things which we must correct, let us also not forget slavery. The wokes need to be shut up, on June 7 2020 I was shocked and awoke by obnoxious dark people who were vandalizing my city, trying to set fire to my flag flying on the “Empty Tomb” or Cenotaph and trying to hang on to England the history of slavery of USA totally turning all the real history on its head. For this they were attacking our heritage, our heroes, our flag, the monuments dedicated to all those who died for them to have the freedom which they were abusing and which they wouldn’t have in African or in Moslem countries.
Behind the obnoxious were the Marxists playing on their small minds and their envy telling them they should get reparations for the cotton they never picked! Telling them that they should have a certain percentage of jobs and titles not according to their merit but according to their numbers! That is what needs to be corrected in depth, the zero sum/ envy tales of the Marxists. Today, for example, here I have just read one of them saying she wants a slavery museum in Deptford or Convoy Warf!
I read through her “victim” article and her “victim” history and there is not one mention of the white slaves captured from Europe by Africans and taken to the slave markets there, the cotton pickers are the only slaves worth mentioning today in the history of man, the “cotton pickers” won the victim race! Poor things! All those slaves in the Marxist Empires like China TODAY of in Africa being exploited aren’t worth a mention either, we just want to get reparations for the cotton we never picked! Payment for the work we never did, houses and jobs for which we never worked nor spent time preparing for, that is what they are after, and we should be happy they don’t want revenge say some of them. We must take lots of knees and build monument to the fake victims, we must change our heritage for the sake of the fake history these “victims” have come up with.
According to Dr Thomas Sowell (one of the people I most admire because he tells you it as it is and he has gone through the numbers like no other – if he still lives he is about 90 now) According to him the number of black slaves from Africa taken to North America is dwarfed by the number of white slaves taken by the African slave traders from Northern Europe to Africa, these attacks may well have been one of the causes of the existence of the Royal Navy which was so prevalent and necessary around Deptford which the obnoxious “cotton picking victim” was insisting on today in her article, wanting to tell us about her “cotton pickers only” “victims” museum.
After securing our shores during the XVI century thanks to our glorious Queen Bess the Royal Navy did what the African powers were doing with their navies, they protected the trade in everything including slaves, mostly the black ones were supplied by Black Nationalist Kings and Moslem Kings who carry on the practice even today over there in Africa! BUT the Royal Navy changed sides and became the greatest anti-Slavery force on the planet. To abolish slavery in 1807 and 1833 the Crown had as enemies these African and Moslem Sovereigns and the odd politician here such as Dundas, but end slavery the Crown did slavery was finally abolished (first time ever) and the British Empire dedicated the budget of a country to fight slavery the first ever super power on the planet and in history to do this, something the “poor cotton picker victims” forget to tell you. So much distress trying to get reparations for the cotton which they never picked, their memory has faltered. In England we all paid for to end of slavery, everybody who paid taxes in 2014 paid the last bit of the loan which the Empire borrowed to end slavery. Don’t forget to put that in your museums of slavery! You poor “victims”.
And I could go on and on with the British Empire a force for good, but I will leave the catastrophe of the Marxist decolonisers from the 1945 landslide the partition of the Empire and of India and sending to the wall loads of successful/ viable colonies creating the refugees of today. The only solution for the refugees is not to send money to the corrupt, it would be to restore the Empires and the successful colonies and taking over sovereignty, China is getting in there now, watch that space, China does do slaves. China is the Second Economy on the planet (not white!) and the cotton pickers? Where are they? About number 27.
Many like the “victim cotton pickers” trying to get fake history museums of slavery to get paid for the cotton which they never picked and to get the label of victims which they are not. Those coming here in the little boats know too well how lucky the “victim cotton pickers” are to be here and that they wouldn’t last five minutes in some parts of Africa where life is cheap and slaves are taken today, that is why the migrants today are risking their lives alongside their children trying to get in to the best parts of the old Empire, which are some of the best parts of the world, which for them are veritable paradises waiting for them when compared to where they are coming from. Paradises which no other ideology has ever created on the entire planet, USA, Islam, Marxism none created places like our Empire and yet our young are committed to Marxism as an ideology which in practical terms has only given mankind hell holes and biblical genocides. Why aren’t the “refugees” heading for Marxist paradises and they are coming here to this dump full of “racists”? Because the Empire was one of the best.
We should have all protected the Empire while we had it, let us face it there is no political ideology or system which can hold a candle to The British Empire, (not true.. show me!) The Empire really was a federation and it could have been a “common market” like no other, once we recovered from WWII which at times it fought alone, and those heroes who gave all and kept us free are the ones which were attacked by those low lives who came out to insult them on June 7th 2020 even attacking their flag on top of the symbol of their grave.
You make a lot of points.
“the British Empire dedicated the budget of a country to fight slavery… In England we all paid for to end of slavery, everybody who paid taxes in 2014 paid the last bit of the loan which the Empire borrowed to end slavery.”
The ending of the slave trade, and subsequently of slavery in the Empire was one of our better achievements. But it’s interesting that the slave owners were compensated for the loss of their property, but the slaves were not compensated for their loss of liberty.
I’m not sure what your objection is to a museum of slavery. Why should that part of history (and indeed the present day) not be fairly examined?
Trying to engage – but UnHerd is moderating something I said. Not sure what. One other thing though… You said:
“The only solution for the refugees is not to send money to the corrupt, it would be to restore the Empires and the successful colonies and taking over sovereignty…”
I’m not sure how you think this could possibly work.
History has always been a battleground as modern ideas clash over how our past should be interpreted.
Facts are secondary to narrative in today’s teaching of history – and our broader society and culture suffer as a result.
The racial grievance industry is enjoying a boom time. There are careers to be had and fortunes to be made. Those that have been profiting from it wish to silence those that dare speak out against it and they have been gifted an important head-start. The identitarian left has already captured most of the teaching profession and most of the cultural institutions of this country. Those who might otherwise push back against this pernicious and divisive agenda often choose to stay silent, mainly down to their fear of accusations of racism.
The first, and to my mind, most important way to tackle these lies is though teaching. Much of the current fashion of supposedly “decolonising the curriculum” has in fact narrowed rather than broadened what is taught. It’s decades since children were told the British Empire was simply a force of unalloyed good for the world, but the pendulum has swung far too far the other way. The current fashion is to teach that it was simply a 300 year carnival of atrocities and depredation. What lessons can be learned from History if it is shorn of all context and nuance?
Slavery was an abomination. It is as close to a moral absolute as one can get that it is wrong for one human being to “own” another – but it is unjust, and arguably racist, to hold one race more accountable for that abomination than another.
The transatlantic slave trade did not exist in a vacuum. Slavery had been a ubiquitous fact of life since the very earliest human societies of which we have record. As the race-obsessives of the left are always keen to tell us, Africa is the cradle of civilisation, though they seem less keen to admit that that civilisation – as with every other historical civilisation – was built by slaves. For the comparatively brief period that Europeans and Americans were involved in the Slave trade, they were mere amateurs in comparison to Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
No one should ever try and excuse the slave trade, but they should, if they’re honest, set it in historical context and perspective. Why uniquely condemn the British and Americans when – as a simple matter of fact – they were involved in a hideous practice that had been going on in every part of the world for thousands of years?
The only unique position that Britain holds in the history of slavery is that in 1807, Britain was one of the first countries on earth to abolish the slave trade, not merely on her own shores, but across the Empire, and then policed the seas to end the trade worldwide. Teach that and you might lessen the sense of grievance that has been inculcated by the partisan and partial teaching of history. You might then be able to have a sensible and well-informed debate around topics like inequality in our society.
And tackle the real issue, Poverty, rather than cast around for excuses and scapegoats to blame and hold responsible.
I do not think you understand history at all. You feel it is a set of stories for you to judge. Slavery has been the most universal human constant in every land and society in all history till very modern times. Your rant on “Slavery was an abomination. It is as close to a moral absolute as one can get” is all lovely, and you deserve a * for showing your right-on credentials.
But is as useful and makes as much point as if you were to rant on how much an abomination tooth decay, rickets, malaria, typhoid, and other debilitating and life wrecking diseases were.
What a very strange and silly response!
How can you equate diseases with slavery?
Both may have been ubiquitous in ages past, but one was an imposed human construct whilst the other occurred naturally.
And seriously, do you think anyone calls slavery an abomination merely to “appear lovely” or to show “their right-on credentials”? I’d be interested (possibly horrified) to hear your thoughts on slavery, are you suggesting it wasn’t an abomination?
The point being made is that that is a moral judgement , made and enforced principally by the British Empire . It really hadn’t occurred to almost all the rest of humanity until that point . It was like an unpleasant force of nature .
“Why uniquely con demn the British and Americans when – as a simple matter of fact – they were involved in a hi deo us practice that had been going on in every part of the world for thousands of years?
The only unique position that Britain holds in the history of slavery is that in 1807, Britain was one of the first countries on earth to abolish the slave trade, not merely on her own shores, but across the Empire, and then policed the seas to end the trade worldwide.”
Mr Taylor has shown in the above comments that he already knows that.
In complete agreement. If we are to have the discussion then lets have the full factual understanding. Not politicised cherry picking. That’s dishonest. And irresponsible.
It’s all too easy to see someone talking about the evils of slavery, and ascribe to them all sorts of leftie grievance-industry garbage. This post, however, demonstrates that a more balanced perspective is possible.
But I’d suggest that most critics of slavery (and even of Britain’s historic involvement) are not the Britain-hating, anti-white, Marxist monsters that are sometimes conjured here.
It’s quite an achievement how the progressive left manage to be so misguided while harnessing their superpowers of deep inadequacy and insufferable smugness.
I read the Roman Empire per capita, or average income, adjusted for today’s prices and money was $500 per year. By 1820 Europe it was $1300. Very good indeed, and the climb was not uniform, it lept with mechanization. (1995 dollars)
Excellent table here http://www2.econ.iastate.edu/classes/econ355/choi/rankh.htm
Note the Wet always kept double all the rest of the world from 1800 on – and then rising much higher. Any idiot who says the Industrial Revolution was bad is just fooled by the West Haters who control the agenda.
VENARI LAVARI LVDERE RIDERE OCCEST VIVERE! “-To hunt, to bathe, to play to,laugh that is to LIVE.*
(*2nd century Roman Inscription from Aures Mts, Algeria.)
As an East European, I know that the NKVD and then the KGB was deeply invested in anti-West and anti-Christian propaganda, many things taught nowadays in the West, especially self-hatred, origins from the kitchen of Bolsheviks exported via agents and Western traitors.
History in the West in taught based on KGB curricula, and many people are so accustomed with the lies that don’t have a clue about this.
The forte of the Soviet Union were: mass murders and disinformation. Ioan Mihai Pacepa former high ranking Securitate officer, wrote about this extensively in his books. Highly recommend “Red Horizons.”
The progressive create the lies and spread it, that’s their only forte: lies, deceit, systematic disinformation. In the Bible, Satan was called, “The Deceiver.” Interesting, isn’t it?
Like Ed West’s previous article on this subject, my knowledge of history in school (during the 1970s) covered the period 1918 -1945. The Empire wasn’t discussed but the League of Nations, the great depression and the post war aftermath were. Anything about the war itself came from watching ‘ The World At War.
I was under the impression that that it was a deliberate decision not to cover the Empire because Britain was becoming a multiracial country and such a discussion would cause division.
For years the progressive left told us to move on from Empire and not live in the past. Now that almost everyone from that era has died and we have moved on, the left have become obsessed with Empire and feel we should apologies for something that we are not responsible for.
This is very true, it’s something I think of as the ‘straw man’ aspect of the woke ideology.
The primary and secondary schools I attended in the 90s were both very unremarkable and probably typical of state-run schools up and down the country.
The idea that teachers in the 90s didn’t teach about the ‘bad aspects’ of the British empire seems ludicrous to me. Considerable time was given to covering the transatlantic slave trade in primary school, and much time given to covering the former Empire (limited to its downsides) in high school.
I vividly remember a textbook in primary school showing the plan of a slave galley, showing how to pack as many slaves as possible into it. The details furnished by the teacher left nothing to the imagination and I’d be too squeamish even as an adult to repeat them here.
Similarly at high school – including the geography teacher who told us India used to have a much more advanced economy than Britain until the British went and destroyed their textile industry (something which the adult version of me has the sense to know is complete codswallop; it seems that the new automated mills in Lancashire and Yorkshire were simply far more efficient than Indian villagers doing the same by hand and out-competed them on the international markets).
The ‘take-away fact’ I learned from school is that the British single-handedly invented and operated slavery and the slave trade (to be fair I think we were told the Romans also had slaves). No mention at all of the whole supply chain involving Africans and Arabs, or the parallel slave trades operated by Spanish, French or Portuguese ships, or the huge slave industry operated by the Arabs in east and north Africa, or the internal slave trade operating in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa. I came out of school with a very limited and one-sided view of the subject which took years to rectify.
The only major piece of British history which the average 1990s school teacher could bring themselves to be positive about was WW2 (most of their parents would have been directly involved in the war so thankfully they could see sense about that one).
I would add two more facts, only learned in adulthood; the Portuguese started trading in slaves because they discovered the trade taking slaves from West Africa across the Sahara to North Africa; the mortality by ship was far lower. It was but a small step to then ship them across the Atlantic to South America.
Second, slavery was common in the Mediterranean, practised in a big way by North Africans upon Europeans. Even the south coast of England wasn’t safe.
Nor even Ireland..
“the latter really was a sinister and brutal regime”- well, Russia was authoritarian, sinister and brutal, but neither Britain nor France were bothered by it. No, the battles on the Western front were not about civilisation vs barbary, they were about power and dominion.
Yes, I tend to agree with you on that one.
The battles perhaps, the war maybe not so much. I think John Lewis-Stempel’s piece last week was bang on. The one thing I think Ed West is wrong on here is that there even could have been a scenario where we stayed out of WW1. The Anglo-German arms race from about 1890 may have stopped at mutual deterrence, but once the war had started, and however if started, if we’re looking at counterfactuals, deterrence can be assumed to have failed.
Civilisation versus barbarism is probably not correct, however. Decency versus indecency may be closer; and although it was never black and white, it would have been better to be a subject of the British Empire than the German one.
I suggest you read up on the Herero and Namaqua genocide and the Shark island camp. You will find the deliberate extermination based on race, complete with slave labour and medical experiments. The Doctor at the Shark Island camp, Eugen Fischer, provided the “scientific” justification for the Nuremberg laws. There isn’t a clear cut line between the Nazis and the Imperial Germans.
Yes, there is. Concentration camps in South Africa?
Who did that? The Germans?!
Did these concentration camps involve medical experiments on the prisoners?
In one sense, concentration camps can be seen as a symbol of progress, because the practice before that was simply to kill everyone who might pose a threat.
The Nazis used the name “concentration camps” to deflect criticism and make their institutions sound less barbaric than they actually were . The British ones in South Africa were just internment camps to remove the civilian population from the battlefield . The many deaths were through incompetence and neglect , not design .
David Olusoga wrote a book on the subject.
We Need to Talk about the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
And the Ottoman Empire, for that matter.
That could be reduced to “of its time” though. Everything can be reduced to “of its time”, and no pride or shame in the past could be held in any circumstances, ever. No judgement, no opinions, nothing.
We’ve got to start working out how much disassociation from the past is “too much”.
That’s a very good point. Further, I think it’s good to consider which things we do now that will be judged negatively by future generations. I can’t help thinking that backing your own tribe through thick and thin might come back into fashion through necessity.
Indeed! The great problem for me is what counts as the tribe.
(and can/should one have different tribes for different occasions?)
So you want the past to be judged? WTF? How about we start writing history books judging Nature? Dinosaurs extinction from meteor? BAD!!! Black Plague, Volcano, BAD!!!!
Doesn’t that make you feel so much better?
Fine, no patriotism then. No pride in the past. Try living with that view and see how long you can cope.
You can’t talk about the Ottoman Empire because that would be racist.
And the Soviet Union, one particularly nasty colonising empire. Still in living memory of millions of survivors.
The British was on the verge of war with Russia in 1905, it was only German behaviour that drove the UK into an alliance with France and Russian. The Germans idea of diplomacy was to stamp on your foot and demand and apology for scuffing their shoes.
How did the French, Russians and The Brits build their empires?
He’s not talking about empire . He’s talking about how Germany behaved towards other great Powers .
If you ask an Indian and the Irish ,the Kenyans,Spanish and South Americans they would describe the British as the most brutal sinister regime in Human history
What??!! How do the Spanish come into it? Although, if you ask an Inca, an Aztec or a Mayan (if you can find one) I think you’ll find they’d put the Spanish Empire well ahead of the British for brutality.
As for India, the East India Company rescued the Indians from the clutches of the Mongol Empire and prevented them from becoming part of the French Empire. A peaceful, rural idyll under the beneficent rule of the Maharajahs is just your fantasy alternative.
No ,Spanish America say that the British were the most predatory empire in the world.
They point to how the native population of english speaking America has disappeared.And how the native population in Spanish America from Mexico to Peru is much healthier.They accuse the english of genocide and extermination and say that at least the spanish mixed with the natives.
They even say that the Spanish Catholic faith gave them a conscience where as the English were heretical protestants and were bloodthirsty genocides.
Even Mexican American La Council man say this about the English
Indians do not attribute the British with saving them from the muhghals( or Mongols)
They describe as brutal and they are still furious at the “Britishers” for the Raj.they describe it as looting and genocide ,thievery.
That’s how they feel about it.
How would Spanish America know what it was like to be ruled by Britain ?
They look at the lack of native Americans in English speaking America and point to the fate of aborigines in Australia especially Tasmanian aborigines.
They had a ‘taste’ in Argentina, which even had the only other branch of Harrods*.
However they managed to wreck it all post 1940.
(* Buenos Aires.)
And yet even the Spanish did not cut the hearts out of their living enemies, as far as I know.
There are videos now on youtube by argentinans mainstream youtubers, with thousands of south American viewers .they have videos on European territorial disputes and antartic territorial disputes,the European videos focus on Gibraltar and the Cyprus air bases and the Antarctica video focuses on the UK claim.the videos and comments all describe the British as historically and even to this day as a “brutal ” and “sinister” power in this world.
They are filled with contempt
Read these comments on these videos to understand the loathing Britain gets
That only illustrates a profound state of ignorance allied with prejudice does it not?
Are you sure about the South American’s? We only had a teeny weeny bit of the place. You must mean the Spanish & Portuguese!
No A lot of Spanish Americans feel very proud of Hispanidad and resent every little incursion against what they percieve to be their territory. From Belieze,to Guyanna to ofcourse the Falklands.
To them England is the old enemy and they describe the British Empire as the ” lo mas depradador” as a lot worse than the Spanish Empire which they will proudly tell you-did not exterminate the natives and built universities, cathedrals and treated everyone as citizens. They view British colonialism as purely extractive and exploitative.
This is for the Spanish and their Spanish American cousins.
The historical evidence completely contradicts that. The native population of South America fell by about 90% between 1560 & 1650.
Well they simply point to the populations of modern day Spanish America having a large indigenous and mestizo population. Compared to english speaking America where the indigenous population is tiny.they say that English were racist genociders,whereas the Spanish would have families with the indigenous.they would describe the english “anglo-sajon” as having a colonial mentality whereas they had “viceroyalities”.
Britain never colonised any area of the Americas with the large native populations of the Spanish areas . We took British Guiana off the Dutch in the Napoleonic Wars and made British Honduras an official colony in 1862 .
They point to the 13 colonies,Canada and the USA which they all consider English
So you believe that Spain wasn’t ‘extractive’ from South America?
What has my view got to do with it?
Im telling you what the Spanish and Hispanic-Americans think on the matter.
They will proudly tell you about the civilisation of Hispanidad ,how there Catholicism made them moral than the genocidal racist English. How they built cathedrals and universities and would invest in their viceroyalities.
They compare the dissappearence of the native Americans in north America to the huge population of natives and mixed natives.they view themselves as morrally superior as they mixed with natives .they say that English were racist and exterminated their natives: they point to Australia and aborigines in tasmania.
My point is : i don’t care if the author has decided that ww1 era Germany was “Brutal”; going to war with People who aren’t instinctively anti British and wasting all that blood and treasure and loosing our strategic strength and damaging our economy was a waste of resources that did us no good.
And yes; none of your clearly hang out on foreign language or foreign media content producers because they view the British empire as the most evil.
That’s there view.
Some of them were bothered. The French Right never ceased to warn against the horrors of Bolshevism, partly because Lenin had defaulted on Tsarist debt to France; and partly because so many White Russians had taken up residence in Paris after 1917. The “Popular Front” government tried to woo the Moscow regime but with little success; and the Reynaud administration, centre-right, reverted to the earlier approach. As for Britain, Chamberlain had no love for Moscow and held Churchill’s rhetoric of a “grand alliance” in perfectly justified contempt. More broadly, the whole thrust of appeasement, as sponsored in London and Paris, was predicated on a well reasoned suspicion of Communism. Indeed, the diplomatic revolution sparked in the west by the German take over of the rest of Czechoslovakia, is one of the most astonishing U-turns in history. It is also a mystery. After all, neither London nor Paris had the means or the will to intervene actively in case of war. Their grand strategies since 1919 had been defensive – Maginot Line for France, air force for Britain. So why try to stitch a parsimonious military stance with a forward foreign policy? Was it an accident? A bluff gone wrong? Or was hard left infiltration puppeteering western foreign policy at Stalin’s behest? After all, he actively fomented trouble in the west in hopes of moving in for the kill once the great powers had immolated themselves on another western front. I’m beginning to suspect that there is material deep in the archives which might substantiate this case; but because it is too counter to the “global myth” of the “just” second world war, it will remain for ever concealed.
Yeah, there are some weird distortions necessary to characterize ANY of the WWI combatants as somehow virtuous.
well, Russia was authoritarian, sinister and brutal
Quite. Though not as authoritarian, sinister and brutal as its Soviet iteration.
Goes without saying .
Whether bothered by the Russian regime or not, they weren’t attacked by her. And, right or wrong, the French had an added motive to fight after the conclusion to their war with Prussia.
Revenge……is always fraught with danger and so it proved for France.
Rather a pity we got dragged into it and ultimately become a Client State of the ever generous USA.
“there was a huge moral difference between Britain and France on the one hand and Germany on the other; the latter really was a sin iste r and bru tal regime that contained the germs of N a zi in huma nity and it deserved to be blamed for the war.
France v Germany in 1914 was something akin to a battle between civilisation and b arbari sm.”
There are ALOT of people that will object to that and say that the author himself is imposing his modern morals on the past, and “Germany was of its time”, etc, etc, etc. Whether they be right or not I don’t know.
I commented above precisely on that point. If the author is doing so, it would be introducing an anachronistic moral interpretation. I don’t have sympathy if that is the case. I wish to understand the individuals and regimes under consideration from an investigation of what happened and the social contexts that informed their moral and ethical codes etc. What were the prevailing beliefs and attitudes that would help me to understand the individuals and regimes motivations etc.
Yes a subjective opinion is not history-its like this new cancelling everyone from the past who wasn’t nice by modern standards. One of the reasons the establishment entered the first world war was Britain was losing out economically & technically to Germany -they wanted to defeat them & show them ‘who is the boss’. Unfortunately for us it wasn’t Britain.
That is your opinion, based I think on prejudice. The actual cause of our entry to war was the ‘entente cordiale’ (we had no treaty with France such as France had with others), and the invasion of Belgium, the neutrality of which was guranteed by Britain by treaty.
Of course, the public were in favour because of a growing fear of Germany under Wilhelm II, who built a modern navy which seemed to them to be intended for use against Britain. Under Wilhelm I, Bismarck had been wiser, and avoided conflict with Britain.
I meant the psychological reason. Britain compared themselves to Germany and noticed that they had updated their machinery and had a better educated work force than us. The Boer Wars went on longer and cost more than was expected. Works like Riddle of the Sands and Raffles increased the anti-German sentiment In previous times the enemy of course was France.
We had attempted to form an alliance in 1890, when we ‘swapped’ the strategically important island of Heligoland for the dubious pleasures of Zanzibar.
Unfortunately it backfired, with the retired Bismarck denouncing it as the “swapping of trousers for a button”.
However for Kaiser Bill & Tirpitz it meant the building of the High Seas Fleet was now a real possibility..
I know it’s absurd to say that.
Many in the world insist that Britain had the most evil empire.
The idea that we should go to war with a group of people who don’t really hate us (the Germans) seems absurd.
The British Empire was almost certainly the most Empire benign that ever existed.
Well A lot of the world would disagree with you.
They would all disagree with you .
My point is that its pointless to judge the German Empire as “sinister” and that ultimately going to war with people who are pretty much some of the least anti British and with whom we have a natural affinity for as fellow Europeans was a waste of money and blood and really set Britain back.
Ona youtube video (about whether statues should fall)comment an african just told me that churchill was the same as Hitler, that us was our war and all Europeans are destructive in nature.
You all denying this,but its all there
France had spent billions upgrading Russia’s railways in order to facilitate a war on two fronts to recover Alsace and Lorraine.
Ultimately they were successful at a cost of 1.4 million dead*, hence their pathetic performance when the wheel turned full circle in 1940.
(* Almost twice the UK’s figure.)
I was at primary school in the 1950’s – there was some Empire stuff then, but not much. It came mainly via Children’s Literature (a misleading description, since such literature is seldom if ever written by children) rather than from our teachers or our parents. But there was another mythology around, a much more powerful mythology than what Kipling or John Buchan had to tell us. This was the myth of the Happy Ending, that things had been tough in the past – war, slums, poverty, child labour, but that now, thanks to our benign ruling class, everything was going to be secure and peaceful.
Certainly, we baby boomers were right to be grateful to our parents, but what right to we have to expect gratitude from our children. For there is not going to be a Happy Ending…
However if you read some further Hannay novels like Mr Standfast you’ll find Buchan is not a war-monger type at all
Afua Hirsch a privileged, private educated, middle class race baiter who has every privilege this country can offer and hates this country, its history, its culture and its white people
What makes you think she hates people? Can you give an example of that?
She was asked on talk radio why if she was so unhappy she didn’t go somewhere else.
Haven’t seen her since.
I finished secondary school in 1980. During my schooling, I’d been taught about the British Empire’s record of slavery in the Americas and the West Indies, but not so much about the subsequent abolition and the role of the Royal Navy in the prevention of slavery and nothing about the American Civil War or its aftermath. As far as I can remember, WW1 was a succession of unwinnable battles, and so on.
I too have wondered about the history education Otto English (Andrew Scott) and others claim to have received.
This is because the Teaching industry Hates Britain, and all the West, as it is all Marxist based. ‘Frankfurt School’ – google it, the Wiemar Republic intellectual Marxists who took over the Western education systems..
It’s startling to see Ed describe the First World War as a fight between civilisation (us) and barbarism (Germans). He offers no proof and there is none. Far from Wilhelmine Germany being Nazism in utero, it would be truer to say that the calamitous demands of the Versailles treaty brought inflation, economic collapse and despair to Germany, thus predisposing it to accept a dictator. Without WW1, we might still have the Romanovs on the throne of Russia, a European Union called the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and been spared Nazism, the Shoah and Bolshevism.
This dreadful lesson of allowing conditional surrender was learned by WWI (treaty of Versailles) . (the Germans had fought into a protective ring, and the allies refused the loss of men to defeat them to unconditional surrender so accepted ‘terms’) And WWII was fight at any cost to achieve unconditional surrender because this lesson (which Germany tried to repeat). You can say WWII resulted from humanitarian instincts from not forcing another million deaths by defeating WWI Germans totally and unconditionally.
A truly great example of chickening out as the voters back home would vote the politicians out if they did what was needed and finished the WWI as they should have, and accepted the million more deaths – would have saved 100,000,000 deaths from WWII likely.
“A truly great example of chickening out as the voters back home would vote the politicians out if they did what was needed”
I thought you didn’t like judging history?
“… there was a huge moral difference between Britain and France on the one hand and Germany on the other; the latter really was a sinister and brutal regime that contained the germs of Nazi inhumanity and it deserved to be blamed for the war.”
How was this moral difference measured? Is it a description arrived at by using the framework of ethical and moral norms of today or the moral and ethical norms inherent to the regimes of the day?
I am also interested in why ‘sinister’ and ‘brutal’ were applied to the German regime. Do they represent an analysis of that regime using a contemporary moral code projected into the past or was that a judgement based on a recorded analysis by Britain and France at the time?
It was so considered at the time. The German occupation of Belgium was brutal.
Was the Russian occupation of Poland any better? Or the British in Ireland during the Easter Rebellion?
British MSM became hysterical after the initial occupation of Belgian, even claiming that German troops were roasting Belgium babies on their bayonets and then eating them like ‘worsts’.
Incidentally even Edith Cavell, the ‘sainted’ nurse executed by the Germans now seems to have been a spy!*
(* a somewhat incompetent one it must said.),
“We probably should have stayed out of the war, but there was a huge moral difference between Britain and France on the one hand and Germany on the other; the latter really was a sinister and brutal regime that contained the germs of Nazi inhumanity and it deserved to be blamed for the war.”
While I agree about ‘blaming Germany for the war’, treating Imperial Germany as a proto-Third Reich is closer to popular false history than to an overlooked truth.
I just read Felton. I believe there were people in Britain who did cheer the start of the unGreat War and believed that it would be over by Chritmas. I write as an Empire man who considers 1914 to have been the most catstrophic year in human history-no world wars nd the world would be beter off in every way.
“there was a huge moral difference between Britain and France on the one hand and Germany on the other; the latter really was a sinister and brutal regime that contained the germs of Nazi inhumanity and it deserved to be blamed for the war.
France v Germany in 1914 was something akin to a battle between civilisation and barbarism.”
There are ALOT of people that will object to that and say that the author himself is imposing his modern morals on the past, and “Germany was of its time”, etc, etc,etc. Whether they be right or not I don’t know.
The following is confusing to this reader: where, according to the author, does ‘myth’ end and ‘fact’ begin or is he declaring all to be myth:
The first is that the First World War was a mindless slaughter. We probably should have stayed out of the war, but there was a huge moral difference between Britain and France on the one hand and Germany on the other; the latter really was a sinister and brutal regime that contained the germs of Nazi inhumanity and it deserved to be blamed for the war.
France v Germany in 1914 was something akin to a battle between civilisation and barbarism. No one in Britain cheered the arrival of war and no one said “it would be over by Christmas”, while lots of generals died rather than sitting back at HQ with Capt Darling.
We need to talk about the fact that we have been an occupied nation for almost 1,000 years. The Normans conquered and assumed ownership of all English land. Since then what the Normans left as Commons has been enclosed leaving just excluding the people from 92% of our land and 97% of our waterways. The names may have changed but it’s still occupied. And our History, Religion and Arts has been shaped for all this time by the occupiers.
The occupiers assimilated fully. We became those people and they became us. There is no legacy of Norman times that we do not have the power to change.
So? So why do we have to talk about British imperialism and not Norman conquest and enclosures???
Woke socialism, what else?
The Enclosures were the best thing to ever happen. By the time they began the agrarians were living near starving, a substance life of unrelenting misery. Enclosing meant the people had to move to the cities to get enough to eat – oddly as it sounds. In the cities these people provided the labour for the Industrial Revolution. Now the land could grow a surplus (before enclosure the land grew enough to feed its inefficient crofters who lived off it with almost no surplus).
Getting the people off the poor farms so they could become efficient and grow surplus for the cities, wile the cities provided markets for the produce, and wares for the agriculture made both MUCH better off. The farmers now made money, not just enough to eat. They could have cash to buy goods, and have goods to sell. The cities made goods for all, and bought foods – the Enclosures were a great good.
This isn’t true.
The enclosures were complex.
It kicked people (most of our ancestors)of their land ,where they had a quality of life ,economic surplus and recreation time.
The first two centuries of enclosures economically dislocated the masses and then didn’t even create more output.the enclosed land created less output than before.
After this initial two centuries the efficiency improvements meant that the enclosures actually began to increase output.
And the dislocated masses of landless proles provided cheap labour for the industrial revolution.
So it was hardly the best thing ever,and a lot of the population didn’t really benefit until social housing (and the social housing sell off).
There is nothing more destructive to society than land being used ‘Crofter Style’ where the people exist with no surplus as they have small holdings and basically grow enough to eat minus some small tax. This means a cashless society, and no agricultural surplus – that grubbing the soil and shivering in your hut form most of the days of the year.
Every society which did this, India, China, and so on, just remained locked into poverty. The Enclosures broke this grow to consume lifestyle, and made grow for surplus for cash – and so you can buy, and so support urban cash production.
The home making of wool cloth supported the peasants before the enclosures, but they lost that by weaving on an industrial level – and so lost all means to get cash, so were doomed to gross poverty. Living on crofts was not viable anymore as home spinning and weaving, the main cash crop, was ended.
The enclosures were very good, and stopped UK just becoming a China of endless peasants.
No they were a case a white English people being economically dislocated.
I’m not letting you take away our only ticket to victimhood .
Otherwise we’ll just be presented as “evil white imperialists ”
Improvements to living standards came from technological innovations -not from disenfranchising peasants from ancient economic folk rights to nature which would sustain them.
The core of the technical innovation and economic efficiency growth came from the development of the loom.
And old tudor industrial policy which encouraged this (read economic development economist ha John Chang)
The ‘crofter’ style is an over-simplification of UK farming pre-enclosure. It certainly wasn’t a cashless society, most of the agricultural peasantry weren’t starving (apart from bad years, like 1813/14), surplus was sold at markets that had been around for centuries and home-spinning of cloth wasn’t a universal cottage industry that supported vast numbers of peasants. In a typical rural village or parish (if there was such a thing, when they vary so dramatically across the UK), you would see perhaps one family of weavers catering for the locals (and important enough to have their occupation recorded on their gravestones in some places), but even that died away once the textile mills had appeared. Enclosures went on for several centuries, but the most damaging were the later ones in the 1700s/1800s, whose results were devastating for many of the agricultural poor, who didn’t necessarily farm (or weave!), but who drew income from various sources, often as ‘day labourers’. With parish and other records, I can trace the fate of several branches of my family through the 1700/1800s, who were badly affected by the later enclosures in England. Day work dried up, rents doubled and their diverse sources of income were cut by lack of access to former common land like the local fens. The villages where they had lived since parish records began in the 1500s were no longer viable and they started moving around the county in search of work, often receiving parish relief loans (recorded as due to sickness and poverty). Many of them subsequently died as paupers and often ended up in the poor houses (a fate that many considered worse than death).
To give one particular example, my several greats-grandmother was one of those whose family had been forced off the land and into the towns, but some of the towns weren’t prospering either and the flood of incomers often struggled to find employment (not everywhere had vast textile mills or factories to absorb and quickly kill off the workforce). My ancestress lived in an over-crowded slum called Deadman’s Lane, which was so notorious that there are several contemporary newspaper articles about its shocking conditions and horrific child mortality. She starved to death there (Coroner’s records) along with one of her children. Two of her other children ended up in the work house, and pop up in the ‘punishment’ records that were kept. Other members of the family took to crime to survive and ended up transported or doing hard labour, while a few emigrated of their own volition to get away from the desperate poverty, which is why I have distant cousins all over the world. All very grim reading.
If you look at it objectively, the Enclosures were a good thing economically, in the long run, but I wouldn’t eulogise over them when there was such an appalling human cost, spread over several centuries.
Why do we talk about Dunkirk and D-Day, and not the Battle of Badon?
I certainly think the Italians should apologise to the Christians & the Lions. As William the Conquer was cousin to Harold-swapped one lot Normans for another?
“I certainly think the Italians should apologise to the Christians & the Lions.”
Why? Certainly not the Christians who had been convicted after due process and rightly condemned to
‘Damnatio ad bestias’.
As for the Lions, they loved it, fresh rations on tap so to speak.
We (the Welsh) were occupied first.
Reparations… I will send a bill to the Italians, all Europeans, and two bills to the French.
Three, they invaded Wales in 17something….
and 17236 bills to the Irish….
This moderation system on here is ridiculous…3 hours of waiting for approval for an entirely inoffensive post. Let’s see if I can paste it within this one
I agree about Afua Hirsch who is very good at applying modern standards to the past in an entirely anachronistic way. I would dispute the point about conditions for slaves on plantations which were often beyond appalling – I do not think comparisons like that should be made.
In 2014 (prior to Brexit) a YouGov survey found that Britons who are proud of the Empire outnumbered those who were ashamed of it by a ratio of three to one. Thirty-four percent of the people surveyed wished that the Empire still existed.
Empires are inherently engines of exploitation. The British Empire fought two wars with China to maintain the Opium market, profited enormously from the slave trade it helped to establish in the Caribbean and North America, and presided over some of the worst famines in history in India and Ireland.
There is an enormous amount to be proud of in British history, including the Royal Navy West Africa Squadron that ultimately helped to end the slave trade, but it’s not just the Woke Left who could benefit by picking up a history book.
“profited enormously from the slave trade it helped to establish in the Caribbean and North America”
A silly invention.Britain’s wealth was generated in the industrial revolution. And the people who powered that revolution were British.
Memories of Sellar and Yeatman’s – 1066 and all that?
Even the German Ambassador to the United Kingdom admitted that his own government (in Berlin) gave us no choice but to declare war.
The three works you mention – they are indeed more inaccurate (more distorted) than any old patriotic history work they attack. For example, Otto English has indeed produced “Fake History”.
T.S. Ashton and others refuted a lot of the myths about the industrial revolution many decades ago – but the socialist “historians” are stuck following the falsehoods of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.
As for the British Empire – it was normally better than the regimes it replaced, or the regimes that replaced it.
Quite often contemporary historians label any evidence that does not fit their hypothesis as “biased,” and therefore “fake news.”
But their alternative then comes dangerously close to being a conspiracy theory: “they WOULD say that. But we can see what they’re really up to.”
The problem is that most people are adverse to lying–not because they may be honest, but because to be caught in a lie is heavily sanctioned in practically all societies.
There is certainly such a thing as cultural bias. But you then need better evidence to refute that particular cultural narrative, not just claims that it is biased.
Out here in “the colonies” in school during the ’70s, there was plenty of celebration of all that pink on the map, let me tell you.
It took a while for me to realize that while I speak English, I am not English, and that the Empire certainly wasn’t conducted for the benefit of me and mine, nor something much celebrated among my forebears.
1) There is a generation of Brits (baby boomers) that grew up post WW2 reading war comics and endlessly bang on about The War. Years ago The Telegraph had an article about the return of wolves in East Germany – half of the comments were about WW2. Those people are obsessed with the Empire. Ed’s generation that grew up in the 90s is not – but that is a different story.
2) The real issue in UK (and USA) is that the conservatives have abandoned (and also purged out) academia. That is the byproduct of anti-intellectualism that runs deep through the conservative movement in UK and USA. No one toppled statues in France. Why? France has real conservative intellectuals that value High Culture. You can not defend Stendhal or Balzac if you haven’t read them.
Fostered by Oxbridge, and to a lesser extent by what used to be called the Great Public Schools.
Intellectualism, with a few notable exceptions is as you say, generally despised in England, sadly.
Marx and Engels never said the industrial revolution was negative. In fact they regarded it as a necessary precondition for communism.
The idolisation of Empire did once exist, but it’s been gone for generations.
Perhaps in schools. But generations raised in earlier eras still make up half our society.
The very reason their books are so popular is because the average book-buying member of the public has been largely raised in a milieu that agrees with them.
Even a bestselling book’s sales are a tiny sample of the general public – that’s a hopelessly bad metric.
The West’s cultural revolution is more than five decades old now
This is a myth I think – perhaps because the author is young enough to have gone to secondary school in the nineties – but pink empire maps and empire myths were still commonplace at the end of the 70s.
Went to school during the mid 1970’s never saw any Empire maps & nor did any of my friends at other schools.
This articles has generated a lot of heat.
I’m old enough to have met a few ex-colonial officers, civil servants etc. I am always surprised at how many Liberal attitudes of today,echo the concerns of men and women a hundred years ago or more. There was a Liberal/Christian element to the project of Empire which would come as a surprise to the young. The letters to the Times about, concentration camps during the Boer War, home rule, relief funds, action against Belgium in the Congo. Campaigns against Thugees, head hunting, Suti. Cecil Rhodes, agitating for military intervention against Arab slave trading.
The benefit of law, regardless of who you were, education, association football, cricket, rugby.Soft power in short.
My Grandfather after serving in India, South Africa and WW1, became a civil engineer. He related the story of how he would pay his labourers’ families an extra shilling at the end of each month, if they could present him with their female babies. This was to provide extra support, otherwise they would be tempted to abandon them. He wasn’t given to sentimentality.
These stories are lost to us, we imagine people were different then, we are somehow more virtuous, more compassionate less venal and cruel.
Not only was the first world war a mindless slaughter but Second World War was (and a waste of British blood and treasure)
The German empire had a broader electoral franchise and great social insurance system.they were hardly “more evil” than the Belgium,Ottomans, Japanese, French and if you asked the indians or Spanish or Irish …the British.
The idea that we have to go to war with fellow European powers because they seem “sinister” is absurd.
If you ask an Indian, a South American or Spanish person,An East african – they will tell you that the most predatory and sinister Empire in human History was the British empire.
Secondly, I haven’t heard that myth about the industrial revolution recently. What I am hearing a lot of is that the British industrial revolution which raised British living standards was entirely due to slave genocide and colonialism and as a result white British people need to liquidate themselves and pay reparations to the rest of planet earth.
Thirdly: well quite agree
We are glad to hear you polled all the “Indian, a South American or Spanish person,An East african” on this question.
Do you people spend anytime on foreign media ?
Go to trt YouTube (turkish) or african news YouTube channels,black twitter, Spanish language youtube.
A lot do videos on British imperialism or whatever and you’ll find thousands of comments expressing their loathing of Britain.
Who needs foreign media for that? Nobody loathes Britain more than the native professional-managerial classes.
I live in Mexico, and I have never come across the sentiment you refer to.
So what I lived abroad most of my life.People are People and will be civil and reasonable.
You need to go on online foreign media equivalents of this.
Yes our naive native professional managerial class does loathe Britain, this is true.(probably stemming from classism or some type of weird norman-saxon hangover)
However for much of the world ; the British empire is considered the most sinister one.
Outside of Europe Germany wasn’t a big deal.Britain was.
Ask your Mexican friends how they compare British imperialism .
Speaking of foreign media,here’s some.
That fact if the matter that most of the world sees the British empire as the world’s most evil:
This post explains a lot.
Why would one want the good opinion of such ignorant, nasty people?
Just spend a moment outside of you anglo centric Internet bubble and you will see that this is the case:
Read these comments ,Muslims and Indians uniting in their hatred of Britain.
‘What I am hearing a lot of is that the British industrial revolution which raised British living standards was entirely due to slave genocide and colonialism and as a result white British people need to liquidate themselves and pay reparations to the rest of planet earth’.
Know why you are hearing a lot of that? Because the average reading age among the adult population in the UK is now eight.
Well the Indian person may be able to express their views through some of the representative democratic systems they had in place before the British visited…. or, er maybe not.
And as for South America or Spain, I think I must have missed the history lesson where they were part of the British Empire. The ones I went to suggested Spain was a rival foreign power, one that unlike the British who left behind representative democracies and a host of nations happy to enter into a post-Imperial relationship when they went, generated pretty uniform dictatorial s**tholes.
They feel very bitter and resentful about this too.
Which makes them resent British imperialism/Britain/England even more so.
You can protest all you want .But the British empire is considered the most evil in the world.
Look at this turkish media video.Indians and Muslims coming together describing the British as worthless hypocrites for always pointing to Germany as evil when they consider the British colonialism to be the most vicious.
Lots of folk find the Turks, with their history of genocide, a poor moral compass.
This is so full of holes and debatable, deliberately so of course. There is enough attractive, ‘general interest’, ‘non-fiction’ material offering alternative interpretations to the ‘myths’, available from your nearest railway station bookshop, now.
The last ‘myth’ example: ‘… about our history is that we are a nation of immigrants, something that has been repeated so much by politicians and activists that it’s taken as granted – even though it’s completely untrue’, is the most dodgy, unhelpful, not relevant. It would be hard to name any nations which haven’t experienced constant migration, with changes in rates over time.
The intention of stating that we are a ‘nation of immigrants’ is obviously to promote inclusion.
What is dodgy and irrelevant about a fact? No need to answer that, I can guess. The British isles did not ‘experience constant migration’ until the last century, in part because the means of migrating: efficient people-carrying ships and later aeroplanes, did not exist. Continental Europe as part of a landmass was obviously less isolated.
The great migrations of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, from the villages and hamlets of the countryside to the new urban manufacturing centres were internal migrations. Just look at census data and before that, parish records. The number of non British born inhabitants was vanishingly few.
Whether or not the influx of people from different cultures, speaking languages other than English is ultimately to the greater good and prosperity of the realm is debatable. We probably will not be able to make a judgement in my lifetime (I hope). But to pretend that this is not a major and unprecedented demographic and cultural shift is startlingly myopic, almost to the point of seeming to be driven by a political agenda : ‘ oh, don’t worry, don’t notice, it’s always been like this’. It really hasn’t, you know.
I guess my family were typical of the 19th century.
Scots who moved to London, and then in the next generation emigrated to the colonies. Migration was happening, but outward (did the UK have a surplus of people due to mechanization in agriculture?).
As I reflect on their influence on native people in the colonies, it is fair to say that the natives were not necessarily worse off – being under the thumb of the colonial authorities rather than the local chief – but I’m sure they struggled with loss of identity and a sense of threat to their society due to the very different culture of the incomers.
My grandfather told me of growing up on a farm c.1920; his best friends were the kids of the local chief who steadfastly refused to send them to school, saying “if they learn the ways of the white man, they will become thieves”.
Mechanisation of agriculture perhaps in part, but the relentless capitalist process of enclosure forced many off the land they’d been feudally entitled to, in Scotland known most obviously as the clearances. So yes, Scots and Irish found themselves migrating internally and then into the empire… As things got worse in their territories. Consistent depopulation in those countries until very recently as an echo of this long established process
‘What is dodgy and irrelevant about a fact?’ A fact on its own, of course nothing. A bald fact is a ‘fact’. I am questioning the motive to use that example of a ‘myth’ to be denied.
I can no doubt be proved ‘wrong’ with regards the ‘unprecedented’ concentration of immigration in modern and contemporary times. But, I would say; ‘OK and?’ ‘Myopic’? ‘casual’?, ‘reckless’? or even so-called ‘woke?’ Yes, maybe.
How do we deal with the siutation now, given we cannot keep all ‘non-English’ speakers ‘out’? Encourage integration and cultivate a spirit of inclusion?
We couldn’t turn it on its head and say Britain is a nation of non-immigrants? Like everything it needs to be nuanced.
“We probably will not be able to make a judgement in my lifetime (I hope)”
It is very bad as it is done now. That judgement is easy to make without waiting.
I’m always a bit suspicious of any suggestion that such-and-such a viewpoint is ‘unhelpful’ rather than, say, true or false.
The article fails to mention one very significant 19th century immigration – to mainland Britain from Ireland after the Great Famine. Liverpool and Lancashire generally (and other places) saw a huge influx in a very short time. And as with more recent Muslim immigration, there was the same fear that we were importing an alien religion with external loyalties. Sectarian tensions and what we’d today no doubt call Hibernophobia were widespread. I think about half of the population of Liverpool claims Irish ancestry, but this pales into insignificance compared with what’s happened to parts of Birmingham, Bradford, Blackburn etc. That has no historical precedent, and doesn’t seem to be panning out well.
Ireland was a part of Britain at that time. So would have been considered as internal migration. No different to people moving from the farm to the cities.
True, but Ireland was culturally and religiously quite distinct, as we know only too well
There were many Catholics in England at that time.
So they were not different to the rest of Britain.
As they were moving from the countryside to the industrial towns, they were no different culturally either.
There were very few, and they were viewed with deep suspicion and intolerance (see the Gordon Riots). There was also considerable sectarian tension in the industrial areas – more than twenty anti-Irish riots recorded in Welsh mining areas alone in the C19
That’s why Glasgow has a football club called Celtic with a shamrock badge.
My mother-in-law’s father migrated from Ireland to Glasgow to work down the mines during the WWI, so I guess many others did too.
My great-grandfather migrated form Scotland to London, and became a successful shop owner, again probably common in a time of telegraph, rail, and national newspapers.
It’s simplistic to say that simply because the UK, Russia or any other former colonial power no longer has colonies means that we do not still have a problematic colonial mindset. For example, Russia feels entitled to wade into Ukraine and back up allies in Belarus in order to extend and maintain its power. The UK feels entitled to ignore a UN resolution mandating the return of the Chagos Islands to its people.
In terms of everyday thinking, a lot of white English people still regard themselves as the real English and that we are hosting and being too generous to non-white English people, even though multiculturalism has been a feature of British life for 60 years now. But “we” is now a different “we” to the post-war “we”. Colonial thinking permeates so many people’s attitudes in modern England. It is so so obvious to people outside England.
I don’t think you understand what ‘Colonial thinking’ means. Colonisation is the settling of alien people in someone else’s land. That is what has been happening to use for 60 years. We are not the colonists. The non-Europeans who cannot or will not assimilate into our nation are the colonists.
Colonisation is the settling of alien people in someone else’s land. That is what has been happening to use for 60 years.
It’s not generally referred to as colonisation if people come by mutual agreement, which is the case. Then it’s called migration.
The non-Europeans who cannot or will not assimilate into our nation are the colonists.
So as long as people assimilate they can be considered truly English. So what counts as assimilation?
What mutual agreement? We were never asked.
“Colonial thinking permeates so many people’s attitudes in modern England. It is so so obvious to people outside England.”
It is so obvious to people outside England who read English media and believe that these colonialist attitudes really are widespread, just because Islingtonista columnists suggest that they are. In most cases these ‘colonialist attitudes’ that supposedly pervade English society are ‘straw men’.
I’d ask these people ‘outside England’ to spend some time socialising with a variety of English people and find out whether they really spend their time opining about the ‘loss of Empire’ or the extolling their own superiority – in fact, it’s something of a well-known ‘English disease’ to obsess about how everything must be better abroad; even Orwell noted this 70 years ago. German healthcare must be better, French motorways must be far superior, Spanish food must be nicer, Chinese infrastructure must be cheaper and better, trains everywhere else in the world must always run on time, everything in Japan must be more efficient, and so on and so on.
I am one of them -I believe that we admitted far too many immigrants and did far too much foir them.
The issues you describe doesn’t reflect a colonial mindset but an ethnocentric mindset.If anything an imperial mindset lends itself to multiracial societies
Do Blacks consider Whites or Asians who lived in Africa for generations considered real Africans?
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