The British Empire, good or bad?

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mikhail
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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby mikhail » Thu Sep 03, 2009 2:04 pm UTC

A. Akbar wrote:...The impact of Empire is seen almost unanimously as a thing of pride and positive (barring a few treaty issues).

This is a relatively natural conclusion for a country which consists almost entirely of settlers. The Native Americans, Maori and Aboriginals may not entirely agree with the consensus of the white colonists.

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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Fri Sep 04, 2009 12:15 am UTC

A. Akbar wrote:Too tired to prolong this post (fittingly due to studying for history schol exam) but I'll leave with this, said by our greatest prime minister-
"I am satisfied that nowhere will the issue be more clearly understood than in New Zealand - where, for almost a century, behind the sure shield of Britain, we have enjoyed and cherished freedom and self-government. Both with gratitude for the past and confidence in the future, we range ourselves without fear beside Britain. Where she goes, we go. Where she stands, we stand. We are only a small and young nation, but we are one and all a band of brothers and we march forward with union of hearts and wills to a common destiny."
The impact of Empire is seen almost unanimously as a thing of pride and positive (barring a few treaty issues).

For those who were curious (like myself) the quote comes from Michael John Savage, and was delivered in September in response to the declaration of war on Nazi Germany.
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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby A. Akbar » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:46 am UTC

mikhail wrote:
A. Akbar wrote:...The impact of Empire is seen almost unanimously as a thing of pride and positive (barring a few treaty issues).

This is a relatively natural conclusion for a country which consists almost entirely of settlers. The Native Americans, Maori and Aboriginals may not entirely agree with the consensus of the white colonists.


New Zealand/Aotearoa consists entirely of settlers. And yes, some groups of Maori disagree with the consensus, notably Ngati Tuhoe. However, following the various treaty settlements initiated under our last government nearly all the grievances have been laid to rest. It's also interesting to see that, according to Belichs's revisionist histories, Maori were even more enthusiastic proponents of the myth of empire within New Zealand than the British Foreign office.
An extremely important distinction to make is between the Empire and the white settlers, traders, resource extractors and missionaries each of which had very different relationships with the Maori.
Please note: I cannot speak for any other country as my knowledge is too slight.

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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:41 am UTC

A. Akbar wrote:
The Midwayans wouldn't have risen up to defeat the Imperial Japanese Navy without the United States. The Burmese and Indians and Chinese and Aussies would have put together a defense against the Japanese without the British. So the British only get partial credit for containment, while the Americans get full credit for taking the strategic initiative and defeating Japan.


First, as a New Zealander this is ever so slightly inaccurate. I'm going to lump the Aussies and Kiwis together here as at that point we shared a "trans-tasman national psyche" but New Zealand (and by extension Australia) entered the war purely because we saw ourselves as part of Britain and her empire.

The European war in 1939, yes. But not the war in 1941, which is what Philwelch was talking about. Besides, the League of Nations and Britain did little to stop Japan's aggressive takeover of Manchuria and invasion of China, much in the same way they failed to curb Hitler's expansionism.
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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby Philwelch » Fri Sep 04, 2009 6:00 am UTC

A. Akbar wrote:
The Midwayans wouldn't have risen up to defeat the Imperial Japanese Navy without the United States. The Burmese and Indians and Chinese and Aussies would have put together a defense against the Japanese without the British. So the British only get partial credit for containment, while the Americans get full credit for taking the strategic initiative and defeating Japan.


First, as a New Zealander this is ever so slightly inaccurate. I'm going to lump the Aussies and Kiwis together here as at that point we shared a "trans-tasman national psyche" but New Zealand (and by extension Australia) entered the war purely because we saw ourselves as part of Britain and her empire.


So the Aussies and New Zealanders weren't nervous about Japan conquering all their neighbors, it was all due to loyalty to the British?
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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Fri Sep 04, 2009 6:04 am UTC

At the time, it was considered completely impossible that the Japanese could take Singapore or Hong Kong.
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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby Sharlos » Fri Sep 04, 2009 7:11 am UTC

And yes, that's why Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany on the other side of the planet.

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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Fri Sep 04, 2009 7:26 am UTC

Sharlos wrote:And yes, that's why Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany on the other side of the planet.

I'm afraid I don't quite get your meaning.
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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby Sharlos » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:20 pm UTC

Philwelch wrote:So the Aussies and New Zealanders weren't nervous about Japan conquering all their neighbors, it was all due to loyalty to the British?


Implies that Oz and NZ went to war purely out of self interest. We didn't. We went to fight on the western front (on the other side of the planet) because Britain declared war on Germany. It was a while after we had been fighting in Europe that most Australian soldiers were redeployed to defend Australia in the pacific.

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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby Heisenberg » Fri Sep 04, 2009 2:43 pm UTC

mikhail wrote:This is a relatively natural conclusion for a country which consists almost entirely of sheep.

Sorry, couldn't resist.
mikhail wrote:The Native Americans, Maori and Aboriginals may not entirely agree with the consensus of the white colonists.

More importantly, even if the surviving natives love Imperialism now, it's important to note that they are descendants of the people who didn't rise up and defend their land against their benevolent invaders. Similarly, if you poll Iraqis on how much they love America, it may be skewed by the fact that those who hate America have a rather high mortality rate right now. I would not rate this as evidence that the Iraq War is 'Good.'

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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby A. Akbar » Sat Sep 05, 2009 12:20 am UTC

mikhail wrote:The Native Americans, Maori and Aboriginals may not entirely agree with the consensus of the white colonists.

More importantly, even if the surviving natives love Imperialism now, it's important to note that they are descendants of the people who didn't rise up and defend their land against their benevolent invaders. Similarly, if you poll Iraqis on how much they love America, it may be skewed by the fact that those who hate America have a rather high mortality rate right now. I would not rate this as evidence that the Iraq War is 'Good.'[/quote]

Well, considering that in New Zealand during the new zealand wars/land wars/maori wars the highest death rate was amongst the kupapa maori. Also, POLITICS IS NOT GENETIC.

And I cannot stress this enough, the white settlers and the British Empire were entirely different things. Nearly all the tension between the two groups of people (Wairau affair, Bod Incident etc) were before the empire was established, and the empire was established largely to protect the natives against 'fatal impact' which was seen as obvious.

Revisionist historians such as Belich have since emphasised the degree to which the Maori where active partners and sought empire involvement themselves.

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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby mikhail » Mon Sep 07, 2009 3:10 pm UTC

A. Akbar wrote:Also, POLITICS IS NOT GENETIC.

Not to disagree particularly, but this doesn't dismiss that argument - people do tend to develop the political attitudes of their home, particularly in more conservative areas.

And I cannot stress this enough, the white settlers and the British Empire were entirely different things.

Why do you make this distinction? Some of the posters in this thread have also made very narrow definitions of the British Empire, and while that kind of terminology may benefit historians (as jargon simplifies expression in most fields), it seems too restrictive in the context of this discussion.

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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby A. Akbar » Tue Sep 08, 2009 11:37 am UTC

mikhail wrote:
And I cannot stress this enough, the white settlers and the British Empire were entirely different things.

Why do you make this distinction?


Ummm… because white people != the British empire?

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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby mikhail » Tue Sep 08, 2009 3:44 pm UTC

A. Akbar wrote:
mikhail wrote:
And I cannot stress this enough, the white settlers and the British Empire were entirely different things.

Why do you make this distinction?


Ummm… because white people != the British empire?
Sorry, rereading your previous post, I understand what you meant here now. I think I'd need a better grasp of NZ history to comment further.

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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby thatblackguy » Thu Sep 10, 2009 6:35 am UTC

The thread's only two pages long - at least *pretend* to read it.

-Az
Spoiler:
First of all, I haven't read the book you're talking about. I have only my own history education to reference, along with things learned on the way.

tmssmith wrote:He credits it with, among other things, the creation (or expansion) of a global free market,

Speaking from a former colony of that Empire I would really like to know how that market was 'free' in any way or that the changes introduced by them would not have occurred naturally as communication and transport grew with technology naturally.
The point of this colony at least was basically slave labor but with economic obscurity added to it to make it somewhat appear not so. The colony was forced to buy certain things at high rates and forced to grow certain crops and produce goods and sell them at a fixed rate. With the intent of looting the contry to put it bluntly. Btw, as a side issue, they took national treasures and still have them to this day.
I will admit they helped greatly in creating infrastructure for transport and things but the faults were, in my opinion, not enough to compensate.
tmssmith wrote:the spread of democracy,

Hmm. True the country was fragmented with the previous conquerors under small monarchies when the British came but the kind of democracy they introduced, rather, forced and its uses are questionable. The ones that sprang up independently had to fight for their freedom anyway, whether it would be easier to do so against fragmented kingdoms or an invader I don't know.
tmssmith wrote:... and saving the world (with a bit of help!) from the Nazi, Japenese and Italian 'Empires' by sacrificing itself during and after the Second World War, which he suggests would have been, and indeed were, many times worse than the British Empire.

Oh don't call it a sacrifice like it's some great noble thing it did, it was self preservation. Not that that in itself is a bad reason, just that it's not as noble as you make it seem. Though better than the alternative regime that is presented indeed, it's hardly a great accomplishment.
tmssmith wrote:On the other side, I was shocked by how endemic racism was within the empire, the ethnic cleansing that occured, slavery (although it then played a leading role in ending slavery) and the general oppresion of 'inferior' peoples.

Shocked that a nation that gained wealth by conquest of other countries and forced them to produce wealth for them would be racist? I think the book painted too rosy an image.
In conclusion I'd like to say that the Britain of today is nothing like the British empire in those days and I don't blame the current British people for anything nor expect them to make any amends for their great grandparents or farther down, lineage. There is one matter though. I will not mention it here.
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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby saywolfagain » Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:07 pm UTC

What about the fact that the British Empire meant that the English Language is now so widely spoken? Improved communication means more people able to collaborate leading to innovation and technological advances.

Also applies individually - I'm Irish and the fact that I suppose the fact that I speak English as a first language probably means I'm potentially more economically advantaged than someone who speaks Irish as a first language. Lots of people in India have jobs because of their grasp of the English language (and I read somewhere that there is a big increase in the numbers of Chinese people learning English)

Maybe the English Language leads to more cultural integration which is either a good or a bad thing depending on your view of the importance of national identity.

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Re: The British Empire, good or bad?

Postby Occultican » Fri Sep 25, 2009 6:27 pm UTC

As a point of interest, if you are looking for more viewpoints I would suggest "Destiny Disrupted", by Tamim Ansary.

I think he would greatly disagree that the idea of nationalism began in the last century, and also that the British empire had an overall positive impact. As others have said, you need to compare the Empire with what would have replaced it in history; and it seems to me that a world without the East India Trading Company would probably be for the better. What the British and other Europeans did in the "Middle East" during the time of the Empire strikes me as deplorable. Some of that was unintentional, but there was plenty of opportunity to jab the Indians and Muslims right where it hurt and the British didn't pass it up. You could argue that the East India Trading Company wasn't the Empire and you would technically be right. But it was British Imperialism just the same, whether by their left or right hand.

At the end of the day I don't see the overall impact of the Empire being positive. That the world would have been better without it seems to be an undercurrent in the conversation (seemingly unavoidable) that cannot be answered reasonably.


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