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.