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Was the British Empire a force of evil or good?

Discussion in 'History & Literature' started by SusanScottishfan, Mar 8, 2018.

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Was the British Empire evil or good?

Poll closed Oct 8, 2018.
  1. Good

    3 vote(s)
    27.3%
  2. Evil

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. A mixture of both

    8 vote(s)
    72.7%
  1. SusanScottishfan

    SusanScottishfan Up with Scottish Football.

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    OK here is a flippant argument to make.
    Was the British Empire good or evil?
    I think the British Empire had a mixed record.

    On the negative side
    1. We killed around 80 million in famines in India, Iran, Ireland, and other nations.
    2. We supported slavery much of our empire.
    3. We wiped out aborigines in Tasmania.
    4. We carried out ethnic cleaning, in Australia, North America, and Africa.
    5. Ruling nations like India, chunks of Africa, in tyrannical dictatorships against the will of the people of those regions and nations.
    6. The brutal suppression of the man mau uprising.
    7. The brutal ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka.
    8. Many brutal wars resulting then millions of deaths.

    On the positive side.
    1. We defeated the NAZIs, in WW2, when it looked like they would take over Europe.
    2. We invented football, golf, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, curling, and shinty,
    3. When we left we instilled democracy in so,e nations.
    4. We let the USA have their independence.
    5. We gave India, and Pakistan their independence from the Empire.
    6. Great economic thinkers like Adam Smith.
    7. Great scientists like James Clerk Maxwell, Charles Darwin, and Isaac Newton.
    8. Great philosophers like David Hume.
    9. Massive numbers of inventions like penicillin, the telephone, the TV.
    10. The industrial revolution. which has brought progress to the world.

    So what do you think the Empire was evil or good?
     
  2. Mowgli

    Mowgli Registered User

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    You are one seriously sad numpty who no doubt voted SNP, are you suffering with a mental disorder because it sure looks like it?
     
  3. RedDevilsShinja

    RedDevilsShinja End Forced Debt + Fiat. Return to Gold

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    We ended slavery you absolute ****ing mong.
     
  4. Tshabs

    Tshabs Fears Heights

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    Neither/a mixture of both. The Empire did end some irrational/"backward" customs in places and essentially globalize the world as we know it today and "spread technology" as a result, but it wasn't exactly intentional or, in other words, was meant for solely the British elite and their local allies.

    Still, most colonials were imperious, rash and blindly dismissive of the people they held power over. The last point is the cause of many of the world's geopolitical problems today still. For sure not every single person in the Empire was like this, but your average person was most probably like that...
     
  5. Fo Shizzle

    Fo Shizzle Rising...

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    I don't think you could ever just label it as 'good' or 'bad'. There are so many arguments for and against it and much depends on your own personal experiences or circumstances. As a white British male it would be quite easy for me to sit here and say it was good because of what we left behind in places where previously there was nothing. However if I was a Kenyan or an Israeli or Indian would I be so positive about it? Doubtful.

    At it's basic level any kind of colonialism or oppression is bad...but do we look back at the Roman empire and view it as tyrannical and evil, or as a technologically advanced fascinating part of history that led the way for much of our way of life now? I'm a teacher and as far as I know no class ever had to learn about Julius Caesar wiping out a million Gauls.

    The British empire was absolutely astonishing in its size and coverage of the globe and the cultural, linguistic, sporting and financial impact it has had on the world is not in any doubt. It can be split into sections or eras though that are a little easier to categorise as good or bad...

    Phase 1: late 1500s - mid/late 1700s

    This was when Britain first got involved on the world stage. Not long after Columbus the Spanish and Portuguese were plundering gold and silver from Central and South America. Under instruction from the government (who took a share of the spoils) the British looted not only the local people but also other pirates from Spain and Portugal, eventually settling in several ports around the Caribbean with undesirables like Henry Morgan getting rich off piracy and manipulation...remember that next time you order a Captain Morgan's rum in a pub :laugh:. Morgan and one or two others saw the unsustainable nature of piracy though and invested their fortunes in building plantation estates on islands like Jamaica which we'd taken off the Spanish. And so began over a hundred years of importing African slaves in the trade triangle. Slaves go to the West Indies, sugar, tobacco and cotton go to Europe and manufactured goods to Africa. There's no need to go into the horrors of the slave trade...Britain weren't the first to take part in this but they certainly took to it with enthusiasm.

    It's important to note that at this point nobody in Britain used the term 'Empire'. What was happening was merely state-sponsored piracy followed by a few enterprising individuals out to make as much money as possible. Most of the empires history can be pointed towards profit in some way.

    Verdict: BAD

    Phase 2: late 1700s - early/mid 1800s

    This was Britain's age of exploration. The nation was gripped by reading about new and exotic places that some particularly adventurous Brits were discovering (or at least claiming as theirs). During this period the one-time mythical southern continent of Australia was claimed and mapped, New Zealand and several over smaller South Pacific islands likewise and we began to claim or win over Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Mauritius and numerous Caribbean islands. This period also saw us make serious in-roads into India from the 'East India Company' - originally a trading entity which gradually turned into a very influential and powerful force in India, even having it's own Army...

    It's difficult to mark this period as either good or bad. It was bad in the sense of there is still oppression in the name of profit but this period saw Britain abolish slavery in the empire and thus began to consider itself duty-bound to police world affairs, some of which involved us fighting for a 'greater good' in essence.

    You also have to wonder where the isolated indigenous people of Australia and New Zealand would be had we not landed on those shores. It's believed that due to their isolated existence the people there only existed in a primitive hunter-gatherer sense and had actually settled there thousands of years after humans had settled elsewhere, thus leaving them way behind. Australia and New Zealand (see also USA and Canada) are both vibrant, well-developed, wealthy economies now and you have to wonder whether this would've happened without European settlement. Whether overall that is good or bad is debatable. Obviously many indigenous peoples were killed although many were killed through contact with European diseases. In fact the British government tried to discourage any violence against local people with things like the Treaty of Waitangi which protected Maori rights.

    Verdict: MIXED

    Phase 3: early 1800s - early/mid 1900s

    This saw the British come to control India through the East India Company and their hold on local rulers. It also saw us use India as a base to grow opium poppies which we then sold to Chinese people around southern ports, pissing off the Emperor at the time and getting us in the Opium Wars, which we won easily. One of the prizes from this war were the fishing islands of Hong Kong and there is surely no doubt that our influence shaped the region for the better. Ditto Singapore. In fact if, like me, you bank with HSBC you can rest safe in the knowledge that your bank was originally created to process money earned during opium trading. Effectively a bank for drug traffickers.

    This time saw Britain move North from the Cape colony of Southern Africa and eventually create a never-ending African colony from modern South Africa to Egypt with everything in between. This seemed more of a 'civilising' mission, particularly in central Africa and involved explorers and missionaries like Livingstone and Burton to try and map the interior mainly to just put the flag down or sell Christianity to locals rather than to rinse the place of profit. And now you find schools, hospitals and law enforcement where perhaps you wouldn't have had we not done that.

    It's also important to remember that twice Britain helped repel Germany in world wars due to the help of the empire. If we had no empire would Hitler have prevailed? Scary thought.

    Verdict: GOOD

    No doubting though that we really messed up the way in which we left certain places. The Israel/Palestine situation, India/Pakistan and the carving up of Africa with other European nations has created border problems for people that don't associate with the country they have been placed in. Overall it has to be a mixed verdict. I could've just put that to start with bit I just love this part of history:laugh:
     
  6. Tshabs

    Tshabs Fears Heights

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    Here's what separates the British empire (and most empires) from Rome. The Romans were very practical people who in the long run did not treat their conquered subjects as an underclass. Instead, they eagerly offered provincials the opportunity to become Romans, as long as they served Rome. It was a very practical move that ensured the longevity of the Roman empire as evidenced by the fact that the 5 good emperors would be provincials and later on you'd have the Illyrian emperors saving the Empire from the Crisis of the 3rd Century. Even near the end the Germanic tribes still wanted to become Romans rather than seek it's destruction.

    You bring up Caesar murdering a million Gauls who opposed him and Rome. But then again, it was Caesar himself who paved the way for provincials getting Roman citizenship as he opened up the Senate to Gallic provincial elites, who supported him. The equivalent of that for the British would be if the British would have admitted Indian and African elites into Westminster. Instead, the British never really treated their colonial subjects as anywhere near equal. This is the reason why people tend to get pissed when the British today claim they "gave democracy to the colonies". No, you didn't. If you had done so, there might have actually been a lot of more functioning democracies than exist currently. Heck, the empire might've still continued for all we know. You can't really say you gave democracy to people after not even pretending to treat them as equals.

    It's why the likes of Nehru and Gandhi for instance, saw more to gain fighting for Indian independence. Like, Nehru went to Cambridge and Gandhi to London to study. They had grown up as true believers in the whole idea of the British empire, as the likes of Macaulay would've wanted. But seeing as the British were never going to be serious about treating Indians as "British", instead choosing to see them as sub-human (let's be honest, the sentiment was clearly there at the time and it was all down to race), they chose to work against the Empire. If the British were more like the Romans, that wouldn't have happened. Because the Romans were practical and would've allowed some sharing of power.

    It's really what sets apart ancient Rome from any subsequent empire to be honest. I can't think of any empire that was as practical about integrating their conquered peoples into their empire. Nor can I think of any empire that exercised as much restraint as Rome did, over exploiting the conquered people. It's evident really in the fact that there's really no history of ethnic rebellion against the Roman empire, with the sole exception being Judea. Considering Rome spanned almost a millennium, that speaks a lot to the Roman idea of allowing their subjects to become Roman instead of lording over them.

    Don't want to take my word for this? Take Edward Gibbon's, who was a stuffy old British colonial himself...

     
    #6 Tshabs, Apr 6, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  7. Fo Shizzle

    Fo Shizzle Rising...

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    I don't disagree with you and my love for Roman history possibly even exceeds my fascination with the history of the British Empire.

    In comparison though...the British Empire lasted roughly 350 years. The Roman empire lasted about 700. So who's to say whether the British Empire's 'subjects' would've been treated better or worse had it gone on longer? You can see now in the modern world there are MPs with clear historical ties to British colonies. The Mayor of London is a British-Pakistani. In sport we always have people from the empire representing Britain, Rusedski, Lennox Lewis, Raheem Sterling, Kevin Pietersen, Terry Butcher etc etc

    There is no doubt that many colonialists were just straight up racist but there's no way that people in Roman Provinces like Gaul, Africa or Hispania in 100BC enjoyed the Romans forcing their way in and running things. They weren't awarded citizenship or allowed to become officially part of the Roman Army for centuries. They'd send a governor in to collect tribute with what was effectively a hired company (whoever bid the highest for the contract) to Rome but who was free to rinse the place for personal profit and they'd often displace locals by giving their land to retired Roman legionaries to settle.

    Let us also picture the scene, your town or city is on the edge of the Roman empire and has just lost a battle with the legions. They swarm into the city like bees into a hive. Are they about to welcome locals with open arms into this new special club they have? No, they sack the place. Raping, murdering and looting (soldiers need paying) so there were certainly downsides to becoming Romanised.

    The Romans were certainly groundbreaking for a way in which an empire is run. But oppression is still oppression.
     
  8. Tshabs

    Tshabs Fears Heights

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    I mean, that's hardly an excuse though, is it. In any case, Caesar pretty much gave Gauls and Hispanic allies citizenship straight away. The British didn't do anything of the sorts.

    I'm well aware, I'm Indian/American and spent my formative years in a small town in India that was created ground-up as a summer retreat for the British. :laugh: In any case, it's a little too late to credit the British empire for modern day equality when they were nowhere near anything like that. I want to be very clear that this isn't a criticism about today's Britain or even British culture at large, as the West, not just the UK is probably the most egalitarian any society has been in history. It'd be unfair to credit the Empire for it though. That progress is despite the Empire, not because of it.

    I mean, nobody likes anyone, outsider or not, forcing their way upon others in running things. Plus, you're being mildly unfair on Rome. By 0 AD, just 100 years after conquest, more and more provincials were getting citizenship. Given that communication times and speed were way slower back in the Roman age, it's a shorter time period than it looks like. In any case, it still doesn't really compare to the British and how they treated their subjects 100 years after conquest. Also, Augustus ended the use of private tax collectors you're talking about.

    Oppression is still oppression but this is bad logic. Anybody can twist anything their way by saying oppression is oppression to justify whatever they want to do. In any case, I never claimed that the Romans weren't oppressive, I clearly said that compared to other empires they weren't as bad. Including the British, based on the examples I gave in the previous post and this one. The biggest proof is in the fact that apart from Judea, no province really ever revolted against the Romans, especially after citizenship started getting extended.

    The other biggest difference is that the Romans, as culturally bigoted they were, were exactly just that - cultural bigots. They believed firmly that anyone can become Roman down the line. The British and most colonial empires firmly believed that anyone non-white would never be able to become British. There was always something lacking in them, it's quite evident in the rationalizations colonials would make about non-white people (again, this isn't a criticism of Britain today, I want to be firmly clear about this as I said earlier).
     
  9. SusanScottishfan

    SusanScottishfan Up with Scottish Football.

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    Mowgli stay away from women you cree
    p. Wow insulting women on the internet with deeply offensive comments because of a post you are upset at. Why do you hate women? Is it because they laugh at you, for your little problem LOL,
    You meet some creepy guys on the internet..
     
  10. SusanScottishfan

    SusanScottishfan Up with Scottish Football.

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    Mong is a racist term. You should be banned for using terms like that. You are being a creep.
     
  11. SusanScottishfan

    SusanScottishfan Up with Scottish Football.

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    Thanks for the serious comments from tshabs, fo sizzle, They were informative, and interesting. At least some people do not have issues, in talking to women.
     
  12. RedDevilsShinja

    RedDevilsShinja End Forced Debt + Fiat. Return to Gold

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    How on earth is mong a racist term? You're a retard.
     

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