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Being proud of colonialism

(81 Posts)
AnotherEffingOrangeRevel Wed 20-Jan-16 13:20:47

Perhaps it's no wonder that we let our government get away with continuing to screw over other parts of the world for spurious, often covert, reasons.

DeoGratias Thu 21-Jan-16 10:12:49

It is never all right or all wrong. We certainly did good as well as bad abroad.

AnotherEffingOrangeRevel Thu 21-Jan-16 10:19:08

It is never all right or all wrong.

Very true.
And Hitler was really kind to animals, wasn't he?

PrivatePike Thu 21-Jan-16 10:38:05

DeoGratias - agree

cailindana Thu 21-Jan-16 15:40:38

I agree what the article says about British people being woefully and embarrassingly unaware of the history of the Empire, to the extent that they have no idea of what the relationship between England and Ireland was, or the immense suffering caused by Britain in Ireland. Many don't even understand the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland. It's shocking to think a country can destroy another country in the way Ireland was destroyed by Britain and that less than 100 years later people know nothing about it.

DeoGratias Thu 21-Jan-16 15:53:21

A lot of people are aware however. English/Irish history is studied by most of us in school. Loads of us do it for history A level never mind our own individual research.

We also exported our system of common law to countries and ensured their prosperity - look at the US which we used to own. Look at India which we united and modernised. Hong Kong, South Africa - a lot of these countries are doing a lot better than nations we never conquered just as the UK benefited to some extent by being conquered by the Romans in their time.

cailindana Thu 21-Jan-16 16:10:45

I have yet to meet one person (perhaps besides you Deo) who is aware. I mentioned the Great Famine to a bunch of highly educated people, professors among them, recently and got entirely blank looks.

Would you be happy to have Britain conquered tomorrow, if they promised to provide prosperity in the long run (with some deaths at first)?

cdtaylornats Thu 21-Jan-16 17:03:08

If it wasn't for the English there might not be any Irish. An Irish king invited the English to help out against the Vikings who were wiping out the Celts tribe by tribe. There was no Ireland just competing tribes. At some point Ireland would probably have become united but after much bloodshed.

cailindana Thu 21-Jan-16 17:06:47

Right, so that just negates everything else that came after - the stealing of Irish land, the persecution of Catholics, the blind eye turned to the famine?

tomatodizzy Thu 21-Jan-16 17:26:27

British school children learn a rose tinted version of colonialism. So that doesn't surprise me. People always spout British favourable nonsense that Britain helped as well as hindered the nations they colonised. People often feed and cloth slaves and kidnap victims as well. Does that mean they should be thanked and escape punishment too? Any apparent 'help' was only done so for the benefit of Britain. Also there is no alternative reality to see what the result of not being colonised would be, so the argument that Britain helped cannot be tested and therefore it is useless.

caroldecker Thu 21-Jan-16 17:32:55

tomato ^ so the argument that Britain helped cannot be tested and therefore it is useless^

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the OP, this is the biggest pile of bollocks I have read in a long time.

AnotherEffingOrangeRevel Thu 21-Jan-16 17:34:45

It's particularly bemusing that the people who are most positive about Britain's overseas invasions (when "we" imposed - and continue to impose - all sorts of our own ways and values at others' expense) are also very often the people who are least positive about immigrants to their own country and insist that they must "integrate" in specific ways.

Arfarfanarf Thu 21-Jan-16 17:44:38

There is nothing to be proud of. I am shocked that that poll found that. I can only assume people don't understand what was done in the name of the british empire. What was done was horrendous. My husband is Kikuyu. They fought for liberation from the british. What was done to them was horrific. Members of his family died.

I only learned about the 'potato famine' as an adult. As a child it was pitched as a terrible natural disaster. The part the english played in it omitted.

The 'highland clearing' that makes it sound like they went through tall grass with scythes. The 'clearing' was the removal of people and did so much damage.

What the british empire did continues to affect the world today and not in a good way.

What good did they do? Took 'british democracy' and forced it on peoples that had not developed it themselves? That worked out really well! Stripped nations of their natural resources and exploited them?

We can't change the past but ffs we should at least see it clearly instead of spinning it into some glorious benevolent british empire fiction.

tomatodizzy Thu 21-Jan-16 18:00:53

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the OP, this is the biggest pile of bollocks I have read in a long time.*

Oh right, so you can say with 100% that India would not be modernised if Britain hadn't exploited it or that there wouldn't be any such thing as the Irish if Britain hadn't 'helped' can you? No you're right Britain came along and saved all those poor souls from themselves. Good old Blighty, it's clearly bollox that there would an alternative where this countries would have prospered if Britain hadn't come an saved them exploited the shit out of them.

BarbarianMum Thu 21-Jan-16 18:01:11

I'm not shocked at the poll finding - most Brits know jack shit about colonialism. The empire was designed and implemented to benefit the British (especially the rich). Any good it did was purely incidental.

BarbarianMum Thu 21-Jan-16 18:03:12

If there had been no empire some countries would have done worse. Some better. Many wouldn't exist at all, or would exist in totally different form.

I think the really interesting question is what would Britain be like now had it never existed.

tomatodizzy Thu 21-Jan-16 18:06:26

My argument is that we don't know what state these countries would be in if Britain hadn't colonised them so it is impossible and useless to say that British colonisation wasn't all bad and Britain did some good as well, when we have nothing to compare that apparent 'good' against.

DeoGratias Thu 21-Jan-16 18:11:57

Of course we know about the Irish famine. Many of us had ancestors affected by it. I did. Also many many of us are pro immigration and also accept the good as well as the bad of the UK's colonial past.

You can turn this round though to say:
"My argument is that we don't know what state these countries would be in if Britain hadn't colonised them so it is impossible and useless to say that British colonisation wasn't all good and Britain did some bad as well, when we have nothing to compare that apparent 'bad' against."

Ever since humans started moving across this planet even 200,000 years ago we have moved from country to country and there have been all kinds of good and bad done. The worst thing was probably agriculture as it meant people could amass power and land and seek to claim territory rather than just moving to where food was.

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Thu 21-Jan-16 18:22:34


Well I'm currently a researching a family with involvement in the West Indies.

Which means I've had the... pleasure of reading a will in which one human being wills the ownership of other human beings to his children.

Also of reading newspapers from 1833 and 1834 with the lobbying to increase the amount of compensation to be paid to the owners of the enslaved people - for the loss of their "property" through emancipation. Twenty million pounds of 1830s taxpayers money.

Then there's the continued weaseling group-speak: "N-s do this, N-s are like that, N-s can't be trusted with the other." One of the worst things is the cliches are so familiar from my own lifetime: I really have heard people come out with this shit against Ethinic-Group-They're-Dissing.

I've plenty of family who were teachers and engineers and accountants, etc all across the British Empire. And whose contribution to human happiness may have been a net positive. Though add in the soldiers fighting colonial wars... Hmm.

As a PP said: the British Empire was to benefit the British. Anyone else who got anything out of it, well, that's nice. Shame about the downsides...

LumelaMme Thu 21-Jan-16 18:23:09

The empire was designed and
Hardly 'designed'. The Raj started as a business enterprise (East India Company).

If you believe in democracy, there is no way you can justify imperialism/colonialism, and there is no doubt that the British empire did some shitty stuff, just like all the others. However, I was talking to an Asian academic a while ago and he said he reckoned that, out of all the imperial nations, 'the British were best' (quote). He wasn't saying that the Brits were wonderful, just that they were less bad than the others (Japanese, Portuguese, etc). I was really surprised and told him he'd be crucified if he said that in a history dept in a British university, where the BE is seen as the fount of all things evil.

He might have a point, though: the Basuto asked to be taken into the BE (as Basutoland, now Lesotho), since they reckoned it would be a better bet than being conquered by the Voortrekkers. I think they probably had a point.

hugoagogo Thu 21-Jan-16 18:23:33

Being proud of the British empire makes little sense to me.
As does being angry with the descendants of those who were alive at the time.

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Thu 21-Jan-16 18:25:24

UCL has a project tracing the impact of slavery on the British economy here:
Legacies of British Slave-ownership

BarbarianMum Thu 21-Jan-16 18:26:21

I think that kind of depends on what those descendants are saying about it. If they are claiming it was a great thing and they're proud of it - well, I can see why that'd piss some people off.

RiverTam Thu 21-Jan-16 18:29:46

Lumela I think it was Niall Ferguson who said that one of the better things you can say about the British Empire is that at least it wasn't the French.

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Thu 21-Jan-16 18:30:03

Dumela mma, LumelaMma!

I've heard similar from a Malawian friend: "We're glad we got you guys; we were going to be colonised by someone during the 'scramble for Africa', and the other colonial powers were so much worse."

Given what happened to Congo/Zaire under the Belgiums, and the Herero under the Germans in SW Africa/Namibia this is hard to disagree with. But it does kind make your hair stand on end to have someone actually say it.

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