Britain should be proud of its empire and colonialism

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ThomH97
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Distant descendants of Vikings and their rape victims have decided to celebrate their partial heritage of war, invasion, rape and colonisation. The Norfolk town of Sheringham (thought to originate from 'Scira' 'Heim', or Scira's home) has an annual festival where they have pretend battles, set fire to stuff, and set up a Viking village on the beach.

There seems to be little care for the Vikings' victims. Those who were killed, raped or robbed by the invading force.

Now, I'm aware of the danger of getting the public to enjoy having a massive empire (even if it is far less likely in modern times), but I wonder where the line is? Britain is supposed to feel guilty about its empire and colonialism past, Germany is supposed to crush any Nazism but absolve themselves of guilt by blaming the Nazis, but people are fine ignoring that their great (x40 ish) grandmother was raped by their great (x40 ish) grandfather after her husband was murdered trying to defend them, and celebrate the violence.

When is it okay to celebrate a violent past? And to what extent can you 'choose' your heritage?
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phyf
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I'm not british (I'm Irish) so idk if this going to be any help, but I believe we should acknowledge our pasts but not celebrate the bad, eg I acknowledge that the IRA did help force the British into allowing ni citizens to be British or Irish, but I am not proud of the suffering and hurt and injury and death that they caused many to suffer
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username521617
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I think people feel more comfortable with it because it was so long ago. It's ancient history that has been romanticised and obscured with time. The bad things that happened under colonialism are a little more fresh.

That being said, we dwell too heavily on the bad parts of colonialsm and often ignore (or even deny) the good parts. The world was uplifted into the modernity through colonialsm. Britain used its immense power and influence to effectively end the global slave trade (which the European powers didn't actually create, contrary to Hollywood history). It laid the foundations for organised government and eventually democracy in parts of the world that had none. It brought railroads, industry, electricity, modern medicine, and education.

But after many of these countries got their independence and were taken over by corrupt, inept governments, colonialsm still gets the blame for their continued lack of success decades later. And then there are places like Hong Kong and Singapore, which did great, so we ignore those.
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username4454836
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The viking invasion was over a 1000 years ago, those wounds have healed.

The wounds of colonialism can still be seen today. All colonial nations did some pretty awful stuff during their reign.
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londonmyst
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Up to a point.
Acknowledging the truth about the past, celebrating the positives, learning from the less delightful aspects and commemorating the most significant events are all crucial elements of both history and cultural heritage.

In a diverse multicultural society where a minimum standard of academic education and the study of history is mandatory by law, certain aspects of history and ancestral heritage will inevitably be prioritized above others.
For example- take Bonfire Night, my mother was taught to believe that the 5 November was an atheist attack on catholicism and all those celebrating were hate criminals.
Her family were ultra traditionalist catholics who claimed proud descent from members of the Catesby gang and spent 5 November praying for divine reward of the gunpowder plotters and the "restoration of the true religion to a godless nation".
Even decades after she was disinherited, my mother never allowed any mention of/participation in Bonfire Night when I was growing up.
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HighOnGoofballs
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The example you're using is of Vikings - who plundered the North of England and the East coast and killed countless....oh...Anglo Saxons? I don't know about you, but Anglo Saxons aren't around anymore. The current British population is in fact probably more closely linked with Vikings, considering it was the Vikings who settled in Normandy and became Normans, who eventually conquered England.

In contrast, the British Empire caused much tragedy to many places around the globe. It's not ancient history, its living memory. The amount of rape, killing, slaughter, murdering, torture, scandals, corruption, despotism, authoritarianism, racism, fraud, and barbarism produced by the empire in places like India and China were simply disgusting...and to suggest that the empire which caused all that should be celebrated even though many people are alive who are victims of such an empire is shameful.

Maybe in a couple thousand years mate, when it's become little more than a cultural joke like the Vikings.

I mean, if you want to celebrate how to Empire made the UK filthy rich and globally relevant, then fair enough, but that's incredible pompous and not exactly worth celebrating.
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ProgrammerC
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(Original post by HighOnGoofballs)
The example you're using is of Vikings - who plundered the North of England and the East coast and killed countless....oh...Anglo Saxons? I don't know about you, but Anglo Saxons aren't around anymore. The current British population is in fact probably more closely linked with Vikings, considering it was the Vikings who settled in Normandy and became Normans, who eventually conquered England.

In contrast, the British Empire caused much tragedy to many places around the globe. It's not ancient history, its living memory. The amount of rape, killing, slaughter, murdering, torture, scandals, corruption, despotism, authoritarianism, racism, fraud, and barbarism produced by the empire in places like India and China were simply disgusting...and to suggest that the empire which caused all that should be celebrated even though many people are alive who are victims of such an empire is shameful.

Maybe in a couple thousand years mate, when it's become little more than a cultural joke like the Vikings.

I mean, if you want to celebrate how to Empire made the UK filthy rich and globally relevant, then fair enough, but that's incredible pompous and not exactly worth celebrating.
You're being unfair on your statements against British Empire. That's true many bad things happened during their reign but that doesn't mean they didn't do good things for humanity if you compare with other empires. There were other empires which did bad things and they had never even cared their own citizens, they always had promoted the reactionary things rather than formal education, freedom, liberty and scientific breakthrough. The only thing that I'm sure of is, that British Empire was NOT one of them.

I actually have different background myself and I've never been in the UK though (I hope in the future) but history tells us that influential events, professionals and researching revolutionaries, from the Magna Carta to the development of the steam engine and the acceleration of the industrial revolution, British thoughts highly has conformed the our current planet. Did you know the UK was the first nation in the world that abolished slavery? Slavery not just abolished in Britain but also diplomatic force had been used against other nations. Not only poltical events but also scientific breakthrough that had been done by British people is tremendous.

Newton, Darwin, Faraday, Maxwell, Turing, Berners-Lee, Hawking etc.. those scientists are well-known contributors to the our knowledge around the world.

As I said to you, I'm from different background and when I look at the Ottoman Empire I don't see any good benefits for the humanity. The only thing I saw in the Ottomans that was many women were trying to satisfy the Sultan in the palace...

But your kings and queens had sent many Royal Navy ships to discover other continents, arctics, trade routes to make Britain itself rich nation and even those ships returned to the Britain with different species!
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Prussianxo
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(Original post by ProgrammerC)
You're being unfair on your statements against British Empire. That's true many bad things happened during their reign but that doesn't mean they didn't do good things for humanity if you compare with other empires. There were other empires which did bad things and they had never even cared their own citizens, they always had promoted the reactionary things rather than formal education, freedom, liberty and scientific breakthrough. The only thing that I'm sure of is, that British Empire was NOT one of them.

I actually have different background myself and I've never been in the UK though (I hope in the future) but history tells us that influential events, professionals and researching revolutionaries, from the Magna Carta to the development of the steam engine and the acceleration of the industrial revolution, British thoughts highly has conformed the our current planet. Did you know the UK was the first nation in the world that abolished slavery? Slavery not just abolished in Britain but also diplomatic force had been used against other nations. Not only poltical events but also scientific breakthrough that had been done by British people is tremendous.

Newton, Darwin, Faraday, Maxwell, Turing, Berners-Lee, Hawking etc.. those scientists are well-known contributors to the our knowledge around the world.

As I said to you, I'm from different background and when I look at the Ottoman Empire I don't see any good benefits for the humanity. The only thing I saw in the Ottomans that was many women were trying to satisfy the Sultan in the palace...

But your kings and queens had sent many Royal Navy ships to discover other continents, arctics, trade routes to make Britain itself rich nation and even those ships returned to the Britain with different species!
Yeah but Britain also was one of the first countries to use concentration camps, repressed and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and took resources from other countries. Even if we look at the mid 1950s they were part of the plan to kick out a democratically elected prime minister in Iran and replaced him with a dictator
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HighOnGoofballs
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(Original post by ProgrammerC)
You're being unfair on your statements against British Empire. That's true many bad things happened during their reign but that doesn't mean they didn't do good things for humanity if you compare with other empires. There were other empires which did bad things and they had never even cared their own citizens, they always had promoted the reactionary things rather than formal education, freedom, liberty and scientific breakthrough. The only thing that I'm sure of is, that British Empire was NOT one of them.

I actually have different background myself and I've never been in the UK though (I hope in the future) but history tells us that influential events, professionals and researching revolutionaries, from the Magna Carta to the development of the steam engine and the acceleration of the industrial revolution, British thoughts highly has conformed the our current planet. Did you know the UK was the first nation in the world that abolished slavery? Slavery not just abolished in Britain but also diplomatic force had been used against other nations. Not only poltical events but also scientific breakthrough that had been done by British people is tremendous.

Newton, Darwin, Faraday, Maxwell, Turing, Berners-Lee, Hawking etc.. those scientists are well-known contributors to the our knowledge around the world.

As I said to you, I'm from different background and when I look at the Ottoman Empire I don't see any good benefits for the humanity. The only thing I saw in the Ottomans that was many women were trying to satisfy the Sultan in the palace...

But your kings and queens had sent many Royal Navy ships to discover other continents, arctics, trade routes to make Britain itself rich nation and even those ships returned to the Britain with different species!
If you look into the Ottomans a bit more, you'll realize they were actually quite progressive. But, that's beside the point. I've already addressed you're an argument. Yes, the British Empire was great for Britain - it made them filthy rich and globally relevant - as stated beforehand, however, this isn't really worth celebrating considering it's rather egotistical, and the fact that it was done off the back of barbaric methods.

Also, yes, Britain did end the slave trade...but you're forgetting it played a key role in expanding it to heights it wouldn't have reached without their interference. It's like commending someone who has punched you in the face for saying sorry....like, "great, but it would have been better off if you hadn't been involved in the first place!"

Also, I find you're a point about key thinkers interesting. Yes, the Empire allowed universities to flourish and allowed for generous research grants to be dashed out, but think for a moment how many potential key thinkers the British Empire killed around the world?

Also, how am I being unfair? Did I say that Britain didn't care for its own citizens? MOST successful empires do, I think you'll find. It's not something that is unique to the British Empire and it never has been. An Empire needs to keep its citizens happy to prevent domestic rebellion. I never said that it didn't care for its citizens that once. I said it didn't care for many of its territories, and engaged in mass exploitation at an unprecedented scale. While many empires were brutish in nature to non-citizens, the Britsh Empire took it to new heights.
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HighOnGoofballs
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(Original post by Prussianxo)
Yeah but Britain also was one of the first countries to use concentration camps, repressed and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and took resources from other countries. Even if we look at the mid 1950s they were part of the plan to kick out a democratically elected prime minister in Iran and replaced him with a dictator
Don't forget that they basically caused the entire Isreal/Palestine conflict, as well, which is still red hot at the moment.
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ProgrammerC
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(Original post by Prussianxo)
Yeah but Britain also was one of the first countries to use concentration camps, repressed and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and took resources from other countries. Even if we look at the mid 1950s they were part of the plan to kick out a democratically elected prime minister in Iran and replaced him with a dictator
Yes, that's true. But I don't know any empire that didn't do any bad things to others. The point is here; the values that we have in the our current world are promoted by British Empire such as: liberty, enlightenment, formal education and rule of law in his or her colonials but also I know bad things happened in there.
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ProgrammerC
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(Original post by HighOnGoofballs)
If you look into the Ottomans a bit more, you'll realize they were actually quite progressive. But, that's beside the point. I've already addressed you're an argument. Yes, the British Empire was great for Britain - it made them filthy rich and globally relevant - as stated beforehand, however, this isn't really worth celebrating considering it's rather egotistical, and the fact that it was done off the back of barbaric methods.

Also, yes, Britain did end the slave trade...but you're forgetting it played a key role in expanding it to heights it wouldn't have reached without their interference. It's like commending someone who has punched you in the face for saying sorry....like, "great, but it would have been better off if you hadn't been involved in the first place!"

Also, I find you're a point about key thinkers interesting. Yes, the Empire allowed universities to flourish and allowed for generous research grants to be dashed out, but think for a moment how many potential key thinkers the British Empire killed around the world?

Also, how am I being unfair? Did I say that Britain didn't care for its own citizens? MOST successful empires do, I think you'll find. It's not something that is unique to the British Empire and it never has been. An Empire needs to keep its citizens happy to prevent domestic rebellion. I never said that it didn't care for its citizens that once. I said it didn't care for many of its territories, and engaged in mass exploitation at an unprecedented scale. While many empires were brutish in nature to non-citizens, the Britsh Empire took it to new heights.
My dear friend, you're still missing the important point in there. I'm not only implying the British Empire was a good because that Empire cared about its own citizens. The point is, every "greedy" attempt that made by Empire created good results for the all humanity and shaped our current values all around the world. That method also created many entreprenurs, inventors and philosphers in the society.

Industrial Revolution made the Britain itself very rich. But don't you think that was also useful for the other nations, people? Maybe, you'll tell me that also created wars for the natural resources. But unfortunately, that happens.

Just think about that, Royal Navy ships are trying to discover other continents and trade routes meanwhile doing that they're needing more and more advanced technologies and other innovations. After that voyage, they're coming with different natural resources or spicies and that means new things have been discovered and new hypotheses created by Empire itself or some voyages can be deadly. This is not only beneficial against British people itself, but also it is useful for me because I can use that information or it'll make my life easier.

Nature and Science journals contains those information and can be read by anyone all around the world who started this in 19th century? Western nations created enthusiastic elites for Natural Sciences and those people collected many fossils, made researchment then didn't they contribute to the medicine industry ?

What I want to imply is here, Britain is not located in another planet. It is on the Earth that's why an invention by a British, is useful for all humanity.

Also, are you really serious about your statement?

"...but think for a moment how many potential key thinkers the British Empire killed around the world?"

I respect all humans without any bias but I also believe there are cultures which are based on ignorance-superstitions and there are cultures that are based on freedom and knowledge. If you really want an answer for your question then you should examine cultures, traditions that British had been invaded. Then compare with these ex-colonial countries with themselves when they were colonial and now as an independent country. See if there are any differences? What they're interested in?

I absolutely agree with you all about suffer that Empire made. But you should remember that, if you don't try to make your nation rich then someone else will try it. My point was, they had enlightenment, education, liberty and rule of law. Those values served for all humanity not only for British.
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BlueIndigoViolet
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Agree 100% that we should be proud of our Empire and history - a more advanced, culturally and industrially, use its power to assert its influence on less powerful nations - never heard of that before (its the natural order) - India would be splintered into various Muslim and Hindu kingdoms, America would be speaking French and Africa would still be dominated just by other powers...

in an age of rivalry between European colonial powers, although they did do horrible things, we can be proud of the extent of the greatest empire in history
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HighOnGoofballs
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(Original post by ProgrammerC)
My dear friend, you're still missing the important point in there. I'm not only implying the British Empire was a good because that Empire cared about its own citizens. The point is, every "greedy" attempt that made by Empire created good results for the all humanity and shaped our current values all around the world. That method also created many entreprenurs, inventors and philosphers in the society.

Industrial Revolution made the Britain itself very rich. But don't you think that was also useful for the other nations, people? Maybe, you'll tell me that also created wars for the natural resources. But unfortunately, that happens.

Just think about that, Royal Navy ships are trying to discover other continents and trade routes meanwhile doing that they're needing more and more advanced technologies and other innovations. After that voyage, they're coming with different natural resources or spicies and that means new things have been discovered and new hypotheses created by Empire itself or some voyages can be deadly. This is not only beneficial against British people itself, but also it is useful for me because I can use that information or it'll make my life easier.

Nature and Science journals contains those information and can be read by anyone all around the world who started this in 19th century? Western nations created enthusiastic elites for Natural Sciences and those people collected many fossils, made researchment then didn't they contribute to the medicine industry ?

What I want to imply is here, Britain is not located in another planet. It is on the Earth that's why an invention by a British, is useful for all humanity.

Also, are you really serious about your statement?

"...but think for a moment how many potential key thinkers the British Empire killed around the world?"

I respect all humans without any bias but I also believe there are cultures which are based on ignorance-superstitions and there are cultures that are based on freedom and knowledge. If you really want an answer for your question then you should examine cultures, traditions that British had been invaded. Then compare with these ex-colonial countries with themselves when they were colonial and now as an independent country. See if there are any differences? What they're interested in?

I absolutely agree with you all about suffer that Empire made. But you should remember that, if you don't try to make your nation rich then someone else will try it. My point was, they had enlightenment, education, liberty and rule of law. Those values served for all humanity not only for British.
So, your core argument is that the Empire is good because of it:

1. Aided our geographic knowledge
2. Harbored inventors and philosophers / Education
3. Rule of law
4. Liberty / Enlightenment

Let's unpack this, shall we?

1. You don't need to conquer the entire planet to aid geographic knowledge. There have always been private and state commissioned explorers and to argue that the Empire is good because we now know about St. Helens is ludicrous.

2. I don't see how the Empire produced great thinkers and scholars. Great British universities were already present before, and while the increased funding from the Empire may have helped, there is no evidence to suggest that key thinkers wouldn't have been present without the British Empire. And again, think about how many potential key thinkers the Empire killed? Prominent America, Indians, and Chinese who could have gone on to do great things.

3. Rule of Law was already well established before the Empire. The Empire played no role in actually developing the rule of law any further, its effects were negligent.

4. Liberty/Enlightenment - funny you mention this considering most Classical Liberals are anti-interventionalist. Moreover, again, how did the Empire cause these ideas to sprout? Most of the Enlightenment ideas were Anti-state intervention in contrast with the principles of imperialism.
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Andrew97
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BlueIndigoViolet
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(Original post by HighOnGoofballs)
So, your core argument is that the Empire is good because of it:

1. Aided our geographic knowledge
2. Harbored inventors and philosophers / Education
3. Rule of law
4. Liberty / Enlightenment

Let's unpack this, shall we?

1. You don't need to conquer the entire planet to aid geographic knowledge. There have always been private and state commissioned explorers and to argue that the Empire is good because we now know about St. Helens is ludicrous.

2. I don't see how the Empire produced great thinkers and scholars. Great British universities were already present before, and while the increased funding from the Empire may have helped, there is no evidence to suggest that key thinkers wouldn't have been present without the British Empire. And again, think about how many potential key thinkers the Empire killed? Prominent America, Indians, and Chinese who could have gone on to do great things.

3. Rule of Law was already well established before the Empire. The Empire played no role in actually developing the rule of law any further, its effects were negligent.

4. Liberty/Enlightenment - funny you mention this considering most Classical Liberals are anti-interventionalist. Moreover, again, how did the Empire cause these ideas to sprout? Most of the Enlightenment ideas were Anti-state intervention in contrast with the principles of imperialism.
A more powerful and advanced nation projected its power and took over lesser nations - nothing to be apologetic and self loathing about, but proud of
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HighOnGoofballs
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So, Germany should be proud that it took over Poland, Denmark etc. during WW2?

Edit: @BlueIndigoViolet
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waka1234
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(Original post by Dandaman1)
I think people feel more comfortable with it because it was so long ago. It's ancient history that has been romanticised and obscured with time. The bad things that happened under colonialism are a little more fresh.

That being said, we dwell too heavily on the bad parts of colonialsm and often ignore (or even deny) the good parts. The world was uplifted into the modernity through colonialsm. Britain used its immense power and influence to effectively end the global slave trade (which the European powers didn't actually create, contrary to Hollywood history). It laid the foundations for organised government and eventually democracy in parts of the world that had none. It brought railroads, industry, electricity, modern medicine, and education.

But after many of these countries got their independence and were taken over by corrupt, inept governments, colonialsm still gets the blame for their continued lack of success decades later. And then there are places like Hong Kong and Singapore, which did great, so we ignore those.
The Oxford Dictionary defines colonialism as: "the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically." If you google the colonisation of Africa you can read material about the imperialist aggression, military invasions, and eventual colonisation.

As a proud African, I cannot fathom how you believe that many of the issues today are not a direct result of what our countries experienced less than a century ago. Many people forget that countries received independence in the lifetime of your grandparents or even parents. For example, in Kenya we received independence in 1953, making us 56 years old.

Our land was invaded, my people were torn from their homes and those that fought back were placed in detention camps (google the Mau Mau uprising). I know that our public transport system was improved whilst Kikuyu men were slaughtered in the forests, so I guess you can understand why we remember the bad and not the good.

To assume that bringing modernity can justify invading people's homes, encouraging segregation and killing then you are extremely disturbed. We have a long way to go but when your continent is exploited and its people controlled for so long, it is likely that the road to peace and prosperity will be extremely long and arduous. In the meantime, we do not need people like you rationalising the effect of colonialism when you have not even lived one day in a country that is still recovering from it.
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waka1234
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(Original post by HighOnGoofballs)
So, Germany should be proud that it took over Poland, Denmark etc. during WW2?
My thoughts exactly.... not entirely sure where this is going? I guess it's a different story when you're dealing with coloured people. Everyone accepts that glorifying the Nazi regime is taboo and distasteful but when it comes to colonisation, there is a debate. Are our lives not worthy?
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