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Old April 26th, 2007, 11:55 PM   #1

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British Empire, good or bad?


At its height, the British Empire governed one quarter of the world’s population and roughly the same in terms of land mass. During its existence, it presided over the longest period of peace, within its boundaries, in human history, the Pax Britannica. On the whole then, was the Empire a good thing, or would the world have been better of without it?
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Old April 27th, 2007, 12:53 AM   #2

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Re: British Empire, good or bad?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Belisarius View Post
At its height, the British Empire governed one quarter of the world’s population and roughly the same in terms of land mass. During its existence, it presided over the longest period of peace, within its boundaries, in human history, the Pax Britannica. On the whole then, was the Empire a good thing, or would the world have been better of without it?
For me the expansion of England was normal, after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, England was a naval (1st) superpower for 200-250 years, they go everywhere they wanted and hit hard every time it was necessary - plus great Admirals and explorers like Drake, Nelson, Cooke, e.t.c. A skill and human resource that none of the rival powers had.
As i know in countries that were colonies still today exist order and organization (in countries that choose to preserve the English system).
I can't say that this was good or if not existed that the countries would be better.
Simply existed.
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Old April 27th, 2007, 07:53 AM   #3

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Re: British Empire, good or bad?


Was the Empire a good thing? Compared to what?

Would the world have been better of without it? Well, if those areas in the British Empire had instead been subsumed by French, Belgian, German, Ottoman, American, Dutch, Japanese, etc. imperialism, I'd say no.
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Old April 27th, 2007, 09:23 AM   #4

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Re: British Empire, good or bad?


The British Empire presided over the longest uninterrupted peace in history only because of two factors: one, its enemies (France and Russia) were even more devastated by the Napoleonic Wars than Britain, in terms of both financial and military might. The Great Power Congress assured that Britain kept what lead it already had, as it was impossible for France or Russia to put up much of a fight against the other powers. Secondly, the Industrial Revolution meant that even as those countries sorted themselves out, Britain was still pulling ahead with respect to such things as steam power and mechanisation. You will notice that after Germany's unification and subsequent industrialisation, peace began to deteriorate relatively quickly as the British found an aggressive rival who lacked France's internal divisions, or Russia's military backwardness.

As for internal imperial structure, it's difficult to say whether or not the empire was a 'good' thing. How are you defining good? As being beneficial to the world at large? Then I would be inclined to agree; tangible effects like transitioning to an industrialised economy, plus more intangible ones such as a fair legal tradition and efficient system of government meant that, on the whole, empire was a 'good thing.'

This does not excuse, of course, such inaction or ignorance that resulted in millions of deaths during the famines in Ireland and India, nor the bloody reprisals after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Of course the British Empire brought much suffering at times; but I think on the balance sheet, it was a good thing for world, and some regional, affairs.

I think where most of the question lies is within popular perception of the 'Scramble for Africa,' and the rapid decolonisation of the same in the 1960s - in these contexts, no, the empire was not a good thing at all.
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Old April 29th, 2007, 02:22 AM   #5

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Re: British Empire, good or bad?


Whether or not it was a good thing depends upon who you are. If you were a native american living in North America, then no it wasn't a good thing. It certainly wasn't a good thing for Africa.
Being an American living in the 21st century, the British Empire was an excellent thing. First of all because it brought the United States into being. Secondly because it's dominance in the Atlantic World kept the rest of Europe away from the United States so that it could grow powerful. The spread of the dominance of the english language certainly was helpful for the United States in its economic and political relations throughout the world. The British Empire was certainly useful in absorbing the impact of the Germans and Japanese during the World Wars, so that the US could emerge stronger.
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Old April 29th, 2007, 07:31 PM   #6

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Re: British Empire, good or bad?


Well, as far as imperialism goes, I would love to hear an argument that some other type was preferable to the British sort. If the Brits had stayed out of Africa, it would have been divided up by the French, Germans, Portugese, Belgians, Italians, Spanish.

I wonder what the world would be like today if there had been no imperialism at all - if the Europeans had stayed in Europe - if the Russians had stayed west of the Urals - if the Turks had stayed in Central Asia - if the Arabs had stayed in Arabia - etc - etc - etc.

Wouldn't there have to be a cut-off date before which "imperialism" would be "permitted?" How you gonna keep the Cro-Magnons out of Europe?
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Old April 29th, 2007, 08:02 PM   #7

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Re: British Empire, good or bad?


Empires are the natural state of things. One will rule all it can. Lions eat Zebras. Lowsy businesses go under. Unproductive workers get fired. Strong countries rule over weak countries. The Nation-State is a European invention.
Though many peoples who were ruled by the British will say they hate them, which they are entitled to, I would rather live under the British Empire than under the Japanese or Russian empire.
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Old April 29th, 2007, 11:31 PM   #8

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Re: British Empire, good or bad?


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Originally Posted by Dr Realism View Post
Empires are the natural state of things. One will rule all it can. Lions eat Zebras. Lowsy businesses go under. Unproductive workers get fired. Strong countries rule over weak countries. The Nation-State is a European invention.
Though many peoples who were ruled by the British will say they hate them, which they are entitled to, I would rather live under the British Empire than under the Japanese or Russian empire.

True words !
Unfortunately, the strong are often resented by the weak.
This is life I suppose ?
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Old May 1st, 2007, 06:32 PM   #9
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Re: British Empire, good or bad?


Well, they did teach people how to speak English.
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 03:12 AM   #10

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Re: British Empire, good or bad?


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Empires are the natural state of things. One will rule all it can.
Not sure I can agree with this. Why do you think Empires are "natural"? There have been several instances throughout history where strong and weak countries have co-existed peacefully. Empires do not rule all they can. Rome, for example, was quite capable of conquering all of Germania but made a definte policy decision not to.
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