Is the UK a ghost of its former glory?

Jul 2012
2,934
Dhaka
I'm sure the Germans would have been very understanding!

@M.S.Islam: You're overlooking the fact that the British had already tried without success to negotiate that very thing with the colonial authorities in North Africa, and it would have been much preferable for them that these major French ships should join with the Royal Navy in continuing the war; the option to withdraw to the French West Indies was offered to the French admiral as the option that would have been easier for him to accept. You're also overlooking the fact that the British admiral did his very best to try to negotiate a settlement, delaying the attack even to a time when it was beginnig to affect the safety of his own fleet. There is also record of the nature of the cabinet discussions (this wasn't a decision made by Churchill alone) and it is clear from them what the real motivation for the series of actions with regard to the French fleet really was.
No, the British tried to convince them to join the RN, which was an entirely different proposition to joining the FFF which might just be acceptable, at least to the fighting men of the French navy if not for the political leadership.

Also, delegating the task of delivering an offer of such magnitude to a junior officer was anything but a 'very best' effort.
 
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Aug 2010
15,445
Welsh Marches
The task was entrusted to the Captain of the Ark Royal, not exactly a junior officer, and for the eminently practical reason that he spoke very fluent French; and I don't know why you are continuing to push this notion that an easier option was deliberately withheld, which has never been argued by any historian as far as I know. Or perhaps I do: you were arguing that Churchill deliberately set out to attack the fleet to impress the Americans, and when it was pointed out to you that the British admiral was instructed to try to negotiate a peaceful resolution and did his very best to do do, you simply snatched the absurd notion out of the air that the negotiations were spiked from the beginning because the French fleet was not invited to sail to Britain! This really no more than a matter of inventing reasons to support a pre-established thesis.
 
Jul 2012
2,934
Dhaka
The task was entrusted to the Captain of the Ark Royal, not exactly a junior officer, and for the eminently practical reason that he spoke very fluent French;
That's actually funny. The captain of Ark Royal was way too senior to be a messenger boy.

and I don't know why you are continuing to push this notion that an easier option was deliberately withheld, which has never been argued by any historian as far as I know. Or perhaps I do: you were arguing that Churchill deliberately set out to attack the fleet to impress the Americans, and when it was pointed out to you that the British admiral was instructed to try to negotiate a peaceful resolution and did his very best to do do, you simply snatched the absurd notion out of the air that the negotiations were spiked from the beginning because the French fleet was not invited to sail to Britain! This really no more than a matter of inventing reasons to support a pre-established thesis.
The easier option was actually withheld, why? It is doubly curious why historians never raised this.

Also, 'impressing the Americans' wasn't my argument, you conflated that with someone else; even though that might be one of the reasons.
 
Aug 2010
15,445
Welsh Marches
The thing is that it wasn't the easier option for the French to sail to Britain, which would have been an act of direct mutiny, it would have been much easier for them to sail to another French colony which was under Vichy rule. If Admiral Darlan had been present and had offered to take his fleet to Britain, I'm sure that Admiral Somerville would have jumped at the offer! Seriously, I thinking you are working under a misapprehension on this point, I have read quite a bit on this matter and I have never seen any historian suggest that this a realistic option for the British to put forward, let alone that it was deliberately withheld, it had already been rejected by the French colonial authorities in previous negotiations.
 

royal744

Ad Honorem
Jul 2013
9,940
San Antonio, Tx
Sorry don't agree, why for instance is world time set from a suburb of London?

Britain went through the industrial revolution first-- it spread with its influence globally and for roughly a century (when the world 'shrank' --- 'Globalisation') Britain was the major world trading power. When it declined the power that took over from it was also English speaking and Globalisation has quickened and all forms of media has grown and is dominated by American English.

India does not 'speak' English because of the Americans ---- in the future Indians (I suspect to the disgust of their elders) may well talk with an American accent.
Indians may not agree, but frankly, the English language is the most powerful legacy the English could possibly have left to India...I hope the Indians are cognizant of that.
 

royal744

Ad Honorem
Jul 2013
9,940
San Antonio, Tx
And that's exactly my point. People asking is the UK a shadow of it's former self - no. It's economy has changed dramatically, but if anything the standard of living for the British population has increased massively, with greater wealth for the population in general, and it's current GDP is up there with most of the other major European nations, not to mention that it has the second highest number of millionaires after America. I also found this interesting:

The millionaire population isn't necessarily a indicator of broad wealth within a country. Despite having the most millionaires by a gaping margin, the median wealth for adults in the US is only $44,977. Of the 18 countries with more than 200,000 millionaires, that's a lower median wealth figure than all but Germany ($42,833), Sweden ($39,692), and China ($4,885). https://www.msn.com/en-gb/money/per...untries-with-the-most-millionaires/ss-BBA1nit


But the Empire - that massive source of wealth - has gone and that is why Britain seems weak by comparison with it's 19th Century incarnation.
Conflating 2 things here: the perceived “power” of the British ‘Empire’ and the reality of daily life in Great Britain during its imperialist times. The reality in GB apparently differed somewhat from the way it looked from the outside. I believe it when I read in here that “things” are much better in GB today.
 

royal744

Ad Honorem
Jul 2013
9,940
San Antonio, Tx
But this thread misses the point - and ignores history - completely. It isn't Britain that's changed, it's the rest of the world. It's fair to say that the British Empire has gone, which means massive changes to the priorities of the nation, and a lot of the wealth it created has gone. But Britain was never really that much more powerful than it was today. For example:

In the 1800's Napoleon came close to conquering Russia (how would modern day France do with that today)? He was the greatest threat to Britain's existence till 1940 and this was reflected in it's military response. So how big was the British army at this time of national threat?
The British Army during the Napoleonic Wars experienced a time of rapid change. At the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, the army was a small, awkwardly administered force of barely 40,000 men. By the end of the period, the numbers had vastly increased. At its peak, in 1813, the regular army contained over 250,000 men​
Add to this a militia of 60-80,000 men - hardly the sort of army to conquer the world with is it?

The East India Company conquest of India started at the Battle of Plassey. Do you know how strong his army was? 3,000 men, mostly Indian forces. How about Assaye? Wellington's army - 9,500 men, again many of whom were Indian. I think Britain can still muster a force that size don't you? In fact for most of it's history Britain never had more than about 70,000 people in India - administrators, soldiers, the lot. Could Britain put that sort of force in India today? Sure no problem.

How about America? Exactly how big was the American army in 1607 when Jamestown was founded? That's right - 0. Britain didn't conquer America, it created it. And South Africa. And Canada (no we couldn't conquer them today either). Saying Britain couldn't conquer these countries today misses the fact that we NEVER conquered them, not in the sense you mean, not in the way say India was.

With the exception of an Empire founded on expansion and exploration as much as military force, Britain's strength today isn't truly less than it was in the past. I mean it's general health, welfare, concern for humanity, wealth equality, all of those have increased immensely. Britain has changed from an Imperial nation to a modern European socialist society. That doesn't mean it's weaker, just different.
Thanks. These are good points.
 
Oct 2015
985
India
The British Empire is largely gone, and the UK is a middle power in many aspects:
Its military might is almost negligible today.
It is geographically small.
It no longer has significant manufacturing capacity.
Can we talk about the status of the UK today? We have quite a few British posters here.
Are we asking the right question?

UK is a small country in size and population. For a period in history, its courageous & innovative people managed to conquer a large part of humanity. The conquest was very much outsized compared to UK's own size. So with time it had to shrink back to its own boundaries - exceptions don't last forever.

What is democracy about: Every nation should be self-governing and not entitled to govern others. There is nothing to be ashamed about that fact that British country reverted from the Empire to its normal size. There is no loss of glory. If everyone endlessly chases victory, theoretically he human kind is sure to destroy itself by mutual wars.

In my view: British people should be proud of the achievement of their forefathers who had the courage & innovative abilities to build the British Empire - may be a hundred times the size of their own country. And that they have left an indelible mark in so many countries of the world - in terms of system for government, military organization, education, legal processes and so on.

The right questions are: What is the legacy of British Empire to the world civilization at large? And what role does it want to play in future?
 
Likes: sparky
Aug 2010
15,445
Welsh Marches
Very good post, I agree absolutely with that as an Englishman! 'Glory' is an equivocal concept, it is no bad thing to be no longer trying to interfere in the afffairs of foreign lands. Nor do I regret that the UK has taken a different route from Russia in not placing an emphasis on the possession of military power and consequent ability to bully other nations (it was a bad mistake to have even got involved in the American invasion of Iraq). I think Britain does make a significant cultural contribution to the world in different ways, and that is what any nation should aspire to first of all, aims that enrich everyone rather than efforts at domination (which are zero sum games).
 

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