Which empire had the greatest cultural and social impact on its conquered lands?

Which empire had the greatest cultural and social impact on its conquered lands?


  • Total voters
    57
Jan 2017
1,154
Durham
#41
I can, with some imagination and large margins of error, guess what India would be like had the British never colonised it. I'm drawing a complete blank trying to picture what France/Gaul or Spain/Hispania would look like now (or even in 500AD) without the Romans. It doesn't even make sense to talk about such a thing as Gaul in this scenario.

Sure, the Brits had a large influence, but I don't see how it even compares. This is enirely unsurprising, the Romans had an empire for a hell of a lot longer, and (in many areas) had less local culture to displace in order to impose there own. But honestly, in 500 AD, the Gauls owed their entire language, art, religion and societal organisation to the Romans. There is very little of the prior Gaulish-Celtic culture left to point at. In 2019 AD, the Indians owe one of their languages, their unification and some infrastructure to the British. But the religions haven't changed, the old languages are still there, remnants of the caste system are present, and the art is completely different to the UK. I don't see how the two cases are even in the same ballpark.

What might be in the same ballpark is the influence the Brits had on the US or Australia. That's the level of change and influence we're talking about. But most of the size/growth of the USA happened after the British left (and is therefore can only be partly attributed to them) and Australia was always a very minor part of the Empire. The British generally kept some local structure present and ruled from above while collecting some of the wealth and lightly spreading British cultures and inventions. The Romans had the time to, in the vast majority of their territories, make them thoroughly Roman. I'd even say that the Romans did a better job of Romanising North Africa, than the English did in Wales.
I don't know a great deal about Rome, but I'd agree with your point on the United States.

When drawing up US codes of governance, yes, they looked at England because they were familiar with English ways of co-existence and there were some valuable governance practices to take on board. There were also some forms of English governance they wished to leave behind, quite right too, and they looked at what was then the United Provinces (which I think is modern day Netherlands and Belgium) as they were considered to have most personal freedoms in the developed world.

I think something like a quarter of US codes of governance were derived directly from England, some from other parts of Europe, such as the United Provinces, but most were additions made by the people who had become Americans.

What I would say is that Britain has made a huge contribution to the modern world in terms of innovation, governance, industrialisation, language, medicine, and general every day existence. I mean, the Industrial Revolution was one of perhaps three watersheds in history: it changed every fabric of society and the way we co-exist. So, given that, Rome must have done something extraordinary to out-compete the British contribution.
 
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#42
I don't know a great deal about Rome, but I'd agree with your point on the United States.

When drawing up US codes of governance, yes, they looked at England because they were familiar with English ways of co-existence and there were some valuable governance practices to take on board. There were also some forms of English governance they wished to leave behind, quite right too, and they looked at what was then the United Provinces (which I think is modern day Netherlands and Belgium) as they were considered to have most personal freedoms in the developed world.

I think something like a quarter of US codes of governance were derived directly from England, some from other parts of Europe, such as the United Provinces, but most were additions made by the people who had become Americans.

What I would say is that Britain has made a huge contribution to the modern world in terms of innovation, governance, industrialisation, language, medicine, and general every day existence. I mean, the Industrial Revolution was one of perhaps three watersheds in history: it changed every fabric of society and the way we co-exist. So, given that, Rome must have done something extraordinary to out-compete the British contribution.

Let's just look at the US. It's institutions (ie, Senate) are named after the Romans. It's religion comes from the Romans. The alphabet it uses comes from the Romans. So even though the Romans had been gone for well over a thousand years and the British were literally still there, the most fundamental things still derived from the Romans.

And all the things that are attributed to the British empire seem to me like general 18th-19th Century developments that were not not unique to Britain. Was British medicine that far ahead of French or German or Spanish ones? France and Germany were experimenting with different types of government more than the British, remember the French revolution? You could argue that the world would have had more republics if the British hadn't spent two decades trying to undo the French revolution. As for innovation/science, the British might have been slightly ahead of the back, but every part of western europe was more-or-less on par. So I'll ask again, would the US be fundamentally different if it was formed from rebellious French colonies rather than British ones? I really don't see things developing very differently in such a scenario. The meaningful conclusion is therefore the 18th-19th Centuries were very influencial generally, and the British contributed to that, but they were far from being the unique cause.
 
Mar 2016
711
Antalya
#43
British Empire was all about exploitation, just like the rest of Colonial Powers. I do not think any colonial power should be in this list. The lands conquered by Alexander already had great culture. It is likely that their impact was limited. In this list, Roman Empire is the undisputed winner, imo. Their subjects in Europe were mostly barbarians. I am not sure how great their effect was to Egypt or Asia Minor tho.
 
Mar 2016
711
Antalya
#45
What an incredibly ignorant and narrow-minded understanding of history. No, I shall not be removing the British Empire from the list.
There is nothing ignorant or narrow-minded about that statement. Colonial expansions had one and one goal only; exploitation and nothing else. In contrast, empires like Roman Empire, Macedonian Empire, Ottoman Empire, even Mongol Empire had a different agenda; incorporating and ruling the places they conquered expanding the idea of country. In fact, post 17th century, possibly barring Spain/Portugal, Europeans had nothing to offer for locals other than genocide or exploitation. I think there is also cultural interaction between Dutch and Japan, but that's not expansionist in nature, they were basically trading. This is precisely why no one was able to enlist cultural impact of Brits barring the language in five pages. All Brits, or other Colonials for that matter, brought was misery and pain to the locals. Another hilarious point here is that people think it is British that made English lingua franca. No, not at all. Post WWI, Lingua Franca was French. Only with rise of USA in world stage English became prominent.
 
Aug 2010
15,445
Welsh Marches
#46
Rather comical in view of the fact that the world has become almost totally westernized despite the receding of empire; if the European countries had nothing to bring to the rest of the world, western influence could be expected to have declined after the fall of empire, but it has on the contrary continued even at an increasing rate. One need only mention the development of science, and of medicine and techonology founded on a proper scientific basis, as originating in Europe, but there are many other things too (including the development of proper historical method, since this is a history site; the world of academic scholarship in general, as we know it nowadays in every part of the world, is essentially western in its characteristics). As for the development of English as a lingua franca, English, Spanish and French were in fact used very widely concurrently until English achieved its present dominance after WW2, there is no way that French could be described as the general lingua franca as against English between the wars, different languages were used in different areas and for different purposes, it was the combination of the legacy of the British Empire and the growth of American dominance that has led it to gain a position as a world language that is in fact unprecedented, both factors were required. But one could go on and on, so many crudities and oversimplifications in a single paragraph there. British political and legal institutions have left an obvious mark, for instance, on former British colonies throughout the world, the use of English is not the only cultural impact left by British rule (I lived for some time in an African country formerly under British rule and felt at home there in all kinds of ways!) Let alone the thought that a form of empire that tries to totally absorb and transform the people whom it conquers is necessarily better than a form of empire that allows the people under its rule to retains their own customs, way of life, religion etc.!
 
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Feb 2019
211
California
#47
There is nothing ignorant or narrow-minded about that statement. Colonial expansions had one and one goal only; exploitation and nothing else. In contrast, empires like Roman Empire, Macedonian Empire, Ottoman Empire, even Mongol Empire had a different agenda; incorporating and ruling the places they conquered expanding the idea of country. In fact, post 17th century, possibly barring Spain/Portugal, Europeans had nothing to offer for locals other than genocide or exploitation. I think there is also cultural interaction between Dutch and Japan, but that's not expansionist in nature, they were basically trading. This is precisely why no one was able to enlist cultural impact of Brits barring the language in five pages. All Brits, or other Colonials for that matter, brought was misery and pain to the locals. Another hilarious point here is that people think it is British that made English lingua franca. No, not at all. Post WWI, Lingua Franca was French. Only with rise of USA in world stage English became prominent.

Yes of course--much better to have the Mongols come in, kill everyone, and make a mountain of skulls than to be "exploited" by the Brits. Elementary, my dear Watson.
 
Mar 2016
711
Antalya
#49
Rather comical in view of the fact that the world has become almost totally westernized despite the receding of empire; if the European countries had nothing to bring to the rest of the world, western influence could be expected to have declined after the fall of empire, but it has on the contrary continued even at an increasing rate. One need only mention the development of science, and of medicine and techonology founded on a proper scientific basis, as originating in Europe, but there are many other things too (including the development of proper historical method, since this is a history site; the world of academic scholarship in general, as we know it nowadays in every part of the world, is essentially western in its characteristics). As for the development of English as a lingua franca, English, Spanish and French were in fact used very widely concurrently until English achieved its present dominance after WW2, there is no way that French could be described as the general lingua franca as against English between the wars, different languages were used in different areas and for different purposes, it was the combination of the legacy of the British Empire and the growth of American dominance that has led it to gain a position as a world language that is in fact unprecedented, both factors were required. But one could go on and on, so many crudities and oversimplifications in a single paragraph there. British political and legal institutions have left an obvious mark, for instance, on former British colonies throughout the world, the use of English is not the only cultural impact left by British rule (I lived for some time in an African country formerly under British rule and felt at home there in all kinds of ways!) Let alone the thought that a form of empire that tries to totally absorb and transform the people whom it conquers is necessarily better than a form of empire that allows the people under its rule to retains their own customs, way of life, religion etc.!
World is westernized in what sense? I think it is the exact opposite. I would say only West is Westernized. Countries like Turkey and Japan, and to a certain degree South Korea were willing to import certain parts of Western culture. I can not comment for Japan or South Korea, but for Turkey, the cultural import continued in a pragmatic manner, what seemed to be useful is imported, rest is rejected with extreme prejudice. This is earlier than Republic of Turkey, goes back to Ottoman Empire. Turkey is or rather wanted to be "scientifically" and "religiously" European, that is the utter most extend of "being Western" in Turkey. By "religiously", I mean being secular or relative rejection of religion. Although I would say Turkey has failed on both aspects. What I mean is, even the countries with an interest to be "Western", the cultural influence is kept minimum, if not zero. And educated Turks spoke European languages before Europe was even significant so language argument does not apply to Turkey, probably Japan too because I know they could speak Dutch.

The perception that World is westernized is nothing more than mere delusions of grandeur. Not only that, it is also ignorance considering West had no intention of Westernizing any part of the world in a true manner. If you want to see cultural assimilation in action, you have to look at Eurasia or Anatolia. That is how you import, export or incorporate foreign cultures.

Furthermore, while I knew that post would trigger some people, I couldn't realize people wouldn't actually read what I a saying and what I do not. At no point I downplayed Europe's role in scientific advancement. As for language discussion, I will give you another empirical evidence regarding position of English language. Educated Turks of early 20th century could speak both English and French, but in formal political matters, they did spoke French, not English. There is a reason. Fast forward today, I am writing in English and not in French. I will leave it to the readers on what has changed since early 20th century and 21st century. Could it be, the rise of USA? Because we know that intelligentsia of non-British countries did not speak English at the strongest point of British Empire. What we are observing today is domination of American culture, and their language. Early 20th century, French culture dominated and their language was spoken.

By "Western", I mean "Colonial Powers". Obviously, Roman Empire or Greeks had such impact on most of the world.
 
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Aug 2010
15,445
Welsh Marches
#50
World is westernized in what sense? I think it is the exact opposite. I would say only West is Westernized. Countries like Turkey and Japan, and to a certain degree South Korea were willing to import certain parts of Western culture. I can not comment for Japan or South Korea, but for Turkey, the cultural import continued in a pragmatic manner, what seemed to be useful is imported, rest is rejected with extreme prejudice. This is earlier than Republic of Turkey, goes back to Ottoman Empire. Turkey is or rather wanted to be "scientifically" and "religiously" European, that is the utter most extend of "being Western" in Turkey. By "religiously", I mean being secular or relative rejection of religion. Although I would say Turkey has failed on both aspects. What I mean is, even the countries with an interest to be "Western", the cultural influence is kept minimum, if not zero. And educated Turks spoke European languages before Europe was even significant so language argument does not apply to Turkey, probably Japan too because I know they could speak Dutch.

The perception that World is westernized is nothing more than mere delusions of grandeur. Not only that, it is also ignorance considering West had no intention of Westernizing any part of the world in a true manner. If you want to see cultural assimilation in action, you have to look at Eurasia or Anatolia. That is how you import, export or incorporate foreign cultures.

Furthermore, while I knew that post would trigger some people, I couldn't realize people wouldn't actually read what I a saying and what I do not. At no point I downplayed Europe's role in scientific advancement. As for language discussion, I will give you another empirical evidence regarding position of English language. Educated Turks of early 20th century could speak both English and French, but in formal political matters, they did spoke French, not English. There is a reason. Fast forward today, I am writing in English and not in French. I will leave it to the readers on what has changed since early 20th century and 21st century. Could it be, the rise of USA? Because we know that intelligentsia of non-British countries did not speak English at the strongest point of British Empire. What we are observing today is domination of American culture, and their language. Early 20th century, French culture dominated and their language was spoken.

By "Western", I mean "Colonial Powers". Obviously, Roman Empire or Greeks had such impact on most of the world.
I have travelled through much of the world in the last 40 years and have been able to observe well enough how the world has become increasingly westernized; by that I don't mean that every country has abandoned its own culture to become exactly like the West, but that many local ways have been altered or abandoned with the development of westernized commercial culture. Nothing to do with illusions of grandeur, since I actually find thius regrettable in many ways, it means that everywhere is becoming more like everywhere else. As for the question of the process by which English became a lingua franca in an unprecedented way, it is absurd to generalize form your particular position in Turkey to the generral position throughout the world, that in no way shows that French was a lingua franca in the early 20th Century in the way that English is now (an idea that simply does not bear analyis), let alone that French culture dominated the world then in the way that American 'culture' does nowadays.
 
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