Help support TMP

"British Empire, good thing or bad thing!" Topic

47 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Victorian Colonial Board Message Board

Action Log

22 Sep 2016 9:57 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from TMP Poll Suggestions board
  • Crossposted to Victorian Colonial Board board

Areas of Interest

19th Century

Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Workbench Article

Scratchbuilding a VSF USS Meade

Building a flying two-turret monitor from scratch, inspired by Space: 1889.

Featured Book Review

1,253 hits since 7 Apr 2016
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 4:56 a.m. PST

From the Producers of the criticaly and comercial succsess Romans good guys or bad guys!

Comes British Empire good thing or bad thing!

And not give a neutral look on this I give you these completly neutral videoes.

YouTube link

YouTube link

YouTube link

YouTube link

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian08 Apr 2016 5:01 a.m. PST

for who?

JimDuncanUK08 Apr 2016 5:04 a.m. PST

Can't view the first clip in the UK, at least on my system, something to do with Channel 4 and copyright rules in my country.


This one works though!

YouTube link

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 5:16 a.m. PST

I'm surprised you would ask.

Mute Bystander08 Apr 2016 5:40 a.m. PST

+1 Saber6.

Probably better than some of the other colonial powers (and I include the post SAW USA as an initially unintentional colonial power here.)

Despite my known anglophobic tendency if I could not be "free" as a nation and must be under the thumb then the British are better than most though not something to be sought out voluntarily. And something to be overthrown as soon as practical.

Some Chicken08 Apr 2016 5:57 a.m. PST

Probably the most benign empire the world has ever seen, that did much to stamp out slavery and left an infrastructure, legal, administration and political legacy which in many cases greatly assisted the development of former colonies after they achieved independence.

So, a good thing on balance.

Some Chicken08 Apr 2016 5:58 a.m. PST

Despite my known anglophobic tendency

Why so hostile in Missouri?

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 6:00 a.m. PST

Good thing on balance +1

daler240D08 Apr 2016 6:16 a.m. PST

the english language was the greatest thing that ever happened to India

surdu200508 Apr 2016 6:47 a.m. PST

I have no intent to get into this debate, however, I would like to make this observation:

Possessions formerly in the British Empire, whether they are part of the commonwealth or completely independent, have fared better than colonial possessions from most other countries. To me the difference was that in British imperial possessions, the British trained the middle class and left behind a bureaucracy that was able to run their own country. It is true that while the British possessed the area, there were glass ceilings for the indigenous people. The point I am making is that in many other countries' possessions, there was no residual middle class or bureaucracy to run the country and the vacuum left behind often precipitated unrest, warfare, persecution, tribal strive, etc. that still festers today in many places.

Winston Smith08 Apr 2016 6:51 a.m. PST

Is the Commonwealth still around in any meaningful way?

McKinstry Fezian08 Apr 2016 7:03 a.m. PST

All in all I'd say a good thing.

The fascinating thing to me is that is was for the most part unintentional in that there wasn't really a 'conquer everything' mentality but rather a 'oh my but this has simply gotten too messy, better sort it out correctly' kind of thing.

Whirlwind08 Apr 2016 7:18 a.m. PST

Bad thing, for both ruled and rulers.

It may be that the C19 British Empire was more benign than others at the time or in previous centuries but that wouldn't make it a good thing.

Mute Bystander08 Apr 2016 7:31 a.m. PST

Some Chicken,

Native of SoCal, not MO. I only live in Missouri…

My upbringing? And is it more "The English" than "The British" – I can clearly trace a large portion of that to my Scots and Irish identifying family ancestors. Personally one of my closest war game buddies carries a British passport so it more a matter of reflex than intent.

Could be worse, I have a locally raised (East Saint Louis) co-worker I worked with supporting AFRICOM who frequently said, "All the problems in the third world are fault of the British." And she frequently meant it.

abelp0108 Apr 2016 7:47 a.m. PST

Good thing if not I wouldn't have been able to play TSATF!

JimDuncanUK08 Apr 2016 7:47 a.m. PST

@Winston Smith

"Is the Commonwealth still around in any meaningful way?

In terms of international athletics yes.

It means that Scotland can compete as a separate nation against the likes of England, Australia, Canada and all the other Commonwealth countries where we do quite well for such a small country.


Puddinhead Johnson08 Apr 2016 8:06 a.m. PST

It brought Cricket to the World.

Solzhenitsyn08 Apr 2016 8:38 a.m. PST

Overall a very good thing.

British Empire, and other European powers, brought civilization to barbarous lands. In "Our Friends Beneath The Sands" the author wrote of colonized lands….murder, rape, robbery and tribal raids were not rare events in these lands, but everyday life. European troops brought safety and security to the people of these lands. There was a price.

Some bad things happened in all colonies, but overall, Western culture was an improvement over the savagery of these lands.

Look how well they have done since the European powers left 70 years ago.

Patrick Sexton Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 8:38 a.m. PST

On the whole, definitely a good thing. And this is coming from someone steeped in Irish-American disdain for 'The Sassenach'.

Some Chicken08 Apr 2016 8:41 a.m. PST

Mute Bystander

Thanks for humouring me with an explanation. Certainly plenty of friction points between England and Scots/Irish in the past, although again the relationship had some upside too.

And good luck with your co-worker; I doubt there is any reasoning with someone having such a fixed and blinkered mindset.

GarrisonMiniatures08 Apr 2016 9:13 a.m. PST

Well, we gave the world it's universal language, most of it's democratic institutions, and lets see – 'land of the free' abolished slavery in the 1860s, the British Empire abolished it in 1833…

Pictors Studio08 Apr 2016 9:32 a.m. PST

I think you have to say it is a good thing both for the rulers and the ruled. The British Empire brought more people into contact with each other. The whole advancement of Western Europe at a faster rate than other places is due to the transportational proximity of large numbers of people to each other.

Britain was able to spread ideas to other places and have ideas from those places come back in a faster way than they would have otherwise. Why do you think we have such great curry?

willthepiper08 Apr 2016 10:54 a.m. PST

I'm a fan of the British Empire. I'm a Canadian, a loyal subject of her maj, and I think it would be great to still be part of the Empire with the mobility that would suggest. I grew up on tales of Kipling, Service, Buchan & Patterson, Boys' Own Adventures, and particularly how the forces of the Empire combined to stop the Nazis and the Japanese during WWII. I've worked in New Zealand & Australia, wish I could access jobs in the UK as easily, and I resent that the UK decision to embrace the EC meant a few more barriers to us colonials.

However, I am also a student of history, and I know that the British Empire had plenty of shortcomings. Quite simply, they (the Empire builders) did it for themselves, not for us. In India, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, I've had locals tell me quite bluntly that they don't like the British and are they are not particularly grateful for the imperial legacy. Many of the worse conflicts today have their roots in events that happened under the British Imperial mantle. In particular, Partition of India has an ongoing legacy in non-stop war between India and Pakistan, as well as Pakistan's role over decades in Afghanistan and Pakistan's place in supporting Islamic jihad. Likewise, the role of the Empire in the former Ottoman Empire, where the British eagerly snatched up oil-rich territories such as Mesopotamia , then left the chaotic mess that is Iraq, or worse still Palestine where the British promised everything to everyone then left an unresolved mess that continues in the current conflicts between Israel and all their neighbours.

I've never been to Africa, so I'm depending on hearsay here, but teacher friends who've worked in both former French colonies and former British colonies have noted that the French ‘mission civilatrice' was better suited to educating local populations and building strong local institutions than the British effort, which focussed on getting suitable profit from plantations or mining operations. With the retreat of imperial powers from Africa, the French maintained stronger ties and support to their former colonies, so former French colonies tend to be better off than former British ones (although neither French or British have as poor a legacy as the Belgians).

So Rule Britannia, let's puff out our chests with pride, but let's also acknowledge that the Empire's legacy has more than a few shortcomings.

foxweasel In the TMP Dawghouse08 Apr 2016 12:10 p.m. PST

No British Empire = No 13 Colonies = No United States.

macconermaoile08 Apr 2016 2:05 p.m. PST

I'm in the minority here, but I consider The British Empire to be an evil empire definitely on the dark side.Of course being Irish I would think that.

"abolished slavery in the 1860s"
True but not before making a huge profit out of slavery before that.
The current mess in the Middle East can be laid at the door of Britain and France, dividing up the spoils after WW1.
"it's democratic institutions"
Democratic for whom !!? Prior to 1918, only a small minority of adults could vote.

JARROVIAN Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 2:08 p.m. PST

@ Winston Smith
Not only is The Commonwealth alive and kicking, but countries who were never British colonies have joined it.

dBerczerk08 Apr 2016 3:36 p.m. PST

Let's ask Mel what he thinks.

Mike Target08 Apr 2016 4:22 p.m. PST

all of the above obviously

Weasel08 Apr 2016 4:56 p.m. PST

Since you lot are so enamoured with the idea of a people being subjugated under the rule of a more civilized people, I imagine you won't object to becoming Danish citizens.

We only use the most friendly of bayonets and the most benign of army boots.

Joking aside, every people deserves the right to self-determination and the use of their own natural resources.

Mute Bystander08 Apr 2016 6:53 p.m. PST

Weasel, my mixed blood Cherokee father said (paraphrasing) once that the white man (Spanish on…) joined the ongoing wars of the Cherokke fought the Creeks, the Apache fought the Commanche, the Navaho fought the Pueblos, the Sioux fought the Crows, the Iroquois fought the Algonquins… We didn't need the White Man to teach us to kill each other.

Man has tended to oppress other men for centuries. My job is secure because of the fallen nature of humans leads groups to kill, rape, enslave, and oppress the "other" still. Some historians believe the 20th century on has been less violent than the prior ones.

Peace is that time when everyone stands around reloading seems to be true.

Certainly someday… But that is a theological discussion and some here are allergic to such.

Mute Bystander08 Apr 2016 6:58 p.m. PST

Some Chicken,

You have no idea… We differ strongly on religion, politics (she likes to describe herself as a "FemNazi",) yada-yada-yada but we manage to work together well as a team. Or did, now we work different Commands but still sit next to each other. Professional respect can overcome a lot of other differences.

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 8:24 p.m. PST

Good, of course.

Oberlindes Sol LIC08 Apr 2016 8:37 p.m. PST

In response to the question posed by the topic name: Yes.

Gennorm08 Apr 2016 10:22 p.m. PST

Weasel, large swathes of England were ruled by the Danes. Unfortunately it was before the days of bacon, lager, porn and Lego.

Martin Rapier08 Apr 2016 10:30 p.m. PST

Yes, a good chunk of us are Danes, the ones who aren't Saxons anyway. Or "Norman" Vikings. And our monarch is still German.

So really the British Empire is actually the Scandinavian Empire.

Are Empires ever good? Probably not.
Was the British Empire the worst of the bunch? Probably not.

Navy Fower Wun Seven09 Apr 2016 12:33 a.m. PST

When I was serving with British Forces in Sierra Leone, the locals kept begging us to take over 'again'!

(When I say locals, I mean ordinary working folk, not the middle classes with the UN contacts and the Swiss bank accounts….)

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2016 12:34 a.m. PST

Weasel, large swathes of England were ruled by the Danes. Unfortunately it was before the days of bacon, lager, porn and Lego.

I'm quite sure everything there except lego did exist in the 900s(if you count rude drawings and woodcarving for porn)

Eventho Vikings where known for Mjød, they did know and did brew beer(infact there was laws on how to do it) Not sure if you could call it lager tho. And I'm quite sure pigs existed in the 900s. and if pigs existed, so did Bacon.

Some Chicken09 Apr 2016 12:50 a.m. PST

The current mess in the Middle East can be laid at the door of Britain and France, dividing up the spoils after WW1.

Come off it. Are you really saying that the tribalism and religious schism that is at the root of the current situation can be blamed on former colonial powers? The Sunni/Shia split pre-dates that by centuries and tribal rivalry and enmity has been around even longer.

And as for it being an evil empire, your definition of evil sets the bar very low indeed. No one has said the British empire was all good. But, setting aside, if you can, the evident Irish antipathy towards England, can you name a more benevolent empire that left a more positive legacy to its former colonies?

KTravlos09 Apr 2016 1:59 a.m. PST

Which period? 18th Century British Empire? 19th Century British Empire? 20th Century British Empire?

"can you name a more benevolent empire that left a more positive legacy to its former colonies" Rome.

Good things associated with the British Empire

1) Expansion of English language as lingua franca (though not the first. Latin, Greek, and French precede it)

2) Global expansion of classical liberal ideas.

3) Better treatment of untouchables in India

4) Prosecution of witch hunts and cannibalism as well as other inhuman practices.

5) The introduction of non-western ideas and cultural elements into the Western Cultural canon.

6) The creation of "global" historiography (as much as possible. The British still produce the best historians of other people histories)

7) The expansion of western technology and technique globally

Bad things associated with the British Empire

1) The chattel slave trade. Yes Britain abolished it, but in the 17th and 18th centuries it was one of the prime movers of the trade. It bears as much responsibility for it as any European or non-European polity. This also includes the warfare caused by the salve trade.

2) The opium trade. How many millions rotted away so some businesses in the City could make money off a drug trade. And then you fight a war to stop a country from making that trade illegal.

3) Divide and Conquer politics. Yes all empires did it to a point, but the British were really good and ruthless at this. That many of these political conflicts might had happened anyway is beyond question. That many took very violent forms though had to do with British colonial policy (Cyprus, Indian sub-continent, Sri-Lanka)

4) Dissolution of communal property rights. As the prime pusher of for the expansion of the world capitalist system, the British Empire is responsible for the abrogation of communal property rights in many pre-modern cultures, and the subsequent pauperisation of the millions that relied on the use of common land to survive. The fact that 3 or 4 generations down the way life will be much better than what it was during the communal era does not negate, the 1 to 2 generations after the abrogation it was much worse. The British Empire bears responsibility for this.

5) Racism. The British embraced scientific racism as much as anybody else in Europe. The fact that their empire was the most global meant that these ideas were exported to every part of the earth.

6) Classism. The British empire might had set up the middle classes of many areas, but it also injected such a strong classist culture in those societies, or maintained the ones existing, that it made it hard for it or for the successors states to integrate the masses of people deemed unworthy.

7)Behavior to Irish Catholics. Apartheid, Institutional Racism, all of them can trace their model to the treatment of Irish Catholics by the British in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.

8)The 18th century Empire cannot be seen as anything that an extractive and merciless machine. So much so that it scandalized people in Britain. The similarities with Leopold's African hell are quite a lot.

9) Political radicalism. I find it weird that so many self-declared "conservatives" like an organisation that as mercilessly as the most radical marxist crushed ancient traditions of government and social life, imposed radical change, and many times opposed evolutionary change. There is a reason why Burke disliked the Empire.

10) Hypocrisy. The Hypocrisy of Imperial Elites and their refusal to act as they preach did more harm to Classical Liberalism as political ideology than any amount of Marxist or Nationalist agitation. The French and Americans had it as well, but the Spanish, Russians, Portuguese, and Dutch never promised the people they ruled equality, and never declared allegiance to classical liberal values. They might had been terrible, but they were not hypocrites.

GarrisonMiniatures09 Apr 2016 2:22 a.m. PST

Couple of thing to bear in mind.

Firstly, the British Empire didn't start things like racism, classism or slavery. India had, and still does, a class/caste system going way back. The Middle East has had tribal wars going back to Israeli genocide in Canaan and before. The African slave trade was mainly a local thing a far as getting the slaves was concerned – Africans and Arabs acquiring/selling slaves to the British. Britain unified India, basically withdrew from the Middle East because of US anti-Imperialist policies post-war, and I think generally quite well according to the standards of the times.

Secondly, the British Empire really developed as a lot of trading companies getting involved in local politics – it was never 'government policy' until a very late date.

There were some low points – the Opium Wars are a major stain on the Imperial reputation, for example.

However, if the Empire was so bad, how could it have spawned something like the Commonwealth? No other Empire in history has ever left a similar legacy.

KTravlos09 Apr 2016 3:26 a.m. PST

how could it have spawned something like the Commonwealth?-> The French have their own similar thing.

No other Empire in history has ever left a similar legacy.-> Rome had a bigger impact on the people it ruled. Not all of it good, but I dare you show me as many people feeling Briton during he British Empire as people felt Roman during the Roman Empire.

Racism-> I did not say the British Empire started it, I said it exported the European scientific racism variety. Whether that is worse than the usual racial prejudice of humans or not is up to the student of history. And yes Scientific Racism is pretty much a Anglo-French thing, emulate and exported.

Slavery-> If one cannot understand how 19th century chattel slavery is different from the local traditional forms (whether European, or non-European, which in most cases took the less common forms of indentured servitude and war-prisoner slavery ) I cannot help much.

To say chattel slavery was a local thing is simply disregarding all the historical work on the economic and political impact.Starting from the massive changes in political and economic policy of African polities in reaction to the European demand for slaves. Those changes, most for the worse, would not had happened absent the above average demand for Salves by the European Empires. That locals took advantage to ruin their societies in reaction to that demand, does not absolve those that made it. Beyond that the shipping of slaves was not done by African kings or Arab merchants. It was done by to a large extend British chartered ships.

This whole "they were doing it before, so our more extreme version is nothing special" when it comes to salvery is the equivalent of saying "well ethnic cleansing and massacares have always happened, so genocides are nothing special". I wish people stopped this logical fallacy.

I understand that there are political traditions that must normalize 19th century chattel slavery as nothing special, just as there are political traditions that try to normalize genocide as nothing special. They are wrong.

Classism-> Yes other societies had castes and classes.The British just replaced one system with another one of classes, or worse ingeniously mixed the two to create something even worse.

Britain unified India-> So did the Mughals? What is special about it. How is that a good thing? And in reality Britain did not unify India. There were different legal and political jurisdictions, and any unification came really late. Many of those internal issues, create and maintained by the British would feed the wars after Indian independence.

"British Empire really developed as a lot of trading companies getting involved in local politics – it was never 'government policy' until a very late date."

Except that many of those companies were owned by the one is government, and the government largely conducted policy with those interests at heart. Go back and read Burke as a good example on the close connection of the two.

Some Chicken09 Apr 2016 11:37 a.m. PST

can you name a more benevolent empire that left a more positive legacy to its former colonies" Rome.

Benevolent? Is this the same Rome we know from the history books or a different one? Slavery? Crucifixions? Christians thrown to the lions? And I'm not sure the leaders of Carthage would agree about Rome's benevolence either.

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2016 10:29 p.m. PST

It is easier to count the number of countries Britain has not been at war with.

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2016 10:35 p.m. PST

Here is my video pick. It's fab!

YouTube link

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2016 10:42 p.m. PST
Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2016 10:55 p.m. PST

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.