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Was the British empire evil like it was in Star Wars? Cunk on Britain s1e3, Cunk to Professor Ashley Jenkins, BBC 2018
The reality of human existence in Ireland over the last few centuries has been dominated by the British Empire. Ireland is the oldest colony in that empire. Marx summed up the nature of that long imperial rule in a single sentence:
‘England has never ruled Ireland in any other way, and cannot rule it in any other way, except by the most hideous reign of terror and the most revolting corruption’. Four hundred years ago Ireland was ‘planted’ with colonists loyal to the British crown. Under the cover of the Protestant religion, armed and equipped by the most powerful force on earth, these colonists made Ireland safe for British landlords. The Irish population was kept in order by consistent and ruthless violence. Paul Foot, article July 1988, ‘Dividing Ireland’
At the beginning of the twentieth century London is the capital city of the most extensive empire the world has ever seen. On her dominions the sun never set. London: The Modern Babylon, BBC 2012
It is easier to conquer it than to know what to do with it. Horace Walpole
Where you from? England at one point in history you used to own the whole world. What happened? And I don’t think you were an evil imperialistic nation, I think you were simply a country that was in search of a better tasting cuisine. I er I think one day your troops wondered over to India, took a lunch break, and were like wow! This curry is just dandy. Let’s take this recipe back to the Queen. And then your generals stepped in and said, no, this is too good, we should surround this nation with our troops and protect this Chicken Tikka Masala recipe. Judah Friedlander: America is the Greatest Country in the United States, Netflix 2017
We defeated you and took your language and perfected it … David Beckham he lives here. ibid.
On this question of principle, while actually suffering was yet afar off, they [Colonies] raised their flag against a power, to which, for purposes of foreign conquest and subjugation, Rome, in the height of her glory, is not to be compared; a power which has dotted over the surface of the whole globe with her possessions and military posts, whose morning drum-beat, following the sun, and keeping company with the hours, circles the earth with one continuous and unbroken strain of the martial airs of England. Daniel Webster
So how was it that in little over a century the people that thought of themselves as the freest on Earth ended up subjugating much of the world’s population? How was it that a nation which had such a deep mistrust of military power ended up the biggest military power of all? How was it that the empire of the free turned into the empire of the slaves? How was it that profit seemed to turn not on freedom but on raw coercion? How was it we ended up with the wrong empire? Simon Schama, A History of Britain s2e4: The Wrong Empire, BBC 2001
Sugar: once seen as a luxurious drug it was now a necessity – the cash crop of the Empire. ibid.
One commodity would be reaped by another: by slaves ... The economy in the Caribbean wasn’t just a side-show to Empire, it was the Empire. Three and a half million slaves were transported in British ships alone. ibid.
Victory in Quebec and then Montreal totally transformed the British empire in north America. ibid.
In the war that erupted between rival French and British-supported Nawabs, Clive turned a diversion into the main event. ibid.
The Black Hole of Calcutta now entered British history’s lexicon of infamy. ibid.
Increasingly the stock in trade of British India was not spices, not cloth but taxes. ibid.
But the English counties weren’t the only place where it was said something had to be done to avert bloodshed. In Suriname, Guyana and in Jamaica a push to the edge by hope and desperation there had been slave rebellions put down with a ferocity which made Peterloo look like a picnic. Simon Schama, A History of Britain s3e1: Forces of Nature
The message of the Romantics: We are all brothers and sisters beneath the skin. We all share praise be to God the same nature could at last be embraced not as a cry for retribution, a call to the barricades, but as the anthem of a great and peaceful crusade. Abolitionism healed old wounds. It brought together Thomas Bewick and William Wordsworth under the same great tent of righteousness. ibid.
In 1834 Britain abolished slavery. And at a time contrary to some legends when the market for its products was becoming more not less lucrative, it was the first great nineteenth-century victory for the Party of Humanity. ibid.
What went wrong? Simon Schama, A History of Britain s3e3: The Empire of Good Intentions
Mutiny – the word by which we know the terrible slaughters of 1847. ibid.
European Delhi burned. ibid.
Victoria would reign as empress. ibid.
What made the scale of suffering so obscene was that it happened during a time of grain surplus in other parts of India. But so fanatically devoted to the iron law of the market was the government that it refused to liberate those supplies for fear it would artificially bring down prices. So common sense not to mention common humanity were sacrificed to the fetish of the market and millions were abandoned to perish. ibid.
Three years later the empire would ask its loyal subjects to line up for king and country. Millions did from Ireland and India. ibid.
Winston began to gorge on history ... Almost all his life he believed in the greatness and the goodness of the British Empire. Simon Schama, A History of Britain s3e4: The Two Winstons
And at last when the Americans became the majority, the seat of Empire would perhaps have been moved solemnly across the Atlantic, and Britain have become the historical shrine and the European outpost of the world empire. It would have been the most sublime transference of power known to mankind ... under the vigorous embrace of the New World. Lord Rosebery, address Glasgow University 1900
You were ashamed of ever having had an empire, and that sweetened the pill of decline. Martin Amis's England, BBC 2014
The origins of empire and the industrial revolution ... Traditional industries began to mechanise. Michael Wood, The Great British Story: A People’s History 7/8: Industry & Empire, BBC 2012
The tale of India’s last invader – the British – is a chain of accidents. Michael Wood: The Story of India VI: Freedom, BBC 2012
The British victory in south India came in 1799. ibid.
The war was not just about power but profit. ibid.
Bengal became a mainstay of British imperialism. ibid.
The food too – which has spread across the entire world. ibid.
Everything would be changed by the Great Rebellion of 1857. ibid.
The British Raj was one of the most ingenious and adaptive empires in history – an immense patchwork embracing nearly a quarter of the people of the planet. ibid.
Imperialism is never benign. ibid.
1947: Great floods of people fled in fear … Up to a million died … Could the partition have been avoided? ibid.
The British – they were tried and found wanting. ibid.
The world’s biggest democracy is looking once again to the future. ibid.
India – the ancient, the eternal and the ever new. ibid.
In the middle of the eighteenth century with naval and commercial victories oversees Britain was entering a new imperial era. It drew us into a different way of thinking about the world. Led from the top by the Royal Family, the figureheads of the nation. David Dimbleby, Seven Ages of Britain s1e6: Age of Empire, BBC 2010