We've all heard about the downsides
of the British Empire, haven't we?
Well there were also many upsides,
and having read Empire by
Niall Ferguson (excellent book by the way), I thought I'd have a go at a blog
setting them out.
1) Abolishment of suttee in India.
The abolishment of suttee, widows jumping onto their husbands burial pyres,
through coercion from family members, is surely a benefit of the British rule
in India. I can't see how anyone could argue to the contrary
2) Eradication of the Thuggee. This
mean that travellers in India no longer had to fear being strangled
while they slept by men they regarded as their travelling companions (and gave
an unlikely plot to a Harrison Ford film). The only downside I can see is the interference
3) The rail network of India was
brought by Imperial rule and makes up a considerable proportion of modern India’s
4) Whilst the British Empire was one of the main participants in the
slave trade, it was also the first major empire to forbid it, and after the
slave trade was made illegal, a whole squadron (West African or Preventative
Squadron) of the Royal Navy was made available to hunt down slavers. This squadron took at times, one-sixth of the Navy and Marines from other duties. This was
while fighting a major war elsewhere, showing that despite appearances, Britain
wasn’t just a self interested nation riding roughshod over everybody else.
5) The military strength of the
Empire lead to a century with only 3 major conflicts, a vast improvement on the
17th and 18th centuries.
6) The USA wouldn’t exist without the
Empire (though the benefit there may be debatable). It took the expulsion of
the French during the Seven Years War for the colonists to be secure enough to
rebel and not rely on Britain
7) Areas formerly under British rule
often enjoy more secure legal and economic systems.
8) Clichéd I know, but without
Britain’s resistance during 1940-1, and the provision of a secure base from which
D-Day could be launched, World War 2 would have gone very differently and may
well have ended with Hitler ruling a German-controlled European super-state
that could have taken America’s superpower position.
THIS IS NOT IN ANYWAY AN ATTEMPT TO
OVERLOOK THE MANY ATROCITIES/MASSACRES COMMITTED IN THE NAME OF EMPIRE.
Thanks for reading, even if it didn’t
turn out as well as I had hoped.