Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire: 1781 - 1997 by Piers Brendon

  • "By the end of the [18th] century two tons of Caribbean sugar cost the life of one slave. Each sweet teaspoonful dissolved was a bitter portion of African existence, each white grain spilled was a measure of black mortality." - 17
  • "A bellicose Britain, employing its time-honored strategy of encouraging allies to fight on the Continent while using naval power to defeat France overseas, stamped its mark or raised its flag all around the globe...Where there had been twenty-three British colonies in 1792, there were forty-three in 1816." - 30
  • 1784: "Pitt's India Act...took political control away from John Company [ie. East India Company] and vested it in the British Government." - 37-8
  • "Taxation, which raised 18 million pounds a year at this time (a third of the peacetime revenue of Britain itself), was much more important than trade. Indeed, before John Company lost its commercial monopoly in 1813, India was said to be about as valuable a trading partner to Britain as Jersey, though the Company was on the way to creating what has been called the world's first 'narco-military' empire." - 57
  • "India was the most imperial element in John Bull's haphazard miscellany of overseas dominions, an empire within an empire." - 58
  • 1819: Sir Stamford "Raffles concluded that the only way to prevent the Dutch from regaining their old supremacy was to acquire Singapore...Raffles had a vision that the little fishing village could become the crossroads of Asia, commanding the sea lanes between Europe and the Far East and opening up trade on an unparalleled scale." - 60
  • "In short, the intruders began to assault the environment and to turn the Aboriginal world upside down. Nothing corrupted 'savages' more efficiently than 'civilisation'." - 67
  • 1867: "the federation of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia...(other provinces joined later) did little, if anything, to bolster Canada's defences...Anxious not to provoke the Great Republic [of the United States], the sceptr'd isle rejected the term 'Kingdom' of Canada in favour of 'Dominion' - the first of its kind." - 85-6
  • "the Maoris [of New Zealand]...quickly acquired literacy from the Scriptures. Perhaps they regarded the Bible as a talisman, though in subsequent wars they used its pages for gun-wadding, asking the missionaries for fresh supplies. But the New Testament, translated during the 1830s, was also their first recorded literature." - 91
  • "Power and wealth were the warp and woof of empire. But the worldwide mesh was so loose that if any strand broke, Britons often though, the whole fabric might unravel. Consequently empire-builders were always inclined to advance." - 99-100
  • "the seizure of Sing was part of a dialectical process often (though not invariably) repeated throughout imperial history: a defeat at the hands of 'natives' would provoke a belligerent British response, which in turn sowed the seeds of further discord and ultimate alienation." - 118
  • Ireland "was England's first real colony...invaded by Henry II, subjugated by Henry VIII, 'settled' by Elizabeth, 'planted' by James I, ravaged by Cromwell and crushed by William of Orange." - 119
  • 1798: "a radical peasant uprising took place in Ireland, with French backing. Pitt's remedy was brutal repression followed by attempted assimilation: the Act of Union (1800) incorporated Ireland into the United Kingdom of Britain." - 119
  • 1868: "General Sir Robert Napier [conqueror of the Sind]...was sent to invade Ethiopia. The purpose of his expedition was to rescue some sixty European prisoners incarcerated by the Emperor Theodore. But it was also a parade of power." - 159
  • Rudyard Kipling on Egypt under Sir Evelyn Baring as Consul-General, "Here is a country which is not a country but a longish strip of market-garden, nominally in charge of a government which is not a government by the disconnected satrapy of a half-dead [Ottoman] empire, controlled pecksniffingly by a Power which is not a Power but an Agency." - 179
  • Cecil "Rhodes read Gibbon rather than the Bible. Secretly he even paid impoverished scholars to translate all the original authorities which the historian had used, collecting them in two hundred morocco-bound volumes, with supplementary biographies of the Roman emperors. Rhodes believed that he himself resembled Titus physically, Hadrian intellectually. His favorite quotation was 'Remember always that you are a Roman.'" - 193-4
  • "Rhodes, who became Prime Minister of the Cape in 1890, now aimed to form a huge political confederation, a British union of South Africa stretching from the Cape to the Belgium Congo." - 195-6
  • Lord Salisbury, former Prime Minister, "saw the partition of Africa as a means of keeping the peace in Europe. And since no major war took place between 1870 and 1914, it is arguable that his policy succeeded, that national animosities were diverted into imperial channels, that European poisons drained away in the swamps, sands and jungles of tropical Africa." - 198
  • "Nazi Germany justified its own concentration camps as being a British invention [during the Boer War]. The South African camps left an indelible legacy of bitterness. They filled Afrikaner nationalism with hate as the Great Trek filled it with pride." - 230
  • "Liberal policy towards India before the First World War is therefore best summed up in a tripartite formula: repression, concession, procession." - 249
  • Even after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1885, "confederation was anything but complete. Regional differences were acute and not until 1949 did Newfoundland, Britain's oldest colony, become Canada's last province." - 285
  • "The trouble was not that, whenever Gladstone found an answer to the Irish question, the Irish changed the question. The trouble was that the Irish question always remained the same -- how to get rid of the Union?" - 295
  • "Michael Collins, who had evaded capture, favoured rifles over hurleys. Violent resistance was the only alternative, he declared, to remaining 'a vassal state of John Bull.' So while on the run he organised Volunteers into what by mid-1919 became, with the initial connivance and the subsequent support of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army (IRA)." - 311
  • "Lloyd and two successors, Sir Percy Loraine and Sir Miles Lampson, were adept at playing the King (as Fuad became in 1922), the Wafd ['a political party...dedicated to breaking the imperial bond' and led by Zaghlul] and the sectional parties against one another." - 331
  • 1926: "Balfour bound the dominions to the mother country with a final piece of verbal gossamer: they became 'autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status...and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.'" - 334
  • "The High Range Club...cherished 'a tradition of members willfully breaking glasses,' smashing furniture and destroying billiard tables. An entertainment at the Screechers Club...was the 'Prang Concerto' which concluded with 'the complete demolition of the piano.' Such behaviour was unlikely to convince colonial people that they were governed by a superior race." - 352
  • "The British regarded the Masai as the Spartans of East Africa and did their best to conciliate and recruit them, even when they stole telegraph wire to adorn their women." - 357
  • "Settler colonies, Kenya being a prime example, were ripped open for such wealth as they contained. They were...a happy hunting-ground of the adventurer, the gold-digger, the industrial or commercial brigand....The Sudan, which Kitchener had rescued from chaos, rapine, famine and misery of the Khalifate at the battle of Omdurman, was by 1930 a model of good order." - 367-8
  • 1935: "Government of India Act. This separated Burma from India and gave the eleven Indian provinces self-rule" - 393
  • 1943: "Acts of God caused the dearth of food in India but mammon created the Bengal famine...Instead of procuring food themselves, the authorities advised people to keep two months' stock, which encouraged hoarding, increased prices and produced a 'psychosis of shortage.'" - 403-4
  • August 14, 1947: Indian independence from Britain - 413
  • January 4, 1948: Burma (Myanmar) gains self-rule and becomes an independent republic - 443
  • "Britain itself had only just given all adults the vote and in 1931 Ceylon [Sri Lanka] became the first Asian and colonial nation to do the same." - 451
  • February 4, 1948: Ceylon gains self-rule - 454
  • the British "scheme was to establish a Malayan Union with the long-term aim that the united states (plus Malacca and Penang but not Singapore, which would become a crown colony and a free port) should evolve into a Southeast Asian dominion." - 457
  • "London took responsibility for the defence of Malaya and then Malaysia -- the confederation of former colonies, Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah), created in the early 1960s." - 465
  • 1945: "Winston Churchill advocated a 'United States of Europe' whereby the Continent would be conjoined 'in a manner never known since the fall of the Roman Empire'" - 466
  • "The arguments for quitting India and Burma equally supported a British withdrawal from Palestine. Disengagement there was even more desirable since Palestine divided Britain from America when they needed unity against Russia at the start of the Cold War." - 483
  • "After Suez and with American help, it kept the weakened Baghdad Pact in being under another name, the Central Treaty Organisation. It retained influence in Iraq and Libya until their nationalist coups in 1958 and 1969 respectively...Until financial and anti-imperial pressures combined between 1968 and 1971, Britain dominated feudal sheikhdoms on the fringe of the Arabian peninsula, themselves once gatekeepers to the Indian jewel, now guardians of the Gulf's black gold." - 505-6
  • "The old concepts of Empire, of conquest, domination and exploitation are fast dying in an awakening world. Among the colonial peoples, there is a vast untapped reservoir of peace and goodwill towards Britain, would she but divest herself of the outmoded, moth-eaten trappings of two centuries ago, and present herself to her colonial peoples in a new and shining vestment...and give us a guiding hand in working our own destinies" - Kwame Nkrumah, "Redeemer" of Ghana, 529
  • December 1960: "The combined animus [against imperial systems] was reflected in the United Nations, which...passed its momentous Resolution (No. 1514) demanding 'a speedy and unconditional end to colonialism.'" - 545
  • "Throughout their imperial history the British always paid lip service to legality, but by the mid-1950s it was an open secret that Kenya had become a police state that dispensed racist terror. After all Dr. Malan, the Nationalist Prime Minister of South Africa, took it as a model for his apartheid regime." - 566
  • after Zimbabwe achieved majority rule and independence on April 17, 1980, Margaret Thatcher said, "The poor Queen...Do you realise the number of colonies that have been handed over from the British Empire since she came to the Throne?"; "The Iron Lady wept." - 604
  • "Between 1945 and 1965 the number of people under British colonial rule shrank from seven hundred million to five million." - 605
  • 1878: "the Ottoman Empire ceded control of Cyprus to the British Empire....The island was a gratuity acquired by Disraeli for supporting Sultan Abdul Hamid 'the Damned' against Tsar Alexander II" - 617
  • Hong Kong "could never hope to become an independent sovereign state, let alone a member of the Commonwealth. Instead it would revert to China as a Special Administrative Region. The transfer of power might be postponed but it could not be avoided, especially when Britain's ninety-nine-year lease on the New Territories surrounding the crown colony expired in 1997." - 642

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