British Empire since the end of the Second World War?
"We [the English] seem, as it were, to have conquered and peopled
half the world in a fit of absence of mind"
John R. Seeley, 1883
"By our actions [in Iraq], we will secure the peace, and lead the world to a better day"
President George W. Bush, October 7, 2002.
The term "imperialism" is often looked upon with disdain; as something taboo; a chapter in history that is best forgotten. The records of oppression and brutality that the European Empires wrought upon their subjects coupled with the economic exploitation of colonies at all four corners of the world make for uncomfortable reading. However, as the writers of Monty Python so astutely pointed out in the "what have the Romans ever done for us?" sketch, empires did have their up side. Most of the major European nations had empires from Belgium to Italy and these exported infrastructure, education, medicine, new foodstuffs, materials and domestic goods, among other things, to their colonies. Though colonial conquest and rule was often a bloody affair, the benefits of modernisation went some way to tempering it, a philosophy that the British like to identify when recalling her Empire.
It is however the former imperial legacy of subjugation that has caused the United States to renounce the notion that she is in any way imperialistic, for fear of being tarred with the same brush. After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq had begun, Donald Rumsfeld asserted that "we [the United States] don't do empire". When looking at his country's record since the end of the Second World War, the statement would have been better phrased; America doesn't like to think it "does empire".
The twenty to thirty year period following the end of the Second World War was one of rapid decolonisation for the European colonial empires, most notably for the British Isles. The mainstay of the British Empire,... [continues]
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