Britain's colonial history covers much of its modern history over recent centuries. At its peak in 1922, it governed around a fifth of the world's population and a quarter of the world's total land area. Although its proponents claim it brought much needed economic developments, critics point to massacres, famines and concentration camps.
A YouGov poll in 2016 found the British public to be proud of the British Empire and its colonial past with 44% were proud of Britain's colonial history, 21% regretting it happened and 23% holding neither view.
Britain and its elites have a long history of crimes against humanity along with numerous attempts to not only conceal such crimes, but rewrite history to prevent them tarnishing the country's image.
These crimes include:
Boer concentration camps
The British rounded up around a sixth of the Boer population - mainly women and children - and detained them in camps, which were overcrowded and prone to outbreaks of disease, with scant food rations. Management of the camps was characterised by poor administration by the British and a callous lack of care.
Of the 107,000 people interned in the camps, around 25,000 Boers died, along with an unknown number of black Africans - many estimate a similar number.
The soldiers, under the orders of Brigadier Reginald Dyer, kept firing until they ran out of ammunition, killing between 379 and 1,000 protesters and injuring another 1,100 within 10 minutes.
Brigadier Dyer was later lauded a hero by the British public, who raised £26,000 for him as a thank you.
Iranian famine during WW1
Historian Professor Mohammad Gholi Majid of Princeton University in his book, "The Great Famine & Genocide in Iran: 1917-1919" (2013) cites the American Archives reported a widespread famine during WW1. The spread of an epidemic disease estimating deaths ensued when the British prevented grain imports causing a famine killing around 8-10 million during the 1917-19 period, 40% of the population, making this the greatest genocide of the 20th century and Iran the biggest victim of World War I (p.71).
But this event soon became the subject of a British cover up. The documents published by the British government overlook the genocide, and consequently, the tragedy underwent an attempted cover-up by the British government. The Foreign Office "Handbook on Iran" of 1919 mentioned nothing related to the Great Famine.
Mau Mau Uprising
Members of the Kikuyu tribe were detained in concentration camps, where they were systematically tortured and suffered serious sexual assault.
Estimates of the deaths vary widely because the British systematically destroyed most records. The historian David Anderson estimates there were 20,000, whilst the historian Caroline Elkins believes up to 100,000 could have died. The latter figure appears to be closer to the historic reality.
Bangal Famine of 1943
One of the worst famines to hit India occurred in 1943, when up to four million Bengalis starved to death when Winston Churchill chose to divert food to stockpiles in Europe for potential future need for British soldiers and countries such as Greece whilst a deadly famine swept through Bengal killing millions.
Speaking of the Bengal famine in 1943, Churchill remarked:
"I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits."
A common myth told about Britain and the colonisation of India was there was no economic benefit to Britain, the administration of India was a cost to Britain, a gesture of benevolence.
Renowned economist Utsa Patnaik published research via Columbia University Press destroying this narrative. Drawing on nearly two centuries of data on tax and trade, Britain drained a nearly $45 trillion from India from 1765 to 1938. For perspective, that is 17 times the total annual gross domestic product of UK today.
At core was theft on a grand scale. The East India Company began collecting taxes in India, and instead of spending them on the populus, they used a third to fund the purchase of Indian goods - thus acquiring them for free. Some goods were consumed in Britain and the rest were re-exported elsewhere, allowing Britain to finance imports from Europe, including strategic materials like iron, tar and timber, essential to Britain's industrialisation. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution depended in large part on this systematic theft.
Britain has a long record of its several attempts to conceal history and rewrite it in their own favour. One of the clear examples is the "Jameson Raid"; a failed coup against Paul Kruger's government in South Africa. This raid was planned and executed directly by the British government of Joseph Chamberlain under the orders of Queen Victoria. In 2002, Sir Graham Bower's memoirs were published in South Africa, revealing these involvements that had been covered up for more than a century, focusing attention on Bower as a scapegoat for the incident.
The papers at Hanslope Park also include the reports on the "elimination" of the colonial authority's enemies in 1950s Malaya; records that show ministers in London knew of the torture and murder of Mau Mau insurgents in Kenya and roasting them alive. These records may include those related to Iran's Great Famine. Why were these records that cover the darkest secrets of the British Empire destroyed or kept secret? Simply because they might 'embarrass' Her Majesty's government.
Julian Bharier, a scholar who studied Iran's population, built his "backward projection" estimation of Iran's population (13) based on reports from this "handbook" and, as a result, ignored the effect of the Great Famine on Iran's population in 1917. Bharier's estimations were used by some authors to deny the occurrence of the Great Famine or to underestimate its impacts.
Britain arguably outdid its contempirary colonial empires the close in terms of crimes against humanity was probably the Spanish Empire and prior to that, the Mongols. More recently America appears to have taken the lead whilst Russia is arguably second.
Anglophones often speak of the British empire as an enlightened empire, its history of colonialism romanticised. Those living under it along with their descendants however saw its dark reality as brutal, cruel and exploitative.
Cobain, Ian, Bowcott, Owen and Norton-Taylor, Richard. Britain destroyed records of colonial crimes. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/apr/18/britain-destroyed-records-colonial-crimes
Britain's Cover Up, http://www.irishholocaust.org/britain'scoverup
Coogan, Tim Pat. The Famine Plot: England's Role in Ireland's Greatest Tragedy.
Majd, Mohammad Gholi. The Great Famine & Genocide in Iran: 1917-1919.
Bower, Graham. Sir Graham Bower's Secret History of the Jameson Raid and the South African Crisis, 1895-1902.
Majd, Mohammad Gholi. Persia in World War I and Its Conquest by Great Britain.
O'Dowd, Niall. Proving the Irish Famine was genocide by the British.http://www.irishcentral.com/news/proving-the-irish-famine-was-genocide-by-the-british-tim-pat-coogan-moves-famine-history-unto-a-new-plane-181984471-238161151.html
Edited by Shubhra Chakrabarti and Utsa Patnaik, Agrarian and Other Histories
Sniegoski, Stephen J. Iran as a Twentieth Century Victim: 1900 Through the Aftermath of World War II.
Warfield, Brian. History Corner: The Great Irish Famine. wolfetonesofficialsite.com. http://www.wolfetonesofficialsite.com/famine.htm
Walton, Calder. Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War, and the Twilight of Empire.
Britain has been exploiting nations in a very Machovillean way - self-interested yet diplomatic.
The British would first appear as just traders who bring goods to that territory. And as soon as their influence grew, they started to gain more and more authority. Such was the case with Indo-Pak subcontinent. Britishers came to India in the 16th century with the intention of trading and diplomacy, and 150 years ago, most of the subcontinent was under the direct rule of the British Royal Family.
This 150-year process was assuredly slow but very efficient, and happened in a series of steps:
1- The British arrive at the place in context, claiming themselves as traders and bringing goods such as tea.
2- Once granted trading rights, they would set up permanent colonies. This was called British colonialism.
3- Once the British had successfully incorporated into the community, they began to search for local resources.
4- Assisted by locals, they defeated local rulers, captured their lands, and took over. This was how Robert Clive defeated Nawab Sirajud Daulah's forces in Buxar and Plassey as his general turned out to be a traitor.
This way British added small princely states, from India to British India.
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