In a Nutshell:
Britain has regularly exploited and exhibited brutality against every nation it encountered, systematically followed by cover-ups and rewriting of history to conceal what it has done.
This has continued up until the modern era with British involvement in the war in Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan to name but a few conflicts.
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 during the Second Boer War (1899-1902)
- Irish Famine 1845-1849
- Amritsar Jallianwala Bagh Massacre 1919
- Iranian Great Famine during WW1 killing nearly half of Iran's population
- Grand theft from India and the Bengal Famine of 1943 during WW2
- Indian Partition 1947-1948
- North Atlantic Slave Trade 1562-1807
- Mau Mau Uprising 1952-1960
Boer concentration camps
During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), caused by the British seeking greater control of independent Dutch territories following the discovery of diamonds, the British faced significant resistance. This led them to burn down ranches, residences, businesses and destroy livestock on an industrial scale.
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.
A famine occurred in Ireland from 1845 until 1852 which killed one fourth of the Irish population. This famine was caused by British policies and faced a large cover up attempt by the British government and crown to blame it on 'potatoes'. The famine, even today, is famously known as the "potato famine" when, in reality, it was a result of a planned food shortage and thus a deliberate genocide by the British government. The true face of this famine as a genocide has been proven by historian Tim Pat Coogan in his book The Famine Plot: England's Role in Ireland's Greatest Tragedy. Amritsar Massacre
When unarmed peaceful protesters, including women and children, defied a government order and demonstrated against British colonial rule in Amritsar, India, on 13 April 1919, they were locked inside the walled Jallianwala Gardens and fired upon by Gurkha soldiers.
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
By the twentieth century Russia dominated the northern part of Iran while Britain dominated the south. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917 Britain remained the sole power in Iran.
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
British colonial forces mistreated, raped and tortured thousands of Kenyans during the Mau Mau Uprising (1951-1960).
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
The British allowed 12 to 29 million Indians to die of starvation whilst ruling India, as millions of tons of wheat were exported to Britain as famine raged in India.
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 records that were destroyed to cover up British crimes around the globe, or were kept in secret Foreign Office archives, so as to, not only protect the United Kingdom's reputation, but also to shield the government from litigation, are indicative of the attempts made by the British to evade the consequences of their crimes.
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.