Empire Niall Ferguson Essay

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Introduction

* To the British. as to people in the remainder of the universe. imperialism’s aureate age is now considered a discoloration on human history. an epoch of bondage and racism and the loot of native lands and peoples. The impression that imperialism is inherently evil. and that no imperium can be a good imperium. is an maxim in today’s geopolitics. * Examines the British Empire from an economic position. polemically reasoning that the British Empire was. on balance. a good thing * Globalisation is the biggest thing that Ferguson thanks the British for * English linguistic communication and ties to London made it possible

* The Leftist oppositions of globalization of course see it as no more than the latest manifestation of a damnably resilient international capitalist economy. By contrast. the modern consensus among broad economic experts is that increasing economic openness raises living criterions. even if there will ever be some net also-rans as hitherto privileged or protected societal groups are exposed to international competition. * But economic experts and economic historiographers likewise prefer to concentrate their attending on flows of trade goods. capital and labor. They say less about flows of cognition. civilization and establishments. They besides tend to pay more attending to the ways authorities can ease globalization by assorted sorts of deregulating than to the ways it can actively advance and. so. enforce it.

* Ferguson concedes that bondage. racial favoritism and barbarous response to rebellion were detestable but the free motion of goods. capital and labor. every bit good as the infliction of jurisprudence. order and administration across the universe were alone victory * No 1 would claim that the piratical imperium of the seventeenth century or the mercantilist one of the eighteenth century were forces for much more than expropriation. ejection and captivity. But by the early nineteenth century. the British Empire had mutated into the world’s foremost broad imperium.

* Book seeks to explicate how an ‘archipelago of showery islands… came to govern the world’ and examines the costs and effects. both good and bad * Ferguson argues convincingly that between about 1750 and 1945. and particularly so in the 1800s. this alone establishment which brought together a one-fourth of the world’s population and spanned every continent was ‘the nearest thing Planet Earth has of all time had to a planetary authorities. ’ * This he sees. overall. as A Good Thing. so firmly topographic points himself amongst modern minds in the ‘controversial’ cantonment. * Why was the British Empire ‘A Good Thing’ ?

* Emphasis on free trade ( ended with WWI as duties went up since other states had non industrialised ) * Sent natural stuffs. manufactured it and so direct it back for net income ( one-way free trade! ! ! ) * Ruled are besides deriving power – no state is able to govern another state without the support of its people ( e. g. The Indian Civil Service – Indians benefitted from it )

Why Britain?

* Ferguson suggests that the Empire was non planned but instead came about ab initio from the activities of plagiarists in the Caribbean. taking to bargainers and escapades. and the mass out-migration of white colonists to America. Australia and New Zealand * Did non desire to be marginalised into a mediocre power by the Spanish. the Portuguese and the Dutch who at the clip were striding the Earth and claiming huge countries of land in the Caribbean. the Americas and the East Indies * British about got left behind – fall backing to buccaneering on the Spanish to seek and claim a little piece of the action * The Empire was non acquired. as vindicators used to feign. ‘in a tantrum of absence of mind’ ; its earliest trophies were the consequence of piratical loot. stolen by Elizabethan pirates from the Spanish ( who’s El Dorado the British so rancorously envied ) .

* Later. a more conjunct run of expropriation set out to fulfill the latest cravings of a new consumer economic system. * Eighteenth-century England quickly grew addicted to ‘new. new things’ like tea. java and baccy. while the national sweet tooth required imports of sugar from the West Indies. where the cane was tended by slaves. * However. this was non all done ‘in a tantrum of absence of mind’ since from the reign of Elizabeth I onwards. there had been a sustained run to take over the Empires of others * ‘They had robbed the Spaniards. copied the Dutch. crush the Gallic and plundered the Indians. Now they ruled supreme’ – Notion of imitation. founded on the premiss of copying others

White Plague

* Commerce and conquest by themselves would non hold been plenty to accomplish an Empire no affair what the fiscal strength or naval power of the British – at that place had to be colonisation * Ferguson is disinclined to believe in the authorized American position of 1776 as a ‘struggle for autonomy against an evil empire’ . * The imperialists were already experimenting with strategies for degeneration. and politicians at Westminster imagined that American settlements might settle down into rank of ‘a paradigm Commonwealth’ . with the sovereign as a consolidative front man. * The conflicts across the Atlantic simply extended a struggle at place between Whigs and Tories. ‘This. ’ Ferguson argues. ‘really was the 2nd British – or possibly the first American – Civil War. ’ * Some myths about the American War of Independence are shattered

* Ferguson argues that the ‘revolution’ . reverse to the conventional revisionist modern American narration of ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ . was more about colonial plantation proprietors ruthlessly advancing their ain fiscal involvements instead than liberty * At the clip. Britain was half-hearted in its attempts about maintaining the 13 settlements as it was more interested in India – which although seems unusual now. it made absolute sense in 1776 as India looked like a much bigger award and far more of import * Boston Tea Party was made up of runners packs enraged that the revenue enhancement on tea had been reduced ( as tea had ne’er been cheaper in New England ) instead than a protest against the hiking of revenue enhancements like most people assume

* ‘The world was that rank of the British Empire was good for the American colonial economy’ whereas it was the ‘constitutional rule – the right of the British parliament to impose revenue enhancements on the American settlers without their consent – that was the true bone of contention’ * A ? of the population fought on the side of Britain and when the war ended. about 100. 000 Americans moved to Canada instead than populate in a state independent of Britain * Evidence that points to the statement that the American settlements were more loyal to Britain. and the settlers better treated. than some may hold antecedently thought

Maxim Force

* How were the British able to derive so much of southern Africa so rapidly? * They’d invested in American-made Maxim guns. the world’s foremost portable machine guns. immense death-machines that fired 500 unit of ammunitions per minute and wholly devastated native ground forcess. * How did the imperium manage to carry Arabs to contend on the British side in World War I. obstructing German attempts to arouse an anti-British Arab jehad? * Because they had work forces like T. E. Lawrence — work forces “with the ability to perforate non-European cultures” that was gained from the “centuries of Oriental engagement” that other imperiums lacked. * The British Empire stretched over 100s of old ages and 1000000s of stat mis ; its bequest bents over about the full universe. It was. at times. a force for good. But merely every bit frequently. people who lived under the British were obviously worse off for it. and for others — as in the instance of Indians. for whom empire’s effects are hardest to judge — British regulation was at best a assorted approval.

* The British may hold improved the class of history in some lands. but merely at a cost — in footings of lives and in lost civilization — we would happen unpalatable today. * Ferguson recognizes these costs. but he can stay them. he says. because other. worse imperiums might hold come into power were it non for the British. * Britain became the first imperium to get rid of bondage. and it took to the undertaking with ardor. posting the Royal Navy off the seashore of Sierra Leone to interrupt the Atlantic slave trade to. among other topographic points. the freshly independent United States.

* ‘It is non easy to explicate so profound a alteration in the moralss of a people. It used to be argued that bondage was abolished merely because it had ceased to be profitable: in fact. it was abolished despite the fact that it was still profitable. What we need to understand. so. is a corporate alteration of bosom. ’ * Ferguson delves deep into what might hold caused this alteration. and he discovers a fact of being British that he uses more than one time to warrant the imperium: The British are an basically good people. * Highly patriotic/nationalistic mentality on the portion of Ferguson * Highlights the abolishment of bondage instead than besides the British’s’ engagement in the slave trade in the first topographic point

Empire for Sale

* Churchill – ‘I can see huge alterations coming over a now peaceable world… but I tell you I shall be in bid of the defense mechanisms of London and I shall salvage London and the Empire from disaster’ ( pg. 295 ) * Astonishing prophetic words – that he was able to foretell the impact that he would hold non merely in political relations but besides in the twentieth Century * In the terminal. non even Churchill could salvage the British Empire as within his life-time. the Empire unravelled * Why was Churchill able to foretell these alterations?

* Saw the defects in the Empire. even at its tallness * Lines had been drawn and confederations made – start of the conflict as the ‘spheres of influence’ had already been decided * Peoples had confederations and enemies – this was a really different universe to the 1 in which imperiums operated in * Most of the universe had now been drawn out and divided between different imperiums ; the lone thing that was left to make was to take land off person else which meant contending for it * Inevitability of struggle within the imperialistic clime * Fascinating exchange between the US embassador and the so foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey after a 1913 military putsch in Mexico ; the US will stay in Mexico and ‘make ‘em ballot and unrecorded by their decisions’ for every bit long as it takes – the US will ‘continue to hit work forces for that small infinite till they learn to vote and to govern themselves’ ( pg. 350 )

* ‘Anything. in other words. but to take over Mexico – which would hold been the British solution’ * Roosevelt believed that the ‘colonial system means war’ * ‘To the Americans. reared on the myth of their ain battle for freedom from British subjugation. formal regulation over capable peoples was unpalatable’ * To Ferguson. the job with the United States is non that it is excessively committed to imperial hegemony. but that it is non committed plenty. Its attending span is excessively short. It wants to acquire in. fix things and acquire out. Americans have non genuinely accepted the “white man’s load. ” * Ferguson demonstrates that the British Empire was a immense net exporter of capital. and that the economic and societal differences in the flower of the Empire between the British Isles and the settlements were accordingly far less than between the ‘first world’ and the ‘developing world’ in the twenty-first century.

* Roads. railroads. educational and authorities establishments were built throughout the Empire with the transportation of huge amounts of money earned from British industrial fabricating out to the settlements. all administered ( in stark contrast to modern times ) by a virtually incorruptible and principled civil service. * There were no ‘failed states’ in the yearss of the Empire: in contrast investing. advancement and growing were the order of the twenty-four hours. and universally taken for granted. * It was. for illustration. the British Empire which foremost connected up the universe with submarine telegraph overseas telegrams taking. finally. to our current planetary telephone system * Ferguson’s analysis of the Empire’s eventual death Centres on Britain make up one’s minding to perpetrate to contend and get the better of the powerful but less benign imperiums of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. battles which efficaciously bankrupted Britain and forced imperial disintegration.

* Focuss on other states as the cause for the ‘decolonization’ instead than the traditional position that it was national motions within the settlements * ‘When faced with the pick between pacifying or contending the worst imperiums in all history. the British Empire had done the right thing… even if it did non last for the thousand old ages that Churchill hopefully suggested it might. it was the British Empire’s ‘finest hour’’ * In the terminal. the British sacrificed her Empire to halt the Germans. Japs and the Italians maintaining theirs * From Masters to Slaves: Despite Churchill’s despairing exhortation to contend ‘to the death’ the British surrendered Singapore instead easy to the Nipponese

* 130. 000 Imperial military personnels gave themselves up to a force of half that size ; ‘never had so many given up in the face of so few’ * Since the mid-18th Century. it had been one of the Empire’s proudest boasts that ‘Britons ne’er. ne’er shall be slaves’ yet that is precisely what the Prisoner of war on the Thai-Burmese railroad were * The Empire was expensive to run: after 1945. Britain was broke and could no longer afford the huge subsidies and drain on capital necessary to prolong it.

* Ferguson besides demonstrates that until the 1920s there was virtually no appetency for ‘independence’ from the peoples of the Empire. * On the contrary they thought they had a good thing: it was in all instances anglicised. British-university educated middle-class elites from the settlements who embraced quintessentially western broad thoughts of ‘independence’ following WW1. and went on to prehend power in the new ‘independent’ states.

Decision

* In the terminal. the British sacrificed her Empire to halt the Germans. Nipponese and the Italians maintaining theirs – did non that forfeit entirely expunge all the Empire’s other wickednesss? * In comparing to the other plausible options at the clip – the Germans. the Italians. the imperial Nipponese – the British Empire was A Good Thing * There’s strong grounds. in fact. that German mobilization was pursued straight in response to the menace the Germans saw in the British Empire. * With that in head. here are some contrary to fact inquiries that Ferguson doesn’t answer but ought to: If there had ne’er been a British Empire. would at that place hold been a German Empire? Would we hold endured two universe wars? * Did the British sacrifice their Empire to get the better of Nazism. or was it simply a byproduct of making so?

* I doubt that Churchill and his disposal consciously made the determination to give the Empire in order to get the better of Hitler * Before WWII the Empire was bing excessively much to keep and the “natives” were going more educated. therefore they had already started to desire more rights and more independency from the British ; in this manner. the Empire’s disintegration was ever traveling to go on. WWII merely expedited the procedure * Without an Empire. what would the universe be like today? Would the available options have produced a similar terminal consequence or something far worse? * Would at that place hold been a German Empire? Or two universe wars? * Strong grounds to propose that German mobilization was a direct reaction to British imperialism

* There is so much talk nowadays about a globalised universe and ‘globalisation’ yet I would reason that it is nil new. since the British Empire had done this since the start of the seventeenth Century with unprecedented human migration. trade. capital. communications. scientific discipline and engineering * Is it a good thing that English is an international linguistic communication? * The attitude of the Indian author Arundhati Roy springs to mind. When her English-language novel “The God of Small Things” was published in 1997. Roy was praised — slightly condescendingly — by a figure of English-speaking critics for her installation with the linguistic communication. * The British historian Edward Chaney famously called the book “a testimonial to the imperium. ” and Roy. as she is wont to make when faced with any inquiry over her stance on imperialism. lashed out. stating a London wireless station that the lone ground she spoke English was because she had been forced to. The imperium had rolled over her native lingua.

* On the BBC late. Ferguson was asked about Arundhati Roy’s choler over holding been forced to talk English. and whether India would hold been better left entirely. “The existent inquiry that I think we need to inquire ourselves is. should they be ruled by bad imperiums or somewhat better imperiums? ” he said. “Because after all. India. when the British turned up. was already ruled by an imperium — the Mogul Empire. The Mogul Empire was an organisation which existed to revenue enhancement provincials in order to pay for the Moguls’ ingestion. I don’t believe there would hold been many railroads built if the Mogul Empire had remained in topographic point. or had been restored in 1957 … So I think it’s wholly unsound to conceive of that if the British hadn’t been at that place. India would hold been some sort of broad democratic Indian nationalist authorities of the sort that it has today. ”

Decision: Part 2

* Ferguson notes that ‘the trouble with the accomplishments of the Empire is that they are much more likely to be taken for granted than the wickednesss of the Empire’ * Controversially. Ferguson stresses that the British did make a batch of good for humanity in their pursuit for domination: * Promotion of the free motion of goods. capital and labor * A common jurisprudence and administration

* Arguably in the visible radiation of the plausible historical options ( for illustration. Gallic. Russian. German or Nipponese hegemony ) the British Empire was a good thing * Ferguson tries to reap lessons from this history of the British Empire for future. or present. Empires – viz. America * Indicating out that the US is both a merchandise of the British Empire. every bit good as an inheritor to it. Ferguson asks whether America – an ‘empire in denial’ – should ‘seek to cast or to shoulder the imperial burden it has inherited’ * America refuses to accept the ‘White Man’s Burden’ as it doesn’t want to hold to shoulder the duties that come with an Empire

* ‘The inquiry is non whether British imperialism was without blemish. It was non. The inquiry is whether there could hold been a less bloody way to modernity’ * The challenge for the US is to utilize its unchallenged power as a force for positive alteration in the universe and non fall into the same traps as the British before them * Imperialism is clearly non dead therefore if History does so reiterate itself so the hereafter could see the USA switching from an informal Empire to a formal one much like Victorian Britain one time did

Questions

* Was the fact that Germany did non hold an Empire ‘A Good Thing’ ? * Yes – Germany was strong plenty without an Empire * Would have been unstoppable if they had an Empire to name upon * Reluctance by Bismarck to hold Cameroon even as he could non be bothered. His policy of welpolitik was merely for Europe * No – Height of economic industrialization therefore could hold helped the educating mission * If they had an Empire. the state would hold fared better in WWI and WWII * Is the American Empire rise? Is the USA. despite itself. set on following in Victorian Britain’s footfalls? * The lone manner that the US could hold risen was to destruct the British Empire. which it successfully did with the Marshall Plan in 1947 * Commonwealth states were no longer back uping each other any longer as the Sterling had been sacrificed therefore the Commonwealth states turned towards the dollar * US created a neo-imperialist Empire

* Ferguson views the American Empire as ‘A Good Thing’ as they would hold duty * US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said flatly: ‘We don’t do Empire’ . yet many remain unconvinced * Eric Hobsbawm pointed out in his 1987 book The Age of Empire 1875-1914. that provinces have frequently chose to portray imperialism as something awful done by other states and wholly different from their ain enlargement of power therefore there is no vouching that the US will of all time acknowledge imperial aspirations

* Speaking in 1999. Sandy Berger. President Clinton’s national security advisor. declared that the United States is the “first planetary power in history that is non an imperial power. ” A twelvemonth subsequently. so candidate George W. Bush echoed his words. reasoning. “America has ne’er been an imperium. … We may be the lone great power in history that had the opportunity. and refused. ” * The fecund American journalist Tom Wolfe is one of those to compare America to Rome under Julius Caesar depicting it as ‘the mightiest power on Earth’ * Informal Empire of the US in undeniable – is this so different from the early British Empire of monopoly trading companies and missionaries? * Empire of transnational corporations

* Hollywood films and Television revivalists * Map of the US military bases looks unusually like a map of the British Navy coaling Stationss a hundred old ages ago * Recent US foreign policy recalls the gunboat diplomatic negotiations of the British Empire in its flower. when a small problem on the fringe could be dealt with by a short. crisp ‘surgical strike’ ; the lone difference is that today. gunboats fly * The American Secretary Dean Acheson famously said that ‘Great Britain has lost an Empire and non yet found a role’ – possibly America has taken this function without yet confronting the fact that the Empire comes with it

* Ferguson. in his new book Colossus. argues that with over 750 military bases in ? states on the Earth. America can non be regarded as anything but imperial * For. if critics like Gore Vidal are to be believed. the US domination of the Earth will be one of the shortest-lived and most black in human history. An old humor has it that the USA is the lone state to hold gone from brutality to decadence without an intervening period of civilisation. On this position. internal societal dislocation awaits what S. M. Lipset famously called “the first new state. ” and the delay will non be long

Criticisms of the Book

* Lots of citations from people but no mentions! * Goes into a premiss – ignores grounds that does non back up his statement. trusting that people will non pick up on it * Any spot of historical authorship has spreads but a good Historian is consistent in the statement * Looks at the Empire from an wholly British position – would be interesting to analyze it from a contrary position * Again and once more in “Empire. ” Ferguson champions the Britishers at place. the people far removed from geopolitical determinations. who constantly. after an imperial indignation. pressed their authorities to make the right thing. or set out themselves on missions to refashion the universe

* Niall Ferguson is a gourmand for exposure. From January to mid-February 2003 six one-hour telecasting programmes. four talks to significant audiences in the University of London’s Senate House. and a big calendered book have been devoted to his subject of ‘empire’ or. as he besides puts it. ‘how Britain made the modern world’ . Elsewhere. for illustration in The Times ( 6-7 January 2003 ) . there have been infusions taken from the book.

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