How England Sees Itself

zhao

there are no accidents
did you all see this article? - Let's end the myths of Britain's imperial past

i hope the Dissensus response will not be like the one to Black Athena: "everyone knows this already", ("everyone" must meaning blogger friends because there is only too much evidence in the real world to the contrary), like the first commenter on the article:

"Where on earth is this cosy consensus that the British Empire was a good thing? Please, Richard, point to some examples of textbooks currently used in schools and recent television programmes that enforce an uncomplicated belief in the greatness of the Empire.

I thought we were at least at post-post-revisionist history of this by now? Or did this article fall through from 1950 when the assumption of imperial superiority was fairly widespread?
it seems to me that taking pride in colonialist history is something for sure a TAD more popular and mainstream in England compared to Germany (not sure about Belgium or France or Spain or Portugal), with ignorance levels of its own violent history rivaling the United States. and one can see this clearly judging only by the comments, a fair portion of which are along the lines of "Colonialism was both good AND bad", "It was natural/Inevitable", "Other empires were worse", or a number of things like:

"What a load of whining leftie twaddle.

The world was, of course, a very different place a century or two ago. Applying current perspectives to almost anything from that age may result in the feeble-minded reaching for the human rights act and saying how nasty it all was. No shit, sherlock! The alternatives may not have been any less palatable, free or peaceful.

Proper history remains largely untaught in my children's schools - replaced by this kind of guilt-ridden thematic nonsense."
how exactly would you characterize contemporary Britain's relationship to something like the 30 million Indian deaths due to starvation because of British self serving agricultural policies? or similar things in Ireland? or these kinds of control and repressive mechanisms in general, largely invented by the English?

while the world still largely goes on endlessly about the Evil Germans, England seems to have gotten off much more easily. (comparisons are largely meaningless and futile, but just for perspective, of course the Nazis killed 6 million jews).

have you all read this?



http://www.amazon.co.uk/Late-Victorian-Holocausts-Famines-Making/dp/1859847390
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Hmm, it's difficult to say. I'm sure there are both crusty old conservatives and a younger generation of unpleasant nationalists (EDL etc.) who get misty-eyed and nostalgic about the Empire. It's pretty much de rigeur for left-wing or liberal white Brits to feel a good deal of guilt about the whole thing. Not sure how non-whites living here feel about it to be honest, and I'm sure there isn't a consensus non-white post-colonial attitude. I mean, India/Pakistan/Bangladesh/Sri Lanka were obviously under the imperial heel for a long time, but the people there weren't slaves (in the strict sense) and they weren't brought there from another continent, as the ancestors of black West Indians were, as well as black Americans of course.

You're right that as far as 20th-century history goes, Britain makes much of having been on the side of Good against Nazi Germany, which did basically the Worst Thing Ever. But remember that the death toll of WWII went far beyond the Jews killed in the Holocaust (whose total toll was not six but eleven million). A total figure of 50 million is the usual estimate for the whole war. Then there's Japanese attrocities, which I know you're well aware of, and various Soviet abominations, which went on for a lot longer than those of the Nazis - by some estimates, Ukranian victims of the Holomodor outnumber Jewish victims of the Shoah, yet that unimaginable crime goes largely unnoticed in Western historiography.

Also, don't confuse England with Britain. Many of the most important figures in the UK's imperial history were Scottish, Irish or Welsh.

Interesting thread though, only just seen it.
 
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droid

Guest
Oh aye, and how did he calculate that exactly?
Nice reflex.

Direct and indirect deaths through examination of declassified state documents and various other sources afaik.

How would you calculate it?
 

craner

Beast of Burden
What I mean is, I presume he has a break down of this carnage? As in, this many died because of British action in the Falklands, this many died because of British action in the first Gulf War, and so on.
 
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droid

Guest
What I mean is, I presume he has a break down of this carnage? As in, this many died because of British action in the Falklands, this many died because of British action in the first Gulf War, and so on.
Sorry. Yes he does. In web of deceit and unpeople I think. Its been a while.

http://markcurtis.info/
 
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droid

Guest
Well I was talking more about Britain's self-image (as per thread title) rather than historic reality.
Yeah, of course, but that self-image seems to be predicated on ignorance or obscured by nationalism and PR. The problem is that Britain (like the US) has never been defeated and forced to face up to its past in the same way that other states have.

 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
The problem is that Britain (like the US) has never been defeated and forced to face up to its past in the same way that other states have.
Hmm, that's a good point. OTOH, Japan suffered a huge defeat in living memory and while there have been some public apologies from Japanese PMs (Emporers too? not sure), there's nothing like the 'remorse industry' that Germany's had for the last 60+ years.

At least, that's my (admittedly scanty) understanding of it. Anyone here know much about post-war Japan?
 
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droid

Guest
Hmm, that's a good point. OTOH, Japan suffered a huge defeat in living memory and while there have been some public apologies from Japanese PMs (Emporers too? not sure), there's nothing like the 'remorse industry' that Germany's had for the last 60+ years.

At least, that's my (admittedly scanty) understanding of it. Anyone here know much about post-war Japan?
The Japanese have been resolutely pacifistic for decades. There are internal pressures and extreme nationalists of course, but they've resisted many opportunities to militarise despite the genuine threat of North Korean, Russian and Chinese aggression and expansion in the region.

Whether things will stay that way in the future as the US position in SE asia deteriorates is another question.
 

pattycakes

New member
in the 3rd part of adam curtis' series the living dead you can get quite an insightful look into the minds of thatcher and churchill and how they filtered out the naughty bits of britain's history to spread the image that you're talking about. highly recommended.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
The Japanese have been resolutely pacifistic for decades. There are internal pressures and extreme nationalists of course, but they've resisted many opportunities to militarise despite the genuine threat of North Korean, Russian and Chinese aggression and expansion in the region.

Whether things will stay that way in the future as the US position in SE asia deteriorates is another question.
Sure, I'm not contesting any of that - I'm talking specifically about formal apologies and reparations to victims of attrocities committed before and during WWII which, by any measure, fall far short of those made by Germany. In Germany only a small minority of card-carrying neo-Nazis is anything but contrite about the war and the camps (at least, in public...), and it's illegal to display the swastika or other Nazi symbolism even in a history textbook. But apologies by Japanese leaders have provoked widespread nationalist backlashes of the kind unthinkable in Germany. They've even had highschool textbooks that downplay various attrocities.

Edit: doesn't surprise me in the least that British conservatives have done much the same thing. Think things were a bit different by the time I was at high school, though.
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Yes, well done, I was just looking at that page myself. You seem to be quite keen to defend Japan for some reason. It's pretty common knowledge that culpability for war crimes there has not entered the popular consciousness to the extent that it has in Germany. I'd be interested to hear zhao's take on this, if he comes back to this thread.

But what is this all about, anyway? As zhao said, comparisons are largley futile. The point of the thread is not to establish, once and for all, the official Worst Country Ever. If anything, the case of the Japanese text books provides an interesting point of comparison with what pattycakes says about textbooks in Britain, doesn't it?
 
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droid

Guest
Yes, well done, I was just looking at that page myself. You seem to be quite keen to defend Japan for some reason. It's pretty common knowledge that culpability for war crimes there has not entered the popular consciousness to the extent that it has in Germany. I'd be interested to hear zhao's take on this, if he comes back to this thread.
Er... are you drunk?

You asked this:

At least, that's my (admittedly scanty) understanding of it. Anyone here know much about post-war Japan?
I answered. You then said this:

I'm talking specifically about formal apologies and reparations to victims of attrocities committed before and during WWII which, by any measure, fall far short of those made by Germany.
And I provided some links detailing their apologies and the attitude in the education system, which you also brought up.

You then say:

You seem to be quite keen to defend Japan for some reason. It's pretty common knowledge that culpability for war crimes there has not entered the popular consciousness to the extent that it has in Germany.
So, in the space of a few posts, your 'scanty knowledge' has become 'common knowledge', and answering your questions has become a 'defence of japan'.:slanted:

The fact is its 'common knowledge' that Japan is the only nation in the world to outlaw war, and despite the horrible crimes they perpetrated in WWII, one of the most unique features about japanese society in the postwar period is its commitment to pacifism.

That is not a defense of Japan. Its simply a fact.

But what is this all about, anyway? As zhao said, comparisons are largley futile. The point of the thread is not to establish, once and for all, the official Worst Country Ever. If anything, the case of the Japanese text books provides an interesting point of comparison with what pattycakes says about textbooks in Britain, doesn't it?
What is it all about? Answering your questions perhaps? Sorry about that.

I cant claim familiarity with japanese textbooks - neither can you. The second link I posted above contains comments from someone who went to school in Japan, and he says that war crimes were minimised or glossed over... please show me a British textbook that calls Cromwell and the subsequent pacifications in Ireland 'genocide', or describes the resettlement and detention camps in Kenya and Malaya, or goes into detailed description of the acts of the 'Army of Retribution' during the Sepoy rebellion.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Droid, what I meant was I'd read some things here and there, enough to form an impression, but not enough to write a detailed essay on the subject. I hope that's not an inherent contradiction. Also I'm not denying that textbooks in British schools have presented, or still present, a biased account.

And has Japan been pacifist since WWII out of an abiding commitment to global human rights, or because it found out at first hand what happens when you piss off Uncle Sam?
 
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