Bernard Porter, History Today
One of the issues that needs to be determined before making any assessment of the effects and legacies of the British Empire, therefore, is how big, strong and singular it really was.
We shouldn’t be fooled by appearances. All those red-bedaubed world maps that became fashionable in Britain around 1900, for example, give an impression of uniform British power, which is certainly false. A truer picture would have been conveyed by colouring most parts a much lighter pink and some with only the faintest blush (to be fair, cartographers often did this with Egypt and the Indian princely states). If we are measuring British imperialism in terms of informal influence, certain countries outside the empire can be pinked in, too. You might also put a few drops of red into the oceans, to reflect Britain’s naval dominance.
In fact those red patches on the map covered an extraordinary variety of relationships between the colonies and the ‘mother’ country, which would require a whole new palette to colour-code them accurately. These ranged from absolute despotisms and racist tyrannies; through colonies ruled paternalistically, in intention at any rate, and territories simply ‘protected’ by the British; to colonies whose (white) people were far more ‘free’ than stay-at-home Britons and those whose (non-white) subjects were so little touched by the system that they could barely have been aware that they were colonies at all. Beyond these there were disguised colonies like Egypt; territories mandated after the First World War, in one of which, Palestine, Britain’s role was mainly a thankless peace-keeping one; her ‘informal’ colonies – nominally independent, but dominated, for example, by British commercial companies; and Ireland, which could be said to straddle both sides of the imperial-colonial divide. That’s without taking any account of what is more problematically termed British ‘cultural imperialism’: problematic because, if ‘imperialism’ means anything at all, it must surely involve some sort of duress or domination, which is difficult to show in the case of, say, Brazilians choosing to play football.
To bundle all these together under the rubric of ‘empire’ seems perverse.
The association of capitalism with imperialism is well-known. It used to be denied by imperialists in more social-democratic times, when ‘capitalism’ was a term of implied abuse. It is acknowledged by all (and positively celebrated by Niall Ferguson) now that capitalism has become respectable again. But the precise relationship between the two is not always understood. The expansion of British trade and finance into the wider world generally came before the more formal kind of imperialism; in other words the flag followed trade rather than vice-versa. That is assuming it followed at all. You could have foreign trade without imperialism, or at least, that is what contemporaries believed, before modern historians decided that this should be called imperialism, too.
Free trade, in fact, was widely supposed to be both the antithesis and the antidote to imperialism, bringing an end to, as the great anti-Corn Laws agitator Richard Cobden put it in 1846, ‘the desire and the motive for large and mighty empires; [and] for gigantic armies and great navies – for those materials which are used for the destruction of life and the desolation of the rewards of labour’; all this ‘as man becomes one family, and freely exchanges the fruits of his labour with his brother man’. Today it is possible to read all kinds of imperialist inferences between these lines: who are we to tell the world what is best for it? But it is easy to see how contemporaries could be persuaded that they were embarking on an entirely different and more ethical course. This was what differentiated mid-19th-century Britain from all previous imperial times and nations.
It was also a highly convenient position from a practical point of view. This kind of (theoretically) peaceful expansion was well suited to a nation whose military capacities (as opposed to naval) were not of the highest order, by comparison with three or four continental European armies. Luckily European armies before the 1880s were less interested in challenging Britain in these commercial theatres, which left it with only technologically backward ‘native’ opponents when it came to defending its economic interests outside Europe.
True free market capitalists didn’t reckon much to governing in any circumstances; it was against the grain to work at an occupation which was neither productive nor profitable. Colonial rulers did not generally share the free market ideology of the people whose activities had given rise to the necessity of their presence in the first place. Consequently, and to avoid unsettling their charges and the risk of provoking rebellion, many of them actually obstructed the capitalist exploitation of the colonies they were in charge of. Certainly it was not they – the highest-profile and most conventionally imperialist of the imperialists – who were responsible for spreading capitalism to Africa, Asia and elsewhere; or ‘democracy’, which they scarcely understood; or any of the other features of modernisation that present-day apologists for imperialism attribute to British rule in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The main point about this cadre of men, however, is how few they were. This was because more of them could not be afforded without inflicting unacceptable taxation either on the British or their colonial subjects. Taxes for colonial purposes could provoke rebellions in both places.
Most of the British Empire in the 19th- and 20th-centuries was what we would now call ‘privatised’, for two of the reasons usually adduced for privatisation today: to save money and to shed responsibility. The other reason, that ‘private’ always works better, was not so much in evidence.
This suggests a paradox: that the less genuine and formal colonial government was, the worse things were likely to be. Indeed it was for this reason that the most thoughtful anti-imperialists of the early 20th century were against Britain’s simple withdrawal from its colonies. Thinkers such as the economist J.A. Hobson (1858-1940) argued that this wouldn’t genuinely liberate them, but would leave them more vulnerable to capitalist imperialism.
Britain’s imperial weakness was finally exposed between the First World War and the 20 years after 1945. The empire became impossible to defend against rising nationalist movements, helped from outside, without resorting to a degree of firmness or brutality that people in Britain, whose attachment to the empire was predicated on the belief that it was essentially liberal, were reluctant to tolerate.
[The British Empire] was never organised or even loosely administered centrally. At least three separate government departments were involved. There was little training offered for the young men sent out to run it, beyond the occasional university summer school; nothing on the pattern of France’s Ecole Coloniale. Governing was learned on the job, underpinned by a public school education: lessons from Classical history that were supposed to be good for all time; hints about ‘character’, ‘stiff upper lip’ and the like; a tradition of noblesse oblige; and maybe some prejudices against the working classes that could be carried over to ‘natives’. Beyond that, attitudes and policies were largely formed by experience in the field and how a man regarded his function there. It could be a steep learning curve.
"To attempt to translate a thought into Ithkuil requires investigating a spectrum of subtle variations in meaning that are not recorded in any natural language. It’s the ideal language for political and philosophical debate—any forum where people hide their intent or obfuscate behind language. Ithkuil makes you say what you mean and mean what you say."
We often want to debug sites or web apps as more than just one user. Maybe specific accounts have different data profiles or your app supports multiple types of user account (eg. basic, admin, support).
Quite often in the wild, we've seen developers either debugging these scenarios using separate Chrome Incognito windows or completely different browsers to debug different accounts.
The good news is that all channels of Chrome support easily managing multiple user profiles (and windows) via a convenient drop-down menu in the title bar. I'm sure most of you know about this, but hopefully this will serve as a reminder.
To add a new user:
* Click on the menu in your browser toolbar and select Settings.
* In the "Users" tab, click the [Add new user] button.
* When the confirmation dialog appears, select a picture and enter a name for the new user.
* A new window for the user should appear, with a picture you've chosen for the user in the top corner.
Each user profile can also sync up with all the bookmarks, extensions, theme, and browser settings for it if you're signed in. This also makes it more straight-forward to switch between profiles with business Google Apps accounts and personal ones, but is great for getting more control over your window workflow.
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