Imperialist fairy-tales

Thanks to Pickled Politics for reminding me of this … a quite comprehensive article in today’s Guardian debunking recent attempts to whitewash the British empire:

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | The story peddled by imperial apologists is a poisonous fairytale

Good governance? More famines were recorded in the first century of the British Raj than in the previous 2,000 years, including 17-20 million deaths from 1896 to 1900 alone. While a million Indians a year died from avoidable famines, taxation subsidising colonial wars, and relief often deliberately denied as surplus grain was shipped to England.

Tolerance? The British empire reinforced strict ethnic/religious identities and governed through these divisions. As with the partition of India when 10 million were displaced, arbitrarily drawn boundaries between “tribes” in Africa resulted in massive displacement and bloodshed. Freedom and fair play? In Kenya, a handful of white settlers appropriated 12,000 square miles and pushed 1.25 million native Kikuyus to 2,000 restricted square miles. Resistance was brutally crushed through internment in detention camps, torture and massacres. Some 50,000 Kikuyus were massacred and 300,000 interned to put down the Mau Mau rebellion by peasants who wanted to farm their own land. A thousand peaceful protesters were killed in the Amritsar massacre of 1919.

Also see this article in the New Statesman by its former editor Peter Wilby, on the insults which have been thrown at Johann Hari for saying that the Empire wasn’t exactly a model of good governance.

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