What did the Brits ever do for us

June 15th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Oliver Hartwich writes on the impact of Britain on the world:

There is something that is undoubtedly special about Britain. It is not just a small, rainy island in the North Atlantic. It is not just another mid-sized northern hemisphere country. In many ways, Britain has been, and still is, much more than that.

Other countries may also lay claim to some socio-political developments or scientific inventions, but none other could boast to have started modernity with the same justification.

It was Britain in which monarchs first had to respect the rights of the people and of parliament. Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution paved the way towards liberal parliamentary democracy. Britain was the birthplace of the Enlightenment, which was a prerequisite of scientific discovery in the age of invention, the industrial revolution and the development of economic thinking.

The Common Law, developed since the Norman invasion, had become an important tool in the promotion of a commercial society. The protection of property rights and freedom of contract were at the heart of this British version of law.

Taken together, the UK made the modern world, it dominated it until around the time of the Great War, and it still wields incredible soft power to the present day. Britain’s greatness is not just a historic feature. It still makes Britain a special country today, not least because of the spread of the English language.

For example, ask yourself where the world gets its news from, and a large part of the answer would be from the BBC, the Financial Times and The Economist.

Other countries may produce better cars, more efficient machinery and certainly more palatable wine than but few others would be better at selling their ideas, culture and beliefs to the world. 

The world would be a very different and far worse place today, if it were not for Britain. And there are not many other countries you can say that about.

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85 Responses to “What did the Brits ever do for us”

  1. Colville (2,268 comments) says:

    Well our parents would probably all have died in Japanese work camps if it wasnt for the good Ole USA so I rate those lads too.

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  2. Redbaiter (8,810 comments) says:

    “The world would be a very different and far worse place today, if it were not for Britain.”

    So let’s take their symbol off our flag as quick as we can right? Another great Progressive idea from JK.

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  3. duggie (28 comments) says:

    They gave us soccer, rugby and cricket, and graciously allow others to beat them regularly at all three.

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  4. Dead Earnest (160 comments) says:

    Just be thankful they beat the Frogs to it. Otherwise we’d be a Third World cross between New Caledonia and Quebec

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  5. Dead Earnest (160 comments) says:

    On a serious note, our British Heritage, gave us the Westminster System, Protestant Christianity, common law, and a huge financial Investment, that laid the ground work of a nation, that despite all it’s faults, is a great palce to live.
    And as Colville, points out, we would have lost the lot if Uncle Sam -who shared these values- hadn’t saved us when The Empire past its used by date.

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  6. nasska (11,491 comments) says:

    They can reflect on their glorious past….it’s about all they have left after the Muslim invasion by invitation.

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  7. Longknives (4,741 comments) says:

    Not to mention the Beatles, The Stones, Led Zep and Sabbath….

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  8. Peter (1,712 comments) says:

    And the WWW (the internet, in other words)

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  9. wreck1080 (3,906 comments) says:

    But now, for some reason britain are ashamed of their culture and are letting immigration destroy their identity.

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  10. SJM (77 comments) says:

    Such a shame that the UK is in the process of giving up its independence to become merely one province of the greater United States of Europe..and I am not even sure that they will even be able to keep their name.

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  11. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    The Common Law, developed since the Norman invasion…

    Yet another Nimrod trying to twist the common law into a variation of Roman law.

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  12. Ross Miller (1,704 comments) says:

    a rather inane comment from Red. As I understand it matter will be determined at the ballot box. What’s bad about that? Oh, I get it … John Key bad, end of story and no correspondence will be entered into … pissant.

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  13. greenjacket (465 comments) says:

    “Well our parents would probably all have died in Japanese work camps if it wasnt for the good Ole USA so I rate those lads too.”
    The American ideals of liberty are derived from essentially British ideals about personal freedom and that liberty is superior to despotism/absolutism. That Britain – and then the United States – became such influential countries is testament to the power of that very simple idea.

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  14. Redbaiter (8,810 comments) says:

    Well said Greenjacket.

    About the best comment I’ve read today.

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  15. Dom Knots (155 comments) says:

    Lets not fuck around. ‘Britain’ = england. How about some honesty and give back the Greek marbles for starters. Seriously, who are you trying to sell that horse shit to.

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  16. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    ‘The world would be a very different and far worse place today, if it were not for Britain. And there are not many other countries you can say that about.’
    Impossible to say. We can play counterfactuals if you like. How about a triumphant France under Napolean forging an earlier version of the European Union and ushering in two centures of peace in Europe?

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  17. MT_Tinman (3,186 comments) says:

    The world would be a very different and far worse place today, if it were not for Britain. And there are not many other countries you can say that about.

    I agree, particularly if you discount Gaul, Rome, Greece, India, the entities that made up the Germanic areas, Spain, Scandinavia, Egypt, Persia, Mongolia, China, Russia, Portugal and, of course, the Arab states.

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  18. stephieboy (3,034 comments) says:

    UT, the facts are the common law had many influences including Roman Law but more especially the customs and laws of the Angolo Saxons. Some Norse influences as well.
    But have to hand it to the Brits e.g in the colonial era .They were certainly a lot more humane and more civilized than the horrendous behaviour of say f King Leopold in the Belgium Congo and the Germans in East and South West Arica.

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  19. WineOh (630 comments) says:

    Nice Monty Python reference in the title DPF.

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  20. tas (625 comments) says:

    I agree. Britain invented modern democracy and spread it worldwide. There are few successful democracies that can’t be traced back to British influence.

    America of course saved it from all falling apart.

    In contrast, Russia has been a sinister force in geopolitics for centuries.

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  21. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    ‘Name a successful democracy that can’t be traced back to British influence.’
    France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark…

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  22. hmmokrightitis (1,590 comments) says:

    ‘Name a successful democracy that can’t be traced back to British influence.’

    “Italy”

    They are so successful at it they replace their government nearly every year…

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  23. spanish_tudor (80 comments) says:

    Errr… France, Germany, Italy. Spain, Norway, and Denmark all dabbled with Fascism to varying degrees in the last century, so can hardly be called successful – or enduring – democracies in the same way that the UK can be.

    Sweden is nominally a democracy, but the case can be made that the Swedish state is so centralised that it is little more than “benevolent totalitarianism”, given that feudalism never took hold in Sweden, which in turn never developed into the more individualistic democracies of Western Europe.

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  24. OneTrack (3,089 comments) says:

    mike – “an earlier version of the European Union and ushering in two centures of peace in Europe?”

    Uh, yeah, ok. The current EU doesn’t look like it is going to last anything like that.

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  25. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    ‘Britain invented modern democracy’

    When did Britain achieve universal suffrage, a pretty important measure of democracy, tas? Well into the 20th C all British women and a significant number of British males still couldn’t vote. Britain gave birth to some very important democratic ideas and movements, like the notion of universal suffrage and Chartism, but these phenomena emerged out of struggles against the venality and autocracy of the country’s ruling elite. It’s the British working class, not the Windsors or the City of London or the Imperial Army, that we should thank for advancing the cause of liberty in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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  26. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Hey, go easy Scott. It’s Oliver Hartwich writing, you know, not some historian.

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  27. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    I’d count Shakespeare, secularism, the empirical method of enquiry, and the notion of universal suffrage as Britain’s four greatest gifts to the world. And all four of them were furiously resisted by the British establishment and political right! I reckon, then, that proper British patriots have to be lefties ;)

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  28. Odakyu-sen (646 comments) says:

    ‘Name a successful democracy that can’t be traced back to British influence.’

    Postwar Japan, due to American influence.

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  29. tas (625 comments) says:

    milkenmild:
    France – from Waterloo to D-Day, the UK has had a huge influence on the development of French democracy (although the French don’t want to admit it).
    Germany – really?
    Italy – again, really?
    Spain – you know it was a dictatorship until the 70s, right?
    Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are arguable. However, these are ‘younger’ democracies than the UK and I would argue have been influenced by it.

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  30. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    I’ve noticed that some of the British right, including members of the UKIP, have taken to wrapping themselves in the rhetoric of Shakespeare lately. But has there ever been a greater exponent of the dreaded doctrine of multiculturalism than Shakespeare? His plays teem with foreign characters and influence, and he rejects notions of English exceptionalism by continually drawing parallels between the culture, structure and institutions of his own nation and those of continental Europe, Asia, and classical antiquity. He writes sympathetically of oppressed ethnic minorities and offers barely disguised condemnations of the brutality of the English state and Elizabeth’s proto-empire.

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  31. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    You would have to show the influences in each country tas, and I suspect that would require a more in-depth knowledge of history than possessed by you, I, or the simplistic Oliver Hartwich.
    BTW, I don’t know why DPF is so besotted with the jejeune claptrap from the New Zealand Initiative.

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  32. polemic (460 comments) says:

    Remember the Battle of Britain and the courage of Churchill to name a few great battles – let alone Lord Nelson and defeating the Spanish Armada.

    Britain truly has held the freedoms that so many countries owe their progress to (even though there was plenty of blemishes and imperfections along the way, i.e the awful capitalist greed in the sweatshops etc of the Industrial Revolution in earlier British Empire days)

    But show me a Communist/Socialist Country that has ever prospered.

    Name even one that has truly prospered and advanced and people are free…

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  33. tas (625 comments) says:

    Odakyu-sen: And where did America get its democracy from?

    Scott Hamilton: Don’t be silly. No one is claiming that the royal family invented democracy. Nor that it was without resistance. Democracy takes time to develop and universal suffrage took significant social change.

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  34. tas (625 comments) says:

    milkenmild: I’m not a historian, but it’s pretty clear that the UK (and the US) has had an exceptional rôle in the spread of democracy around the world. But I take your point that my statement should be appropriately qualified.

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  35. UrbanNeocolonialist (288 comments) says:

    Dom: It is bullshit to assert that historic ownership of anything should confer any rights beyond the lifespan of a person. My ancestors were pushed off their land in the highland clearances. Others by British rentiers during the potato famines, and no doubt many more of my ancestors were unjustly screwed over by various parties in the last 300 years.

    But no-one on this planet owes me anything based on what some small proportion of their ancestry did to a small portion of my ancestry. We are privileged to live in a fairly just and egalitarian society and those demanding birthrights – ownership or special rights due to ancestry or historic ownership should be told to fuck off (Maori, Jews, Palestinians, Chinese, Tibetans, Amerinds, Aborigines take note). Any possibility of redress is quickly swallowed by time as those directly wronged die, and attempts to do so in the present just creates new wrongs to people living now. That is not serving justice.

    The Greeks of today are not owed anything by the Brits of today (Ambassador Elgin actually had the permission of the Ottoman rulers of Athens to do what he did). So let it go, just like we shouldn’t be seeking to return all the New world gold to the mexicans, or the spoils of the crusades to the middle east.

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  36. kowtow (8,449 comments) says:

    Milo says “Name a successful democracy that can’t be traced back to British influence.’
    France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark…”

    None of them would be democracies today without the Brits,Yanks …..and Russians of course. (Sweden might still be neutral)

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  37. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Not actually the point kowtow. Did the roots of democracy in those countries owe anything to Britain. France is the obvious example. Her revolution was violently opposed by the British.

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  38. Harriet (4,969 comments) says:

    “…..What did the Brits ever do for us…”

    Spread Christianity around the world, along with civil duty, manners, deportment ect… the square meal…..all good solid stuff…..

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  39. Dom Knots (155 comments) says:

    urban says in short: there are no illegal immigrants only illegal governments. I agree.

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  40. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    ‘deprtoment’
    LOL. What language do you think that’s from.
    You really are a fuckwit, Harriet. Perhaps even more so than Reddy or igm.

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  41. kiwi in america (2,449 comments) says:

    On a trip to England last year I did a tour of Westminster Abby. At the end of the tour I stood in front of the throne on which kings and queens had been crowned since the Middle Ages and realised why a few thousand members of the British aristocracy ruled the world for almost 3 centuries. I managed a unique tour of both Houses of Parliament courtesy of UK citizenship and my diligent aunt at whose address I am registered to vote in the UK – the ticket came courtesy of her local MP. On the walls in the lobby between the House of Lords and the House of Commons are huge murals of famous English military victories: Agincourt, Cressy, Trafalgar, Waterloo and the Battle of Britain culminating in a bronze statue of Winston Churchill in the entrance to the House of Commons.

    As much as NZ is home and America my new home, I still hold a fondness for England and all it has achieved. Winston Churchill was a great student of English history. When he assumed the Prime Ministership from Chamberlain in May of 1940 he discovered that Lord Halifax and a few others in the War Cabinet had been conducting secret back channel negotiations with Hitler for a more amicable peace on the assumption that England’s prospects after the humiliation of Dunkirk were so bleak. Finally he brought the matter to a head in the first full Cabinet meeting on May 26. He said “I have thought carefully in these last days whether it was part of my duty to consider entering into negotiations with That Man. But it was idle to think that, if we tried to make peace now, we should get better terms than if we fought it out. The Germans would demand our naval bases, and much else. We should become a slave state, though a British Government which would be Hitler’s puppet would be set up”.

    Then staring directly at Halifax he paused and said “If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground! There will be no more talk of surrender” With that dramatic gesture of strength and defiance Churchill united his Cabinet around him and then went on to unite the country in his series of famous speeches – all of which in turn laid the foundation for his determination to win the Battle of Britain!

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  42. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Won by a New Zealander, Keith Park!

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  43. Dom Knots (155 comments) says:

    Yes, dear old Harriet would seem to have been struck on top of the head with a space toilet rather than a small stack of well balanced books.

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  44. stephieboy (3,034 comments) says:

    A key aspect in the development of Democratic freedoms including the upholding of the e.g Thw Rule of Law bequeathed to us and the world by the Brits was firstly the breaking the power and monopoly of the Church begun by Henry VIII and the waekening of the power of the Monarchy with the aftermath of the civil war in the 17th century.
    The allowed for the growth and nurturing of scientific enquiry and empiricism including secular thinking with the likes of Francis Bacon, Thomas Hoobes ,David Hume,John Locke etc Iwould add also the growth of constitutionalism and the separation of church state and religious toleration.To be fair the French also made important contributions during the enightement includiing the checks on executive authority through ideas about. seleration of powers.
    Yet we owe owe a great deal to both the English and the Scots for what we have today in terms of democratic freedoms,constitutionalism etc,etc.

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  45. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    ‘Democracy takes time to develop and universal suffrage took significant social change.’

    What I don’t quite understand is how the battle of Waterloo in 1814 had anything to do with Britain’s belated, by European standards, achievement of universal suffrage in 1918. Perhaps you can explain?

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  46. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    I suspect that when many people in this thread talk about Britain spreading democracy around the world, they are referring, in a conveniently opaque way, to the empire on which the sun never set. Would that be right?

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  47. gump (1,647 comments) says:

    @spanish_tudor

    “Errr… France, Germany, Italy. Spain, Norway, and Denmark all dabbled with Fascism to varying degrees in the last century, so can hardly be called successful – or enduring – democracies in the same way that the UK can be.”

    ———————-

    Britain dabbled with fascism as well. Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists were considered dangerous enough that Mosley was imprisoned under British wartime regulations for the duration of the Second World War.

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  48. nasska (11,491 comments) says:

    Scott Hamilton

    ….”, they are referring, in a conveniently opaque way, to the empire on which the sun never set. “….

    Britain was unashamedly a colonial power & their motives were not necessarily altruistic. Fact remains….when they pulled out of their former possessions they left behind legacies of democracy which often succeeded.

    The largest democratic nation on earth would be India.

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  49. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    It’s pretty rough on Norway to say the place ‘dabbled with fascism’, when the reality was the Nazis invaded and imposed fascism. Quisling’s government had paltry support and only survived because of the Nazi presence.

    And for all the talk of Churchill fighting for democracy during World War Two, the fact is that the vast majority of the subjects of the British empire didn’t have basic democratic rights in the 1940s. It is significant that India’s pro-democracy and pro-independence movement opposed the war effort. They’d initially promised Churchill the support of India, if only he would extend democratic rights to the colony’s population.

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  50. ROJ (121 comments) says:

    Agree nasska

    A visit there is amazing – its chaotic but the people believe in themselves.

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  51. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    Nasska, you seem to be suggesting that Britain attempted to modernise and democratise its colonies, when doing so wasn’t injurious to its commercial interests. But Britain’s preferred method of administration for most of its colonies – a method that was debated and honed over more than a century – was ‘indirect rule’, which involved the careful preservation of traditional social hierarchies, and the channelling of power through traditional authority figures – chiefs, mullahs, petty kings. This mode of colonial administration was justified with the sort of culturally relativist language about subject peoples – that they had their own ways of life which couldn’t be reconciled with those of the West, that they weren’t suited to democracy, and so on – which are nowadays, ironically, often criticised by the right. (The French, by contrast, did talk about bringing the light of progress to their colonies, and making the benighted Africans and Asians into equal citizens in a great Francophone commonwealth, and did govern much less indirectly.)

    Do you really that the British model of indirect rule had anything to do with a desire to democratise the world? I’d say it was based on a radically anti-democratic view of the world.

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  52. nasska (11,491 comments) says:

    ….”Do you really that the British model of indirect rule had anything to do with a desire to democratise the world? I’d say it was based on a radically anti-democratic view of the world.”…..

    The Brits did what was the best for Britain at the time. In many cases they left the tradition authorities in charge but it was always in a subservient or titular roll. eg they had little or no say in their foreign affairs.

    For whatever reason Britain established a basis for democracy along with infrastructure, educational facilities & a justice system. It was a start & the fact that half a century or more later many of these democratic states survive in one form or another is proof that the foundations were laid well.

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  53. gump (1,647 comments) says:

    @nasska

    India is many things, but it isn’t a democracy.

    Not by any sensible definition.

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  54. nasska (11,491 comments) says:

    How then would you describe it gump?

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  55. ROJ (121 comments) says:

    I repeat for the benefit of gump – “the people believe in themselves”

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  56. gump (1,647 comments) says:

    @nasska

    There’s nothing else that really compares to it. The Indian political system is uniquely terrible and breathtakingly corrupt.

    I like Indians – I’ve done business with them and they’re good people. But their political system is diabolical.

    The only charitable thing I can say about India is that at least it isn’t as bad as Pakistan (which is terrible in other ways).

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  57. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    Nasska, Indians created their own national representative body, the Indian National Council, in 1885. A mere thirty-four years later, in 1919, the British allowed the creation of a national parliament for India, with the proviso that this body would have no role in the running of either central or local government. A mere sixteen years later, in 1935, parliament was given limited powers over local government. This great leap democratic leap forward occurred only because Churchill, who was angrily opposed to any Indian parliament, was outmanoeuvred by others in the Conservative Party and by the Tories’ coalition partners. Independence followed a mere twelve years later, after massive protests, a strike wave, and guerilla war.

    Britain was in the rearguard, rather than the vanguard, of building democratic institutions in India.

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  58. noskire (842 comments) says:

    I’d like Britain alot more if it weren’t for Phil Collins. Totally ruined Genesis.

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  59. greenjacket (465 comments) says:

    Milkenmild: “We can play counterfactuals if you like. How about a triumphant France under Napolean forging an earlier version of the European Union and ushering in two centures of peace in Europe?”

    Two centuries of peace? Napoleon established a military dictatorship backed up with Europe’s first modern secret police. He conquered continental Europe, and those peoples repeatedly rose against the French. If Napoleon had somehow lasted against all the popular revolts against his rule, all that would have been created would have been militaristic tyranny.

    “Did the roots of democracy in those countries owe anything to Britain. France is the obvious example. Her revolution was violently opposed by the British.”

    To your first point, yes – the roots of those democracies owed everything to British ideals of liberalism and parliamentary rule. The 1789 Estates were obviously influenced by English enlightenment ideals and used the ideas of English political philosophers such as Locke. The later revolutions of 1830 and 1848 copied British liberal ideals.
    The revolution was NOT violently opposed by the British – in fact the contrary – the British were strong supporters of the revolution because in its initial phase it promised British style parliamentarianism. However, by 1792 the revolution had become radicalised and violent – with the Terror British opinion changed. But even then, the British kept out – it was only the aggression of the revolutionary regime to attack the low countries that brought in the British, and it was France that declared war on Britain.

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  60. spanish_tudor (80 comments) says:

    gump, yes you are right about Mosley, and I agree his version of Fascism was a very real threat, however the UK never had a Fascist interruption to democratic rule – whether directly, or as a client-state – as all the other nations mentioned did.

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  61. Dead Earnest (160 comments) says:

    And History probably justifies Churchill, virtually every former British colony in Africa and Asia were left with a Westminster type of government and to all to greater or lesser degree have drifted back to tribal totaltalitarianism.

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  62. Odakyu-sen (646 comments) says:

    “Odakyu-sen: And where did America get its democracy from?”

    Britain, if you really want to trace it all the way back, but for all intents and purposes, it was the US that rewrote Japan’s operating system after WWII, stripped the aristocrats of their land holdings to enable the emergence of a land-owning middle class, and broke up the zaibatsu.

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  63. rangitoto (247 comments) says:

    “It was Britain in which monarchs first had to respect the rights of the people”

    Athens surely.

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  64. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    Contemporary British Tories often complain about the way that unelected ‘representatives’ of various minority ethnic and religious communities are consulted by central and local governments, and placed on various boards and quangos. These ‘community leaders’ are often perceived as representing only one sector of their community – ‘Muslim leaders’, for example, are accused of belonging to the ‘extreme’ end of the Muslim community. The government policy of dealing with communities through certain selected local leaders is criticised as undemocratic.

    What Tories don’t seem to see is that this distinctly British response to minority communities is a direct descendant of the old colonial policy of indirect rule. There’s a certain irony in the way that the anti-democratic and divisive practices of the now-defunct empire have been brought home.

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  65. Fentex (973 comments) says:

    It was Britain in which monarchs first had to respect the rights of the people and of parliament.

    Not in the slightest bit true. I think it’s silly to talk up things one admires because in the end the hyperbole is diminishing the truth – what is good about the Magna Carta and gradual dispossession of authority form monarchs and it’s transfer to citizenry does not need a pretence that it was more than it was to be respected and admired.

    Anarchies, democracies in practice, governance without monarchy, rule by acclamation and other abound beside and before Britains particular path to representative governance that birthed modern, but not the first, republics (San Marino has been a constitutional republic since 301 A.D).

    It’s post hoc logic to notice that Britain became dominant in world affairs in the trail of the Seven Years War (really ought be called the First World War) and then exploited it’s position to seize on industrialism and be first to steam ahead into modern wealth and think it must have been how things had to occur, and it was somehow inevitable it’s extensive influence persists.

    It’s just how things did occur, it could have been different, better or worse in many ways. History is not teleological.

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  66. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    ‘tribal totaltalitarianism’ sounds like quite a good term for the form of government Britain practiced for close to a century in many of its colonies. Carefully selected leaders of tribal, ethnic, and religious groups were given dictatorial powers over their local areas in return for implementing British strategic policies. The result was the deepening of divisions within colonies.

    Anti-colonial movements, by contrast, tended to be based on alliances across different ethnicities, tribes, and religions. India’s anti-colonial movement eventually splintered along religious lines, but for decades it was a unifying force in the country, bringing together the Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Parsees that the British had tried to play off against one another.

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  67. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    ‘History is not teleological.’

    Amen! There’s a weird similarity between the ‘manifest destiny’ interpretation of UK/US history and a certain crude strain of Marxism http://readingthemaps.blogspot.co.nz/2006/09/karl-kautsky-vs-neanderthal-man-or.html

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  68. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    Odakyu-sen in the post at 9.45 says America (that is General Macarthur) “broke up the zaibatsu”.

    Really? Macarthur did a great job, but your statement goes too far, Odakyu-sen. Of the original big four zaibatsu, Sumitomo will be known to NZ’ers as one of the original partners in the Bluff aluminium smelter after World War 2. Mitsui, and Mitsubishi are going strong as is Yasuda (Fuji Bank and Yasuda insurance). As an aside, I see Yoko Ono is a member of the Yasuda clan.

    Also Scott Hamilton posted at 6.32:

    But has there ever been a greater exponent of the dreaded doctrine of multiculturalism than Shakespeare?

    For fuck’s sake Scott!

    Shakespeare celebrates English wars against the French and often jokes about the Welsh and Scots. If building brilliant plays on tales from Europe makes him a multiculturalist, then being an astronomer can make you a Martian.

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  69. Dave Mann (1,218 comments) says:

    Hey DPF… I am aware that your headline is a rhetorical question…. but it still needs a ‘?’ mark, mate… :-)

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  70. rangitoto (247 comments) says:

    “It’s just how things did occur, it could have been different, better or worse in many ways. History is not teleological.”

    Suppose Themistocles had failed to convince the Athenians to spend their cash on building a powerful navy. The Persians would certianly have conquered all the Greek states. The course of Western civilisation would no doubt have been a lot different. It’s fun to speculate on these things anyway.

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  71. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    Rangitoto (11.02): if my memory isn’t totally stuffed, the cash that Themistocles persuaded the Athenians to spend on building their powerful triremes came from a lucky strike in mining silver.

    Can you imagine NZ or Australia or any other Western state using the bounty from an oil strike to build a powerful fleet to maintain democracy – and that state’s own independence?

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  72. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    It is the sense of the commensurability of experience across cultures that I think comes through in Shakespeare, Jack, and which makes him the most universal of all writers – everyone and no one, as Borges said. The sense that an African and a Welshman and an Italian might have commensurate experiences was radical in Shakespeare’s time – indeed, Harold Bloom goes so far as to argue that Shakespeare created the modern idea of the human in his famous book on the bard. There’s an irony, then, in little Englanders nailing themselves to the mast of Shakespeare…

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  73. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    Scott, re your 11.20 post.

    Yep, Shakespeare’s appeal is universal, but I’m not sure that, given those great history plays, Shakespeare wasn’t also a little Englander.

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  74. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    What about Cymbeline, where the Celts are honoured?

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  75. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    On a lighter side, Poms brought us unions, gorse, rats, weasels, ferrets, stoats, possums, and stinking 1100s.

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  76. tvb (4,418 comments) says:

    Britain is trying to retain its role by cozying up to the US and getting them to fight its wars. They seemed to have dropped Imperialism and they have been forced away from the Commonwealth by the EU. They are a middle power with great power pretensions. The US finds them more useful than not. Blair’s shameless support of the war in Iraq was a vain attempt to get alongside the US and be part of History. I do not think Britain got much out of that. Now they are looking to get out of Europe. I just hope they do not think they can revive the old Commonwealth when they do.

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  77. Fentex (973 comments) says:

    Suppose Themistocles had failed to convince the Athenians to spend their cash on building a powerful navy. The Persians would certianly have conquered all the Greek states.

    I was thinking about this recently when mulling over watching the sequel/pre-quel to ‘300’ after reading someone contradicting the heroic story that holding the Persians at Thermopyolae allowed Themistocles time to organise the Greeks ships to repel the Persians.

    It doesn’t actually work – the story that Leonidas’ heroics saved Greece – the timing wasn’t so close that those days at Thermopylae made a difference. Having had built the ships was necessary so the story displays the worth of strategic planning and preparation, the importance of logistics and alliance but not the value of heroics so much in deciding victory.

    Though you’ve got to wonder – faced with defeat at Salamis but the satisfaction of having razed Athens such conflicts as Thermopylae have to have shaped the calculations of generals considering staying to consolidate control or not bothering for the trouble.

    We see such things nowadays after all – powerful armies retreating from occupying countries because determined and ongoing resistance that cannot hope to win any battle makes control illusory and exhausting.

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  78. Paulus (2,626 comments) says:

    Dom Knots – giving the Elgin Marbles back to Greece – they would only flog them off to a corrupt Russian Oligarch and hide the money for them selves (not Greece).

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  79. ShawnLH (5,017 comments) says:

    “I’d count Shakespeare, secularism, the empirical method of enquiry, and the notion of universal suffrage as Britain’s four greatest gifts to the world. And all four of them were furiously resisted by the British establishment and political right!”

    Uhuh.

    No. Not a lot of actual history in that statement.

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  80. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    ‘I’d count Shakespeare, secularism, the empirical method of enquiry, and the notion of universal suffrage as Britain’s four greatest gifts to the world.’
    What about Devonshire teas and fish & chips? We shouldn’t forget the British culinary contributions.

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  81. Northland Wahine (667 comments) says:

    Thank god mushy peas, chips and gravy didn’t catch on here.

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  82. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    Milkenmild (10.30) and Northland Wahine (10.35).

    British culinary traditions have improved from about the same time and at about the same rate as NZ culinary skills, but I’m not sure they skite about them as much as we do (about how great our coffee is etc).

    Before colonisation and the British brought pigs, we didn’t have a lot of culinary tradition either. Human flesh and rats, puha and wood pigeon. The sea food was always good (as Britain’s was), and I wonder how Maori prepared fish? Did they eat it raw or cook it over flame, or both?

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  83. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    In the hangi, or smoked, I presume. Beautiful.

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  84. Northland Wahine (667 comments) says:

    Hangi I presume Jack… Or raw, as still eaten by many today…

    Just mushy peas, chips and gravy are enjoyed by many Brits today, she says with tongue firmly in cheek.

    Personally I prefer my shellfish cooked and raw fish with lemon. Or sushi! :)

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  85. Dom Knots (155 comments) says:

    Paulus – and that would be their right to do so. However, they are more likely to take a sensible approach and restore them to where they were hacked away by ‘ambassador Elgin’ (a drunken, self involved, broke fuckwit)’

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