Britain’s Misguided Shame Over Its History
For almost 100 years, Britain has awarded medals and bestowed honors on people who have upheld the ideals of the empire.
One such honor is the “Order of the British Empire.” It was first awarded in 1906. It is the British award for chivalry. It is given to individuals who exemplify distinguished service pertaining to the arts and sciences, valuable public service and work with charities.
There are more than 100,000 living members of the order throughout the world and British Commonwealth.
Yet now, the Queen’s advisers are pushing her to ditch the word “empire” from all official awards.
According to the Daily Mail, the lord lieutenants, the Queen’s most trusted advisers, believe Britain’s history is something to be ashamed of. George Reid, the lord lieutenant of Clackmannanshire, for example, says there is “unease about the use of the world empire on honors awards.” David Briggs, lord lieutenant of Cheshire, adds that in 2012 it is “inappropriate” to have “an award containing empire.”
The only thing “inappropriate” about using the word empire is that Britain no longer has one. But that is not what they mean.
James Cropper, lord lieutenant of Cumbria, says the award should instead be called something along the lines of “the Queen’s Commonwealth Medal”—which is almost equally absurd since Britain virtually abandoned its vast and loyal Commonwealth when it threw it aside for the European Common Market. Today the Commonwealth is little more than a gathering of various nations that for a moment in time shared an awesome past—a past that Britain is now evidently trying to forget.
There is a horrifying lack of understanding about Britain’s important history, the history of its empire. The whole world, it seems, has been brainwashed into believing some alternative reality about the benefits and harms of that empire.
Today, much of the world equates the British Empire and colonialism with evil and slavery.
The truth is that this upside-down world should be thanking the British Empire for ridding the world of slavery.
In 1806, slavery was universal. It was the way the world worked. In Africa especially, slavery was common. If you were a European sailor and you were shipwrecked in North Africa, good luck to you. Similarly, if you were a Scottish coal miner of Caucasian ethnicity, working in Scotland prior to 1799, there was a good chance you were a slave too.
But in 1807, one nation—and one nation alone—put an end to global slavery. That would be Britain, and its empire.
“From now on, convicted slavers faced, by a nice irony, transportation to Britain’s penal colony in Australia,” says historian Niall Ferguson.
But remember, the world economy—not just the European economy—still ran on slave power. It took years for Britain to bully Portugal and Spain into ending slavery. It wasn’t until 1811 that the Dutch first outlawed slave trading. The United States never abolished slavery until the end of the Civil War in 1865—a full 58 years later.
Brazil was able to import 1.9 million more slaves following Britain’s ban, until it was finally forced to stop. Chile, Argentina and Mexico imported many more too. As did the Chinese, Indians, Turks, Persians and Japanese throughout their histories.
But the point is, it was British effort—backed by Royal Navy cannons and blood—that largely stopped slavery.
As Ferguson notes, “With the true zeal of the convert, the British were now determined ‘to sweep the African and American seas of the atrocious commerce with which they are now infested.’”
And not only that, the Royal Navy was then converted into an emancipating machine, transferring thousands of slaves freed from Portuguese, French and American slavers to Freetown on the west coast of Africa. The freed slaves walked through a Freedom Arch bearing the inscription, “Freed from slavery by British valor and philanthropy.” Each slave was given a quarter acre of land, a cooking pot, a spade—and his freedom.
Britain became “the world’s leading emancipator.”
Not to say that stamping out global slavery was easy. Korea didn’t abolish slavery until 1894, and Morocco didn’t until 1922. It was only in 1962 that slavery was finally outlawed in Saudi Arabia.
But how is it that Britain has forgotten the fact that it was the force behind freedom? And that it was at a time when economically it seemed suicidal?
And just as the British have forgotten how they almost single-handedly stopped global slavery, they have forgotten the force of good their empire was.
Yes, governments run by people make many mistakes. Yes, bad things happened under British rule in its colonies. People did not obey God’s laws. But don’t forget all the good. And don’t discount the fact that compared to other empires, such as the Belgian, Japanese or Ottoman, Britain’s empire was largely a benevolent one.
Most people who associate the British Empire solely with evil haven’t done much studying beyond their politically correct, revisionist high school textbooks. (If you want to read a book that offers a history of the British Empire that is based on realism and fact, read Empire by Niall Ferguson.)
A lot has happened to Britain since it began awarding the Order of the British Empire honor.
In some ways, one hundred years isn’t that long. For some people, it is one lifetime. But look how much Britain has changed since 1906. One hundred years ago, the British Empire was the greatest in the history of the world. Mongols, Romans, Persians, Greeks, Hindus, Mayans, the various Muslim caliphates, never came close to the empire that the sun never set on.
One hundred years ago, the British took pride in their heritage. One hundred years ago, the sun never set on the greatest empire the world had ever seen.
Today, it is as if there is a concerted effort to erase “empire” from their collective history.
But Britain should remember its history. In fact, perhaps the most important part of its history is empire. Empire is the key to the history and future of the British people.
Have you ever wondered how a small island nation of just a few million people ruled over roughly one quarter of the world’s population? Think about that. How is it that the British once controlled Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States colonies, India, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and a whole host of other smaller nations and islands? How is it that one small archipelago of cool, misty islands came to control almost every strategic sea gate in the world—dominating its oceans. And how did it do it with an army that rarely exceeded the tens of thousands?
There is a reason for the fantastic success of the British Empire. Likewise, there is a vital reason why it has fallen from that past greatness—and why it is destined to fall even further—and spectacularly so—before it will ever rise again.
If you haven’t read The United States and Britain in Prophecy, you need to. It explains the most important reason Britain became great and why Britain must open its eyes to its true history before it will ever have a future of freedom.