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Colonialism and some foreign truths

Read time: 4 minutes.
Digging deeper

Progressives want to 'decolonise' from the school to the museum, and encourage us to be ashamed of our past.

We obviously should be ready to admit to bad things done or good not-done but we should also understand what actually happened and why.  Progressives do not want us to examine this too closely, but to just take their word for it (although they actually know very little) as it paints a different picture.

Matthew Parris writes “I am proud of Empire.... it was good for mankind that Britain spread its power, influence & standards in the way we did.....the World would be a poorer place today without the part we played”.

Hear hear!! He could have added our brilliant work in enforcing the abolition of slavery or standing all alone in Europe against fascism. Wokery's lopsided view of history ignores these inconvenient truths. The fact is, colonialism was never unique to Europeans. Indeed, Africans also subjugated each other, the empires of Asante and Benin being classic examples of African imperialism. Furthermore, the British colonies are generally better off today, at least financially, for their lingering attachment to Europe. Lord Digby Jones (past Chairman of the CBI)

A brief history

Humans have been migrating and travelling to other lands since the beginning. The Bible contains one of the more detailed records of this in the Middle East. Their motives could be peaceful trade, economic migration or military domination.

The Bible shows with King Solomon that a nation's influence could be good and trade mutually beneficial. Where a nation flouts God's way however, judgement comes.

While colonialism was often advanced by land, to reach far territories required ships capable of long journies. Chinese ships travelled westward to the Indian Ocean but did not settle. Arabs ships were well advanced in their trade of slaves from East Africa, and of valuable Indian spices to Christian Europe via Alexandria. Portugal, rival to Venice, was determined to cut-out-the-middlemen and find a different route to 'the Indies' with new ship designs. They eventually rounded the Cape of Good Hope, discovering South America in the process, and set up a weather-constrained 2-year trade cycle.  As small ships, they depended on the goodwill of those they traded with.

Spain accidentally discovered the 'West' Indies by mistaking the real diameter of the earth. Britain also started exploring, settling in the New World. The French and Dutch followed.  The nature of transport meant fragile communities to start with, requiring cooperation with native people. This led to taking sides in tribal wars. The use of firearms provided local security.  Ottoman Barbary raiders took thousands of slaves from West Europe's coastal communities and shipping (including the fictional Robinson Crusoe).   Eventually, sub-Saharan Africa, avoided before, was explored and colonised in a similar process.

Would these places have been better off without outside influence? They had never been without some sort of outside benevolent or malevolent influence from rival tribes and empires. There was also internal dissent - just like all human communities. So they viewed these pale-skinned travellers from the sea, with their technology, as both threats and opportunities. In the end disease, technology, trade for resources, geopolitics and organisation lead to the establishment of different forms of cooperation and control by the Western nations.

British citizens have been aware of activities abroad, and vocal in the Press and Parliament about the Government's policies and actions, frequently reflecting Christian priorities, as was seen finally in the abolition of slavery. Others were critical of measures that required more tax or Government control. The worse overseas disasters were often the result of insufficient troops and resources, rather than too many. There was a strong motivation from missionaries and administrators to help and improve the places they had been sent, with large infrastructure projects for their own and local benefit. Traders, suppliers and local leaders would all have their own motives, benefitting from exports, civic order and military protection.  Robert Louis Stevenson travelled in the Pacific and recounts the atmosphere in books like The Beach of Falesá.

In Europe armed struggles were also being played out, culminating in a near invasion of Britain by France. Surviving this via Trafalgar, Britain became predominant at sea and suppressed trade in slaves around the world.

As communities stabilised they sought independence initially as European settlers (as in North and South America), then as native leaders but with (in theory) more Western representative forms of civil life and government, and different borders, than their ancestors.


Some nations have made a success of independence: Singapore, Botswana. Others blame their present troubles on their colonial past although they have been independent for many years. Such things are easy to say for there seems to be a ready audience among uncritical Progressives. Some things have been problematic - where borders have been drawn - but many problems are the result of human error and fault, with opportunities missed and resources not utilised.

A large amount of immigration into the UK from former colonies demonstrates an attraction to the overall quality of life and opportunity compared to their native country. Often these are people who are really needed where they were born but have met corruption, discrimination and lack of enterprise there. Lipton Matthews describes this about Jamaica.

Britain has an active programme of support for Commonwealth countries but as equal members of the world community, there has to be mutual respect and cooperation.

As 'colonialism' in its wider sense has always been with us, the question is how is it being played out today. We've had Soviet colonization after WW2 and American - mostly of a softer kind. China influenced outcomes in Vietnam and now has effectively colonised most of Africa and many island nations in the Caribbean and Pacific - putting money into key infrastructure like power plants that also allows them some political control. Sadly autocratic leaders prefer the CCP as they are less particular about ethics and human rights. But will the CCP be a benevolent influence or demand its pound of flesh?  In a UN vote the CCP failed to condemn Russian aggression in Ukraine - so did 40 others of 193.

While it's good to briefly review colonialization, in many ways all this has nothing to do with 'decolonising' which is not really attempting to do any good, but is just another weapon used to destroy the existing norms in Western society and replace them with - well - nothing better! It's also part of the usual tactic of accusing others of what you are doing yourself - in this case the desire for supra-national organisations to take control.  

But it's good to at least start to think historically to 'Get wisdom, get understanding' Prov 4:5 as this can lead to more hopeful outcomes.

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