You can’t have it back


I think I’ve made it quite clear that I’m unimpressed with dead queens or live kings around here. I may have to rethink my opinion of British royals, though, thanks to this commentary.

If these wankers were to represent the majority opinion of their kind, I’d say we need to drag the corpse of the dead queen out of her vault and throw it in the Thames, and then lop off a few more royal heads. Great engine of civilization my ass. It was a system that benefited a minority population at the expense of all the people in the red part of this map. It was a great engine of exploitation that wrecked innumerable cultures.

Also, isn’t the USA a pretty good counter-example, showing that decolonization wasn’t a disaster? Counterpoint: the USA then went on to carry out its own exploitive conquests sans any royal family, so maybe we shouldn’t blame kings and queens so much as the whole ugly system.

The real question here, though, is how these guys plan to bring back the empire. I don’t think they have the military muscle for reconquest, and they got rid of the East India Company 150 years ago, and threw away their economic clout with Brexit. A couple of feeble old Tories shaking their fists at the sky and demanding their treasure back isn’t going to cut it.

Comments

  1. Louis says

    Whoa whoa whoa WHOA.

    Bring back the British Empire? Do I get a better degree of freedom of travel, discounted plane flights, the permission to wear a silly hat, and the right to hunt tigers in Africa?^

    If so, your oppression, peoples of the globe, is entirely worth it.

    Louis

    ^Go on. You know you want to.

  2. says

    The 10-day blubberthon, followed by a funeral we’ve quite seriously been told was watched by almost half the world’s population*, is having a weird effect on England. Last night I dreamed that Charlie Windsor dropped dead of a heart attack on Christmas Eve and we had to go through the whole farce all over again.

    *The actual figure has been estimated at approximately 29 million, less than the Euro 2020 football final. And it’s worth remembering that the football wasn’t broadcast live on every major channel, and that many – if not most – people are not interested in football…

  3. hemidactylus says

    The British Invasion under the Boomers (which was a farcical retooling of Mississippi blues) got thrown back and repelled by hiphop under late Boomers and X’ers (double entendre) with a little help from purloined samples of James Brown and German Krautrock. Hiphop then conquered the world. The Brits tried another go at it, but the animosity between the faux Mod Gallagher brothers was too much to bear. The tiny island nation was reduced to raving (modified Chicago House). Even the much touted Dubstep is but a footnote to the US hiphop scene.

  4. hemidactylus says

    I take that back. Xer is a triple entendre. Generation X, street drug X, and street fashion statement based on Malcolm X (iconography of the letter itself). The revolution was actually televised (MTV imperialism). US hiphop culture is pervasive.

  5. Louis says

    @PZ #8,

    SOLD!

    Eddie Izzard proposed the Flag Hypothesis for empire, I propose the Silly Hat Hypothesis for authority. Bishops? Authority of God and the like, silly hat. More senior the bishop, sillier the hat (See also: beards in some religions. The silly hat/massive beard combo is the sine qua non of religious/communist authoritarian regimes).

    Monarchs? Silly, expensive hats.

    CEOs, famous authors, artists etc all possess various types of capitalist and cultural authority, distinct fondness for the silly hat.

    Now, some might say the hat signifies the authority, I say different, authority is an entirely hat derived thing. No hat, no authority. Empire will run along the same lines. Pith helmet minimum. If your hat doesn’t resemble a deformed glans, can you even be said to be oppressing nations and stealing their resources?

    Louis

  6. quotetheunquote says

    @moarscienceplz #9: Yes, that struck me too – Iceland was occupied pre-emptively by the allies during WW II (although I think the U.S. did most of the heavy lifting there) but I was not aware of any time it was actually incorporated as a Crown colony or overseas territory.
    The inclusion of Madagascar seems odd to me as well.

  7. Dunc says

    Yeah, that’s really not a map of the British Empire. For example, that bit of western France is the continental part of the Angevin Empire during the 12th and 13th centuries. Calling that part of the British Empire is ludicrous.

  8. mordred says

    @moarscienceplz #9 and @quotetheunquote #11: Did you notice that western France and northern Germany seem also included? Does this map show every area England/UK and it’s monarchs ever controlled?

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    lop off a few more royal heads

    The Murdochs of the world would love that. Rake in billions more by televizing it! Royal figureheads are easy to come by. The bigger problem is getting rid of the Murdochs, Goldman Sachs, etc.

    You need new glasses mate. The trees are obscuring your view of the forest.

  10. says

    I suspect that what’s happening here is that a lot of right-wing loonies are hearing their Russian chums talking about bringing back THEIR empire, and are starting to emulate their unhinged nostalgia.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    The tory party- like the Reoublicans- have been hijacked by predatory grifters.
    They have been enabled by media barons of which Murdoch is the worst. Together they control something like 80% of the press, while the BBC has proven itself an enthusiastic collaborator run by opportunists.
    There is no long-term goal beyond grabbing power and wealth. Unlike Thatcher they do not believe in anything. They are as empty as Trump, and only slightly less incompetent.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    Rob Grigjanis @ 14
    I suggest you lock the T-800s on the media barons.
    And the billionaries that keep donating money to the tories knowing it will be repaid a hundredfold in public money for work that often is a complete scam (see the many scandals with useless PPE delivered at premium cost during the pandemic).
    A few dozen units should suffice.

  13. says

    Also, isn’t the USA a pretty good counter-example, showing that decolonization wasn’t a disaster?

    It wasn’t a “disaster,” but it was, at least initially, a significant step backward for Americans, both politically and culturally, as large numbers of intolerant religious Americans rejected the heterodoxy, cosmopolitanism and relative multiculturalism of both the British Empire and the rest of Enlightenment Europe. That contempt for all things European remains in our political culture to this day, and has driven (among other things) both our reluctance to intervene in WW-II and the Retrumplitarians’ recent contempt for NATO and the EU.

  14. says

    Also, did the British Empire really control the southern half of Iran? IIRC, Iran/Persia was kind of sandwiched between British and Russian imperial spheres of influence, but I thought they’d managed to stay independent while diplomatically playing both empires against each other.

  15. Artor says

    I’m wondering why the American Northwest is shaded pink in that map. What is it supposed to be representing anyway?

  16. says

    An empire ruled by Mad King Charles and aided by Boris the Buffoon or the latest incarnation of Maggie Thatcher with the stake removed from her miserable heart? Bring on the Republic!!!

  17. Becca Stareyes says

    @Artor
    My guess is that the pink regions of the US were regions at least claimed by the British directly, rather than non-British-colonized regions added to the United States.

    The American Northwest was based on the fact both the United States and the British Empire had made claims in the area, with the largest British claim being all the way down to 42° N latitude. The main fight was over who got the Columbia River (the darker region) in the pink.

    That does suggest the shades of pink mark some statement about ‘this was claimed or occupied, but how much was it actually controlled/governed by Britain’.

  18. says

    Native of Washington state here — Britain claimed that area, and it was disputed from the time of the American revolution. It was resolved somewhat peaceably in the mid-1800s with the Oregon treaty that established the 49th parallel as the border between Canada and the US, somewhat less peaceably with the Pig War (it wasn’t much of a war) to clear up disputes about the San Juan Islands.
    So yeah, the early colonizer history of the area was all British, James Cook, George Vancouver, Robert Gray, etc., and it was nominally a British territory and part of their Canadian claim, but it was swallowed up by the US colonizers before they could do anything with it.

  19. jenorafeuer says

    Native of British Columbia here… yes, the British had claims that far south on the West Coast; the Americans tried to claim a lot further north a well (as PZ says, that was settled by the Oregon treaty; the original U.S. slogan was ‘54°40′ or fight!, rather north of the 49th parallel that was eventually settled on).

    A lot of the coast there was a years-long four-way tussle between the British, the Americans, the Spanish, and the Russians. There are still a lot of Spanish names in the area (though the Juan de Fuca Strait was actually named after the Greek pilot on a Spanish ship).

  20. robro says

    I suspect the map relates to any territory ever claimed by or associated with British monarchs.

    The Netherlands were the homeland of William of Orange, Prince of Orange, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel in the Dutch Republic. As a relative to the Stewarts, he invited by the “Glorious Revolution” of the English Parliament to take the throne of England, Scotland, and Ireland from James II as William III. His wife Mary were also related to the Stewarts.

    The parts of Germany are the homelands of the Hanoverian kings who were also related to the Stewarts. They ruled Great Britain and Hanover as a personal union. The union did not end until the death of William IV in 1837 because Hanover could not have a queen, which would be Victoria. The “Windsors” didn’t change the family name until WWI when it was very unpopular to be German in England.

    Not 100% sure about Iceland, but it may be included because in 1941 UK troops invaded Iceland to keep the Germans out. Iceland was part of Denmark, so when Germany invaded Denmark the Brits took steps to protect their supply lines with the US and Canada.

    Something like that may explain the inclusion of Libya, Ethiopia, Iran, and Syria. In Iran, the Brits conspired with Stalin to prevent the old shah, who was a raving fascist, from joining the Axis. The Brits invaded the south, the Russians invaded the north. They deposed the old shah, and put the young one on the Peacock Thrown. That’s the shah thrown out by the revolution in our life time.

  21. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    /looks at map, raises hand
    Does that mean we’d get Aero bars? Cause I could be persuaded by Aero bars.

  22. says

    I suspect the map relates to any territory ever claimed by or associated with British monarchs.

    In that case, at least half of the present-day continental US should be in pink. Several of the Crown’s original land-grants to various colonists or colonial ventures were “sea to sea” in nature — albeit when no one in Britain really knew how much land was between the seas.

    Not that it matters, since it’s only the dumbest racists in the most irresponsible sector of tabloid media who think it’s even plausible for the UK to re-assimilate even the red areas of that fantasy-map.

  23. petesh says

    The first of these two pieces of trivia was new to me recently, the second I’ve known for years; as a formerly British anti-monarchist, I enjoy them both very much:

    QEII (not the boat, the woman) had a mutually antagonistic non-relationship with Maggie Thatcher and flatly refused to visit South Africa (which Maggie wanted) while Mandela was in jail.

    Alex Cockburn regularly boasted about the fact that his “distinguished relative Admiral Sir George Cockburn of the Royal Navy” torched the White House, the Capitol and much of the city.

  24. Rob Grigjanis says

    petesh @31: Apparently Mandela and Liz Windsor were quite fond of each other, first-name basis and all that.

  25. R. L. Foster says

    Despite the fact that the Royal Navy is listed as the world’s 5th largest fleet it is down to 74 commissioned vessels. Half of them are old and in need of replacement. That’s barely enough to patrol and protect the waters around the UK. The Brits have for years short-changed their fleet with the thought that in perilous times they could always lean on the American fleet. Any idea of resuscitating the empire is nonsense. What are they going to do, sail a squadron of rusty ships into Mumbai harbor and expect the Indians to quiver in fear and surrender to them? They would be in for a rude awakening when a barrage of modern anti-ship missiles sent them to the bottom in a matter of hours. A lot has changed in 300 years.

  26. Rob Grigjanis says

    R. L. Foster @33: The US certainly has a huge navy; about 150 major surface combatants (destroyers, cruisers, aircraft carriers). Many of them are as ‘rusty’ (i.e. as old or older than) comparable vessels in the Royal Navy.

    The Royal Navy has about 20 major surface combatants. That’s actually comparable, per capita, to the US Navy, when you take into account % of GDP spending (UK about 3/4 that of USA).

    And the UK long ago gave up any pretence of being a superpower. They couldn’t even take Singapore if they harboured any such aspiration. They’re merely one of the Big Five European NATO militaries, all with roughly the same size army, navy and air force.

  27. nomdeplume says

    Murdoch, and all those like him, love authoritarian/religious governments because they get a docile population and the certainty of making billions of dollars. This has always been true back to the start of city living.

  28. says

    Considering the damage Murdoch and his predatory minions have done to the royals in his various media outlets I suggest that after the empire returns Mad King Charles reintroduces this wonderful way of disposing of his enemies. The thought of Rupert’s rotting entrails blasted over a field somewhere brings joy to this Republican. Not not a GOP Republican I’d happily see some cannons reserved for them.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blowing_from_a_gun

  29. Rob Grigjanis says

    R. L. Foster @33:

    They would be in for a rude awakening when a barrage of modern anti-ship missiles sent them to the bottom in a matter of hours.

    If you’re assuming that the RN air defence systems are as old as their ships, that’s a bad assumption. Maybe Indian anti-ship missiles could overcome those defences. After all, some of India’s best missiles are based on Russian technology. Probably best used for taking out schools.

  30. PaulBC says

    Maybe give Putin a chance to restore the Soviet Union first before moving on to more ambitious projects.

  31. jrkrideau says

    @11 quotetheunquote
    I think the map was constructed by someone with essentially no idea of history. Possibly a US “almost” graduate of Google University?

    Our esteemed host says I think I’ve made it quite clear that I’m unimpressed with dead queens or live kings around here.

    I am not terribly impressed by heads of state suffering from various levels of senile dementia or advanced alcoholism.

    Currently I’ll go with the (compos mentis) monarch.

  32. John Morales says

    monarch: late Middle English: from late Latin monarcha, from Greek monarkhēs, from monos ‘alone’ + arkhein ‘to rule’.

  33. John Morales says

    Silentbob, um, compos mentis does not mean ‘wise’

    (Yes, a cosseted and privileged life, a naive worldview, but he’s not deranged)

  34. Kimpatsu says

    I predicted that Brexit would be a failure, and then I remarked to my wife “How long before they resurrect the notion of Empire?”
    And almost immediately, there was Nigel Frage on BBC News ,in a pub full of Brexit supporters saying “We need to get back to being an empire!”
    For the record: I’m British and I despise these racist idiots.

  35. StevoR says

    Aside from the minor detail of quite possibly sparking World War III by taking on China in order to get Hong Kong back; there’s the rather problematic flaw in this “Reconquer the British Empire!” plan involving a certain South-West Asian country. Did these blithering Murdoch nincompoops consider for a second that their suggestion would mean pitting British military forces against Israeli ones? On the bright side, I guess that would be one way to get the Israelis and Palestinians to unite and join forces coz pretty sure neither of them would welcome the Brits back in imperial charge! Just as neither of them wanted the Brits tostay inthefirts place. As well as bringing China, India, Pakistan, Egypt and, well, most of the rest of the world together in common cause -against their own country..

  36. StevoR says

    @ ^ Typo fix : Just as neither of them wanted the Brits to stay in the first place.

    FWIW on the staggering scale of the British Empire and which countries it has invaded and occupied over the centuries see this 12 minute youtuvbe clip here which Irekon is pretty good.

    See also this :

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-09-18/queen-elizabeth-ii-empire-colonialism-history/101430296

    ABC news article and this :

    https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2012/3/28/the-third-british-empire

    Al Jazeera one too.

  37. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    … the staggering scale of the British Empire …

    Didn’t last very long, compared to other historical empires.

  38. Silentbob says

    @ 46 John Morales

    See this is what I mean by Phayngula’s longest lived troll. This comment is not only a complete non sequitur, it’s also false. Obviously, there’s a huge amount of subjectivity in how long an “empire” lasted, let alone what counts as an “empire”. But 5 minutes googling shows that by this resource, for example, which lists “empires” and can be sorted by duration, the British Empire is 204 out of 271 by ascending order. In other words, 75% of all empires were of shorter duration, and only 25% longer.

    But Morales couldn’t care less if what he says is true. The goal is to pick a fight by any means necessary. So say something utterly random in the hope that the target will answer back.

    Trolls gotta troll, right Juan Ramón? It is after all, all you have in your sad life.

  39. John Morales says

    Silentbob:

    Trolls gotta troll, right Juan Ramón? It is after all, all you have in your sad life.

    I see.

    (Trolling is clearly something that exercises you)

  40. StevoR says

    @46. John Morales : Scale here includes spatial as well temporal dimensions. As well as what #47. Silentbob noted.

    @39. jrkrideau : “I am not terribly impressed by heads of state suffering from various levels of senile dementia or advanced alcoholism.”

    Referring to who exactly?

    Did you ever answer my questionon what youhad against republics noting not allof them ar ebad and many better than monarchies?

    @40.John Morales : Monarch = a type of butterfly see ; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarch_butterfly

  41. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    Scale here includes spatial as well temporal dimensions. As well as what #47. Silentbob noted.

    I suppose after the fact, that’s what you think you were expressing.
    Mind you, what Silentbob noted is that (and I quote) “the British Empire is 204 out of 271 by ascending order.” So that only 67 exceeded them.

    (Do you know by how much?)

    @40.John Morales : Monarch = a type of butterfly

    Heh. Same thing as with the not-so Silentbob above; can’t decide if you’re trying to be funny.

    I would once have hoped you were aware of https://www.google.com/search?q=compound+nouns

  42. KG says

    Also, isn’t the USA a pretty good counter-example, showing that decolonization wasn’t a disaster?

    No, because it wasn’t an example of decolonization at all; it was a falling-out among thieves (var. colonizers). One of the main disputes between the British government and the American colonists (generally, and rightly, so-described), was whether to call a temporary halt to land theft and ethnic cleansing to the west of the 13 colonies. The British government wanted one, to save money and to maintain their grip on the colonies, the colonists wanted to continue as fast as possibl. The colonial rich, such as Washington and Benjamin Franklin among others, were deeply involved in this process, whereby the colonial governments sold rights in land still controlled by Indian communities for cash, and those buying these rights later sold the land on to actual settlers, on credit, once the Indians had been expelled or killed. See Alan Taylor American Colonies.

    Also: as others have noted, the map is a load of silly nonsense.

  43. StevoR says

    @11. quotetheunquote : Regarding Iceland and Madagascar, those get noted in the video at #45 (2 mins.22 seconds & 7 min 49 secs mark)) with Iceland occupied to stop Nazi Germany doing it and likewise Madagascar being then a Vichy French “possession.” In at least the Icelandic case – and I’d expect the Madagascan (Malagasy?) one as well – the locals didn’t want to be occupied and protested even if arguably done with good or reasonable intentions.

    The clip isn’t perfect given the incorrect date for Australia’s independence which was 1901 NOT 1931.

    As #28. robro, noted for parts of this – seems this is based on the nations invaded by Brits as in the video linked #45 too, Also what #24. Becca Stareyes wrote above as well. Incidentally, the clip isn’t perfect given the incorrect date for Australia’s independence which was 1901 NOT 1931. But still.

    Saw The Australian Wars’ ( See : https://theconversation.com/in-the-australian-wars-rachel-perkins-dispenses-with-the-myth-aboriginal-people-didnt-fight-back-190967 ) doco recently which makes you wonder what the Queen – Victoria then – would have made of the horrific massacres conducted by “her ” Guvn’or Phillips like the Appin one and the sending back of severed heads of her technically “British” subjects including those of women and children..

    @12. Dunc : “For example, that bit of western France is the continental part of the Angevin Empire during the 12th and 13th centuries. Calling that part of the British Empire is ludicrous.”

    Er, what, sorry? Why? If that bit of French territory under the British or English monarchies control wasn’t part of at least a – if not the – British empire then what exactly was it?

  44. KG says

    robro@28,
    Iceland wasn’t legally part of Denmark in 1941 – it became an independent kingdom in a personal union with Denmark in 1918, by a 25-year agreement that expired at the end of 1943. The Icelanders then – still, I should note, groaning under the imperialist yoke, but by this time an American rather than a British one – voted overwhelmingly to end the personal union and the monarchy.

    Irrelevant personal note: my father was involved in the British occupation of Iceland, as a conscript into the Royal Navy. I’m not sure whether his ship went there at the time of the invasion, or came later to bring supplies, and unfortunately I don’t think I ever asked him how the natives received him.

    StevoR@52,
    I understood Australia didn’t become completely independent in 1901, because when the British government declared war on Germany in 1914, Australia (and the other “Dominions”) were automatically at war with Germany too. 1931 is the date of the “Statute of Westminster” which ended this relic of imperial control, hence in 1939 the Australian government declared war on Germany itself, and Australia would not have been at war if it hadn’t done so.

    Er, what, sorry? Why? If that bit of French territory under the British or English monarchies control wasn’t part of at least a – if not the – British empire then what exactly was it?

    It would be closer to the truth to say that England was part of the Angevin Empire! (although apparently that term is 19th century in origin). Henry II of England was Count of Anjou before he became King of England in 1154, and would have spoken French as his first language. At that time, the most successful toffs collected Counties, Dukedoms, Principalities and Kingdoms as and when they could, and didn’t find the need to pretend the collection made any sort of geographical, let alone “national” sense.

    On the map again: if it’s supposed to represent everywhere a British monarch ever claimed (as the inclusion of chunks of North America neither England, Scotland nor Great Britain ever actually controlled suggests), the red bit should include the whole of France, as the monarchs of England and then Great Britain claimed the throne of France between 1340 and 1800. I don’t know what the red bit north-east of Italy is supposed to be; in modern geography, it looks like part of Austria, and AFAIK that’s one of the parts of the world British monarchs never claimed to own!

  45. Rob Grigjanis says

    StevoR @52:

    Er, what, sorry? Why? If that bit of French territory under the British or English monarchies control wasn’t part of at least a – if not the – British empire then what exactly was it?

    We’ll have to add Denmark and Norway then, because Canute. This is fun, if rather silly.

  46. Rob Grigjanis says

    KG @53:

    I don’t know what the red bit north-east of Italy is supposed to be; in modern geography, it looks like part of Austria, and AFAIK that’s one of the parts of the world British monarchs never claimed to own!

    The Duchy of Grand Fenwick?

  47. KG says

    Rob Grigjanis@55,

    No – that’s south-north-east of Ruritania, sandwiched between Antimony and Bulimia!

  48. StevoR says

    @50. John Morales : “I suppose after the fact, that’s what you think you were expressing.”

    It was what I was expressing both before the fact and after it too actually. Because the British empire was staggering in scale in both time and space.

    @57. KG. This isn’t the British empire but rather all the nations Britain has occupied and / or invaded in history.

    @55. Rob Grigjanis :

    You had me going for a while there, so many small, obscure countries esp in Europe eg San Marino, Andorra, Mionaco and Liechtenstein so .. yeah.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Fenwick

    Of course, if you want a real Little Prince you need to go a bit further afield to asteroid B12 as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. observed..

    As for being silly, well, in hindsight maybe but historically and for those living through it likely rather serious actually.

  49. StevoR says

    @50. John Morales :

    Monarch = a type of butterfly – StevoR

    Heh. Same thing as with the not-so Silentbob above; can’t decide if you’re trying to be funny.

    Things can be both funny and serious. Multiple layers of meaning – how do they work again?

    Locally, there is an invasive exotic plant Gomphocarpus fruticosus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gomphocarpus_fruticosus) a.k.a. Swan Bush or Cotton Bush that bushcarers, myself included, leave to grow in Belair National Park because it feeds the introduced Monarch Butterfly because it is an attractive insect that people enjoy seeing and is only mildly invasive. It plays an ecological role and adds something to the biome here.

  50. KG says

    @57. KG. This isn’t the British empire but rather all the nations Britain has occupied and / or invaded in history.- StevoR@58

    No it isn’t, because Britain never occupied or invaded most of the parts of what is now the USA that are shown in red and as I’ve already noted, England was annexed to Henry Plantagenet’s existing lands in 11554, not the other way round. The map is load of silly nonsense because it conflates several very different things, and doesn’t represent any of them accurately; and in fact if you click on it, you’ll find that it is labelled “britishempire.png”. I’m far from defending the British Empire, which was founded on mass murder, land theft and slavery; what I am defending is the importance of historical accuracy.

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