Readers respond: What if the British Empire never existed? Would the world be better or worse? | British Empire

And if the British Empire never existed? Would the world be better or worse? Robert Hunter, Dundee

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Readers Respond

Best place. End of the conversation. bobmacdon

If it wasn’t the British empire, it would have been someone else’s empire. We might see more people speaking French, Spanish or German. But just like the British, these empires would have crumbled, so the world would be different but similar at the same time. Perhaps the problem is more the paths that world religion would have taken – perhaps Catholicism would have been more widespread. Alwaysgrizzly

The Spanish Empire would have lasted much longer, wreaking havoc in Central and South America for much longer, possibly controlling the American and Canadian Midwest as far as Mississippi. The Dutch would probably have further colonized southern Africa, but without conflict between the Boers and the British, apartheid may never have come into play. The French in alliance with their Bourbon cousins ​​in Spain probably would come to dominate Europe and the rest of the world, there would have been no American War of Independence and no French Revolution, but the Indian subcontinent would have been dominated by French trade and factories.

The fact is that the British Empire did not exist in isolation, it was born out of a constant jockey to position itself with other European empires and states. The poor would always have been treated with contempt and indifference, whether they were Europeans or “natives”, the language in which they had to obey orders may have changed, that’s all. cairnofmediocrity

Ireland would have had a very different story. Almost any alternative would have been better. In modern times, the EU and the US are major players in Ireland. Both are better. FrancesMary

We wouldn’t have our national superiority complex. Without all the money pouring in from abroad, we would be poorer, but we would probably have a fairer society. We would probably be like the Scandinavian countries that never had an empire. Alex42

No British Empire, no international cricket. the alarm

It is likely that other empires in Europe would have prevailed, probably France and Spain. The answer to this depends on when the inflection point is.

Does this happen in the 1400-1500s, so that Portugal has an extended “golden age” and becomes even more preeminent in Africa and India?

If it is in the 18th century, we can assume that France becomes the world power. Does Spain continue to be a client ally of Napoleon, or do their empires continue, but separate?

My feeling is that there would be a sort of Habsburg hegemony, with significant parts of the world speaking German rather than English. Technologically, the spread of post, rail, etc. would have been broadly similar, but the rapid development of industry in Britain, funded by the empire, would have been slower. Maybe things like steam and rail would have developed more slowly? SpaghettiCorbynarra

It would have been wiser to ask if the world would have been better off without European rather than British mercantile empires (which slightly postdate the Spanish/Portuguese plunder of the new world). It’s really impossible to say whether the French or Dutch empires were better or worse than the British and even harder to speculate about how the global south would have developed if left to its own devices. One thing I think we can say is entirely the consequence of European empires, it is the slave trade, its greatest evil, without which 11 million Africans would never have been uprooted from their homes and would have worked until to death in the American colonies, whether Spanish, Portuguese, British, French or Dutch. montesdeoca

The colonial empires were wrong. Looking for the good in them is a selfish exercise. In Ecuador you have a very different view of the Inca Empire as they are aware of what was lost for the empire to grow. It’s boring to answer the question of good. Answering it for Mussolini, Stalin or Hitler is just as tiresome as answering it for the British Empire and would not even need to be asked by someone sensitive to the suffering of subjugated peoples. Eniad

A few of the answers just defensively say that at least the Brits did better than XYZ. There may be some truth to this, although Brits have behaved abdominally in many instances that are largely ignored or glossed over in Britain. A better question might be whether the world would be a better place or a worse place if empires or other forms of colonization never existed? My answer to that would be an indisputable yes. 1rkThe Purists

India without colonial interference may have evolved into various regional kingdoms in the 18th and 19th centuries. It would have retained its wealth and culture and continued to grow in economics and science, bringing a higher standard of living to the people. There would probably have been more conflict with the growth of certain kingdoms, but the Indian subcontinent would not have been a unified raj from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. Instead, it would have evolved into some sort of loose union, like the nations of Europe in the EU. Obviously, this scenario would have been much better for the population than colonial rule! Aries N

The British in India introduced democracy at all levels (India had its first elections under British rule and was pretty much self-governing except at the national level when the British left in 1947), ended the famine in peacetime by providing famine relief through “starvation codes”. used until the 1970s, built more than half of the railroads and canals still in use today at much less cost than in countries around the world, outlawed sati and female infanticide, and has dramatically improved women’s rights, built India’s first modern educational institutions, introduced the rule of law and a proper legal system for the first time in South Asian history, industrialized the economy, ushered in the Sikh Golden Age, established the Indian military and civil service, discovered the Ajanta Caves and 4,000-year-old civilizations such as Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, restored the Taj Mahal, launched a tradition of preserving Indian heritage and even introduced tea and cricket. Far from dividing India through the so-called divide and rule, they united hundreds of empires of India under one state.

It is also worth discussing what the alternatives would be – “India” would have fallen under the yoke of one or more European powers, or an “indigenous” empire that would still have been foreign to most of the country without the many advantages of Great Britain. to reign. Mughals and Marathas were offered as alternatives, but as many communities in India discovered, their rule would have been far from benevolent. There is no doubt that the British Empire has committed many evils, but overall the world is a much better place for it to exist. Bikram Rana

Overall, the world would have been better off, especially in Africa, where the empire systematically milked the colonies, first at gunpoint. The so-called civilization it brought was negated by an authoritarian and dictatorial regime enacted by a succession of empire builders. The sheer size of the empire was a threat to other nations who might not have gone to war without it. The First World War is a particular example of this, with Germany building a large navy to compete with the British. The British entered the war with Germany to protect its own interests, causing the death of several thousand young men from the colonies. Above all, the British developed an arrogance drawn from the power of the empire. Now we see the downfall with Brexit and other absurdly manipulated treaties! William

I live in Argentina, which owes part of its independence from Spain to Great Britain. Britain became a strong partner in Argentina, investing in railways and agriculture, leading it to compete with the United States as a future home for the poor in Europe and the Middle East. East at the end of the 19th century, until the end of the Second World War. . The arrival of European nationalists, and the appearance of Juan Domingo Perón, and his admiration for fascist ideals, ended this dream, leading to our hopeless, populist and corrupt case of the 21st century. Maybe it would have been better than today, if that influence had prevailed. André Potier

Truly a question for all who are slaughtered, enslaved and raped. Why ask this question to those who have already profited from the crimes of the empire? Caroline Grootes

As a Welshman, I do indeed ask myself this question. What if Harry Hotspur, Owain Glyndŵr or Llywelyn Fawr had won these battles? What if Yr Hen Gogledd still existed, the Scotti invasion had failed and Scotland was another Welsh region? What strikes me is that the British Empire is much more English than British, and England misunderstands its roots so badly that it thinks it is Britain. We must rediscover truth, roots and honesty and with that the English must embrace their German roots, just as most of us are the Cymbrogi, compatriots of Britain! snow wolf

On the one hand, the subjugation, murder and cultural genocide of millions of people would never have happened. On the other hand, some of the most powerful democracies in the world would never have existed. Workers would never have won the right to vote or the right to work in the UK. The industrial/French/European revolutions might never have happened. And we would probably have been invaded by France or Spain in the 17th-18th centuries.

It’s easy to see empire as evil. But it happened. This led to some good things; it also led to some bad ones. It’s impossible to say what might have happened otherwise, as there is no clear definition of the empire and what it achieved/inflicted. Hugh, Edinburgh