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"A positive force of the past millennium"

cr_new_delhi.jpg

New Delhi's grand avenue Rajpath and the Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidential Palace) on the left. The palace and New Delhi were designed by Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens.
Image: Mayank Austen Soofi

GW responded to David's post on the British Empire -

One firm conclusion to which I have come, after a lifetime of studying history, is that the single most beneficial and positive force of the past millennium was Britain.
He goes on to say why.

When the British were good they were very, very good. They were not good in Ireland, and as the Irish never forget an injury the British are likely to be eloquently reminded of it for a long time. However I hasten to add that my British co-editor has always swum in the lap of Irish kindness when visiting the Republic.

In India British entrepreneurs made fortunes. However it's also true that the British "increased the area of irrigated land by a factor of eight, so that by the end of the Raj a quarter of all land was irrigated, compared with just five per cent of it under the Mughals. . .Under British rule, the village economy's share of total after-tax income actually rose from 45 per cent to 54 percent. . .There were also marked improvements in public health, which increased Indian average life expectancy by eleven years" (Ferguson, Empire).

I have no burning desire to be an advocate for empire, but I'll note an interesting inscription related to GW's post. Lutyens and Baker had three lines of text carved in the stone of the Presidential Palace. Ferguson thought it was condescending, but I think it's a pretty fair description for us all -

LIBERTY DOES NOT DESCEND TO A PEOPLE.
A PEOPLE MUST RAISE THEMSELVES TO LIBERTY.
IT IS A BLESSING THAT MUST BE EARNED
BEFORE IT CAN BE ENJOYED.

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