Yesterday I finished The Fall of the British Empire by Collin Cross. Had planned to write about it last night but I got home awful late. Lots of times people talk about the fall of the Roman Empire and make doom and gloom comparisons to our current situation. I think this is somewhat accurate as a comparison to a genuine global TEOTWAWKI which is a pretty darn unlikely scenario. Often our nation is compared to past empires which inevitably fell. I firmly believe the best comparison is Britain. While we do not have an empire strictly speaking we do have a very large global military presence which some might say is similar. Admittedly I am a history buff with a slight emphasis on military history.
At its height the British Empire controlled 25% of the worlds land mass and a bit more then 25% of its population. The Empire came together over time but mostly was acquired in the second half of the 19th century. It was said by Lord Patterson that (the Empire) was acquired in a 'fit of absent-mindedness'. I would say it was lost in a long bought of ambivalence followed by cutting and running. To those in charge the biggest events in the Empire paled in importance to trivial events of national or European politics.
The particulars of the fall of the British Empire are not particularly important aside from being interesting to me. The big question I have asked myself is "How did the the British Empire affect the lives of every day citizens?". Since the Empire started (very fuzzy to find an exact time for our purposes) and ended over a period of multiple generations which encompassed so much change it is impossible to tell for sure.
The next question which is probably more relevant is "How did the end (again up for debate but certainly the mid-late 1960's) of the British Empire affect the lives of every day citizens?"
My answer to this (based on a reasonable amount of reading) is that it did not affect for better or worse the conditions of a brick layer or a high school teacher or a pharmacist in any significant way. The average person had little contact with the Empire aside from maybe military service in a garrison or conflict. On the whole if they had missed the papers and radio/tv broadcasts about the news the Empire being lost could have gone without notice. Some big wigs and businessmen may have had their affairs change in some way but on the whole things went on more or less the same.
[It is worth noting that the lives of those in the colonies may have changed drastically. Being a White farmer (or owning any major industry/ mineral rights) in a British colony in Africa at the time after that colony became an African Republic was often not fun times.]
In terms of economics in an era of relatively free trade the loss of the Empire did not greatly inhibit trade. At best the Empire was a wash in terms of economics. It cost the government money and what riches were made tended to go to very small groups of big businessmen. On the whole money flowed from the mother country to colonies not visa verse.
Who knows what will happen in terms of our politics and international involvement, particularly the two wars we are currently involved in. To be honest I can't realistically see how our forces in some parts of the world will do anything but get more involved. In any case I do not think you need to fear the potential end of our massive international presence because the barbarians are not going to storm the gates.
Now I am reading Wars of Empire. Today I got about 180 pages into it so it may be finished up this week.
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