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History, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1150

Essay

In this essay I will be examining various aspects of the motives and goals of the men involved in the British Empire and how they saw their role and the ideas and dreams which underpinned their policies. Also I will be offering my own opinion on Britain’s good intentions. Then I will be examining the motives of the Belgium people for getting involved in the Congo and looking at various people and events surrounding it.

The values underpinning the formation of the British Empire seemed at first to be honest and good and near the beginning of History Of Britain Chapter 14: Empire Of Good Intentions there is a quote which illustrates perfectly the first intentions of the British in India “ They had in fact a vision that their empire was the best the world had ever seen because it was built on virtue. Its power was to be measured not in guns but in an unselfish dedication to eradicating poverty, ignorance and disease “ ( “Empire Of Good Intentions.” History Of Britain. N.d. Television ).

On February 4th 1834 one of the biggest players in the evolution of the British Empire Andrew McCaughey left England for India to make his fortune. McCaughey wanted to get rich in India but he also wanted to use Britain’s power and wealth to educate India and pull it into the future. He and Charles Trevelyan his sisters boyfriend at the time faced a choice between “ Imposing the values of the west onto the East “ or “Rebuilding and reinvigorating Asian culture and society“ (“Empire Of Good Intentions.” History Of Britain. N.d. Television ). They chose the view illustrated by Trevelyan in the following quote “A more British India could become a  better India“.

By the time they returned home India was becoming increasingly Westernised and was becoming a high player in trading goods.

Meanwhile Ireland was under British control and had been part of the United Kingdom since 1801 was suffering a vast increase in poverty and a drop in trade. The East of Ireland was rich and had a good trade in butter and meat which kept it running smoothly but the North was so poor that people were living mainly on potatoes and buttermilk to survive. The cause of this problem was the reason why Ireland was described as “ India with rain “. The problem was caused by overpopulation the population had shot up from 2 million to 8 million within a few years and there was no longer enough land to farm and then came the potato famine. Most of Northern Ireland survived on potatoes so when whole harvests began to be destroyed by a fungus it was a disaster.

At this time Charles Trevelyan was in charge of the treasury and was sanctioning the shipping out of oats a strong food source for rich Eastern Ireland instead of distributing it to the poor in the North. It was also his decision to cancel the relief programs and soup kitchens. Landlords saw this not as a disaster but and opportunity to get poor people off their land and fill it with pigs and sheep. People were evicted against their will and had their roofs broken in to stop them returning. For most of this Trevelyan and men who held the same beliefs as him were responsible. They believed that the ruin of the villages and individuals was meaningless in the face of increased economic wealth. In the end 2 million people died and 1 million emigrated for good.

Eventually in 1857 and not without just cause in my opinion India rebelled in what we know as the Mutiny. This happened because of an increasingly arrogant British attitude to Indian affairs which were deemed important by the Indians but redundant by the British. This was followed years later by the Irish rebelling against British rule too.

Overall on review of all of this information it is my belief that the values of the British Empire were at first honest and true and that the attempts to help were genuine but when faced with a lack of profit’s the system reverted to being about what everything in government is so often about money. I also feel that Britain had little right to destroy the culture of the Indian people in the name of business and trade. It is still the opinion of many today that the India and Ireland would have been better off if Britain had left them well enough alone.

For the next part of this essay I will turn my attention to Belgium’s decision under their King Leopold II to enter the African Congo in the 1880’s to turn it into a mass rubber production camp as highlighted in the documentary White King. Red Rubber, Black Death which spans the time period of the 1880’s to 1890’s.  It was Leopold’s goal to amass a mass fortune for himself by pumping as much rubber into Europe as he could.

The atrocities he committed in achieving these ends were so bad there were even calls for him to be hanged. He was involved in mass murders and even the mutilation of men and children photographs of which shocked the Western world even removing the heads and gentiles of African men and displaying them on a fence for all too see . He used the money from these crimes to build great monuments and buildings in Brussels but never once acknowledged the source of his riches. He paid to build the museum of central Africa and used it to make himself and his men appear as heroes for giving Belgium a colony and for supposedly civilising the Congo.

Before today I had never heard of one of the other main players in this story Eduard Morel. Morel was a British journalist who working with several others led a newspaper campaign against slavery in the Congo and the lack of aid that Africans were receiving from the Foreign Office. He wrote a weekly caption in a magazine called speaker and later after giving up a prominent trading position to pursue his campaign founded his own magazine West Africa Mail. His work in revealing what was happening in the Congo has effected my views on Europe’s Colonial History because rather than being a time of great prosperity and Civilisation for Africa as Belgium made it out to be it has turned out to be a time of cruelty abuse and tyranny which proves that everything is not always what it seems.

I believe that Belgium should acknowledge the  atrocities of its King and apologise to the African people. I also believe that a monument should be erected to those who suffered under Leopold’s rule and that the Belgium government should offer compensation to the families of the victims this at least will begin to make amends.

Citation Page

“Empire Of Good Intentions.” History Of Britain. N.d. Television

White King, Red Rubber, Black Death. N.d. Television

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