Attack on British Empire Published in New York Times during Queen’s Jubilee
June 11, 2022 (EIRNS)—An op-ed in the New York Times on June 4 by Caroline Elkins, entitled “The Imperial Fictions Behind the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee” takes advantage of the Queen’s Jubilee to thoroughly debunk some myths of the British Empire, not least of which is the myth of the so-called Commonwealth. “For well over a century, Britain’s claims to global greatness were rooted in its empire. Sprawling over a quarter of the world’s landmass, the British Empire was the largest in history. After spear-heading the abolition movement, Britain emerged the purveyor of a liberal imperialism, or ‘civilizing mission,’ extending developmentalist policies, which cleaved to racial hierarchies, to its 700 million colonized subjects, purporting to usher them into the modern world.”
She wrote that the Queen’s Jubilee that week “was pregnant with meaning about the nation’s imperial past and the monarchy’s overdetermined role in it.” She also remarked that there were protests on the street and in Parliament calling for a reckoning with colonialism.
“If Britain’s civilizing mission was reformist in its claims, it was brutal nonetheless.... Coercion would not just subdue these so-called recalcitrant children. Colonial officials and security forces wanted their infantilized subjects to see and feel their own suffering. British officials had a term for this: the ‘moral effect’ of violence.... British officials also obsessed over the rule of law, insisting this was the basis of good government. But in the empire, rule of law codified difference, curtailed freedoms, expropriated land and property and ensured a steady stream of labor for the empire’s mines and plantations, the profits from which helped fuel Britain’s economy.”
She wrote that the creation of the Commonwealth has been a means of maintaining the myth of empire, when in truth the Commonwealth covers for the fact that the British Empire still exists.
“The Queen’s considerable energy has cultivated the Commonwealth as a supposed constructive and vital force in the world, something that historian Philip Murphy has documented. Keeping myths of Britain’s soft power and imperial benevolence alive, she repeatedly animates them in the public’s imagination. Flag-waving royal tours heralded her visits to nearly all the Commonwealth nations, some on multiple occasions.”
Elkins also referenced the repressive British operations in Kenya and Malaya, about which she has written extensively in several books. Her latest book Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire is 896 pages documenting the many crimes of the Empire. The New York Times published a critical, if stupid, review of her book on April 24.