To be honest I had mixed feelings about the British Empire until I began to look at all the other European Empires which no one ever talks about.
France had one going at the same time and it was only second to the UK one for land grab.
Yet there is a marked difference.
The French Empire history is soaked with the blood of oppressed peoples across the globe. And its record of perpetrating violence continued well into the 60s. The size of the territory claimed by the French empire in the 19th and 20th centuries was second only to Britain. From North Africa to South-East Asia, the Middle East to the South Pacific, millions were subjugated, repressed and murdered as French rulers scrambled to secure resources and markets for manufactured goods and profitable investments.
It was only in the face of heroic mass struggles by the colonised determined to win their independence that France was eventually forced to cede control in the 1950s and '60s. From the outset of French colonialism in Vietnam, any form of political dissent was met with repression. Books and newspapers deemed subversive were confiscated. Anti-colonial political activists were sentenced to death or imprisoned on island fortresses. The grotesque violence would only escalate.
After the defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific War, the French ruling class was determined to re-establish its control over Vietnam. In 1946, the prime minister ordered the shelling of Haiphong, killing 6,000 Vietnamese.
It wasn't until the 1954 battle of Dien Bien Phu that the national liberation forces drove the French out of the country. Violence was part of the fabric of French rule. The best farmland was concentrated in the hands of the colonialists and their collaborators, leaving the majority of peasants vulnerable to famine. Some 2 million Vietnamese died during the Second World War; there was a famine despite the granaries being full of rice.
When you read of the atrocities that France did and look at what the British did there is no comparison non at all France were far far worse
So was Belgium. Little Belgium. If you want to see what real colonial atrocity looks like look no further than sweet Belgium who murdered 15 million Africans. The man who oversaw the Belgium atrocity's in the Congo was King Leopold II of Belgium. He "owned" the Congo during his reign as the constitutional monarch of Belgium. After several failed colonial attempts in Asia and Africa, he settled on the Congo. He "bought" it and enslaved its people, turning the entire country into his own personal slave plantation. He disguised his business transactions as "philanthropic" and "scientific" efforts under the banner of the International African Society. He used their enslaved labour to extract Congolese resources and services. His reign was enforced through work camps, body mutilations, torture, executions, and his own private army. Most of us aren't taught about him in school. We don't hear about him in the media. He's not part of the widely repeated narrative of oppression He's not part of the widely repeated narrative of oppression (which includes things like the Holocaust during World War II). He's part of a long history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery, and genocide in Africa that would clash with the social construction of a white supremacist narrative in our schools. It doesn't fit neatly into school curriculums in a capitalist society. Making overtly racist remarks is (sometimes) frowned upon in 'polite' society, but it's quite fine not to talk about genocide in Africa perpetrated by a Belgium monarch.
I could go on and on Dutch in Asia and Africa and Germany in Africa all far worse than the British one.
However, the one thing that changed my mind about the British one was how we as a Nation changed the face of Slavery. While the British were a big player in that misery game we were the first nation to recognise that it was wrong and began a long hard slog to do something about it and we could not have done that or even succeded to end it if we did not have the Empire we had.
We only had this large Empire because we had to have a very large Royal Navy that protected the trade routes and for 60 years, part of this very large Navy patrolled and blockaded the West Coast of Africa chasing and fighting any slave ship of any nation to stop the trade in slaves. We British lost over the years hundreds of sailors from disease and battle in stopping it.
We could only do this because we had such a large Royal Navy and we would not have had a large Navy if we did not have an Empire as large as we had.
Of that, I am very proud indeed.
I am also very proud to have helped the Falklands people to become free of Argentine aggression, and in doing so helped to free the Argentine people themselves to become free. from the dictators that ruled Argentina with an iron fist as winning back, the Falkland bought them down.
You see that is another good point in having an Empire as we did. The Falkland people wanted to remain British and then in 82 we killed two birds with one stone (or bullet )