Quotes / The British Empire

Mr. Banks: You see, Michael, you'll be part of... railways through Africa!
Mr. Dawes Sr.: Exactly!
Mr. Banks: Dams across the Nile!
Mr. Dawes Sr.: The ships! Tell them about the ships!
Mr. Banks: Fleets of ocean greyhounds!
Mr. Dawes Sr.: More! Tell them more!
Mr. Banks: Majestic, self-amortizing canals!
Mr. Dawes Sr.: How it fires the imagination!
Mr. Banks: Plantations of ripening teeeeeeeaaaaaaa!
— "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank", Mary Poppins

Know you not the custom of the English? Wherever they fix their talons they contrive little by little to work themselves into the whole management of affairs.
Tipu Sultan, in a 1796 letter to the Nizam of Hyderabad.

"Every one agreed that General Gordon had been avenged at last. Who could doubt it? General Gordon himself, possibly, fluttering, in some remote Nirvana, the pages of a phantasmal Bible, might have ventured on a satirical remark. But General Gordon had always been a contradictious person—even a little off his head, perhaps, though a hero; and besides, he was no longer there to contradict...At any rate, it had all ended very happily - in a glorious slaughter of twenty thousand Arabs, a vast addition to the British Empire, and a step in the Peerage for Sir Evelyn Baring."
Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians, "The End of General Gordon", final paragraph.

"In India there was power — the power of the white man over the black — and power is a fine thing to have. Then there was ease, and time for any amount of sport, and good company, and none of the restrictions of home. You could live as you pleased, and lord it among the niggers...And there were as many women as you could wish for...In my whole service I never made half as much in pay as I got from India in loot — but that is another story."

"Men of America! thank heaven (thank your own strong arms) for having escaped from the corrupt legislation of this island, that floats upon waters like a plague-stricken hull of a stately wreck, within its death fraught ribs houses a people of paupers, groaning beneath the immeasurable wealth they have created but enjoy not. At its doors die a million human beings in a land, lashed like a conquered prey to the British Crown, that drags it down to famine and pestilence...On its colonies the sun never sets, but the blood never dries. In mechanical power it has outstripped the world, but that power it employs to displace labour, and starve unwilling idlers. Every factory is more corrupt than a barracks, more painful than a prison, and more painful than a battle field. Its commerce touches every shore, but their ports have been opened by artillery, and are held by murder. Abroad, its traders play the pirate; at home the journeyman is cheated by the apprentice, the apprentice by the master, the small dealer by the wholesale-dealer, the customer by both, and the Government cheats all."
Ernest Charles Jones, English Chartist Leader, 1851.

"For better or for worse, the British empire was the most important thing the British ever did. It altered the course of history across the globe and shaped the modern world. It also led to the huge enrichment of Britain, just as, conversely, it led to the impoverishment of much of the rest of the non-European world. India and China, which until then had dominated global manufacturing, were two of the biggest losers in this story, along with hundreds of thousands of enslaved sub-Saharan Africans sent off on the middle passage...Yet much of the story of the empire is still absent from our history curriculum. My children learned the Tudors and the Nazis over and over again in history class but never came across a whiff of Indian or Caribbean history. This means that they, like most people who go through the British education system, are wholly ill equipped to judge either the good or the bad in what we did to the rest of the world."
William Dalrymple

"England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindostan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfill its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution."
Karl Marx, "The British Rule in India", New-York Daily Tribune, June 25, 1853.