Sunday 5 May 2024

True or false that British colonialism caused African poverty and chaos?

I am thankful to Rod Liddle of The Sunday Times for the idea of this article. It will be thankfully short as it's not an area of my expertise. However, slavery is being discussed a lot at the moment and whether Britain's colonial past contributed to the country's relative wealth. Although, today, in terms of the country's future, I don't see an awful lot of wealth and another article in today's papers say that Britain is going to be poorer than Poland within five years.

True or false that British colonialism caused African poverty and chaos?
Ethiopia. Arguably as dysfunctional in terms of governance as the rest of most of Africa's countries but never colonised by GB. This is not to say that many other countries outside of Africa are not also dysfunctional in terms of governance. Think Russia for a start.

That is not to criticise Poland in anyway. However, the question being addressed in this article is whether British colonialism caused poverty in Africa and chaos on that continent. And the answer can be found, thanks to Rod Liddle in his research and I think I will quote him verbatim on this if he doesn't mind.

"As Adam Smith pointed out as early as 1776, [colonialism] was of no great benefit to the British Crown or its people: "Under the present system of management Great Britain derived nothing but loss from the Dominion which she assumes over her colonies."
And on the issue of Africa he says that this concept of Britain benefiting greatly from colonisation is wrong but it:
"gnaws away at the general believed assumption that the poverty and chaos of much of Africa is a direct consequence of our Imperial perfidy - an assumption easily refuted by examining the cases of Ethiopia and Liberia, two countries that were not formally colonised (Italy was driven out of Ethiopia after just five years) and that today face exactly the same problems as their neighbours, which were."
Britain's relative wealth is not built on slavery but on "good governance, entrepreneurship, a rapid improvement in general education and literacy, the Protestant work ethic and a primacy placed upon inventiveness". These were far more powerful and important to the success of Great Britain.

My thanks to The Sunday Times and Rod Liddle particularly.

Note: I have no personal views on this topic. If Mr Liddle had said that the evidence pointed to British colonialism causing poverty in Africa I would have accepted it. There were good and bad aspects to the colonial era. That's a fair assessment I'd say.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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