Monday, April 21, 2014

British Empire Continues to Collapse

As you know, I am currently reading and blogging about the book The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph A. Tainter. One minor issue I have with Tainter is his characterization of Great Britain as a retrenchment rather than a collapse simply because the central power (England) has not collapsed and it has taken place over a period of decades.

I'm not sure but that is too narrow of a definition of collapse. Just because the ruling state of an Empire doesn't collapse doesn't mean the Empire, itself, isn't or hasn't collapsed. Turkey remains, but the Ottoman Empire certainly collapsed.

Although some nations enjoyed self-rule prior to WWI and WWII, the British Empire was still largely intact going into WWII. Yet, within a couple decades, Britain had lost or shed all control over most of its former colonies, including its Middle-Eastern protectorates, India, African colonies and client states (including Egypt), colonies in the Caribbean, and most of its colonies in the Far East. Although Canada had achieved self-rule by 1867, it did not have the right to change its constitution without British approval until 1982. Australia was in a similar situation until 1986. It has since lost Hong Kong. And the process seems to be continuing as Scotland may be on the verge of voting for independence.

Moreover, if you examine its foreign possessions, many continued or continue to further decay and break apart. India, for instance, was split into modern India and Pakistan. Pakistan is torn by powerful regional forces, and may further disintegrate. The Empire's African possessions certainly haven't fared very well either, and many of its former Middle-Eastern possessions are involved in civil wars. In many ways, the last 100 years of world history is the history of the collapse of the British and other European empires.

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