|c/o Metro UK|
A graduate of the prestigious Eton College (a world renowned English public school) and the similarly esteemed Trinity College at the University of Cambridge, Dr. Kwasi Kwarteng is a Member of Parliament (MP) representing the Spelthorne constituency for the Conservative Party in the British House of Commons. He is also the child of parents who were subjects of the British Empire, first in their native Ghana and later as immigrants to England. Accordingly Kwarteng’s new book, Ghosts of Empire, offers a distinct perspective about the oft-aspersed British Empire that one may not expect.
As an alternative to the predictable, almost requisite condemnation of the largest empire the world has ever known, Kwarteng instead assesses the kingdom somewhat more magnanimously by weighing both the Empire’s progressive influence with its impulsive callousness. The truth, as one review explained, is that the Empire “was the product, not of a grand idea, but of often chaotic individual improvisation,” the result of unconventional governors and attachés who nevertheless operated the royal enterprise with an unparalleled level of success that was more than one-sided.
Kwarteng’s perspective, once the historical norm, is now disparaged by those who view the Empire as a collection of oppressive White Europeans that merely exploited people from other parts of the world who were, in essence, their exact opposite. Not so unexpectedly, this has also become a gradually prevalent interpretation of our own United States.
To be sure, the very concept of our domestic exceptionalism first referenced in Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America some 175 years ago is being supplanted by post-nationalist intellectuals among the left who, at their core, are abhorred — whether they admit it or not — by the very principles that developed America into a social and economic model coveted by billions. As it turns out, we elected a philosophical spawn of these left-wing ideologues to lead our nation just a few years ago, the consequences of which have been questionable at best.
A piece in The Wall Street Journal tied it all together a couple of days ago.
“In his recent State of the Union speech, President Obama said: ‘Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned doesn’t know what they’re talking about.’ It was hardly a Churchillian rejoinder, but then it was a very demotic speech, and he is wrong. By almost any criteria, the American influence in the world has indeed waned since the Eisenhower administration, but it still has a good head start on the British Empire, which was antidemocratic, protectionist, slow to innovate and largely ruled over by the sportsmen of its only two great universities. America, by contrast, is — when it is true to itself — a proselytizing democracy, free-market and innovational, which has more than a dozen of the world’s top 20 universities.
“Where the British Empire does indeed hold a message for modern America is in the area of self-belief. Many of the British Empire’s worst legacies stemmed from a collapse in confidence among the British elite in the values and principles that had made Britain the largest empire in the history of mankind. Anyone who thinks that just such a spasm of self-doubt among America’s elite isn’t a problem in modern America doesn’t know what he is talking about.”
~ from “Now That The Sun Has Set” by Andrew Roberts, from his review of Kwarteng’s Ghosts of Empire in The Wall Street Journal; February 10, 2012