Books Should Be Free
Loyal Books
Free Public Domain Audiobooks & eBook Downloads
Search by: Title, Author or Keyword

The Character of the British Empire   By: (1872-1941)

Book cover

First Page:









NOTE. The following essay is based mainly upon a book by the same author entitled "The Expansion of Europe," in which an attempt is made to estimate the part played by various nations in extending the civilisation of Europe over the whole world. A few references are therefore given to the fuller treatment of various aspects of the subject contained in the book.


Nearly all the great self governing nations of the world are now combined in a desperate struggle against the scarcely veiled military despotism of the Central European Powers, and the object of the struggle has been well denned by President Wilson as the securing of freedom for democracy, so that it shall be safe from the threats of militarist and conquering empires.

In the forefront of the group of States engaged in the defence of democracy stands the British Empire, the greatest dominion that has ever existed in history, which covers a quarter of the earth's surface, and in which a quarter of the earth's population is subject (at any rate, in form) to the rule of two small European islands.

The very existence of this huge Empire seems to many people to stultify in some degree the cause for which the world's democracies are fighting. It seems, at first sight, to be simply the greatest example of that spirit of conquest and of military dominion against which we are striving. This is the view taken by some neutrals. "Imperialism is the enemy," says one Swiss writer; "whatever form it takes, German or Russian, British or French, it is equally the foe of free government." The Germans themselves make great play with this notion. They describe the British Empire as a vast, greedy tyranny, built up by fraud. They invite us to free the oppressed millions of India before we talk hypocritically about liberty. They assert that the naval supremacy of Britain is far more dangerous to the freedom of the world than the military power of Germany could ever be. Some people even in the allied countries are affected by doubts of this kind. The Russian Socialists, for whom imperialism has in the past meant nothing but a hideous repression of freedom, are ready to assume that the British Empire, because it is called an empire, must mean the same ugly things. And criticism of the same kind can sometimes be heard in France, in Italy, in the United States, and in Britain herself.

Our purpose, in this short paper, is to examine the truth of these superficial impressions. But before we do so there are two preliminary observations worth making.

The first is that men's minds are extraordinarily easily influenced by mere words . The word "Empire" suggests, to many, conquest and dominion over unwilling subjects. In so far as it does so, it begs the question. As we shall try to show, this word is really misapplied to the British realms. The character of their government and of the bond which holds them together would be much better expressed by a phrase which is now being widely used in Britain the British Commonwealth of Nations . Of course, that title also begs the question in a way. But the reader is asked, at the outset, to keep in his mind, while he reads, the question, "Is the title 'Empire,' or the title 'Commonwealth of Nations,' the truer description of this extraordinary aggregate of lands and peoples?"

The second preliminary observation which we shall make is, that there are certain outstanding features of the war which must have thrown a striking light upon the character of the British Empire.

Over a million volunteer soldiers have come from the great self governing Colonies of the British Empire without any compulsion being imposed upon them. The princes and peoples of India have vied with one another in their generous and spontaneous gifts to the cause, while Indian forces have fought gallantly in all parts of the world, and at the same time India has been almost denuded of British troops... Continue reading book >>

eBook Downloads
ePUB eBook
• iBooks for iPhone and iPad
• Nook
• Sony Reader
Kindle eBook
• Mobi file format for Kindle
Read eBook
• Load eBook in browser
Text File eBook
• Computers
• Windows
• Mac

Review this book

Popular Genres
More Genres
Paid Books