Letters: Empires - not sinful, just powerful

 

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Owen Jones's article of 3 September will not do. He attributes to Europeans a unique brutality and greed. But where non-Europeans have created states with sufficient power to wreak havoc on their neighbours they have done so. The expansion of Mongol power in the 13th century and of Japan in the 20th were marked by extreme violence. In the raids of the Islamic Barbary pirates on the seaboards of western Europe from the 16th to the early 19th century, Europeans were the victims.

The difference between the Barbary corsairs and the armies and navies of the 19th-century European colonising powers was not their mindset – both were filled with certainty in their cultural superiority to those on whom their power was unleashed – but rather the extent of their power. The Barbary corsairs could project the power to raid Europe's coasts, but nothing more. The Europeans could do much more because they were industrial societies. To paraphrase Hilaire Belloc: "We have the Maxim gun and the railway and the steamship and the electric telegraph, and others do not."

Had Ming China or Tokugawa Japan independently developed an industrial society, the temptation to use the power stemming from such economic advance on neighbours within reach might have proved irresistible, as it did to European states.

The same process that allowed the projection of European power across the globe is the reason for the precipitate decline in the share of the world economy taken by India (and the same applies to China) between 1700 and 1950; Europeans (and states run by transplanted Europeans in North America and Australasia) had industrial societies, with the vastly greater productivity, while other societies did not. We are now living through the unwinding of that advantage.

Philip Hamshare

London SE27

Listing "the greatest atrocities in human history", Owen Jones omits the death of millions accomplished by the "peacetime" policies of Stalin and Mao; he might also have mentioned the medieval Mongol conquests and the Chinese Tai-Peng rebellion of the 19th century.

The wartime famines born of British policy in their Indian Empire during the Second World War are especially remarkable because those countries had been saving Britain's neck during the conflict, raising the largest volunteer army in history, which is itself another wonder, considering what little reward the sub-continent had enjoyed for its effort in the 1914-18 war.

Bryn Hughes

Wrexham, North Wales

One cannot fault Owen Jones's critique of the British and European empires, but one must also include America in this discussion.

I have just returned from a visit to Canada and the sites associated with the war of 1812, a seminal year in shaping the future of the continent. This was a war of aggression by the United States, intent on annexing the French-speaking provinces and Indian territories. Though in this case the US failed in its intention, it continued its westward "imperial" expansion into Indian and Spanish territories, as of providential, God-given right. This embracive expansionism now reaches out to the whole world.

That the motivating sense of a pre-destined self-righteousness, long since abandoned by Europeans, is alive and well in the US can clearly be seen in current Republican campaigning. American policies and intentions in the Middle East, for which Israel is little more than a colonial outpost, clearly show that imperialism and its attendant woes are still rampant.

Yes, we do need to discuss imperialism. No, it is not a thing of the past.

Dominic Kirkham

Manchester

Cameron rearranges the deckchairs

Cameron's idea of governance has proven to be non-functional. Osborne's economic theories have proven to be sterile. Lansley did exactly what Cameron wanted him to do and got fired. Not going to get any better, is it?

Martin London

Henllan, Denbighshire

Having been a disaster area as Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt is to now be the new health minister. What hold does this man have over the Prime Minister that he is promoted when his whole ministerial career to date should have seen him stamped "Not needed on journey. Return to back benches"?

Jonathan Aird

Lechworth Garden City, Hertfordshire

Why is a Prime Minister's first major change to his Cabinet referred to as his first Cabinet reshuffle? Surely, David Cameron's current purge should be termed a "Cabinet shuffle" and the next his "first reshuffle"?

Lawrence Kilkenny

Stafford

University challenge

The UK Border Agency's revocation of London Metropolitan University's sponsorship of international students has caused unprecedented disruption and distress to students and staff. UCU and UNISON demanded and welcome the decision of our governors to take judicial review action. But that will take time and money that we need to devote to the academic experience of our students.

In the meantime we are advising all staff to teach and give full support to international students regardless of the suspension. To do less would be a denial of professional responsibility to them.

UKBA must now announce an amnesty for all our international students, to allow them to continue to study at London Met University, and for those who have been accepted at London Met to join us. We demand that Damian Green and Theresa May, who unaccountably appear to have survived the reshuffle, visit our university and be accountable in person to the many individual students and staff whose distress is so visible to us.

We will be protesting outside the Home office on Wednesday and the ministers can meet union representatives then.

Mark Campbell

UCU London Met Chair

Cliff Snaith

UCU London Met Secretary

Max Watson

UNISON London Met Chair

Catherine McGuire

UNISON London Met Secretary

London E11

Incorrect terminology is being widely used in the media regarding the consequences surrounding the loss of London Metropolitan University's sponsor licence.

To use the word "deportation" instead of the more appropriate word "removal" is wrong. Since 2000, a deportation order is issued in circumstances where it would be deemed in the public good or where the court recommends such action following conviction of an offence punishable with imprisonment. It has much more serious consequences for the deportee and such casual use of the terms is liable to cause panic among international students already in the UK as well as sending out the wrong message to anyone considering the UK as a destination for study.

The wrong word also distorts the debate when there should be a clear focus on the straightforward legal responsibility for the university to maintain compliance and the human and economic impact of the UKBA's actions.

Kay Bains

Head of UK Immigration, Mazars LLP, London E1

A parade of puzzles

During the last few weeks the entertainment media have striven to assure us that Parade's End would, for the intelligent viewer, surpass its "soap driven" "rival" Downton Abbey. As a graduate in English literature, who has, to his shame, never read Ford Madox Ford, I was happy to be coaxed into the belief that I would enjoy a literary and cinematic feast. How wrong I was. On Friday I watched the second episode with growing confusion. Who are these characters; what are they doing and why?

First we had Sylvia in her bath then she was in a nunnery, then alone at New Year, and then in her husband's bed, with no rationale for any of her actions. Her son, Michael, was last seen on a Shetland pony – did he ever dismount? The mad vicar's wife was raped by her husband and then perhaps by her lover, who received for this a large cheque from Christopher. War was declared – not with a bang, but a whimper. Miranda Richardson dictated copious notes to her suffragette daughter, but what where they about, and why was her pacifist son arrested?

Does anyone care any more? The hero, Christopher, spent most of the episode on the verge of weeping and at the end I felt like joining him. Perhaps the author has defied the best efforts of Tom Stoppard to condense his work into hour-long bites; and perhaps Tom should get notes on plot and character development from Julian Fellowes. Bring on Downton and the blessed Maggie, I say.

Robert Mundell

Dumfries

No respect for politics

Andreas Whittam Smith (4 September) warns that "British democracy is in crisis" because of "a precipitous decline in respect for Members of Parliament and for the governments they form".

His analysis does not quite reach to the root of the problem. The cause of the decline in respect for Members of Parliament and for the governments they form is entirely due to the simple reality that neither MPs nor their governments merit any.

Robert Bottamley

Hedon, East Yorkshire

Jon Kingsbury (letter, 4 September) contrasts our world-leading higher-education with our high unemployment, low social mobility and negative growth, and suggests somebody gets their thinking cap on.

The thinking has been done, notably by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their book The Spirit Level. The problem is getting the politicians to listen. The Tories have a particularly bad record of ignoring evidence which conflicts with their ideology on any issue.

Establishing a link between scientific evidence and policy could be one of the most fruitful ways in which Andreas Whittam Smith's campaign could address our bankrupt political establishment.

Bill Linton

London N13

Football crazy

After a weekend in which we had the Paralympics, two Brits playing for last-16 places in the US tennis Open, England beating South Africa at cricket, a Brit winning one of the most exciting grands prix for years and the start of the rugby Premiership season, how disappointing (yet sadly predictable) that The Independent sport section on Monday should lead with 11 pages of football before even a single mention of that feast of real sport. Here we go again!

Lee Adamson

Sevenoaks, Kent

Big problem

What is this obsession men have with size? In a fit of pique, Oscar Pistorius claims another runner's blades were four inches longer than his. What next? Sprinters complaining Usain Bolt's legs are longer than theirs?

Andrea Hunt

Datchet, Berkshire

Hitler's beliefs

This business on your letters page about Hitler being a Christian is getting remarkably muddy. I don't think you'll find anything in the gospels about Jesus saying genocide's OK.

Malcolm Addison

Windsor

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