Jump to content
The Education Forum

Opium, famine and banks all played their part in this country's plundering of the globe.


Recommended Posts

The Guardian takes a look back at 300 years of British Imperial rule; and it's effect on the people and nations it controlled. Even the Brits know their system is finished. The question is what will replace it? The American system or a new dark age ?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/08/british-empire-colonies-banks-reform

The social unrest that might have transformed our politics was instead outsourced to our colonies and unwilling trading partners. The rebellions in Ireland, India, China, the Caribbean, Egypt, South Africa, Malaya, Kenya, Iran and other places we subjugated were the price of political peace in Britain. After decolonisation, our plunder of other nations was sustained by the banks. Now, for the first time in three centuries, they can no longer deliver, and we must at last confront our problems.

There will probably never be a full account of the robbery this country organised, but there are a few snapshots. In his book Capitalism and Colonial Production, Hamza Alavi estimates that the resource flow from India to Britain between 1793 and 1803 was in the order of £2m a year, the equivalent of many billions today. The economic drain from India, he notes, "has not only been a major factor in India's impoverishment … it has also been a very significant factor in the industrial revolution in Britain". As Ralph Davis observes in The Industrial Revolution and British Overseas Trade, from the 1760s onwards India's wealth "bought the national debt back from the Dutch and others … leaving Britain nearly free from overseas indebtedness when it came to face the great French wars from 1793".

In the late 19th century, Davis shows, Britain's vast deficits with the United States, Germany and its white dominions were balanced by huge annual surpluses with India and (as a result of the opium trade) China. For a generation "the starving Indian and Chinese peasantries … braced the entire system of international settlements, allowing England's continued financial supremacy to temporarily co-exist with its relative industrial decline". Britain's trade surpluses with India allowed the City to become the world's financial capital.

Its role in British colonisation was not a passive one. The bankruptcy, and subsequent British takeover, of Egypt in 1882 was hastened by a loan from Roths­child's bank whose execution, Newsinger records, amounted to "fraud on a massive scale". ­Jardine Matheson, once the biggest narco-trafficking outfit in history (it dominated the Chinese opium trade), later formed a major investment bank, Jardine Fleming. It was taken over by JP Morgan Chase in 2000.

We lost our colonies, but the plunder has continued by other means. As Joseph Stiglitz shows in Globalisation and its Discontents, the capital liberalisation forced on Asian economies by the IMF permitted northern traders to loot hundreds of billions of dollars, precipitating the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. Poorer nations have also been strong-armed into a series of amazingly one-sided treaties and commitments, such as trade-related investment measures, bilateral investment agreements and the EU's economic partnership agreements. If you have ever wondered how a small, densely populated country which produces very little supports itself, I would urge you to study these asymmetric arrangements.

Edited by Terry Mauro
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...