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The Very Model of a Modern Major Liar?

By Alan Lester The Red River Expedition with Colonel Garnet Wolseley’s boat featured flying the ensign at Kakabeka Falls, Frances Anne Hopkins, 1877: https://picturingtheamericas.org/painting/the-red-river-expedition-at-kakabeka-falls/ We understand the British Empire’s military campaigns mainly via the accounts of the officers who led them. These records render the acquisition of territory, the crushing of dissent and the seizing of plunder into honourable enterprises but, when published, they were also about self-promotion. A heroic narrative, leavened with the correct dose of self-deprecation, could launch the career of an ambitious officer with literary flair. The best-known example is probably Winston Churchill, whose talent for burnishing […]

Response to Kemi Badenoch’s, Nigel Biggar’s and the Institute of Economic Affairs’ Whitewashing of Colonial History

In April 2024, the Conservative MP Kemi Badenoch gave a speech in which she sought to deny the extent to which Britain’s economic trajectory was reliant on colonialism. When criticised by William Dalrymple, Toby Young, responded with this tweet, linking to an article in support of Badenoch by Nigel Biggar. This is my quickfire response to Badenoch’s and Biggar’s case: Biggar makes three historical arguments, each of which is tendentious and based on the construction of straw men: He starts with the economic foundations of the South African War, arguing that the antisemitic Hobson’s thesis that Cecil Rhodes and other […]

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