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Subject: What Event Marked the Decline of the British Empire?
Godofgamblers    3/31/2009 2:45:59 AM
When did the Decline of the British Empire Begin? I think in the case of the French Empire, the beginning of the end was very clear: The War of 1871. The creation of Germany and the military fiasco with Napoleon III at its head was the deathknell of France’s ambitions as a world superpower. The creation of Germany meant an eclipsing of France’s greatness, a new rival (a rival which was much more powerful) and the defeat of Napoleon III dashed all hopes of a New Empire. But for the British, the timing of the decline is much less clear. Some may argue that WW2 ended Britain’s reign as it was destitute and had to relinquish many of its colonies (notably India). I feel that WW1 marked the end; the mass culling of its elites in the suicidal Franco-Prussian War Part 2 killed off the best human resources of the Brit Empire. Some say the Boer War marked the beginning of the end as a handful of brash upstarts managed to better the British army. Or did the decline begin with the US Revolutionary War? Your comments, as always, are much appreciated, Gentlemen…
 
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Herald12345    They were out for England.   4/2/2009 8:25:37 AM

By the 1600s, and for whatever reason, the Greco-roman-celtic-judaeo-christian-anglo-saxon-norse-renaissance influences that had accumulated in England for the past 1000 years reached a critical mass, and the lucky collection of experts, and geniuses that made up Elizabeth I's Privy Council gave birth to what was arguably the first nation state. Now, for the first time, all those positive feedback loops of trade were occurring not over a city of a few hundred thousand, but a nation of a few million. And the trade was no longer just in goods and services but, with organisations like the Royal Society, it was in knowledge too. (Newton said he was standing on the shoulders of giants.)
 

Hi AP, I don't know much about that period of history. Why was Elizabeth's I's priy council different from the others of that time?


Not so much for selves.
 
It helps when you have a unit or a STAFF.
 
Herald

 
 
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strat-T21C    Buzzard,   4/2/2009 12:54:09 PM

I don't think there was a
single defined event or moment that can be drawn upon to illustrate the
decline of the British Empire.



I would suggest that when its largest colonial franchises broke away
and became nations in their own right the "Empire" as a single entity
ended.

 

 Actually I was going to proffer some discussion along these lines myself, but in a bit of a different direction. We've seen a lot of comparison of industrial capacity beyween the UK and Germany, and have used this is being indicative of their decline from great power capacity. However the British Empire wasn't just the UK. There were some other industrialized nations in the mix. It would be interesting to see what the industrial capacity of the whole empire at the time amounted to. While I am unsure about the situation in, say, 1900, by W.W. II both Canada and Australia were significant industrial nations, and coupled with the output of the U.K. must have totaled something pretty respectable. I guess the question, therefore, becomes when did Australia and Canada really industrialize? Was it only after removing themselves from the empire? If so, this could well be why the empire saw its fall.


I can't say exactly for the Austrailians, however Canada has always been an industrial nation. From conception Canada was a milk cow for the Empire. The timber (for shipping and the construction of naval vessels) and the fur trade along with fishing were the driving force of the settling of Canada. As the people selltled and began to move West is when we became an agricultural powerhouse. The other raw materials came in time( in the Shieldlands etc.). As for comparrison with the English and the rest of the empire, Canada was the nation that rebuilt the Brit Army/Armed Forces after they ran and ditched their kit on the beaches at Dunkirk, we had everything that they didn't. It makes us( the peoples of Brit islses decent) laugh because our forefathers were kicked off of the Ilses in the first place and now we got it all. 
 
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buzzard       4/2/2009 1:27:44 PM
Ok, then Canada should definitely be figured into any production totals of that era. That leaves Australia, and possibly South Africa. I would imagine that all those combined in 1900 even would have been a respectable total.
 
As for Canada, I was always impressed with the incredible size to which the Canadian military grew during W.W. II. Most Americans are completely unaware of how large the Canadian contribution to that war effort was.
 
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JFKY    Australia and Canada   4/2/2009 1:44:29 PM
For Canada, please note, that from the chart given, Canada does NOT appear, and the 7 nations appearing represent 90-plus percent of the war-making ability in the world. I think the only reasonable conclusion would be that Canada didn't make the Top 7.
 
Australia even less so...Australia had a horrific time trying to develop its first tanks, it was NOT an industrial power, at the level that would make it anything more than a regional player, in a very poorly armed region of the world.
 
Now all the Canucks and Aussies will bombard me with Monash this, and AIF Battalions did that and the Ross Rifle and other things...I am not trying to diminish your contribution to both World Wars or your forefather's manhoods.   I'm just saying you accomplished many great things, mostly shooting, flying, and sailing the products of another nation, usually Britain or the later the US.
 
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buzzard       4/2/2009 3:38:36 PM
I think your source has issues. It doesn't list any actual amounts of production, nor even actual productive capacity.
 
These links:
h--p://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/691636
h--p://www.wwii.ca/page17.html
h--p://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Military_production_during_World_War_II
 
belie many of your claims.
Canada produced a lot of stuff towards the allied war effort. It was somewhat concentrated on specific things (trucks, and machineguns seemed to big large on the lists). At the very least, their production was comparable or exceeded Italy, and in some areas compared to Japan.
 
The numbers do indicate that the rest of the Commonwealth didn't produce all that much, so Australia didn't appear to be all too industrialized as yet.
 
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JFKY    You're right it's not about production   4/2/2009 3:55:41 PM
It's about GNP and production CAPACITY...I believe it uses, coal, oil, and steel production figures for one....it's about your ability to wage war.  Add to the fact that Britain and the US and the USSR mobilized: 1) More fully than Germany 2) Achieved full mobilization earlier than Germany and 3) Had a more rational production system than Germany and the outcome becomes even MORE lop-sided....in short Britain, the US and the USSR used almost their full capacity, in a very rational manner v. Germany...and Japan.  Because of this the war was over sooner than it could have been.
 
Short story: as Herald says thankfully the NSDAP were idiots.
 
From Wiki, Canada produced quite a bit of war material, on one scale, but COMPARATIVELY Canda's produciton was just a fraction of the US or the USSR's...usually 1/10 or less of a given area.  The one area Canada DID excel in was truck production! So, Hat's Off to GM of Canada...not so much your production of the Ram tank....though I understand Canda did produce a large number of heavy bombers for the RAF.
 
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buzzard       4/2/2009 4:32:12 PM
You know, if you think about it, specialization in certain things could well be advantageous to an empire. This is the reason why free trade is generally advantageous. It's the comparative advantage. The ability of the Canadians to crank out trucks was maximized, and they may well have been the best possible use of their capacity.
 
Now I won't dispute that the U.S. warmaking capacity buried even Canada+UK, but Canada does add some significant numbers to the UK total. 
 
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Armchair Private       4/2/2009 4:37:21 PM




By the 1600s, and for whatever reason, the Greco-roman-celtic-judaeo-christian-anglo-saxon-norse-renaissance influences that had accumulated in England for the past 1000 years reached a critical mass, and the lucky collection of experts, and geniuses that made up Elizabeth I's Privy Council gave birth to what was arguably the first nation state. Now, for the first time, all those positive feedback loops of trade were occurring not over a city of a few hundred thousand, but a nation of a few million. And the trade was no longer just in goods and services but, with organisations like the Royal Society, it was in knowledge too. (Newton said he was standing on the shoulders of giants.)


 



Hi AP, I don't know much about that period of history. Why was Elizabeth's I's priy council different from the others of that time?







Not so much for selves.

 

It helps when you have a unit or a STAFF.

 

Herald





 

Partly the quality of the individuals:
 
William Cecil, Lizzie's cheif advisor was the Bismark of his day, it's quite difficult to find anyone not impressed by Francis Walsingham, (or to find an article on the web thats not a hagiography of him) Walsingham is credited with inventing modern espionage, planned for England's ascent as a sea power (I wonder if Mahan has anything to say about him?) Francis Bacon was a relatively junior official under Elizabeth who in his spare time created what we now call the scientific method  but used to be known as the Baconian method.... you could go on.
 
Elizabeth herself was by all accounts pretty sharp, she was the only one picking all her advisors after all, and ruled the Council by allowing, even encouraging conflict between the men, before being the one to make the final decision, thus emphasising her power over them all the time.
 
Herald makes a good point too, despite the power and influence they were granted, nearly all of them died broke, the Queen was supposed to always have been concerned that Walsingham in particular spent all his cash on his spy network in her service... also, increasingly, people were given rank and status (in what was beginning to change from a royal court into a government) on the basis of ability as much as blood ties... well relatively speaking anyway.
 
But largely, there was a cultural shift. Before Elizabeth powerful people did things because more powerful people told them to otherwise they'd cut their heads off (from paying taxes, to raising a levy to fight in the low countries) after Elizabeth powerful people did things because that was what the rules told them to......(so much so that less than 100 years later the rules led to regicide) obviously I'm generalising just a little bit but you get my point I hope.
 
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Panther       4/2/2009 7:59:03 PM




Pretty cool thread. The American revolution didn't break the British bank, as already has been pointed out. Any tax revenues the British lost after they lost part of their North American empire was more than made good else where. After the revolution, both the US and Britain kept trading with one another as if there was never a war in the first place, with the exception for the war of 1812 of course.



 



What event marked the decline, i don't know? I'm rather torn between two camps: The growing industrial might of her main industrial rival nations at the dawn of the 20th century or WW1 (The Great War)?










 



 




Once Britain was no longer able to dictate how trade was conducted or the movement of her enemies around the world, the jig was UP.

 

That is why I see WW I as confirmation of but not the key incident that led to the decline of her advantage and the end of her empire.


 

I'm surprised that JFKY saw it nearly the same way I did.  Germany had to export to build a powerhouse industrial economy based o9n seaborne trade. Japan likewise. Both nations destroyed Britain on the sealanes even though she eventually defeated both. Mahan.

 

Herald


.


 


Exactly! She was still powerful enough to take on one single equally strong industrial national entity at a time. But not 2, 3, or even 4 at one go!
 
 By the way... glad to see that you are back Herald!
 
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DropBear       4/2/2009 11:14:15 PM
 Australia even less so...Australia had a horrific time trying to develop its first tanks, it was NOT an industrial power, at the level that would make it anything more than a regional player, in a very poorly armed region of the world.
 
One must remember that the total population of Oz during those years was smaller than todays pop of Los Angeles. So yes, our industrial capacity was rather limited and as the capital cities/ regional centres are long distances apart it made for considerable expense to develop large industrial centres on the scale of other nations.
 
The second part about us being merely a regional player is interesting. Oz at its military height during WW2 could boast the fifth largest airforce on the planet and contributed a quarter million airman etc to the British Empire through the training schemes. The vast bulk of our military capacity was overseas. As to a poorly armed region, well, considering we were fighting the Japanese as the main enemy, then one can assume that the foe was indeed not poorly armed.
 
When put into context, the Oz industrial capacity ramped up rather quickly to meet the direct needs of this perceived Japanese threat. Prior to this, we contributed human resources hence there wasn't a direct nor dire need to establish heavy industry to support a war effort that was well away from the mainland populace.
 
The one thing that is surprising is that our allies/friends did not take advantage of our massive natural resources of copper, lead, iron ore, coal etc. Had this been done with imported friendly labour (on a large scale), it is not inconceivable to imagine thousands of Liberty ships being built in Oz (hypothetical of course).
 
Now all the Canucks and Aussies will bombard me with Monash this, and AIF Battalions did that and the Ross Rifle and other things...I am not trying to diminish your contribution to both World Wars or your forefather's manhoods.   I'm just saying you accomplished many great things, mostly shooting, flying, and sailing the products of another nation, usually Britain or the later the US.
 
Quite right. We were great innovators when pressed to the wall, but we did not have the fully established industrial complex of other nations. In fact, we have lost a number of heavy industries in Oz over the last half century (like ship building) and are now seen as a tourist/services based economy.
 
 
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