Err, Yes?

The Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah has said he suspects the British empire is “still important in Britain” and may well have played a part in the Brexit vote.

The author, 73, born in Zanzibar, told the audience at the Hay festival that he believes there was a sense of “we can go alone, because we’ve done it before” among voters in the 2016 referendum.

Even if such views may no longer be expressed through “flag waving” or “s

houting”, Gurnah said he thought that subconscious imperial attitudes affect the way many in Britain think.

Nations do have a culture, a shared set of assumptions about the world. Said assumptions are influenced by history. So the surprise here is what?

19 thoughts on “Err, Yes?”

  1. So it’s fine for Zanzibar, or at least Tanzania, to wish to and believe they can go it alone.

    But not the wicked WHITE Brits.

  2. The violence in Zanzibar that caused Mr Gurnah to flee was nothing to do with the British Empire of course – instead it was due to Muslim Arab Imperialism and racial hatred. I think Mr Gurnah should perhaps look in the mirror before criticising the British.

  3. The Mau Mau were particularly brutal to other native Kenyans, esoecially those from other tribes. Torture wasnot”normalised” it wasto stop Africans from killing each other as well as the Asians and British in Kenya.

    Zanzibar born but has lived and taught in the UK ( Canterbury too, which is hardly deprived) for >50years.

  4. Did he ever listen to the case made by a brexit supporter or did he dismiss it out of hand because of the empire? Did he ever explain the case for remain, or like all the others just resort to fear porn?

    It seems to me that a lot of Brits can’t work out exactly why the empire was so good for us, the plebs in the UK. There is little or no yearning for the empire even for people who were once part of it, as I was.

    And if we’d never had one, just been content to use the RN to enforce free trade, maybe there wouldn’t be so many ungrateful hangers-on living here.

  5. I sympathise Rhoda. I’m thinking of Salisbury trying to avoid the Scramble for Africa. He very reasonably felt the British taxpayer was already paying for the rule of too many jungles inhabited by savages. Thus if everyone ignored the place and free trade was allowed, the locals’d have to pay for their own administration and the Europeans and other foreigners would gain the benefits of whatever they had to trade.

    Alas the rest of Europe felt that Britain’s prosperity was the result of its empire rather than its industrialisation. Of course some parts of the empire turned a profit, but others, like Oz, were definitely a cost.

  6. Being 3000 years old, I remember Portugal, Greece, Spain, France, Italy and Germany (briefly) all holding the world title. And Sweden holding the Northern Championship Belt for a time.
    But their shared experiences are better so we should row in with their project. A project currently on course to smash it’s own alleged values like tolerance, free expression and minority protections by saying welcome to Ukraine, rather than saying you can join if and when you meet the criteria.

  7. …there was a sense of “we can go alone, because we’ve done it before” among voters in the 2016 referendum.

    Wtf does that have to do with empire? Britain has ‘gone it alone’ in ~1533-1648, several periods between 1797 and 1805, 1940-41, plus multiple times in the medieval era and late Roman Empire. And that excludes periods where we were ‘alone’ but not in conflict with the European order.

    Only one of these periods really corresponds with either of Britain’s two empires.

  8. A casual observer would think there are no English historians, given how routinely we are lectured on our past by foreigners.

  9. Genghis Khan’s Mongol empire was the largest (land-only) empire ever known (and established with a tidy amount of bloodshed) but one doesn’t hear many calls for the Mongolians to apologise.

  10. “…there was a sense of “we can go alone, because we’ve done it before…”

    Yes… for a thousand years before we had an empire, and most of that before ‘Britain’ as a unitary State existed.

  11. Just another jumped up nomark. Nobel prize winner? Got that for the same reason as Obama.

    Been in this country for 50 odd years but clearly has never visited it or spoken to anybody British. The narcissistic bubble doesn’t count I’m afraid. It’s not the real world and if that’s where you live, the real world and the real people that inhabit it are as inaccessible as the other side of an event horizon.

    He simply cannot comprehend what the brexit vote meant for those of us who voted to leave. Furthermore, he is simple incapable of understanding. He could no more understand than I can understand what was going through the mind of an aztec priest in the process of tearing out the 20th heart that particular day.

    If he understood he would be one of us. Not much chance of that.

  12. ‘he suspects the British empire is “still important in Britain”…”

    It certainly is, as a good proportion of the empire seemed to have settled here.

  13. The reason most voted for Brexit was because they were keen to remove the influence and excuse of Brussels. It is certinly difficult to discern any intention or desire to expand borders. On the other hand, the whole purpose of the EU is to allow Germany and France to extend their influence and control over the whole continent. Which makes this chap 100% wrong!

  14. If Abdulrazak feels this strongly about it we, as a country, must reluctantly accept that his towering intellect is better suited to be elsewhere.

    There should be a first class cabin available for ex-colonial Nobel Laureates on Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B.

  15. It’s almost a century since the Balfour Declaration, and barely thirty years since the “European Union” was established. So what on earth has this to do with the British Empire?

  16. @ JK277
    1940-1 the British Empire was *very* important and the non-UK parts were crucial to defeating Hitler and Tojo: without them we should be part of the “Thousand-year Reich”.

  17. OT (though sort of related, in an empire building way) has anyone else noticed the change in tone in the MSM on the Ukraine situation recently? A lot more stuff about how a negotiated settlement will be needed, and even some bits about how the Russians are moving forward and gaining ground, and the Ukrainians maybe not doing as well as was being portrayed a few weeks/month ago.

  18. I’m so pleased that the fledgling Union States of America won that nasty war that ended in 1783 or thereabouts. Kudos George.
    Leave voter in 2016.
    Like that principle of there being No Taxation Without Representation
    If only the BBC were accountable to the people who were taxed to pay for it, but hey ho, there’s bigger probs like Joe

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