Empire by Niall Ferguson
Ferguson provides a survey history of the British Empire; from his other financial works, I had thought it would delve more into the mechanics of operating an empire on a financial shoestring. I was wrong.
On a brighter (maybe) note, his mention of dystopian future fiction at the beginning of the 20th century has me wondering how long that's been around. Similar to how every decade or two some movement co-opts Nostradamus ;). Plus ca change...
The idea was to attract university achievers into imperial administration directly after they had completed their first degree, ideally at Oxford or Cambridge, and then put them through one or two years of training in law, languages, Indian history and riding. In practice, the ICS (Indian Civil Service) tended not to attract the Oxbridge creme de la creme -- the Scholars, Double Firsts and University Prize winners. the men who opted for the rigours of the subcontinent tended to be those whose prospects at home were modest.
It is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.
He (Herbert Horatio Kitchener) was not without a sense of humour: cursed with poor eyesight all his life, he was such a poor shot that he named his gundogs Bang, Miss, and Damn.
Sir Nevile Henderson, the British ambassador in Berlin in the 1930s, recalled that when he remonstrated with Goering about the brutality of the Nazi concentration camps, the latter took down from his shelves a volume of a German encyclopedia: 'Opening it at Konzentrationslager .. he read out: "First used by the British in the South African War."'
In 1905 a book appeared with the intriguing title of The Decline and Fall of the British Empire. It purported to be published in Tokyo in 2005 and envisaged a world in which India was under Russian rule, South Africa under German rule, Egypt under Turkish, Canada under American and Australia under Japanese.
Given the failure of their (the Liberal Party) foreign policy to avert a European war, he (Herbert Asquith) and his Cabinet ought indeed to have resigned. But they dreaded the return to Opposition. More, they dreaded the return of the Conservatives to power. They went to war partly to keep the Tories out.