THE British Empire ‘was far worse than the Nazis’ according to Professor Kehinde Andrews, who says the empire ‘lasted longer and killed more people’.
Andrews is a ‘controversial academic and activist’ from Birmingham City University, where he enjoys the status of being Britain’s first Professor of Black Studies. He seems to specialise in outrageous statements, for example claiming that ‘whiteness is a psychosis’ and describing RAF airmen who bombed Nazi Germany as ‘war criminals’,so it’s debatable whether it’s worth taking notice of this latest outburst.
But his sweeping pronouncement has gained him media coverage because it was made during a debate about Winston Churchill held online by Churchill College, Cambridge, which is named after him. So perhaps it does warrant attention.
As well as denouncing the empire, Professor Andrews belittled Churchill’s role as Prime Minister during the Second World War, saying: ‘Was it Churchill out there fighting the war? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. I’m pretty sure he was at home. I’m pretty sure that if Churchill wasn’t in the war, it would have ended the same way.’
I don’t object to him indulging in such rants, because we still have some measure of free speech in this country, and his ramblings are there to be refuted. However, the fact that we taxpayers are funding the learned professor while he spouts his nonsense is somewhat irking. I suppose it shows us the skewed times we are living in.
His equating the iniquities of the empire with the systematic cruelty and horror inflicted on the world by Germany from the moment Adolf Hitler took power in 1933 is ridiculous. In 1939, Germany, a modern, advanced, educated, supposedly civilised nation, started a war of conquest and annihilation which in six years – with the collusion of Japan – spread to kill some 75million worldwide, combatants and civilians alike.
But it was the vicious, uncompromising racial war that was waged simultaneously with the shooting war which made the reign of the Nazis peculiarly, almost incomprehensibly, evil.
It’s true that as the British Empire expanded from the 16th to the 20th century, it led directly or indirectly to many deaths. However, for all their faults, Britain’s leaders in the 20th century did not coldly plot the industrialised extermination of an entire people and race, building factories of death whose sole purpose was the production-line murder of millions. The Nazis did.
Despite discrimination and exploitation, the empire in its latter days allowed many of its indigenous peoples greater freedom to develop, bringing them social, political and professional progress.
Perhaps Professor Andrews should ask himself what chance a black man would have had of becoming a university professor under the Nazis. Indeed, what chance a black man would have had of even surviving. As well as targeting Jews and other minorities, Hitler’s regime inflicted misery and suffering on Germany’s small population of black people.
As for his jibes against Winston Churchill, they are fatuous. Churchill alone persuaded his fellow politicians that Britain should fight on after Dunkirk and the Fall of France in 1940, rather than making an ignominious peace that sooner or later would have seen Britain in the grip of the Gestapo and SS.
In his younger days as a soldier, Churchill had seen war at first hand in India, Sudan, South Africa, and on the Western Front. He was no coward.
Despite his age – he was 65 in 1940, well over the maximum age for military service – he undoubtedly would have taken up arms personally against a German invasion, having said: ‘If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.’
So yes, the British Empire wasn’t perfect. But it was by no means ‘far worse than the Nazis’. Very little that has happened in recorded history was worse than the Nazis.
I’d like to think that Professor Andrews might think more deeply about what he is saying, rather than throwing out rent-a-quote accusations, and he might see the shallowness of his arguments. But none of us should hold our breath.