Champion of Freedom in the Modern World: Britain

Louis B. Cardon

Louis B. Cardon, “Champion of Freedom in the Modern World: Britain,” in Window of Faith: Latter-day Saint Perspectives on World History, ed. Roy A. Prete (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2005), 349–67.

One of the fascinating themes of modern history has been the rise of freedom in the Western world and the spread of that freedom to the peoples of many other parts of the earth. This chapter deals with the divinely inspired role of Britain in that process.

If we were to ask ourselves whether freedom is a quality essential to God’s plan for the happiness of man, we would not hesitate to answer yes. Certainly an individual’s meaningful exercise of his or her God-given agency requires that a range of options (some degree of freedom) be available. If we then ask whether individuals and governments will always further the purposes of God if they advance human freedom in the world, we might again be quick to answer yes. Upon further reflection, however, we might decide that the kind and amount of freedom that would most contribute to the well-being of an individual or of a nation might vary. Neither God nor moral man would really wish that every individual should have complete freedom (or license) to do anything he or she desires. And the kind of political freedom represented by full-scale “democracy,” while perhaps theoretically ideal, might not actually be the best form of government for every nation at every stage of development.

Short of a brain operation or some other extreme measure, there is practically no way that an individual can be deprived of agency. There are many ways, however, in which God and man may increase or decrease human freedoms. Individuals, through the choices they make, can significantly increase or diminish their own freedoms and the freedoms of others. Society, through its laws, places salutary restrictions on the freedom of individuals to speed on highways or to take the property of other individuals. People who persist in violating these limits may lose more of their freedoms by being placed in jail. On the other hand, governments, through liberal institutions and laws, may confer many valuable rights and freedoms upon their citizens. God, if He sees fit, may use means at His disposal to avert or terminate the rule of an oppressive leader such as Adolf Hitler.[1] He also has the power to inspire and facilitate the work of those who promote freedom such as John Locke, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln.

Among the challenges that come at times to individuals, groups, and even whole nations are frustrating limitations on their freedoms. In some cases men have been given opportunities to grow by overcoming such challenges. And in some cases human efforts to achieve important freedoms have evidently been inspired and aided by God. However, unless God specifically reveals His role and purposes in particular historical events man can only use his best judgment to try to discern and understand these things. For example, because Hitler was permitted to practice oppression for years before he was brought down, we may ask (as does Douglas Tobler in another chapter of this book) what good may have come from evil during the Holocaust and World War II.

An explanation of God’s purpose in permitting human suffering was provided in a statement of the First Presidency of the Church shortly after the outbreak of World War I: “God, doubtless, could avert war, prevent crime, destroy poverty . . . but . . . it is for the benefit of His sons and daughters that they become acquainted with evil as well as good. . . .Therefore he has permitted the evils which have been brought about by the acts of His creatures, but will control their ultimate results for . . . the progress and exaltation of His sons and daughters . . . . The contrasts experienced in this world of mingled sorrow and joy are educational in their nature, and will be the means of raising humanity to a full appreciation of all that is right and true and good.”[2]

We may conclude that God does not always choose to maximize freedom at a given time in a given area. Just as He chooses to allow individuals to experience many conditions (even slavery) that may not seem to human observers to be conducive to a productive life, He may allow whole peoples, during certain periods, to experience great limitations on their freedom to practice religion, to speak freely, to choose their place of residence and their occupation, and so forth. On the other hand, God’s influence (often called Providence) has evidently worked through many individuals, including some who did not even believe in a personal God, to increase significant political and social freedoms in Europe, in America, and throughout much of the rest of the world in the modern era.

Our understanding of some aspects of this process is aided by the fact that God has revealed in the scriptures and other statements of His prophets that certain nations are His special agents in the development and spread of desirable forms of freedom in the modern world. Prominent among these nations are Britain, France, and the United States. This chapter and the next two will consider some of those prophetic statements and their fulfillment in the history of these three nations over the past three centuries.

As the special contributions of the United States to the establishment and growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (certainly a great influence for freedom) are dealt with in other chapters, they will not be emphasized here. But the general expansion of religious freedom as one of the most basic “human rights” will be considered. The increase of opportunities for education, social mobility, satisfaction of material needs, and a host of other developments could obviously enter into a broad treatment of the recent expansion of human freedom. But for practical considerations, we will focus on developments, especially governmental, that have been particularly conducive to the establishment of certain crucial political and social freedoms within these three nations and within other nations affected by their actions or example.

All three of these nations were leaders in advancing respect for human rights, the rule of law, and broad participation in government. Each also developed a particularly stable and effective government in these centuries. There is little doubt that these nations were among those that President Gordon B. Hinckley had primarily in mind in his closing petition in the October 2001general conference: “We pray for the great democracies of the earth which Thou hast overseen in creating their governments, where peace and liberty and democratic processes obtain.”[3]

It should be noted that this petition did not suggest that all democracies are great, or that democracy, as such is synonymous with liberty. It is regrettable that even though a majority of the world’s nations today (62 percent by one count) have constitutions conferring the vote on all adult citizens, the governments of many of these democratic nations have little genuine respect for the liberties of their citizens. Sadly lacking, in many instances, are true freedom of speech and religion, the rule of impartial law, protection for private property, and effective limitations on the powers of the dominant elements in government. On the other hand, the great democracies that have led the way in the advancement of true liberty in the modern world developed constitutional liberalism even before they became democracies in the technical sense, and they continue today to cherish justice and individual freedoms as well as universal suffrage.[4]

It should be observed, as a caveat, that God has no perfect human instruments—either individuals, groups, or nations—for the accomplishment of His purposes. One would not expect, therefore, that the policies and practices of the nations in question would always have conformed to the divine will. Rather the general trend in their history in recent centuries has been distinguished by their development and spread of freedom (sometimes with two steps forward followed by one step back).


The high level of individual freedom achieved in the American colonies was due only in part to distinctive developments in America itself. American freedom was also due in good part to the legacy from America’s motherland, Britain. As President Ezra Taft Benson stated: “It was historical documents such as the English Petition of Rights and the English Bill of Rights that first recognized the ‘immemorial rights of Englishmen.’ I believe these movements were inspired by the Lord. Later these God-given rights were to become guaranteed by New World documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the American Bill of Rights.”[5]

Other Church leaders have lauded America’s mother country, Britain, as a great source of freedom for its own people, for the United States, and for many other countries as well. One of the strongest pronouncements on this theme was made by President Hinckley on March 5, 1996, following a speech by Lady Margaret Thatcher at Brigham Young University. He spoke of Britain as “the land that produced the Magna Carta, the English common law, . . . and, above all, a people . . . who historically carried the peace of Britain, Pax Britannica, across the world, with the Union Jack flying over a quarter of the earth, with justice and order and progress wherever it flew. The days of empire are gone, but its fruits are still manifest.” Though America long since broke away from the British Empire, the United States and its motherland are “still joined together in brotherhood with a common language, a common culture, a common sense of justice, a solemn respect for the dignity of man, and above all, an attitude that human freedom and liberty are more precious than life itself.”[6]

The British political and legal institutions extolled by President Hinckley were developed over a period of centuries. Unlike the United States, Britain (more properly called “England” before its union with Scotland in 1707) never had a Constitutional Convention. In fact, even to this day Britain has never produced a comprehensive written constitution to serve as a blueprint for its government. Yet it undoubtedly possesses one of the most effective constitutional governments ever developed. In part, this government rests on strong unwritten precedents—developed, tried, and refined over generations of time. It also rests on a few treasured written documents seen as crucial landmarks in Britain’s constitutional development.

One significant factor in the success of the long evolution of constitutional government in Britain was the providential separation of the island of England from the continent of Europe. Though a strong swimmer can traverse the English Channel, armies could not—unless they were accompanied by a superior navy. The last successful invasion of England was that of William the Conqueror and his Norman host in 1066, when there was not yet an effective central government on the island. In contrast, the attempted invasion by the Spanish army and fleet in 1588 was a resounding failure. Had it succeeded, this invasion by Spain, the strongest military power of Europe and the champion of Catholicism and absolute monarchy, could have greatly retarded the development of constitutional government in England. But England by this time had an effective central government, and its fleet, equipped by Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth with smaller, faster ships and more cannons, harried the “Invincible Armada” through the Channel. Drake’s fire-ships then drove it from refuge at Calais, and a great storm subsequently pushed most of the Spanish ships northward, where many were wrecked on the coasts of Scotland. Englishmen commonly attributed the famous “Protestant wind” and their nation’s deliverance to the watchful hand of Providence; “He blew and they were scattered” became a common English motto.[7]

The defeat of the Spanish Armada presaged an era of English naval superiority, together with greater freedom of the seas for various enterprises that served the purposes of the Lord. America was now open to English colonization, which helped to ready that land for its special missions, including the championship of freedom in the world (see 1 Nephi 13:14–19; D&C 101:77–80, 96:5). England’s overseas commerce, as well as that of the Netherlands and France, entered a period of great growth. This helped build a strong base in these countries for significant political and social accomplishments. In each case, the rise of enterprising merchant and business classes contributed, sooner or later, to the advancement of constitutional government and personal freedoms.

It was an era of relative security for England from aggression by continental powers. From the seventeenth century through the nineteenth century, England generally needed only to maintain a strong navy for military protection. The great powers of the European continent, on the other hand, needed expensive armies to preserve themselves and compete successfully in the frequent European wars. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they also seemingly needed absolute monarchs, such as Louis XIV of France, if they were to expand or thrive. In countries such as the declining Holy Roman Empire and Poland, where a central monarch was obliged to share power with parliaments or regional authorities, the state was weak—a potential victim of stronger neighbors.

In contrast, the island nation of England, relatively secure from aggressors, was able to survive the occasional periods of weakness resulting from struggles between the monarchy and Parliament. An example would be the Stuart era of the seventeenth century, when the rivalry between Parliament and the king tended at times to paralyze the government. With the luxury of isolation, England survived until the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89 terminated this crucial power struggle with the establishment of a strong and stable parliament teamed with a monarch of significant but limited powers.

The victory of Parliament in the virtually bloodless Glorious Revolution might seem just a victory for aristocracy over strong monarchy. Both houses of Parliament were initially controlled by well-to-do landowners. The House of Lords was limited to the hereditary upper nobility, who usually owned large estates. And the House of Commons, which early became the more influential of the two houses, was led mainly by members of the more numerous landowning gentry class. These were usually supported by independent small farmers and representatives of the town middle classes. Only men of considerable property qualified to vote, and only a few thousand men in England possessed the large income from land ownership that was required to stand for election to the Commons.

However, the landowners of England, as a class, were believers in the principle of individual rights for all Englishmen, and those elected to Parliament were generally serious about their responsibility to govern England well. Thus, John Locke, the preeminent literary champion of the regime consummated by the Glorious Revolution, was on solid ground in his view that the English government after 1689 insured the people’s essential rights to life, liberty, and property. As presented shortly after the Revolution in Locke’s enormously influential Two Treatises of Government, the Glorious Revolution “launched into the mainstream of modern history the superb tradition of constitutional government, which has been one of the principal themes in the history of the modern world ever since.”[8]

Locke did not champion representative constitutionalism as the form of government favored by God. Rather, he championed it as the form best suited to the nature of man, as well as the form most capable of advancing the “natural rights” of man. Locke was primarily a secular philosopher—a believer in natural laws discernable by man’s reason and innate sense of justice. But even if Locke did not think of himself as an agent of God, Latter-day Saints may consider him as such, as well as others who contributed materially to the development of constitutional government in England and its spread to other lands. As previously noted, this movement was declared by President Benson, President Hinckley, and other prophets to have been inspired by the Lord.

In addition to the Bill of Rights, which ensured many individual rights and freedoms to Englishmen, the Glorious Revolution also produced the Toleration Act of 1689. This provided general freedom of religious practice, though Catholicism was not officially countenanced, and persons who refused to join the Church of England were initially excluded from voting or holding office. With time, even the remaining limitations were generally not enforced, however, and the practice of religion in England by the 1800s was in fact quite free.[9]

This being the case, one might ask whether America was really the only country in which the Lord’s Church and the fullness of His gospel could have been restored in the latter days. Why could not the Restoration have taken place in England? Certainly, when the gospel was brought to England in 1837, less than a decade after the establishment of the Church in America, the missionary work was largely unimpeded, and a great many conversions were made. No extended discussion of this question is practical here. But one can at least note the contribution of the American frontier to the success of the Church. Even in America, when the members of the newly restored Church sought the strength and the freedom of lifestyle afforded by a gathering, they met with opposition and persecution from their neighbors. Time and again they moved as a body to a new area on the frontier, until finally they made the trek to Utah. In England, on the other hand, there was no frontier, no place where the Saints could have assembled in large numbers to establish their special communities. It was not until the twentieth century that conditions were ripe for British converts to be encouraged to stay and build their own Zion communities throughout their British homeland.[10]

In basing his study of the virtues of parliamentary government and individual freedoms on empiricism and reason, Locke was a true exemplar of the spirit fostered by the new movement known as the Scientific Revolution. This seminal intellectual development opened the age of modern science, which in turn led to important economic, social, and political transformations. Thus, it may be seen as the gateway to the modern world—and as the basis for the rise and spread of important forms of freedom. Among the subsequent movements that helped transform first Europe and then the world was the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, which sought to apply the new rationalistic methodology of science to the study of man and society. Similarly, the Agricultural Revolution of the eighteenth century involved the application of the new scientific rationalism to the improvement of farming methods. And finally, the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century and European military and imperial accomplishments of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were also made possible by the rise of European science and technology.[11]

A few of the major scientists of the seventeenth-century Age of Genius credited God with providing crucial insights that opened the way to major scientific advances.[12] But by and large the achievements of the new science have been credited to the breaking away of scientists from overdependence on classical authorities such as Aristotle and Ptolemy and to the development of a new methodology featuring careful observation and strict reasoning. In our own day it is not widely recognized that God has sometimes chosen to reveal truths to the world through recipients who may not even believe in a personal God or in revelation from God to man. Latter-day Saint prophets, however, have declared that innovative scientists and inventors have often been beneficiaries of heavenly inspiration and that their discoveries have often contributed to the spread of the gospel and to other purposes of God.[13] Of course the fact that such persons were inspired by God does not mean that they themselves had no significant role in these discoveries. It seems reasonable that God would choose to make persons with extraordinary minds, like those of a Newton or a Galileo, the recipients of particularly profound insights to supplement their own great intellectual achievements.

There are also grounds for concluding that God has controlled the timing and placement of some of the most significant movements of human history through His choices of when and where to send some of His most gifted spirit children to earth. At times He has chosen to send a number of exceptionally talented individuals to a particular area during a period of one or two generations. This has then resulted in a tremendous burst of creativity and in enormous strides for mankind in science, government, culture, and so forth. It seems highly improbable that sheer chance could have brought into contact such philosophical geniuses as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Or such artistic virtuosos as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, and Michelangelo. Or such political giants as those who assembled in 1787 in Philadelphia to draft a constitution for the newly independent American colonies. Or such key contributors to the Scientific Revolution as Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton.[14]

The fact that the Scientific Revolution came first to Europe, as did the social and economic revolutions that it fostered, goes a long way towards explaining the material and intellectual predominance of European (or Western) civilization over all other civilizations of the world in the seventeenth century through the twentieth century (the “European Age” of the world). By 1900 over 90 percent of the Earth’s population was significantly affected by European civilization or its products.

Britain played a key role in this process. Not only did it provide a number of the major participants in the Scientific Revolution (Bacon and Newton, for example), but it was also the leader in several of the subsequent social and economic transformations. In addition, Britain, as the foremost commercial and imperial power of Europe, was also the foremost purveyor of these movements to the world. It seems surprising that this relatively small island nation should have become one of the leading powers of Europe by the eighteenth century and the center of the greatest world empire in the nineteenth century. But perhaps it was an important element in God’s design that the “mother of parliaments” should be blessed with material achievements that enabled the spread of her political principles over so much of the globe.

There was another way in which Britain’s material leadership may have served the purposes of God. This leadership often meant that Britain was the first to experience some of the major problems produced by industrialization, urbanization, and so forth. These problems could be grievously perplexing at the time, but a larger perspective permits us to see them as opportunities for the British to achieve further development. Britain was then able to show to the world how such problems could be effectively handled by a government and society that were generally motivated by compassion and good sense rather than the selfish interests of elites such as have prevailed in much of human history. To those looking for the hand of God in human affairs, this is a prime example of challenging problems being visited upon a people capable of overcoming the problems and growing from the experience.

In the eighteenth century, Britain, with its stable government and enterprising landowning and merchant classes, jumped to an early lead in the Agricultural Revolution. Between 1700 and 1870 the productivity of British agriculture increased by 300 percent, with no significant increase in the number of farm workers. This was accomplished in good part through of more scientific methods of fertilization and rotation of crops, scientific breeding of animals, and a variety of horse-drawn machines. But modernization of agriculture and the enclosure movement that accompanied it also brought injustice, displacement, and hardships to some. There were, for example, owners of small farms who could not compete with the larger and more efficient farms and who became mere laborers.[15]

For both the problems and the opportunities resulting from the Agricultural Revolution, industrialization was part of the answer. With Britain’s productive agriculture, its burgeoning population, and its exceptional access by sea to the raw materials and markets of the world, it was natural that the island nation should also take the lead in the development of new methods of manufacturing—the Industrial Revolution. In the late eighteenth century, Englishmen introduced power machines and the factory system in the cotton industry. In addition, James Watt’s development of the steam engine allowed the exploitation of coal, an abundant new source of energy with which a kindly Providence had richly endowed the British Isles. By the early nineteenth century the revolution had spread to other manufacturing industries and to the building of railroads. As a consequence Britain had established a lead of a generation or more over all other industrializing nations. Urbanization and a great expansion of trade at home and abroad were also underway.[16]

Though industrialization produced wealth and empire for Britain and profits for industrialists and merchants, it also brought additional problems for many British workers. Some families lost their cohesiveness in the new environment of the factory cities. Housing was often very crowded, and factory work was long and tedious, especially for children as young as five or six. Somewhat similar hardships were not unknown back on the farm or in the home workshops of the pre-factory era. But the greater visibility and intensity of such problems in the new industrial cities created increasing demands for government to help the workers. It is certainly to the credit of the humanitarianism and good sense of the British propertied classes, and consistent with the designs of God, that the British government did not allow class antagonisms to create a violent social revolution in Britain. Undiluted laissez-faire philosophy, which had made its contribution to early rapid industrialization, was modified sufficiently in the course of the nineteenth century to permit passage by Parliament of a series of child labor laws, limitations on hours of factory work, housing regulations, and other factory and urban reforms.

These reforms, together with increased productivity, are generally credited with improving the working and living conditions of the British working class. After the middle of the nineteenth century, most factory workers felt that they were sharing in the fruits of industrialism. Their wages would buy approximately twice as much in 1906 as in 1850. Hence extreme ideologies such as communism found little support among the British working class, even though Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had based their predictions of class revolution largely on their analysis of the hardships of British workers earlier in the nineteenth century.[17]

Another factor contributing to the relative contentment of the British working class was a series of nineteenth century extensions of democracy. In the early 1800s not even one adult male in ten qualified, by property ownership and other requirements, to vote in parliamentary elections. But in a series of major political reforms in 1832, 1867, and 1884, Parliament extended the vote to almost all adult males who were heads of households. In 1918 other adult men received suffrage, and between 1918 and 1928 it was extended to women as well. In the view of English reformers the major extension in the late nineteenth century of free and compulsory education for all classes of society reformers correlated with the inauguration of mass democracy. “Now we’ve got to educate our new masters” was a common sentiment of the leaders of this movement. Thus, British developments consistent with God’s program of freedom were brought about with broad public support and through able leaders in key positions. Gladstone, Disraeli, and other reformers (notwithstanding the fact that some of their actions and policies might rightfully be criticized) may well have been the recipients of inspiration in their contributions to the numerous personal freedoms and the broad functional democracy that Britain shaped and then shared with much of the world.[18]

Britain’s acquisition of extensive colonies and foreign markets during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries was based in part on its own political and economic strengths. But developments in other countries also affected British empire building. In the seventeenth century Spain’s internal weaknesses and its inability to stave off Dutch, British, and French competition in manufacturing and trade destroyed its position as the strongest military and naval power of the world. The Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires entered a period of decline. For a time, Britain’s chief competitor for trade and colonies was France. From the middle of the seventeenth century to the middle of the eighteenth century, Britain and France engaged in a series of wars in which the main prizes were the Atlantic coastal area of North America and trading bases in India. The earlier wars in this duel for empire had inconclusive endings. But the final one, which ended in 1763, brought definitive British victory in both major arenas. The success of Britain and its American colonists in the so-called French and Indian War (corresponding to the Seven Years’ War in Europe) resulted in the expulsion of France from all its holdings on the North American continent. Concurrent British victories in India resulted in the elimination of France from further competition with Britain for influence in that area as well.[19]

It was scarcely a decade after this victory over the French empire, however, that Britain lost the most advanced and valuable part of its own empire, the thirteen Atlantic seaboard colonies of North America. Some of the causes of the American Revolution are discussed by Milton Backman in a previous chapter in this book. Here we may simply reiterate that many of the freedoms and rights acquired by Englishmen over the centuries had been extended to Britain’s American colonists. Other freedoms had been developed by the American colonists under the umbrella of British protection and a relatively liberal British colonial policy. In fact the American colonists were among the most liberated people on earth, even before the Revolution.

It is true that about the middle of the eighteenth century (particularly after the defeat of the French in 1763), the British parliament tried to tighten its mercantile controls on American trade and manufacturing. It also sought more American participation in modest British taxation and more respect for the authority of British administrators. The timing could hardly have been worse. Relieved of the longstanding threat from the French colonies to the north and northwest, Americans felt little need for British protection and were even less inclined than before to defer to a government centered across the ocean. The analogy of a child who feels he has come of age is a good one. In general, the colonists did not wish to reject their British heritage, but they did feel they were ready to participate fully in the British government—or failing that, to establish their own. Perhaps in the years after 1763 they would have accepted moderate increases in taxes if Britain had conceded the parliamentary representation that the colonists demanded. But it is doubtful that even that would have satisfied them for long. Certainly Thomas Paine, in his pamphlet Common Sense, touched a responsive chord with his declaration that “there is something absurd in supposing a Continent to be perpetually governed by an island.”[20]

Perhaps the only way Britain could have averted an American war of independence would have been to grant the American colonies the kind of self-government that Britain peacefully conceded to Canada in 1867. But the British were no more ready in 1776 to start dismantling the empire than the Americans were to remain a subservient part of it. There can be little doubt that God was designing an entirely free and independent United States (see 1 Nephi 13:16–19).

Britain’s relations with the erstwhile American colonies after the peace settlement of 1783 were sometimes stormy. In fact, the two countries fought another war in 1812. But one thing the British did learn in this period was that in losing governmental control of their American offshoots, they had not necessarily lost the mutually profitable trading relationship with them. And before many years had passed, the British began to realize a broader truth—that they did not necessarily have to possess an ever-growning empire in order to enjoy increased trade and prosperity. In addition to the demonstration of this fact in the American case, some British leaders were also influenced in this period by the laissez-faire and free-trade theories of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, the very year of the American Declaration of Independence. Perhaps by God’s design the leading world power was beginning (at least in some areas) to abandon a constricting mercantilism for a freer relationship with other peoples.

Britain did not go so far as to dismantle its empire in favor of free trade, or to forgo all opportunities for additions to its empire. But neither did it choose to take full advantage of the opportunities for empire building that were open to it at the end of the Napoleonic era in 1815. With the collapse of the Napoleonic domination of the European continent and the defeat of the French navy, Britain had no major adversaries to block its overseas imperial expansion (except possibly the Americans in their own vicinity). The old Spanish, Portuguese, and French empires were in tatters, Britain had a virtual monopoly of naval power, and as yet there was no challenger to contest Britain’s great lead in manufacturing and trade. Yet the British refrained from expanding their empire into such areas as Latin America or, for most of the nineteenth century, the interiors of Africa and Asia.

The period 1815–1914 has been called “the century of British world leadership.” Britain’s position in this period could be compared to that of the United States after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989–91. As the one world superpower, Britain might have been considerably more assertive than it was. It seems only fair to credit it with the exercise of considerable restraint in empire building and considerable respect for the needs of other nations and of its own subject peoples. It must be observed, on the other hand, that the British imperial record is certainly not free of pride, high-handedness, exploitation, or cruelty. President Hinckley, even with his recognition of the relative merits of British imperialism, conceded that Britain shared in the blame that needs to be assessed to all great empires of history. In an address to the members of the Church at the April 2003 general conference, he declared: “We sometimes are prone to glorify the great empires of the past, such as the Ottoman Empire, The Roman and Byzantine Empires, and in more recent times, the vast British Empire. But there is a darker side to every one of them. There is a grim and tragic overlay of brutal conquest, of subjugation, of repression, and an astronomical cost in life and treasure.”[21]

One of the crueler aspects of early British imperialism was Britain’s participation in the African slave trade. By the Asiento, a treaty imposed upon a weakened Spain in 1713, Britain obtained the lucrative right to supply Spanish America with African slaves. Over the next century, far more Africans than Europeans crossed the ocean to America, the majority as slaves transported on British ships. Profits from the slave trade and the West Indies sugar trade that it nourished became the largest element in eighteenth-century British overseas commerce, exceeding British trade with India and China combined. Much of the wealth of Bristol and Liverpool, which subsequently nourished the Industrial Revolution, was based on profits from slaves and sugar—and later from cotton, also produced largely with slave labor.[22]

But if Britain was the leader in the great expansion of the African slave trade, it was also the leader in its abolition. It was an indication of the strength of humanitarianism among the British people that the end to British participation in the slave trade was achieved in 1807 with broad popular support. Published accounts of the horrors of the slave trade had produced a wave of disgust and one of the first mass extra-Parliamentary campaigns in British politics. The slave trade was still extremely profitable, but the government could not ignore the large public petitions and the ubiquitous antislavery badges—an image of a black person with the motto “Am I not a man and a brother?” In Manchester alone, eleven thousand names (representing two-thirds of the male population) were placed on a petition to abolish the slave trade.[23] After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Britain’s naval predominance enabled it to pressure other powers to renounce the slave trade as well. In the words of the great British historian George Macaulay Trevelyan, “The Union Jack had become, by a dramatic change, specially associated with the freedom of the black man.”[24]

Then, in 1833, following the doubling of the British franchise by the Great Reform Bill of 1832, the expanded British parliament went on to free all remaining slaves throughout the empire, giving government compensation to the slave owners. Again, other European powers followed Britain’s lead. Slaves were freed in the French colonies in 1848, in the same year that Austria abolished serfdom. With the abolition of Russian serfdom in 1861, the United States remained the one major Western nation that still permitted the anachronism of slavery. Finally, in 1863, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in areas engaged in the war against the Union, and in 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment abolished it throughout the country.[25] It seems significant that, while the Lord had permitted slavery in most of the world during most of human history, when the time came to roll back this extreme limitation on human freedom Britain was the chosen instrument to lead this particular freedom movement in the Western world.

It must be acknowledged that when Britain’s empire was at its apogee, in the nineteenth century, it could still be inhumane at times. But compared with any previous dominant power, Britain’s hegemony was relatively mild and constructive. Even where negative effects of imperial rule might outweigh positive ones in certain periods, the long-range results of exposure to British laws and culture were likely to be positive. President Hinckley’s praise of Britain’s lasting contributions to freedom and justice in the modern world was generous but not unmerited.

An examination of British imperialism needs to consider four major geographical areas. The first is the Western Hemisphere. After the dissolution of the Spanish and Portuguese empires in this hemisphere during and following the Napoleonic era, Britain was the only power outside the Western Hemisphere that could have reestablished imperial control in the liberated area. But Britain (like the United States) preferred to recognize the independence of the new Latin American states and simply expand its trade in the area. Recognizing the similarity between British and American intentions, the British foreign minister George Canning proposed to President Monroe in 1823 a joint statement by the two governments opposing any further imperial intervention in this region by any outside powers. Even former president Thomas Jefferson, a confirmed skeptic regarding Britain’s role in America, recommended that Monroe seize this offer. No other earthly power could so well protect the Western Hemisphere from further European meddling as could the British navy, in his judgment.

For reasons that will be considered in the chapter on the United States, however, Monroe chose to defer to the advice of his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, and make a unilateral declaration. In this statement, which later became known as the Monroe Doctrine, he effectually warned off Britain, which had the power to intervene if it so chose, along with all the other European nations, none of which had the power to intervene without Britain’s forbearance. Canning was understandably annoyed by Monroe’s handling of his suggestion, but since Britain had no intention of intervening anyway, he simply accepted the American statement with some grace.

As time passed, Britain generally refrained from challenging American applications of the Monroe Doctrine, even when they considerably expanded on Monroe’s original declaration. In some Western Hemisphere matters, such as those involving disagreements over the Canadian boundary, the Oregon Territory, and control of a canal across the Central American isthmus, Britain at times disputed with the United States. But it generally backed off in the face of American determination. It could be concluded that the Lord’s design for a strong and independent America was generally advanced by these British policies in the Western Hemisphere and by the shield afforded by British control of the Atlantic prior to the development of significant naval power by the United States.[26]

A second major area of nineteenth century British imperial activity was the subcontinent of India. Britain’s wars with France in this area, down to 1763, had involved little more than control of trading posts and ports on the coast. But in the eighteenth century the Mughal (Muslim) dynasty, which had sometimes ruled over most of India in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was in decline. In its place emerged dozens of small and midsized principalities that often warred among themselves. After the defeat of France in 1763, Britain became more involved in disputes between Indian princes, sometimes as a pretext for British expansion. About 1800 Britain greatly extended its area of control up the Ganges Valley and into the center of India. This expansion continued during the nineteenth century, by means of diplomacy and limited military action, until Britain controlled virtually all of India (including what are today Bangladesh and Pakistan).

British rule in India was based ultimately on superior military power, but rarely was massive force required to retain control. Ordinarily, circumspect British administrators, operating through a well-trained Indian civil service, were able to run the country quite effectively. Only in 1857, when zealous missionaries and insensitive officials seemed to many Hindus and Muslims to be threatening traditional Indian culture and religions, was there a widespread revolt. This was led by a large portion of the normally reliable Indian troops, the sepoys, and involved horrifying massacres by the mutineers and equally horrifying reprisals by the British and the sepoys who remained loyal to them. After the Indian mutiny was finally suppressed, in 1858, the British government was able to avoid repeating the terrible affair by reducing the role of the East India Company in the Indian government, restricting the Christian missionaries, and avoiding most overt interference with traditional Indian culture and religions. However, the people of India were still not allowed any significant role in determining government policy.[27]

In its rule in India, Britain should be credited with many policies that eventually ameliorated the conditions of this large segment of humanity, consistent with the purposes of the Lord. Britain largely stopped the fighting between local Indian rulers and between religious groups. It also did much to advance British concepts of law, government, and education. A considerable number of middle and upper class Indians received a Western education in secondary schools established by the British. Some of these individuals then became career officials in the administration of India, though the higher positions were reserved for Englishmen. British capital developed railroads, mines, and factories, but at the same time, the new Indian machine industry and the importation of cheap cotton cloth and other manufactured goods from Britain seriously damaged native cottage industry. Overall, British rule did little to alleviate the general poverty of the rural and urban masses of India during the nineteenth century but did create a class with the knowledge, experience, and desire to establish a democracy in their own country when the opportunity should emerge.[28]

Over time India became a particularly valued portion of the British Empire for the sake of its trade. But educated Indians, often imbued with British ideals of justice, became increasingly resentful of the pervasive racial discrimination and of the British administrators’ common attitude of superiority. Hence in the early twentieth century, a movement for self-government or independence gained strength under such able leaders as Gandhi and Nehru. To Gandhi’s favored tactic of nonviolent resistance, British forces responded at first with sickening mass beatings and shootings. But fairly soon British conscience and good sense began to prevail over the pride of race and empire.[29]

In 1935 India was granted a large measure of self-government. Then, after World War II, a combination of Indian determination and failing British strength made full withdrawal a necessity. It is to Britain’s credit that at this point it made considerable effort to leave as little rancor as possible, and to avert a post-independence war between the Hindu majority and the large Muslim minority. Unfortunately, both British leaders and Indian leaders such as Gandhi were unsuccessful in this respect. Several bloody wars and disputed partitions have taken place since independence. But Britain’s responsibility for these troubles is limited. The seeds of Hindu-Muslim conflict were sown long before the British period, and the conflicts have continued mainly in spite of, not because of, British influence. On the other hand, Hindu India and (recently) Muslim Pakistan have built upon some of the foundations created in the British period to move in the direction of a free and democratic government. Much credit for this is owed to the people of the area and their leaders. But the hand of the Lord, operating in substantial part through the British influences, is also discernable.[30]

A third major area of modern British imperialism was eastern Asia. There the ancient state of China had enjoyed a number of ages of high civilization and control over surrounding lands. But China never experienced anything like the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions, which gave Britain and other European states a powerful advantage by the nineteenth century. The British had long been leaders in the lucrative Chinese trade in tea and silk and other Eastern specialties. But while there were a number of such Chinese products that British merchants wanted to purchase, the only product for which they found a ready market in China was opium, largely made from poppies grown in India. When Chinese authorities tried to curtail this trade, Britain responded by sending a fleet and soldiers. The two Opium Wars of 1839–41 and 1857 certainly did the British no credit and demonstrated the rapacious side of imperialism. The treaty privileges that Britain exacted after these brief invasions of China opened China to European economic exploitation and initiated European controls on China’s trade, on China’s jurisdiction over foreigners within its borders, and on certain Chinese ports and railroads.

But, as in other parts of the world, British imperialism in this area presented some redeeming features in the long run. In the late nineteenth century Britain generally supported the open-door policy in China favored by the United States. While this was primarily intended to keep all of China open to foreign trade, it also tended to avert the kind of partitioning of the country among foreign powers that had occurred in Africa. In the early twentieth century, some Chinese reformers, notably Dr. Sun Yat-sen and later his successor Chiang Kai-shek, sought to introduce into China certain features of Western government such as nationalism and democracy. It was hoped that these might improve Chinese government and also help preserve China from European or Japanese domination. A century later these principles have yet to be realized in practice. But in spite of rule by authoritarian Chinese leaders, Japanese invaders, and Communist dictators, democracy and political freedoms are still meaningful ideals for many Chinese. This was evidenced especially by the protests and demands of idealistic university students in 1986–89. Though the students were brutally suppressed, it appears that God may yet turn to the benefit of the Chinese people those ideals of political freedom fostered in China by contacts with the British and other westerners.[31]

In Africa, the fourth principal area of nineteenth century British imperialism, British imperial interest was largely confined until the last quarter of the century to two strategic corners of the so-called dark continent. These were the lower Nile valley (adjacent to the Suez isthmus) and the southern tip. Aside from controlling these strategic locations sufficiently to protect its trade routes through the Mediterranean and around Africa, Britain had little interest in acquiring African territory. But in the last quarter of the century, a number of European states became involved in a land race to set up colonies and protectorates throughout Africa. In a period of less than thirty years, the second largest continent on earth was almost entirely absorbed into several European empires.

Even though some Britons might have preferred not to see this partitioning of Africa take place, British missionaries and explorers (particularly Dr. Livingston) played a significant role in fostering European penetration. Once the race started, the British, with their prior bases and superior navy, quickly appropriated some of the most prized territories of the continent. The method of acquisition sometimes involved the brutal subjection of primitive peoples, such as the Mahdis in the Sudan and the Zulus in South Africa, by means of modern weaponry such as rapid-fire rifles, machine guns, and artillery.[32]

Analyses of the African partition and other instances of nineteenth-century European expansionism usually distinguish several major motives for this movement, often termed “the new imperialism” to distinguish it from earlier European colonization. Among the chief objectives were gold, prestige, adventure, markets, and assured sources of important raw materials. Humanitarianism and missionary zeal were sometimes added to these baser motivations.

Popularized by Rudyard Kipling as “the white man’s burden,” the effort to carry the benefits of European civilization to undeveloped peoples was doubtless arrogant and patronizing at times and was often a mask for more selfish motives. But it was also a genuine concern for many Europeans, including many Englishmen. British colonial administrators, more than most, sought to practice principles of justice, humanitarianism, and human rights in the territories they controlled in Africa and other parts of the empire.

As the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, two bloody incidents occurred near opposite ends of the African continent. The reaction to these on the part of the general British public, as well as Parliament, illustrates a marked change that was taking place in British imperialism at this time. In the final phase of this imperialism, there was increased emphasis on providing benefits to imperial subjects and on minimizing the use of violent means of expansion or control. The first of these incidents took place in 1898 when a British army of 20,000 men, which was extending British imperial control from Egypt up the Nile River into the Sudan, was attacked by 52,000 Islamic fundamentalists known as dervishes. Only forty-eight British soldiers were killed in the battle, over 10,000 dervishes were mowed down by the recently invented machine guns (Maxims) of Kitchener’s army, and perhaps more than 30,000 others were wounded. What particularly horrified the twenty-three-year-old Winston Churchill, who accompanied Kitchener’s army as a war correspondent for the Morning Post, was “the inhuman slaughter of the wounded” which then followed. However, these privately recorded feelings were not included in his press report, which in deference to the spirit of the time “dutifully pronounced Omdurman ‘the most signal triumph ever gained by the arms of science over barbarians.’” This kind of news, along with graphic illustrations, was mainly responsible for the great expansion of the British popular press in this period. In the words of Lord Northcliffe, owner of several illustrated newspapers, “The British people relish a good hero and a good hate.”[33]

The second incident was actually a three-year war (1899–1902) of the British Empire against two small republics created by the Boers, farmers of Dutch descent who had moved northward from the Cape of Good Hope when it was annexed by Britain in 1815. In the 1890s these republics stood in the way of the Cape-to-Cairo dreams of certain British statesmen-imperialists, who also coveted control of the major gold deposits in the area. The attempts of these imperialists to bully the Boers into acceptance of British rule resulted in a war of unexpected difficulty. The 200,000 Boers fought so stubbornly that the British sent in 300,000 troops, burned 30,000 Boer homes, and herded 120,000 Boer women and children into concentration camps, where 27,927 died, mostly of malnourishment and poor sanitation. Britain became the butt of worldwide criticism, and a shocked populace and Parliament hastened to reform conditions in the camps. After the Boers surrendered, they were allowed to retain most of their self-governing institutions. Eight years later, in 1910, they united their territories with the area around Cape Colony in the Union of South Africa, with the Boer commandant-general Louis Botha as premier. This Union then was granted a semi-independent status comparable to that of the Dominion of Canada.[34]

In the words of a recent account of British imperial history, “the consequences of the Boer War in Britain were even more profound than in South Africa, for it was revulsion against the war’s conduct that decisively shifted British politics to the Left in the 1900s, a shift that was to have incalculable implications for the future of the Empire. . . . The Liberals’ campaign against imperialism—now widely regarded as a term of abuse—culminated in January 1906 with one of the biggest election landslides in British history.”[35]

There was no immediate dissolution of the Empire, however. Rather, the rise of the German Empire in Europe, the First World War, the Great Depression, and the Second World War all presented challenges to Britain that it was able to meet only with the aid of the Empire. It was a tribute to the increased liberalism of Britain’s imperial rule in this era that a great many of the subjects of the Empire remained loyal to Britain in her hours of need. Gandhi, though a champion of Indian independence, spoke for many of his countrymen and others at the outbreak of World War I: “We are, above all, British citizens of the Great British Empire. Fighting as the British are at present in a righteous cause for the good and glory of human dignity and civilisation . . . our duty is clear: to do our best to support the British, to fight with our life and property.”[36]

After World War II an exhausted Britain simply lacked the economic strength to maintain the Empire. Moreover, many of the peoples of the Empire were set on independence, and Britain lacked the desire to try to maintain her rule by force. At this point in their history, they accepted the dissolution of the Empire with considerable grace (although a few, like Churchill, were not really ready for this). In the face of demands for independence by the colonies in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere, Britain usually conducted its withdrawal with some degree of dignity and timeliness. Nowhere did the British allow themselves to become mired in prolonged, bitter warfare to preserve choice parts of their empire, as did the French in Indochina and Algeria. To be sure, the borders of the new states that emerged from the British Empire often reflected the expediencies of British administration rather than ethnic or natural frontiers, and this sometimes provided a source of later conflicts between liberated peoples.

Though interspersed with some dark pages, the British imperial legacy of “justice and order and progress” praised by President Hinckley is not just an illusion. The results of the inspiration granted to Englishmen for the blessing of Britain and the world are still evident in many areas formerly under British dominion or influence. This is the conclusion of one of the most recent major studies of the history of the British Empire, that of Niall Ferguson: “Without the influence of British imperial rule, it is hard to believe that the institutions of parliamentary democracy would have been adopted by the majority of states in the world, as they are today. India, the world’s largest democracy, owes more than it is fashionable to acknowledge to British rule. Its elite schools, its universities, its civil service, its army, its press and its parliamentary system all still have discernibly British models.”

“Of course,” Ferguson continues, “no one would claim that the record of the British Empire was unblemished. . . . Often it failed to live up to its own ideal of individual liberty, particularly in the early era of enslavement, transportation, and the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of indigenous peoples. Yet . . . it spread and enforced the rule of law over vast areas.” He also notes that “though it fought many small wars, the Empire maintained a global peace unmatched before or since.” [37] Most importantly, perhaps, “countries that were former British colonies had a significantly better chance of achieving enduring democratization after independence than those ruled by other countries. Indeed, nearly every country with a population of at least a million that has emerged from the colonial era without succumbing to dictatorship is a former British colony.”[38]

A final comment on Britain’s contribution to freedom must be included. During the several centuries (mainly the seventeenth through the early twentieth) when British imperialism was a major influence on the freedoms of many peoples outside of Europe, Britain was also a major supporter of freedom for peoples within Europe from any hegemonic European empire. In this period Britain itself had no design to acquire holdings on the European continent. In the medieval era the English monarchs had at times exercised sovereign power over substantial continental territories, including a large part of France. But these territories were lost by the middle of the sixteenth century, and later in that century Queen Elizabeth launched Britain upon its career of trade and empire in the world outside of Europe. As we have seen, Britain’s island location was an advantage for such a career, and together with its superior navy, it provided adequate protection against invasion by any normal, large power on the continent. But the British leaders recognized that the English Channel might not provide adequate security if Europe as a whole should come under the control of one great expansionist power. A single power controlling most of the resources of the continent, as well as the Channel ports facing Britain, could constitute a vital threat to Britain’s independence, notwithstanding her island position.

So it was that when the crusade of Phillip II of Spain to restore Catholic leadership throughout Europe threatened to result in Phillip’s domination of much of Europe (even though religion was actually his main concern), Queen Elizabeth gave first covert and then open assistance to a coalition of Dutch Protestants and others in their opposition to the great military power of Spain. The result was the independence of Holland (the United Provinces of the Netherlands) and a major blow (along with Elizabeth’s defeat of the Spanish Armada) to any prospect of Spanish hegemony in Europe. A century later (c. 1700) France, under the rule of Louis XIV, was threatening dominance of Europe. Again it was Britain, led by William III, the king introduced by the Glorious Revolution of 1688, who organized the series of coalitions that frustrated the hegemonic designs of the Sun King. Yet another century (c. 1800), and it was another French ruler who sought to rule the continent. And predictably, it was the British government that persisted against Napoleon under all odds and eventually formed the coalition that brought him down. In the early 1900s it was England and France together that provided the nucleus of the Alliance that stood firmly and successfully (with the aid of the United States in the last stages) against the threat of an expansionist German Empire in World War I. Two decades later, in what is widely considered to have been Britain’s “finest hour,” the island nation endured the Axis storm almost alone until relief again came from America, thus helping to preserve her own democracy and to restore democracy to the continent.

In the cold war era, Britain as a principal member of NATO and the Western bloc in the United Nations, supported the United States in the defense of freedom and democracy against the threats of the Soviet Union. Finally, in the post–cold war era following the collapse of the Soviet power, Britain remained a primary collaborator of the United States, NATO, and the United Nations in the defense of freedom and democracy in several parts of the world. In a number of late–twentieth century conflicts, Britain contributed lives and fortunes, in part at least, for the defense of the freedoms of other peoples. This adds to its status as a major supporter of the programs of the Lord—a great democracy distinguished by its willingness to champion liberty at home and abroad.


In the following endnotes certain widely used college history textbooks, such as those authored by R. R. Palmer and Joel Colton and by John P. McKay and others, are frequently cited as references for well-known historical events and movements. It is assumed that most readers of this chapter will have ready access to these or similar excellent textbooks, which also present perceptive comments on extensive lists of more specialized works on these events. As the focus of this chapter is on analysis of the role of God in historical events relating to the rise of freedom in the modern world, these endnotes will not attempt to duplicate these extensive textbook references to more specialized studies of the events themselves.

[1] This would not require that the individual be deprived of agency, but only that he be provided by the Lord with a different set of opportunities or freedoms, through alteration of the date, place, or other circumstances of his birth or environment.

[2] James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–1975), 4:325–26.

[3] Gordon B. Hinckley, “‘Till We Meet Again,’” Ensign, November 2001, 90.

[4] Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom; Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003), 13–21.

[5] Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985), 108–9.

[6] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Special Convocation to Present Lady Margaret Thatcher with an Honorary Doctorate Degree,” Brigham Young University, March 5, 1996.

[7] George M. Trevelyan, History of England (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1956), 2:117–120; R. R. Palmer and Joel Colton, A History of the Modern World, 7th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992), 112–34. Garrett Mattingly, The Armada (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989) remains a standard account of the Armada.

[8] Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 313; John P. McKay, Bennett D. Hill, and John Buckler, A History of World Societies, 3rd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992), 643–54. For suggested readings on the development of constitutional government in England, see Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 1103–04, and McKay, Hill, and Buckler, World Societies, 655–56.

[9] Trevelyan, England, 2:149; Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 179.

[10] V. Ben Bloxham, James R. Moss, and Larry C. Porter, eds., Truth Will Prevail: The Rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the British Isles, 1837–1987 ([place???]:The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Cambridge University Press, 1987). See particularly the last four chapters covering the twentieth century: chapters 11 and 12 by Louis B. Cardon, chapter 13 by James R. Moss, and chapter 14 by Anne S. Perry.

[11] Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 86–313; McKay, Hill, and Buckler, World Societies, 660–69.

[12] In a semihumorous couplet, the poet Alexander Pope emphasized the vital role of the Englishman Newton in the Scientific Revolution: “Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night; God said ‘Let Newton be’ and all was light.”

[13] Isaac Newton was one scientist who was relatively religious (McKay, Hill, and Buckler, World Societies, 665). For suggested readings on the Scientific Revolution and its consequences, see McKay, Hill, and Buckler, World Societies, 689, or Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 1110–11.

[14] Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, comp. John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966), 2, 40; Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine: Sermons and Writings of President Joseph F. Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 30–31.

[15] McKay, Hill, and Buckler, World Societies, 830–32; Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 456–57.

[16] Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 455–59; McKay, Hill, and Buckler, World Societies, 828–46. For suggested readings on the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, see McKay, Hill, and Buckler, World Societies, 861.

[17] Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 522–27; McKay, Hill, and Buckler, World Societies, 875–76, 954–56.

[18] McKay, Hill, and Buckler, World Societies, 950.

[19] Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 264–86, 390, 417–18. By the peace settlement of 1763, France ceded Canada and all of the other French possessions on the American mainland east of the Mississippi to Britain, and French territories west of the Mississippi to Spain. France later briefly reacquired the latter territories from Spain and then sold them in 1803 to the United States (the Louisiana Purchase).

[20] Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 355.

[21] Gordon B. Hinckley, “War and Peace,” Ensign, May 2003, 78–81.

[22] Niall Ferguson, Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power (New York: Basic Books, 2004), 62–69. In all, approximately ten million Africans were transported to the New World as slaves, of which 3.5 million came on British ships between 1662 and 1807. About one million white immigrants came in the same period (page 62; see also Trevelyan, England, 3:23–24; Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 194–95, 260–61).

[23] Ferguson, Empire, 96–97.

[24] Trevelyan, England, 3:131.

[25] Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 260–61, 570–73; Trevelyan, England, 3:23–24, 92–93, 129–31, 180–81, 214–15.

[26] Thomas A. Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People, 5th ed. (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1955), 178–93. The standard study on the Monroe Doctrine is Dexter Perkins, The Monroe Doctrine, 1823–1826 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1927).

[27] Ferguson, Empire, 137–57.

[28] Ferguson, Empire, 157–59. Ferguson concludes (182) that “there can . . . be little doubt that British rule reduced inequality in India. And even if the British did not greatly increase Indian incomes, things might conceivably have been worse under a restored Mughal regime had the Mutiny succeeded.”

[29] Ferguson, Empire, 276–79. At Amritsar, in April 1919, British troops killed 379 persons by shooting into a crowd of 20,000 at an “illegal” gathering. A wave of remorse followed in England, and Parliament questioned whether Britain should keep its hold on India “by terrorism, racial humiliation . . . and frightfulness.” Churchill declared that “firing on unarmed civilians was ‘not the British way of doing business,’” and the general responsible was removed from the army.

[30] McKay, Hill, and Buckler, World Societies, 753–62, 982–83, 1084–90, 1222–27. Often considered the most readable and perceptive one volume history of India is Stanley Wolpert, A New History of India, 4th ed. (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993). See pages 202–350, “British India.”

[31] McKay, Hill, and Buckler, World Societies, 964–66, 1090–95, 1214–19.

[32] Even as eager an imperialist as the young Winston Churchill was repelled by the slaughter of wounded Dervishes (Mahdis) at Omdurman in 1898 (see Martin Gilbert, In Search of Churchill: A Historian’s Journey [London: HarperCollins, 1994], 83–84; see also Ferguson, Empire, 101–10, 130–36, 186–95).

[33] Ferguson, Empire, 213, 224–26, 312. Ferguson, who is generally favorable to British imperialism, calls the battle of Omdurman “the acme of imperial overkill.” He states that “the subjugation of the Sudan was a matter of revenge, pure and simple. . . . When the British went to war against the dervishes in the Sudan in the 1880s and 1890s, they had no doubt that they were bringing ‘justice’ to a rogue regime. The Mahdi [the dervish leader] was in many ways a Victorian Osama bin Laden, a renegade Islamic fundamentalist whose murder of General Gordon [a popular general killed in a massacre at Khartoum] was ‘9/11’ in miniature” (221–22, 312).

[34] Ferguson, Empire, 227–34; Palmer and Colton, Modern World, 668–69.

[35] Ferguson, Empire, 234, 238.

[36] Ferguson, Empire, 255.

[37] Ferguson, Empire, 303–4.

[38] Ferguson, Empire, 304, 308.