The Gift of Civilisation: How Imperial Britons Saw Their Mission in India
David Robinson, 12 Aug 17

By Simpson, William (1823-1899) via Wikimedia Commons

The politician and historian Thomas Babington Macaulay imagined, in 1840, the fall of a great empire. He conjured a future “when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St Paul’s”.

This was a nod by Macaulay to Edward Gibbon’s hope 60 years previously – expressed in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – that great scholars might eventually arise from the Maori population as a result of the civilising influence of British colonial rule. Book-ending 1780 and 1840, therefore, are reflections on the rise and fall of empires and civilisations, metaphorically and literally illustrated by their successors – travellers who sit among the crumbling ruins recording the ultimate failing of even mankind’s greatest achievements.

The loss of America, the French revolution, Napoleonic adventuring and a radical climate in which the middle classes were alarmed at the sight of Chartist crowds marching in the streets, also suggested disquieting visions of the future for British elites. The Greco-Roman empires had fallen, Hindu culture and Mogul power had declined in India. Was the British Empire inevitably destined to crumble, like Shelley’s Ozymandias?

Linking these concerns was British self-identification as successors of Greco-Roman antiquity – as having inherited the mantle of the “cradle of civilisation”. In their 2010 paper on Gibbon, British academics Adam Rogers and Richard Hingley note how:

Sign in to view full article

The Meditation That’s Banned in China, But Welcomed Around the World for Uplifting Health and Morality (Video)
Many practice meditation as a natural and cost-effective way to achieve better physical and mental health, and in ancient times ...
Thu, 5 Jan 17
Fighting Online Trolls With Bots
The wonder of internet connectivity can turn into a horror show if the people who use online platforms decide that ...
Saiph Savage
Fri, 13 Jan 17
‘Sip’ Info From Your Smartwatch, ‘Whoosh’ It To Your Phone
With their small screens and our bulky fingers, smartwatches aren’t the easiest devices to control. Researchers have invented new ways ...
Jason Maderer
Fri, 3 Feb 17
Does Playing Chess Make You Smarter? A Look at The Evidence
The stereotype of the chess player is someone who is smart, logical and good at maths. This is why so ...
Giovanni Sala, Fernand Gobet
Wed, 17 May 17
Petition Urges Xi Jinping to End Forced Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners
NEW YORK—A petition that has garnered nearly 6,000 signatures in just 2 days calls for President Donald Trump to help ...
Bowen Xiao
Mon, 10 Apr 17
Join us today!
An Epoch Times Survey
Sports Elements
Sports Elements
Sports Elements