The Other Side of the Coin
The Other Side of the Coin: Inconvenient Truths of the British
An Illustrated History of Britain is a history Britain traces the development of the nation from prehistoric times to the present day . This book gives a lot of information not only about England but also about Ireland, Wales and Scotland. However, some sections or subjects are written by an Anglo-centric point of view. In addition, in these sections some obvious truths/facts are subtly distorted. While reading the book, I came across some points that really caught my attention much, and it made me look for further information; accordingly, I saw that just like many English, the book does not want to mention these inconvenient truths.
First, poor people naturally organized in little, but British government always stopped them before they even acted. We know that for sure many poor people died in search of their basic human rights. The book says that there were riots in which eleven people died and many were wounded. However, it is very naïve to say that because British government at that time was very brutal and tyrant. They must have killed more than 11 people. It is easy to say 11 people. When modern-day British people read these lines they will not feel nervous or bad for those 11 eleven people. On the other hand, what if the book said 1000-5000 poor people had been killed by the government? Everything would be much more difficult than it seems and of course would affect reader’s point of view.
Second, the book says Britain prevented a revolution like in France because they did this thanks to their free constitutional/democratic government, but it was not nothing of the kind, for most of the poor did not have the right to vote. Britain was not envy of the world at all because this very country used its all power to overpower its subjects who naturally scared and stayed quiet and who did not even dare to speak of politics. Therefore, Britain seemed as though it was an archetypal of democratic country, which is rather naïve to say.
Moreover, there is another point in the book worth noting: “A wife was legally a man’s property, until nearly the end of the century.” Britain had not valued the women of the time at all. Nevertheless, it is very ironic that today this very country judge other middle-eastern countries about the same issue. They do not know they had the same situation a half century earlier.
Next, in 1832 cholera, a disease spread by dirty water, killed almost 31.000 people. It is again very naïve to connect almost all of these deaths to a single disease, for we are sure that in this period the rich lived in a great comfort, whereas the poor were left to the jaws of death. Moreover, many poor died of hunger, and it was government’s responsibility to feed its subjects. All of these casualties cannot only be related only a sickness. The book tries to put the blame all of these casualties on nature – disease, which is an oversimplification.
Another issue the book referring is that Lord Canning helped the Greeks achieve their so-called freedom from the Turkish Empire in order to satisfy romantic liberalism in Britain. It is ridiculous to put this simple matter in such a situation. Nevertheless, we know that English at that time did almost everything to use protect their country’s interest around the world, especially in Anatolia. They knew very well that if they used Greece as a pion, which they did, they could collapse the Turkish Empire easily, thus assuring their interests.
Further, the book says “The ‘Opium Wars’ were one of the more shameful events in British colonial history. However, throughout the book, I never saw any information about the genocide of the Aboriginals when British landed on Australia, nor did hear I the massacre of the inhabitants of the New World. When British Empire expanded its colonies all around the world, it used all its force to destroy almost 10 million inhabitants together with their unique cultures. In fact, these are the very ‘shameful’ events about which they never want to mention. Are not these incidents counted as genocide? However, ironically today many English, who either ignore it or deny these mass destructions, accuse the Turks of being responsible for the so-called Armenian genocide, which is such a sheer Anglocentric point of view.
In addition, from Anglo-centric point of view, the book superficially mentions about the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and it argues that British punished the defeated rebels and won the so-called war. The book does not even mention the reason why the Indians revolted. During the British Raj in India, colonizers, the English, brutally used all its colonial powers in order to force to submit 300 million Indians; in addition, unfortunately it often resulted in many casualties for Indians, which the English have ever explicitly mentioned. In my opinion, one of the reasons the Indians revolted against the empire was that British left the 1 million Indians starved to death. Indeed, it is also very dramatic that today no one talks about these intense facts, let alone English people.
The book mentions “jingoism”, meaning “extreme chauvinism or nationalism marked especially by a belligerent foreign policy”, and this state of mind took its name after a Music Hall. The book only refers to only a so-called worth saying part of the song. However, when I saw the rest of the song’s lyrics, I was appalled to see this song was full of sheer propaganda, for it talks about the so-called Balkan genocides by the Turks, and this song demonstrates savage rivals, Turks and Russians.
Next, as under the control of the British rule, Ireland suffered a lot throughout history. During the Great Hunger or Potato Famine, almost two million Irish starved to death, and the book, however, does not event refer to this very fact. Indeed, it was British responsibility to feed this country, Ireland, and prevent this famine. However, interestingly the help came from the Ottomans, especially by generous Sultan Abdul-Majid I. He sent ships carrying food to Ireland, thus preventing casualties to some extent. These are the facts that the book does not want to show to the world. Accordingly, today many Irish, rather than the English, are more sympathized with the Turks.
Furthermore, the book claims that the conditions for the poor developed during the Victorian Age, yet this period was a complete disaster for the poor. They still lived in poor conditions; most of the children died before they reached 5; they ate little; many died of diseases; they lived in dirty houses; they were not paid what they actually deserved; they had to work long hours, and so on. These were the brutal facts that the poor went through. In addition, the book expresses that the Victorian Era was a golden age, but it was nothing of kind; rather, it was an age of misery that costed the poor a lot.
During the First World War, aka The Great War, the book asserts that England suffered many casualties, yet these casualties, according to them, were caused by “sickness and heat.” Once again, here they distort the facts. During the war, British came in an attempt to pass the Gallipoli. In addition, they thought it was a piece of cake, for the Ottoman Empire was so weak and was subjected to surrender. However, the Turks fought bravely, and nevertheless, they did not have the power in materialistic point of view – weapons, but they had the national courage and patriotism to fight for their land. The English pathetically make up an excuse by speaking out of so-called diseases for the failure of the war, nonetheless. Once again, it is good to remind, “They shall never pass.”
Another noteworthy point is that the book asserts that the Britain during the Great War was defending the weak against the strong, and that it was fighting for democracy and freedom. However, English entered the war because they feared that they might have lost its trading routes, therefore by this way protecting their areas of interests. The book even says that the country entered the war because it promised to protect Belgium; nonetheless, just as afore mentioned, they only wanted to make sure that their colonial lands were safe.
Moreover, according to the book, the English printed popular newspapers by using “memorable short sentences and emotional language, which encouraged the nation to hate Germany.” However, this situation is a sheer testimony of propaganda itself, which the book refrains from telling the truths about English propaganda during the war.
Finally, the book makes mention of the “cruelties of Nazis” during the Second World War, and it claims that Nazis, Germany, had deliberately killed many gypsy people, as well. On the one hand, they might be right about this issue, but on the other hand, the book does not explain the cruelties that Britain committed during the war. At the end of the war, just for the sake of revenge, Britain with the aid of the US, bombarded beautiful and historic city, Dresden, in Germany. Many innocents died of phosphor bombs. Topping it all off, Britain and America bombarded Nagasaki and Hiroshima where over 110,000 people were destroyed all in a sudden. Would not these dramatic incidents be counted as “cruelties”, just as Nazis did to Jews and to gyps peoples?
In a nutshell, although “An Illustrated History of Britain” is penned to dictate the history of Britain, it distorts some facts. Above mentioned are just a few of them. After reading the book itself, I felt somehow compelled to read another unbiased book, for some distorted facts can misguide the readers. On the other hand, the book indicates how the English love themselves much and that even if they attempt to write something ‘unbiased’ about their nation, they become biased somehow. Accordingly, they are very good at distorting inconvenient truths just like their history, without doubt. As an epilogue, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s saying simply resonates: “Do not be afraid of telling the truth.”