The Road to Self-Rule: A Study in Colonial Evolution

The Road to Self-Rule: A Study in Colonial Evolution

The Road to Self-Rule: A Study in Colonial Evolution

The Road to Self-Rule: A Study in Colonial Evolution

Excerpt

T his study in colonial evolution directs attention to the neglected history of the less mature peoples of the British Empire: the removal of the weakness manifestly still hindering these from standing firmly alone in the modern world calls for a clear appreciation of the roots from which they spring, of how their old ways of life were affected by coming under outside authority, and of the road they have travelled so far. Before the First World War, and for a good many years after it, these peoples and their ultimate place even in any scheme of Empire were almost entirely left aside; thus South Africans, who had reasons for pondering the future of their 'natives', took their cue from North America, were content to believe that their own history marked the 'triumph of civilization over savagery', and left the future to look after itself. Colonial history (so far as the universities touched it at all) had for its major theme that other evolutionary process which carried the European overseas plantations through their early formative struggles, by way of responsible government to Dominion status and, at last, to sovereign independence. The Empire histories of those days faltered at one point -- the motif of self-government running through this story was never quite harmonized with the idea of imperial unity which seemed to be justified or even required by the expansion of beneficent British rule in India. In the end the pursuit of unity gave way to the Commonwealth ideal; but when the status debate was dying away the rights or wrongs of the dependent peoples of the Empire became a major issue, and a focus even of world politics. Just because the Dominions had so long been the centre of colonial history it made for confusion to call this new issue the 'colonial question'; the blanket term was overworked. Colonial rule, in its modern form, originated in North America; Americans accordingly, living on in their eighteenth century, were foremost among those who ascribed all the discontents of colonially-ruled peoples to their being held down by repression in the . . .

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