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What if?

9 May 2007

7:33 PM

9 May 2007

7:33 PM

Andrew Roberts is nothing less than the jewel in the crown of the Daily Mail, and he has written a very funny piece for that paper about what the world would be like if Britain still ruled America. According to Andrew, it would be a much happier place than it is today. There would have been no American civil war (thanks to Queen Victoria’s enlightened decision to abolish slavery in the early 1860s); there would have been no world wars (thanks to the square-jawed deployment of Anglo-American forces in 1914 and in 1936); and there would have been no Bolshevik Revolution (because there had been no Great War to make straight the way of Lenin and his gang).

There are one or two difficulties with this reading, chief among them that it is absolutely unbelievable. The American planters were far too clever, far too brave, far too greedy to remain under British rule. Above all, though, they were far too revolutionary. That’s why the Tom Paine was so keen on them (and Joseph de Maistre wasn’t). The question we should be asking therefore is whether the world have been a happier place if the United States had been less successful in spreading the American revolution, or, as Americanists like Andrew would have it, fighting the good fight.


Key to this game (which Andrew in the past has played with great skill) is the American Civil War. If the Confederacy had won its battle for freedom, it would have been bad for the slaves, whose cause would have been set back by some years, but not necessarily for the wider world. A non-united America might well have stayed out of the First World War, in which case Germany might not have been defeated. Bad news? No, good news: if Germany had not been defeated there would have been no Versailles Treaty, and, therefore, no grievance for Hitler to exploit; no Nazism, in other words; no Munich, no World War II, no Holocaust.-

But … things turned out as they did. That’s what Andrew and I should both bear in mind (until the Mail features desk rings). He can stick to his narrative — in which “we” (the Anglo-Americans) are good and "they", especially the perfidious French, are bad – and I’ll stick to mine, when I discover what it is. 


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