Twelve days to Alamein: the Last Battle of the Old Empire.


Twenty-one years ago, I was rich and used to live in London. I had a drinks party on 23rd October 1986 and the nicely printed invites said “(your writer)….at home….for the 44th Anniversary of Alamein.” Everyone who was anyone was a “Sloane” then. But more importantly, 90%++ of the attendees (it was packed) knew what the date meant. Even the girls with pearls; especially, since most of their fathers were or had been Officers.

My boy, yesterday, in the top history set of his year, didn’t know what the Battle of Waterloo was; he thought it was something in South London. (Look, I DO try! Hard.) I didn’t even try him with Alamein; history-teaching by helicoptering the children in to “topics”, “without trace” destroys any kind of continuum of historical knowledge, which is the objective of course.

This post is about the Empire, and how it un-knowingly gave rise to the society in which Libertarianism could be born. On Tuesday 23rd October, the 65th anniversary of Alamein, this blog will run a discussion-feature on whether the Anglosphere could have been the Only Cradle of Freedom or not. Comments from readers will be published as fast as they can be processed.

Now I know Libertarians will sneer, gasp and cough at the very thought of “empire”, recalling as it does to us the dark days of the USSR, the Third Reich, Saddam’s evil plans for the world, the pig whose name I won’t pronounce and who runs Venezuela and who brown-nozes Jim Livingstone who tyrannizes London, a certain religion which alleges a claim to a monopoly of truth, other generally irremediable statism, and the like. But the British Empire was nothing like that, having come into existence rather accidentally, almost as an afterthought to the actions of individuals who sort of did freedom-stuff around the world, for a little time.

To help my boy, and to correct the mis-representations of a number of history teachers here in the North, whose students ask me for help, I wonder if readers want to comment about this Empire that never really was, and what was good and bad about it? Specifically, whether and how libertarianism could have come into being as a position to take, in any other environment?

Alamein was the last great battle, and start of a campaign, fought by British Imperial soldiers on their own. British; Rhodesian; Australian; Indian; Canadian; Jamaican; Ghurkhas; Trinidadians. What must the Axis have made of that? How in all morality could they think they could have won? But that’s an historical detail, and for the history books – except they have been purged.

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4 responses to “Twelve days to Alamein: the Last Battle of the Old Empire.

  1. I have in my mind a very long essay on this :) However I don’t have time to write it and I’m not sure anyone else wants to read it, especially in a comments section.

    So, leaving out all the important stuff like explaining and justifying the point of view expressed- I increasingly take the view (a view which most people would harshly criticise) that Libertarianism is synonymous with Westernism (no, not Pete Beale in a cowboy hat, Westernism as in “the western world”) and that is in turn most synonymous with the Anglosphere.

    I see that as under immense threat at the moment, from powerful resurgences of the collectivist tribal mindset from whence we all came. Somebody, can’t remember who, may have been Camille Paglia, I read described western progress as the invention of the “private person”. I agree with that. In tribal societies, there is no private person. Everyone is the property of the tribe. This has persisted throughout history in theocracies, monarchies, (and the mixtures of the two which have governed most human beings throughout the past) and so on. This is now under profound attack again, particularly from the Left of course, and particularly from the religious Right, of course- most dangerously in that regard from islam, but also the US fundamentalist christians and so on.

    So for me the history of progress is the history of individualism, personal liberty and privacy of the person. I think the anglospheric west best typifies those values, although it has backslid and much more progress- as individualism as described- has a long way to go even here. Right now we’re going in the opposite direction due to the assault of those primitive mindsets.

    Anyhoo, call me a chauvinist, but I don’t believe libertarianism could have “taken” in any other culture because it is IMV what *defines* our culture- anglospheric western culture, call it what you will. The Empire, whether right or wrong, was instrumental in spreading those values which I personally cherish as the best mankind has done so far. The collapse of empire, then the rise of anti-imperialism, has had the negative effect of bringing hatred on the values that that empire spread. Out goes the baby with the bathwater.

    It’s not about race. It’s not about who your parents are, what country you live in, any of that. It’s not about imperialism. I contend that anyone, anywhere in the world, who adopts libertarian (as I said, IMV “western” values) becomes a better person.

    So, like I said, belief in personal liberty- libertarianism- *is* anglospheric westernism. We should be proud of that. It’s such a pity that most of the people in the west have themselves turned their backs on those values. No wonder we’re drowning.

  2. Ian, if you would like to write it, then perhaps we might publish it for you? (If you want that, of course.) DD

  3. Thanks David, I’ll consider trying to come up with something good enough to publish :)

    I have these grand dreams of a website of my own where I can rant to my heart’s content about my interpretation of libertarianism etc, but I never get around to it :D

    Truth is, like most libertarians perhaps I’m just too damned busy earning a living (with my struggling little business). We need to start our own little fiefdoms bankrolled by the taxpayer like everybody else has. Heh.

  4. Ian, write it! If desperate, start you own blog. Like we did. The more libertarian blogs, the better. Think how many the Wicked Classes, and religions such as socialism and other pre-capitalism barbarisms like it, have already, and write to balance them out!