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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The People Who Created The British Empire

“Damn your writing. Mind your fighting,” Lord Gerald Lake’s furious reprimand to a British soldier in India who was engaged in some writing work.

In December 1796, the command of the military operations in Ulster was transferred to Lake. One of his first actions was to undertake a drive to confiscate the arms owned by the Irish. He used to say that he was “untroubled by legal restraints or by the violent actions of his troops.” He advocated an aggressive approach for crushing the Irish.

In April 1798, when he was made the commander-in-chief of British troops in all of Ireland, he authorized the use of public flogging and torture of the suspected rebels. He ordered his troops to take no prisoners during their counterinsurgency operations.

Instead of calming the situation in Ireland, his use of terror tactics further alienated the Irish people. The Irish Rebellion broke out in May 1798 and the violence went on till 1803. The estimates of the civilian casualties range from 20,000 to as many as 50,000 of which 2,000 were military and 1,000 were loyalist civilians.

In July 1801, Lake became the Commander-in-Chief of the army controlled by the East India Company in India. He played a pivotal role in the Anglo-Maratha war of 1803. For the energy, ability and valor that he displayed in the battlefields of India, the British Government granted him the title of Baron in 1804. In 1807, he was granted the title of Viscount.

The British Empire was the creation of militarists like Lake whose life was devoted to winning wars, suppressing rebellions, conquering territory for Britain. An Empire is not created by philosophers, artists, and saints—it is created by adventurers, warriors, and barbarians.

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