Britain’s Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation, 1918-1968

Bernard Porter writes:

Hyam calls talk of ‘partnership’ in the ill-fated Central African Federation, for example, ‘a fraud’. On the other hand, there is undoubtedly something touchingly idealistic about the notion of black and white, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Hindus, Chinese and Malays, Shias and Sunnis, Latvians and Russians (and so on) living together in amity; and a sadness in the thought that the only way to guarantee this in certain circumstances might be under an imperial yoke.

British imperialists, however, did tend to idealise. This is evident in many of the official documents that form the basis of Hyam’s fine study (some of it recycled from volumes of these documents which he edited), and inevitably colour his perspective too. Most Whitehall officials – with all their faults, the worst probably their tendency to patronise – were good and well-intentioned men.

(LRB 2 August 2007)