5 Of The Worst Atrocities Committed By The British Empire


A new YouGov (an international internet-based market research firm) poll has discovered that the British public are generally proud of the British Empire and its colonial past. YouGov statistics found that 44 per cent were proud of Britain’s history of colonialism, with 21 per cent regretting it happened and 23 per cent holding neither view.

The same poll also found that 43 per cent believed the British Empire was a good thing, 19 per cent said it was bad and 25 per cent said it was “neither.”

At its height in 1922, the British empire governed a fifth of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s total land area. Although the proponents of Empire say it brought various economic developments to parts of the world it controlled, critics point to massacres, famines and the use of concentration camps by the British Empire.

Five Of The Worst Atrocities Carried Out By  The British Empire

#1 The Crime of the “Boer Concentration Camp”

British Empire

This is also known as “Anglo Boer Oorlog.” The Concentration camps were established during the Second Boer War (1899-1902) by the British in South Africa for Boer families – mainly women and children –  who had been expelled from areas being swept clear of Boer commandos (or guerillas) by British troops, as well as for Africans who had been displaced by the war and detained them in camps. In both black and white camps many died from disease, due in part to insanitary conditions and overcrowding with scant food rations. The Liberal politician Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman openly condemned what he called ‘methods of barbarism’.

Of the 107,000 people interned in the camps, 27,927 Boers died, along with an unknown number of black Africans.


#2 The Crime of “Jallianwala Bagh massacre”

British Empire

This was also known as Amritsar Massacre. It was an event which took place on 13 April 1919 when a crowd of nonviolent protesters, along with Baishakhi pilgrims, had gathered in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, Punjab, to defy a government order and demonstrate against British colonial rule. They were blocked inside the walled Jallianwala Gardens and fired upon by Gurkha soldiers.

The soldiers, under the orders of Brigadier Reginald Dyer, kept firing until they ran out of ammunition, killing between 379 and 1,000 protesters and injuring another 1,100 within 10 minutes.

Brigadier Dyer was later lauded a hero by the British public, who raised £26,000 for him as a thank you.


#3 Partition of India – The Creation of  India and Pakistan 

British Empire

In 1947, Cyril Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the border between India and the newly created state of Pakistan over the course of a single lunch.

The partition of India in August 1947, when both Pakistan and an independent India won independence from Britain, resulted in one of the largest forced migrations of people in history. As millions of Hindus travelled east into the new India and millions of Muslims travelled West into the new country of Pakistan – there were perhaps 15 million refugees in total – the situation quickly descended into violence.

Across the Indian subcontinent, communities that had coexisted for almost a millennium attacked each other in a terrifying outbreak of sectarian violence, with Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other—a mutual genocide as unexpected as it was unprecedented.  Some estimates suggest that up to one million people may have lost their lives in sectarian killings.

#4 The Mau Mau Uprising 

British Empire
Killing of 11 Prisoners During the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. Courtesy: telegraph.co.uk

Also known as the Mau Mau Revolt, Mau Mau Rebellion or Kenya Emergency, was a military conflict that took place in British Kenya between 1952 and 1960, which is now regarded in Kenya as one of the most significant steps towards a Kenya free from British rule.

During the uprising Members of the Kikuyu tribe were detained in camps, since described as “Britain’s gulags” or concentration camps, where they allege they were systematically tortured and suffered serious sexual assault.

Thousands of elderly Kenyans, who claim British colonial forces mistreated, raped and tortured them during the Mau Mau Uprising have launched a £200m damages claim against the UK Government. An estimate of the deaths vary widely: historian David Anderson estimates there were 20,000, whereas Caroline Elkins believes up to 100,000 could have died.

#5  Famines in India

British Empire
Victims of the India Great Famine

This was regarded as the Great Famine of 1876–78 (also the Southern India famine of 1876–78 or the Madras famine of 1877) was a a period of extreme food shortage in India that began in 1876 and affected south and southwestern India (Madras, Mysore, Hyderabad, and Bombay) for a period of two years.

Between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation while it was under the control of the British Empire, as millions of tons of wheat were exported to Britain while famine raged in India.

In 1943, up to four million Bengalis starved to death when Winston Churchill diverted food to British soldiers and countries such as Greece while a deadly famine swept through Bengal.

Speaking about the Bengal famine in 1943, Churchill said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”

See Also: The Nigerian-Civil-War