The Bonfire of Empire
December 11, 2013 3:46 AM   Subscribe

The marking "DG" was said to be an abbreviation of deputy governor, but in fact was a protective code word to indicate that papers so marked were for sight by "British officers of European descent only". -- Before withdrawing from its colonies, UK colonial officials made certain to destroy any papers that "might embarrass Her Majesty's [the] government", that could "embarrass members of the police, military forces, public servants or others eg police informers", that might betray intelligence sources, or that might "be used unethically by ministers in the successor government".
posted by MartinWisse (15 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
DG

07/12/46

Told the hindoos that the muslims put beef stock in their naan dough and told the muslims that the hindoos want to make pork samosas the national dish.

Our work here is done. Cheerio, God Save the Queen

Subviceroy Dabney Montegue Fippenbottem,
Mujipoor, India
posted by Renoroc at 5:00 AM on December 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Interesting article, though my takeaway given more current events is "it has always been thus."
posted by Mooski at 5:01 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Embarrassing Her Majesty's Government? Isn't that what Prince Charles is for?
posted by mattoxic at 5:06 AM on December 11, 2013


No, it's what The Duke Of Edinburgh is for. Charles is nice and woolly and eccentric.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:11 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


So much embarrassing history lost. (Of course, some of it was taken home and squirreled away.)
posted by pracowity at 5:13 AM on December 11, 2013


I'm sure some of the particularly juicy things weren't sent home either. People had careers to protect, and it's always best when London don't know about the most egregious actions.
posted by jaduncan at 6:19 AM on December 11, 2013


It matters but not all that much. Denial is far more powerful than the absence of documentation.

As I was reading this I was just wrapping up watching the BBC documentary series How Britain Made the Modern World in which Niall Ferguson defends the British Empire by saying things like "Hey the Japanese were worse!".
posted by srboisvert at 6:49 AM on December 11, 2013


probably a good idea!
posted by thelonius at 8:07 AM on December 11, 2013


So much embarrassing history lost...

like tears in the rain. But, what's interesting is that after the Singapore department burned everything, the article says the home office wanted them to destroy less material and bring it back to England instead. The logic of bureaucracy is self-justifying.

What's even more interesting is how all of this stuff stayed squirreled away for 60 years. The logic of anglo-american government depends on the idea that the private power of elites trumps the power of the state. So, you have an elected government, and elected governments coininciding with private networks of power which persist both in the administration of government and outside of it.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:20 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


No surprise here, merely common sense. The surprise to me is that Nixon never burned his tapes.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:38 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I ... have been prevailed upon to do so on the grounds that some at least of their contents may come in handy when some future Gibbon is doing research work for his 'Decline and Fall of the British Empire'."

The level of self awareness is the most interesting part of the whole endeavour. I'd love to know more about attitudes when empires end. When the Romans left Britain were they aware they'd never return? Were the Britons forlorn about their prospects?

Come to think of it, perhaps the Romans had their own files to burn - for Tiberian eyes only.
posted by forgetful snow at 9:20 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I'm a bad person, because the first thing I thought is "I wonder what The Bugle is going to do with this?".
posted by benito.strauss at 10:14 AM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jaduncan wrote: I'm sure some of the particularly juicy things weren't sent home either. People had careers to protect, and it's always best when London don't know about the most egregious actions.

That's possible, but it's frankly hard for me to imagine that there could be anything "juicier" than British troops raping their enemies, castrating them, or roasting them alive.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:29 PM on December 11, 2013


Joe in Australia: Probably much more mundane stuff that the people in India didn't want getting back to London. Selling guns to tribal chiefs, setting up side businesses, stuff like that.
posted by Hatashran at 3:45 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


DG

November 18th, 1846

The Irish appear to be a bit thinner.

Sir Charles Trevelyan

Dublin, Ireland
posted by Redgrendel2001 at 12:58 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


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