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Reflections on the Demise of the Elizabethan Age | Monica Bassilli

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Living the High Life: Colonialism and Genocide under Her Majesty




Our website was down for maintenance this past week, and we were unable to publish. Here is what our columnist Monica Bassili sent to us last week before the Monarch was buried.



Despite the global call to mourn Queen Elizabeth’s death, many anti-colonial and anti-imperialists have decried the sympathies for a genocidal and colonial monarchy. For countless countries and governments internationally, the British monarchy reflects the violence and conquer required to obtain Indigenous landscapes, seascapes, and resources. Following the Second World War, historically oppressed peoples, such as those residing in the Indian subcontinent, sought to gain independence from British colonialism. 


Although many international liberations and self-determination movements spurred from the end of WWII, the British did not simply grant these people their freedom. For instance, the 1947 partitioning of British India came to an immense human cost. Over one million people were killed and over 15 million people displaced, and the partitioning of British India continued to fuel deep tensions between Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists. Today, you would consider India a “developing country,” rife with religious conflict. Yet, it is British colonialism that enabled one of the largest mass movements of people in the world.


Intergenerational Trauma and Genocide


For many Indians today, the partition is a genocide perpetrated by the British.

Across the Indian diasporic community, Indian elders remember the horrors of the partition and what that meant for their futures in their homeland. For instance, Canada’s large Indian population speaks to the necessity for Indians to flee political instability and religious discrimination depending on where their “new” communities landed during the British partition of land. 


Consequently, intergenerational trauma is evident in Indian diasporic communities as the genocide and mass displacement of Indians in 1947 left families torn apart and communities laid bare. India is not a case study or a simple example of British colonialism. Instead, Britain’s colonization and violent exploitation of India demonstrates Britain’s skill and experience in destabilizing entire continents.


For me, when I think of British colonialism and imperialism, I cannot go without mentioning Palestine.

The beautiful, rich, and vibrant culture of Palestinians quickly changed as Britain “granted” Israel the land of Palestinians as “reparations” for Germany’s terror against Jews. By 1967, Israel settled the whole of Palestine’s land and subsequently enacted violence against Palestinians to exterminate their peoples, enabling the sustained use of the land by Israel.


The destabilization of North Africa and the Middle East by the British Empire continues to perpetuate today in the form of government instability, resource mismanagement, and petty-burgeois colonialism by Arab leaders. With this in mind, the damage done to the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem continue to plague the region today with increased extremism, Islamism, and militancy. 


Where was the Queen?


Throughout the second half of the 1900s, until her death, Queen Elizabeth served as the British monarch since she took reign in 1952. She was undoubtedly a symbol of British hegemony, colonialism, and continental imperialism. When she began her reign in 1952, more than 700 million peoples worldwide were under British rule. For this reason and many more, the Queen was not blameless in the extermination and exploitation of Indigenous peoples and their lands.


As such, I am not discrediting the fact that her family deserves time to mourn, as any family should when a beloved member dies. However, not everyone gets this chance. Not everyone gets to reflect on their elders with such love and admiration. Many former colonies lost their elders to genocide, brutal violence, forced displacement and dispossession. 


Where can we mourn their lives? When can we commemorate the lives of racialized colonies lost to British imperialism?


Canada’s Dependence on the British Monarchy


Moving beyond the British monarchy means declaring independence and moving on to increasingly generative revolutionary ideas that reframe a nation’s governance. For Canada, this question remains challenging due to the fact that as a nation, Canada has 11 Numbered Treaties signed directly with the British Crown. For this reason, simplistic arguments to dismantle Canada’s relationship with the Crown must consider the impacts on Indigenous peoples residing within the historic Numbered Treaties.


A century before Queen Elizabeth took power, her predecessors pillages Turtle Island (North America) and attempted to exterminate the Indigenous population. Through colonial violence, Residential Schools, the Indian Act, the reserve system, and the government departments dedicated to “managing” Indigenous peoples, Britain’s impact on Indigenous peoples in Canada persists today. With this in mind, any meaningful government changes following Her Majesty’s death must place Indigenous leaders, chiefs, scholars, and workers at the forefront of change.


On Monday, September 19th, 2022, the national day of mourning for Queen Elizabeth in Canada, please spend your time thinking beyond Britain’s boundaries. Think of Ireland. Think of Palestine. Think of Indigenous peoples. There is no shortage of pain and despair found in Britain’s brutal colonial and imperial history. Please, have these challenging conversations and reflect deeply on the news media emerging today on the praise and love adorned to the Queen. 


The below list illustrates the immense impact British colonial rule has had internationally:


1    Aden Protectorate               1967

2    Anglo-Egyptian Sudan        1956

3    Auckland Islands                1931

4    Bahamas                            1973

5    Bahrain                               1971

6    Bangladesh                        1971 (From Pakistan)

7    Barbados                           1966

8    Basutoland (Lesotho)        1966

9    Bechuanaland (Botswana)1966

10    Bermuda                          1995

11    British Borneo (Brunei)    1984

12    British Cameroon             1961

13    British East Africa

        (Kenya)                            1963

14    British East Africa

        (Uganda)                          1962

15    British Egypt                     1922

16    British Guiana                   1966

17    British Honduras (Belize)  1981

18    British India                       1947

19    British Malaya (Malaysia) 1957

20    British Solomon Islands    1978

21    British Somaliland

        (Somalia)                          1960

22    British Togoland                1957

23    British Western Pacific 

        Territories                          1976

24    Burma (Myanmar)            1948

25    Ceylon (Sri Lanka)            1948

26    Colonial Fiji                       1970

27    Colonial Nigeria                1960

28    Colony of Newfoundland  1949 (Became a province of Canada)

29    Cyprus                              1960

30    Emirate of Transjordan

        (Jordan)                            1946

31    Gambia Colony

        and Protectorate              1965

32    Gilbert and Ellice Islands 

        (Kiribati and Tuvalu)        1978

33    Gold Coast (Ghana)        1957

34    Helgoland                        1890 (Now part of Germany)

35    Hong Kong                       1997 (part of China)

36    Ionian Islands                   1830

37    Ireland                               1921

38    Island of St. John 

        (Antigua and Barbuda)       1981

39    Jamaica                              1962

40    Kingdom of Rarotonga 

        (Cook Islands)                    1965 (self-governing island state in free association with New Zealand)

41    Kingdom of Sarawak          1963 (now a state of Malaysia)

42    Leeward Islands                 1983

43    Malta                                   1964

44    Mandatory Iraq                    1932

45    Mandatory Palestine 

        (Israel, Jordanian annexation 

        of the West Bank, 

        Palestine Protectorate)        1948

46    Menorca (Spanish Island)    1802 (now part of Spain)

47    Mosquito Coast                    1860 (now part of Nicaragua and Honduras)

48    Muscat and Oman                1951

49    Nauru                                    1968

50    New Hebrides (Vanuatu)       1906

51    New South Wales                  1901 (state in Australia)

52    Nigeria                                   1960

53    Niue                                       1974 (from New Zealand)

54    Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) 1964

55    Nyasaland (Malawi)               1964

56    Oregon Country                     1846 (became a US territory, then a state)

57    Pakistan                                 1947

58    Phoenix Islands                      1979 (now part of Kiribati)

59    Province of East Florida          1783 (became a Spanish colony, later a US territory

60    Province of Nova Scotia          1867 (one of the founding provinces of Canada)

61    Province of Quebec                 1867  (one of the founding provinces of Canada)

62    Province of West Florida          1783 (became a Spanish colony, later a US territory

63    Qatar                                        1868

64    Queensland (state in Australia)1901

65    Rupert’s Land                            1869 (became part of the Canadian confederation)

66    Sheikhdom of Kuwait                 1961

67    Sierra Leone                              1961

68    Singapore                                  1963 (became a state of Malaysia, then separated in 1965)

69    Solomon Islands                         1978

70    South Africa                                1931

71    South Arabia                               1932

72    South Australia                            1901 (state in Australia)

73    South-West Africa                        1931 (South Africa territory until 1990)

74    Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)  1980

75    Straits Settlements 

        (Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo)    1946 (Separated and passed to other nations)

76    Sultanate of Zanzibar                   1963

77    Swan River Colony                       1901 (Western Australia, state in Australia)

78    Swaziland                                     1968

79    Tanganyika Territory (Tanzania)   1961

80    Territory of New Guinea               1975

81    Thirteen Colonies (USA)              1776

82    Tokelau                                        1949 (Became a territory of New Zealand)

83    Tonga                                           1970

84    Trucial States (Oman)                 1951

85    Uganda Protectorate                   1962

86    Unfederated Malay States           1957

87    Van Diemen’s Land                      1856

88    Victoria (State in Australia)           1901

89    Western Samoa                            1970

90    Windward Islands                         1979




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