Whether one wants to argue about the rights or wrongs of the British
Empire, few can deny that it has left a lasting legacy in many parts of the globe. Our industrial might has left trains chugging across the vast lands of India, a rail infrastructure that spans the Cape to Cairo and British steel was used in spanning vast expanses as in the Sydney Harbour Bridge. But, many of the world’s trouble spots are those left behind by the chaotic retreat of empire, and its ghosts continue to haunt today’s international scene. The problems the empire encountered have still not been resolved and in Iraq, Kashmir, Burma, Sudan, Nigeria and Hong Kong new difficulties have arisen which continue to baffle politicians and diplomats. ‘One sows the seeds of demise at the outset’ is a well-known concept that can really apply to the collapse of the British Empire…

According to author Kwasi Karteng, in his new book, “Ghosts of Empire“,  the Empire was run by ‘the man on the spot’ and not the government in Whitehall. The empire was not formed by coherent policy, and its decline reflected this: its later years were characterised by a series of accidental oversights, decisions taken without due consideration for the consequences, and uncertain pragmatism. The Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 featured an interesting debate between ‘The Ghosts of Empire’ author and Richard Gott, author of ‘Resistance, Repression and Revolt’, about whether the British Empire was a “totally disastrous experience from beginning to end” which is an interesting five minute listen.

Interestingly, one of the core cultural values that the British have to this day is: pragmatism. The ability to find, and have a preference for, workable solutions over undue process. Whilst in our own context this is valued and has a positive effect on society, other nation cultures such as the French and the Turks negatively experience our pragmatism as being ‘unprincipled’ or ‘without discipline’. This really is one of the cross-cultural differences that really shows up when working with multi-cultural or virtual global teams – so always take steps to understand cultural differences before they impact your relationships or organisations.

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 8th, 2011 at 6:44 pm and is filed under cross-cultural differences, General, other interesting stuff . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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