- Paperback: 68 pages
- Publisher: Kessinger Publishing, LLC (June 17, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1419158090
- ISBN-13: 978-1419158094
- Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,157,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Crimes Of England
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
"There is a very great deal that is really wrong with England, and it ought not to be forgotten even in the full blaze of your marvellous mistakes. I cannot have my countrymen tempted to those pleasures of intellectual pride which are the result of comparing themselves with you. The deep collapse and yawning chasm of your ineptitude leaves me upon a perilous spiritual elevation."
This then, is what he attempts to do: to show that England should not be smug and think themselves simply the defenders of humanity (though they may be that), but England should realize that they helped Prussia come to power, and they dealt poorly with the French Revolution and Napoleon, which let to some serious problems in Chesterton's day. Also, Chesterton blasts England for their poor treatment of the Irish, which were at the time involved in the home rule movement.
Why does Chesterton do all of this? He think it is patriotic. He said in an essay entitled A Defense of Patriotism (found in his first book of essays entitled The Defendant) that "love is not blind...love is vigilant." He thought, I think correctly, that if one really loves their country one will do what is best for it, not simply say it is the best. And sometimes what is best for it is to tell it that it has made mistakes, so that it will not make them again. Chesterton says near the end of the book that "I have passed the great part of my life in criticizing and condemning the existing rulers and institutions of my country: I think it is infinitely the most partiotic thing that a man can do."
This book gives an excellent glimpse into the situation in England during World War I, as well as an excellent view of what Chesterton considered patriotism to be. Of course, it is filled with witty and deep remarks, as all of Chesterton's works are.
Overall grade: A
With these caveats in mind it is perhaps best to survey the book to see what usefully can be extracted. Chesterton's take on Napoleon and French Revolution, defending Charles Fox versus Edmund Burke, is interesting. In a sense this shows Chesterton as essentially a liberal at heart rather than a tory. Today intellectual conservatism is often painted as arising in reaction to the French Revolution, Chesterton in this test case is obviously in the opposite camp. No doubt Chesterton was fully aware of the excesses, including anti-Clericalism (something he called "a catholic mood"), of both the French Revolution and Napoleon, but he sees the worst of the Revolution as having been fostered by the European powers' counter-reaction. He notes that the continental absolutists were opposed to the pre-revolutionary reforms of Louis XVI as much as anything that happened later. England, a liberal aristocracy and inspiration for many French liberals, by joining the counter-revolutionary alliance may have helped propel the French revolution in a more radical path. The longer term consequences of this still shake the earth. That the American revolution (itself welcomed by England's rival powers) failed to develop Jacobin and Napoleonic excesses, and the 20th century revolutionary and counter-revolutionary experience gives at least some credibility to GKC's interpretation. Similarly Chesterton's defence of the Irish revolution of 1798 and his "no holds barred" language in this chapter (itself written just before the Easter uprising of 1916) shows some radical spirit despite his support of the Great War.
Chesterton doesn't back pedal from his own radical critique - developed over the preceding decade- of British plutocracy with it's origin in (to use a "marxist" term) the "primitive accumulation" of the Tudors, the expropriation of Church property and the local commons in favour of a new "capitalist" ruling class of court favourites which he saw ruling all the way down to his own day. The Tudor revolution, in Chesterton's view biased the development of England away from agrarian smallholding and ultimately stifled local democracy and autonomy, something which always had medieval roots. This lack of local democracy and plutocratic rule came to underpin both Big Capital and the British Empire and saw English policy towards Ireland bent in a more exploitative direction than a more populist arrangement back home would have allowed.
Still the failure to apply his own radical critique to the case of Britain's participation in the Great War strikes me as a blindingly obvious error. Chesterton's teutonophobia strikes me as shallow and somewhat ad hoc. It reminds me of criticisms of Russia made in the Cold War that painted communist aggression as rooted in previous centuries of Moscovy and Czarist expansionism. This is all a bit like blaming the secret bombing of Laos on Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase, only drawing a longer historical bow. Most of his specifics, in isolation, are reasonable enough. Even the root of Chesterton's teutonophobia, implied but not made explicit, that Prussia, being outside the ancient borders of the Roman Empire was thus never truly latin and thus not truly European, making it easy prey to various heresies, including ruthless military autocracy, is not unreasonable. This shoe actually better fits the later Nazi period than the actual subject. It is however a bit much to put all of Europe's bad eggs in one Prussian basket, even if you don't particularly like Prussian baskets. Surely plutocracy, Empire, the corruption of "the Party System" (to steal a title from a book co-authored by Belloc and GKC's brother) and the mass press, the suppression of the Irish and "the Servile State" - all major Chesterbellocian themes - all came together in the war against the Hun. A critique of the British Empire's involvement here would seem to be logical next step for Chesterton's analysis. Postwar developments would only confirm the astuteness of such an analysis had it been made. In a sense there is a parallel here between Chesterton and the socialists. Just as under the pressure of war the radical socialists of the First International all, bar Lenin, ultimately rallied to their nation's colours, so too did Chesterton and Belloc, although the duo started from a quite different radical base. Perhaps his, and Belloc's, understandable love of France clouded their judgement. Perhaps Francophilia rather than Teutonophobia is the problem.
Chesterton's writing style is, in my opinion, not as good as Belloc's. He can take a frustratingly long time to get to his point. Still the stoic reader is rewarded by the odd jewel. Here are a few.
Describing genuine democracy. "Every Citizen is a revolution."
Describing the British two party system of his day. "The wrestle of the two great parties had long slackened into an embrace."
"The libel law was now used, not to crush lies about private life, but to crush truths about public life."
"They meant a degree of detailed repetition and dehumanised division of labour, to which no man born would surrender his brief span in the sunshine."
"The very powerful official who makes the choice of that great people for peace of war, might very well be called, not the President of the United States, but the President of the Americans."
They all still seem relevant.