Reparations: Where’s My Share?

In his fascinating book, Long Trek South, Tasmanian historian Barry Brimfield chronicles the history of human settlement in Tasmania as consisting of waves of different language groups, over thousands and tens of thousands of years. Only a die-hard romanticist would imagine that these waves of settlement were entirely peaceable affairs. In that respect, the arrival of Europeans after an interregnum of some five to eight thousand years can be seen as merely that most recent “invasion”.

Indeed, the entire history of the world has been one of successive waves of invasion and conquest of almost every people on earth, by everyone else, over tens of thousands of years. European colonialism was only one of the last, albeit most successful, of this global history of conquest and colonisation (at the same time, the fate of the Moriori people shows that Europeans were far from the last people to think that colonisation and genocide were just fine).

So, if we’re going to start demanding “reparations” for people whose ancestors were colonised, almost everyone better be ready to write checks for everyone else.

Restorative justice for the victims of colonialism is an idea whose time has come. A few years ago, the Indian diplomat Shashi Tharoor suggested Britain pay India compensation to atone for centuries of colonial rule. ‘I’d be quite happy if it was one pound a year for the next two hundred years,’ he said.

As Niall Ferguson showed, in his book Empire, Britain’s colonisation of India was far from, say, the rapacious smash’n’grab of the Belgian Congo. Britain invested vast sums in India, as it had in America, leaving its former colony with an enduring legacy of governance, education institutions and railways.

But still, what have the Romans ever given us? The “victims” of colonialism are still holding their hands out.

To those who suggest we might be better spending our time righting the injustices of today rather than of the distant past I say: shame on you…Far from abandoning the principle of restorative justice we should be expanding it and exploring what other injustices might be put right through financial compensation.

One glaring example is the great evil visited on the Anglo-Saxon population by the Norman Conquest of 1066. By any standard, the effect on indigenous English society was enduring devastation. Through war, invasion and genocide, the Anglo-Saxon ruling class was almost entirely replaced, control of the church and state surrendered to foreign adversaries, English replaced by Norman French as the language of government, and England’s entire political, social and cultural orientation shifted from Northern Europe to the continent for the next thousand years.

Britain’s universities have become sufficiently “woke” that the beneficiaries of the Rhodes scholarship now feel emboldened to demand the unpersoning of Rhodes himself, in the form of his statue at Oxford.

This matters because, just as the pain of colonialism continues to be endured by its descendants, the Conquest continues to have lasting effects. In his study of surnames and social mobility, economic historian Gregory Clark concluded that Norman surnames continue to be 25 per cent overrepresented at Oxbridge to this day relative to other indigenous English surnames…

Cambridge University, which still drips with Norman money and influence, should now consider to what extent it needs to compensate its Anglo-Saxon victims. The Sutton Trust estimates that Oxbridge graduates earn £400,000 more during their lifetimes than graduates from other UK universities. These figures imply that descendants of the rapacious Norman invader class could be earning tens of thousands of pounds more than other graduates — an undeserved lifetime premium that has survived 31 generations. So, reparations must certainly be made.

Similarly, if we’re going to pay reparations to Aboriginal Australians displaced by European settlers, there better be some sweet, sweet compo coming the way of those such as myself, whose Irish and Scots ancestors were dispossessed of their homelands at almost the same time as the Aborigines.

But, why stop there?

Once the Anglo-Saxon population has been compensated, surviving descendants of the ancient Britons will understandably want to seek redress from the Anglo-Saxons themselves for crimes committed during that earlier settlement….hopefully it will be made up for by the billions we are owed by present-day Scandinavians in compensation for all that rape and pillage by the Vikings.