Great Britain and the Potential Form of a Heterogeneous Empire Model

Sri Aurobindo explores, at some length, the amalgamation of different cultural, language and societal groupings that became the nation of Great Britain, the internal changes and pressures that this nation has undergone (and is still undergoing), and the potential reorganization into a new form which may become the harbinger of a heterogeneous empire model based on federated status of a number of disparate units or cultural groupings, bound together through potentially common geographical necessity, or at least through a common benefit derived from an economic and political union.

First he explores the different approaches taken in the creation of the nation out of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  In the first instance, upon achievement of military conquest to consolidate the geographical unity of the country, the different cultures were left more or less benignly to their local uniqueness while the economic union was developed in a way that created a perception of basic fairness.  In the case of Ireland however, a sense of economic exploitation, combined with an attempt to stamp out the separate cultural ways of the Irish people, led to an eventual separation into what is now the separate country of Ireland.

As a side note, after the development of the North Sea oil fields, the Scottish people begin to perceive an unfair economic relationship, which helped to reawaken sentiments for Scottish independence from Great Britain, a movement which is still being played out today, with uncertain result.  There is a further impulsion to the movement for Scottish independence generated by Great Britain’s planned exit from the European Union (“brexit”).

Meanwhile the dissolution of the far-flung British Empire led to the development of a new concept of federated relationship in what was called the British Commonwealth of Nations, and it is this model which has gained ascendancy as the empire collapsed.

Sri Aurobindo notes, responding to the separation of Ireland from Great Britain:  “This result may well reach beyond itself; it may create the necessity of an eventual remodelling of the British Empire and perhaps of the whole Anglo-Celtic nation on new lines with the principle of federation at the base….Although no economic interest, no pressing physical necessity demands the application of the federative principle to Wales and Scotland, yet a sufficient though minor particularist sentiment remains that may yet feel hereafter the repercussion of the Irish settlement and awake to the satisfaction and convenience of a similar recognition for the provincial separateness of these two countries.  And this sentiment is bound to receive fresh strength and encouragement by the practical working out of the federative principle in the reorganisation, which one day may become inevitable, of the colonial empire hitherto governed by Great Britain on the basis of Home Rule without federation.  The peculiar circumstances both of the national and the colonial formation and expansion of the races inhabiting the British Isles have indeed been such as to make it almost appear that this Empire has throughout been intended and prepared by Nature in her workings to be the great field of experiment for the creation of this new type in the history of human aggregates, the heterogeneous federal empire.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 7, The Creation of the Heterogeneous Nation, pp. 57-59