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Correlli Barnett: Public school 'indoctrination' has led UK to war, says historian

Historians in the News




British forces are "ludicrously" overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan because politicians have clung for years to the imperial delusion that the UK is a world power, the historian Correlli Barnett said this afternoon.
Speaking at a seminar at Churchill College, Cambridge, on his 80th birthday, the distinguished historian said that after the first world war the British Empire and later the Commonwealth were only a façade of strength, but made the political establishment feel important on the world stage.

They had been programmed by public school and Oxbridge to be "house prefects to the world", he said.

"Politicians, civil servants and military chiefs remained mental prisoners of Britain's past as a world and imperial power," said Mr Barnett, opening a public seminar, Overstretched? The making and impact of the UK's defence reviews since 1957, which also featured the British army's former chief of the general staff, General Sir Mike Jackson.

Discussing why the elite retain such nostalgic delusions, he said: "In my belief the elite remained prisoners of their indoctrination at public school and Oxbridge. There they had been programmed to be house prefects to the world. But given Britain's postwar problems, these Victorian or Edwardian reflexes were simply obsolete mental kit overdue for scrapping."

He argued in his address: "Such exaggeration has remained the besetting sin of British total strategy right up to the present day and also remained a sure recipe for a discordance between military commitments and financial resources.
Read entire article at Guardian

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