Since 2020, several African coups have originated from primary, former French colonial territories.
When looking back at the French and British colonial empires, we can see two different strategies, implementation methods, and goals of both empires.
The British opted for economic control and seizing territories and trade routes that benefited British trade and the acquisition of local wealth and resources.
For the British, their imperial project was run like a corporation to increase their balance books. In contrast, the French imperial project was more ego-driven and focused on capturing big swathes of territory in the African continent.
The French vs. British Imperial Project
As written above, we can see that the British were a business-driven empire where the French wanted to be in charge of the whole political system.
This meant, in turn, that when the French left Africa and gave up its colonial empire in the 1950s and 1960s, the French hollowed out these nations’ political systems.
We fast forward to the present day; the French have packed their bags and left their old colonial empire primed for coup d’états and vulnerable places like Chad, Niger and other former French colonies vulnerable to the influence of China and the Russian Federation.
English Common Law vs. Roman Law
One of the reasons former British colonial territories tended to be far more successful than their other European counterparts was the two dominant legal traditions, Roman common law, favoured primarily on the mainland of Europe.
It was more of an imperial-based legal system where the sovereign made the laws and used the ultimate power of imperial power to dictate their citizens’ laws, beliefs, and ways of life.
Roman law was a microcosm of the wider European political environment controlling people’s lives.
The European monarchies favoured Roman law due to it is the legitimisation of centralising their kingdoms and being dictatorial in the beliefs and thoughts of their citizens.
In contrast, English common law is made by the people, for the people can only implement it with their consent.
This is why former British colonial territories were far better off than their French counterparts; French laws are dictatorial, and English laws are based upon consent.
This can be demonstrated by the famous quote from one of England’s famous Queens, Queen Elizabeth I of England, who ruled from 1558 to 1603, stating, ‘I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls.’
Queen Elizabeth uses the expression of not making “windows into men’s souls” to describe her unwillingness to persecute people based on their interpretation of texts, as it is their soulful way of perceiving things.
She does not see nor want to control what goes on in the minds and souls of her subjects.
The Future of France and Africa
As these coups run their course, French involvement could take on a number of different forms.
That makes this so interesting: the French are a wildcard, and their involvement comes down to how they see themselves.
This is also partly driven due to former French colonial territory apart from places like Niger that have uranium or other valuable minerals, which otherwise are worthless geopolitically and economically for the French.
That’s why seeing what the French will do is so unpredictable. Unlike their English counterparts, they have no scruples and are not squeamish when it comes to assassination, bribery and making alliances with strongmen to further the perceived French national interest.
All nations expand, die or prosper due to the environment of their geography, which we call geopolitics, which affects how policies are made and what countries can practically accomplish.
For instance, if a nation historically did not have access to coal and steel, it would not industrialise.
For England and the greater United Kingdom, made up of England, Scotland and Wales, its geography does not give a fantastic advantage that enabled the British to build the world’s largest empire ever or will ever be.
For the British Isles, half of its landmarks are mountainous, particularly in Wales and Scotland, which is why, even to this day, they have lower populations than different parts of the United Kingdom.
This is one reason why federalism will never work for the English constitution because for that system to work, England must be suppressed, according to the historian David Starkey.
This is all related to geopolitics because the much smaller population in England and Wales is because, in the case of Wales, it is much smaller than England, and both kingdom and principality are mountainous, making it much harder for agriculture.
It was not until the Industrial Revolution that the population in England reached over 6 million, and it was not until the Napoleonic wars that inflation went into two digits.
The demographic change was due to the Industrial Revolution, and the agricultural revolution of the 18th century meant that England could sustain a much larger population.
The Politics of Great Britain
When reading this, you may wonder why I write about England and Great Britain as two different entities; the truth of the matter is that the English constitution is not a union of nations but a union of Parliament with the act of Union in 1707.
The Scottish were given higher representation in Parliament and maintained a separate legal system based on Roman law and not English common law, an education system, a Presbyterian church and, in contrast, the Anglian Church.
This was because the Scottish nobility failed in building their colonial empire and needed England to pay off their debts.
The second reason was that the Scottish population in 1707 was around 400,000, compared to 6 million people in England.
The final reason the English were so interested in pursuing a Parliamentary union with the Scots was because, historically, Scotland was the back door and invasion route into England.
The Scots had invaded northern England before the Norman conquest in 1066 and historically allied with the French to force England to spread its resources by fighting two-front wars with France and Scotland.
On a final note, people within and without Great Britain often forget that to the rest of the world, the British are British.
Still, within the union itself, its peoples are Welsh, Northern Irish, Scottish and English, with separate histories, languages and cultures.
There is a political reckoning that needs to happen for the regions of Great Britain to understand their place within the British constitution and where they stand culturally.
The people of Scotland have a choice regarding how much they wish to be English or Scottish, which is a significant factor in the Scottish National party’s and the fight for independence for the Scots.
According to the geopolitical analyst Peter Zilhen, they have a choice to make regarding the cultural union within Great Britain.
British Geopolitical Advantage
Within the island of Great Britain, you are never more than 70 miles away from the coast; this has historically meant that England had access to capable seamen that could be used for international trade and the defence of England.
Historically, from the Norman conquest in 1066 until the rain of England’s 1st Tudor king, King Henry VII, from 1485 to 1509, the English navy only existed as a means of transportation between the kings of England and their much richer continental holdings in France.
What this meant geopolitically was that English kings, until the rain of the Tudor dynasty from 1485 to 1603, were not interested in developing their navies to defend the English coast, which enabled during the Hundred Years War from 1337 to 1453 French armies to attack and invade English coastal cities and towns at least 50 times.
The Hundred Years War and England’s defeat in the conflict in 1453 meant that England became untethered to the European continent, and it took until the rain of King Charles II of England and the brief English Commonwealth in the 17th century for England to focus on naval power.
British policies focused on the high seas provided a quantitative and qualitative advantage for British power. For instance, Louis XIV of France’s 400,000-man army could not invade England due to security provided by the English navy that was not even 80,000 strong.
Furthermore, English sailors could fire three shots per Spanish or French gunners, effectively doubling English firepower.
As continental armies got bigger, reaching the Hundred thousand mark in the 16th century, England, with a much smaller population than France at over 25 million, was larger than Russia in the early 19th century and had the largest population in the European continent.
The British were not able to compete on the European continent or willing to invest in its land-based military due to the army being seen as a force of tyranny that suppressed the freedom of the English people, which was used by Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, King Charles II and King James II to suppress English freedoms.
What this meant for the British was that rather than pursuing continental holdings, the English opted for colonialism, control of the world seas and trade routes to enrich themselves.
The wealth extracted from England’s colonial empire could fund the enlargement of the British Navy and keep France contained to the European and African continent in the 19th century.
The English in the 18th century successfully removed French influence from North America, the Indian subcontinent and the Far East; this was possible because England was primarily a maritime power; in contrast, France was tied to the European continent.
Throughout the 18th century, France spent 45 years at War and had to maintain an army of over 400,000 and, during peacetime, at least 150,000, making France priority on maintaining its army at the expense of naval development.
The Industrial Revolution
The home of Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain in 1769 with the implementation of the first steam engine.
Britain would create wealth through the technology of steam and the development of manufacturing.
Historically, economics was the process of household management, according to philosopher Aristotle or the administration of limited and finite resources.
What the British could do with the Industrial Revolution was to create continuous wealth, which meant it could improve its prosperity and had the cash to finance the enemies of France, building its empire and using geographical and industrial advantages.
The British Empire was able to do this because the Empire reached the height of its power in the late 18th and early 19th century due to this process happening during the Industrial Revolution.
In contrast, the Spanish Empire built its empire from the 16th to the early 18th century with gold and silver from South America.
The Spanish bought the goods and services it needed by giving precious metals in exchange, which destroyed the European gold and silver markets and led to high inflation, and that’s how the Spanish destroyed their economy.
In contrast, the British Empire began to rise to power in the 18th century in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, which meant that its economy was based upon liberalism, free markets and the creation of wealth, which was the first time this happened in human history where peoples became more prosperous.
Since the Industrial Revolution, life expectancy, technological advancement and the ability to generate wealth through specialisation enabled the British Empire to be the first nation to industrialise, which was a massive quantitative and qualitative advantage.
Economically and in some cases literally, the British were bringing guns to a knife fight.
The British foreign policy from the 17th century until the end of World War II in 1945 CE was to prevent any nation from unifying the continent of Europe.
When the United could destroy the British Isles due to being unable to stand against Europe as a United political entity, this foreign policy is nothing new to Europeans since the 16th century.
With different kingdoms, the fighting wars to prevent any kingdoms from unifying or destroying the balance of power in continental Europe.
The first two great nations who battled it out over control of Europe were Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, king of United Spain, Duke of Burgundy, which incorporated the Netherlands, and ruler of southern Italy, including Sicily, who rained from 1516 to 1556.
His opponent was Francis I of France, who ruled from 1515 CE to 1547 CE.
They thought the Italian Wars, also known as the Habsburg–Valois Wars, were a series of conflicts fought between 1494 and 1559, mainly in the Italian peninsula, but later expanding into Flanders, the Rhineland, and the Mediterranean Sea.
This would be a trend in Europe unbroken until the end of the Napolean Wars, 1799 CE to 1815 CE. For the British, since the Battle of the Solent in 1545 CE, the French number 30,000 attempted to invade Tudor England.
The last time the English crown was until 1688 CE when they pursued an aggressive policy against one of the stronger nations of Europe.
The event, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 CE to 1689 CE, is significant for two reasons. The first was that it led to banking reform, with The Bank of England being founded as a private bank in 1694 to act as a banker to the Government.
And the brief union with the Dutch Republic with the invasion of William of Orange, who became William III of England and became co-monarch with Mary II of England.
This event galvanised the British nation and placed that country on the path of empire and war in Europe, mainly with France. From 1688 CE, Britain would fight the Nine Years’ War 1688 CE to 1697 CE, the War of the Spanish Succession 1701 CE to 1714 CE, and the Seven Years’ War 1756 CE to 1763 CE was a global conflict that involved most of the European and American Revolutionary War 1775 CE to 1783 CE.
The English were determined to fight France to prevent the French from dominating the European continent, and fighting the French was seen as Britain’s national destiny, likened to the motivation of the First Hundred Years War.
Britain’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, who was in office for 20 years and 315 days from 3 April 1721 until 11 February 1742, lost position due to his unwillingness to fight a war against France and lost the support of the House of Commons.
France, throughout the 18th century, spent 45 years out of 100 fighting wars in Europe and around the globe, with the British being a big funder of the enemies of France.