The Late Elizabethan Age 1952-2022
Extracts from 'A Meritocratic Handbook to British History'
The following extract has been taken and surmised for educational purposes from E.D Smee’s Roads to The Reclamation series, Vol. II: One Hundred Years of Darkness 1945-2045. Originally published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2074. Material from Bhagirathi’s “The Search for The Executive: British Politics after and up to the Constitutional Crisis of 2019” has also been included and referenced in endnotes where appropriate.
When the Second Elizabethan Age began there was nothing suggesting the necessity of subsequent events. There was another island monarchy with an Empire behind it; Japan, which suffered the additional burdens of military occupation and the stigma of defeat. Yet, within a mere twenty years, let alone a century, it was obvious the two realms had departed on wholly different paths. Japan had become the world's second largest economy, leading the world in both technology and culture; Britain, a stagnant welfare state in demographic decline. We can easily imagine a situation where the paths are reversed. In 1952, Britain had embarked upon an eccentric economic course relative to her liberal European neighbours; choosing to funnel the fruits of the Marshall Plan into a Universal Healthcare system rather than insurance and nationalization of raw materials such as coal over building new companies like Air France. However, there still existed significant leeway for progress.
The education system established in the 1940s by R.A Butler was meritocratic: its new grammar schools were driving an ever greater number of working class pupils to Oxbridge and a greater number of public schools into the doldrums of provinicial obscurity. The great manufacturing centres of Birmingham and the London suburbs were still expanding rapidly, their electric factories and office blocks providing middle class jobs and attracting immigration from the steadily depopulating North. Britain had made the strange decision to invest large sums of money in a strategic bomber the moment ICBMs would make them obsolete; however, her military was still something to be reckoned with, happily at home East of Suez. Perhaps most important of all, there still existed large populations of people who thought themselves British around the world: in Rhodesia, South Africa, Nyasaland, Australia and Canada the civilization of Shakespeare and Darwin flourished and provided the natural matter for a future power bloc. What was then called "the Cold War" was of almost complete indifference to the strategic priorities of Britain, having the great benefit of achieving the long-term aim of Pitt: the division of Europe, while distracting the United States with proxy wars. Communism, a threat in Italy or France, without domestic purchase in Britain. Despite the mistakes of the Attlee government, Britain was still reasonably well posistioned to become the world's third power; she possessed, in her former colonies, an ample supply of cheap labour and resources, in herself she possessed capital and the intellectual resources which needed it to grow.
The Suez crisis which afflicted the nation in the early days of Elizabeth II's reign was the first great error. The talented Prime Minister Anthony Eden had negotiated a successful alliance with Israel and France to topple the government of Nasser with minimal bloodshed and cost. The public overwhelmingly supported the invasion. The principle critic was the government of the United States which threatened to devalue the sterling and place Britain under oil embargo. The devaluation of the sterling was to become a much sought after policy objective by British finance over the next ten years and the gulf states or Nigeria provided easy access to oil; however, these options were not entertained. The government backed down, Eden resigned and a mood came to prevail that Britain could not directly deploy force in the world. One consequence of this was that the next Tory government of Harold Macmillian, under the Machiavellian auspices of Colonial Secretary Iain Macleod, began the process of systematically depriving the English population in Africa of their political rights. In Nyasaland, in Kenya and in Rhodesia the British government set about establishing bogus Federations and Confederacies as a prelude to native rule. The philosophical argument for this was founded on the dogma of Democracy, that as Bantu Africans constituted the majority of states which they had no part in founding, they ought to be enfranchised. It is likely that without this policy, the white states of Africa would've followed the path of Singapore to rapid growth in which the industries and banks of the homeland would become eager shareholders.
It may be argued, as it was by some conservative elements in the 21st century, that despite the loss of direct control the Neo-Elizabethans continued to profit from Africa; decolonization resolved the problems caused by linking the currencies of developing nations to the pound and evidence suggests the money flowing from Africa into the palms of British shareholders increased. We may place this against the hypothetically much greater gains to be enjoyed by British investors in markets where they were dominant if those markets reached industrial maturity; however, such speculation is rarely convincing in history books. Instead, we may describe how, whatever its accuracy, none of these financial gains saw their way into the productive British economy.
The City of London was one of the few institutions which took proactive steps to ensure its relevance in the Neo-Elizabethan Age; we will see that the economic schizophrenia of a progressive financial sector and a declining industrial one as one of the signatures of the period. The towering glass of Canary Wharf and British Airways flight lounge contrasted with the dire suburban terraces and stagnant high street. The City became the main centre for Eurobond activity in the 1960s and its influence only grew in subsequent decades. British banks saw a large volume of trade and overseas investments blossoming returns. Whereas in other countries this influx of capital would've been put to use in new industries and technological investment, in Britain this was prevented by strict laws on planning. The Town and County Planning Act of 1948 gave democratically elected councils and the central planning comission the right to veto development; while Whitehall planners doggedly pursued the idea that certain regions such as the Northwest had an inherent right to industry even where there was no demand for it. The result was that the productive regions of the Midlands and the South were steadily throttled into suburban decline, while a vast post-industrial hinterland of deprivation steadily expanded across the North.
Thus it was that while the City of London benefited greatly from the expansion of European economies, the exploitation of the third world and the oil boom of the Middle Eastern monarchies and secured its place as a rival to Wall Street, none of this capital was invested back into the British economy to produce lasting growth. The example of Japan shows that there was no choice between British finance and British industry, it was quite possible to imagine the power of the City being leveraged into an export-based economy. It was not due to lack of innovation that the British economy stagnated. The first ever Maglev train was constructed in Leeds, 1978; Britain was an early leader in home computing through the efforts of Sinclair and IBM; as late as 2012 Britain invented Graphene. The inability to build things, whether factories, infrastructure or homes meant that these inventions were carried abroad for the benefit of other lands.
Meanwhile, the wellsprings of this innovation were being busily drained by the British state. In the 1960s the aristocratic education minister Anthony Crossland began destroying the grammar school system and with it the hopes of social mobility for vast swathes of the population. Education was to be made the privilige of the wealthy, whether through owning property in postcodes selected for government funding or direct application to fee paying schools. By the first decade of the 21st century the Great Public schools had secured the patronage of the middle class something utterly unthinkable on the continent. With education made the privilige of the wealthy, high culture came to be regarded as an expression of snobbery and vulgarity celebrated as popular. British culture in the Late Elizabethan era was tightly controlled by a single organisation: the BBC, which pursued a policy of cultural philistinism. Prior to and after the war Britain had a timid but extant Avant-Garde, with the end of grammar schooling it was successfully extinguished.There was no British equivalent to the University of Paris IX: a nucleus of dissenting intellectuals who wouuld hold state owned culture to a certain standard of creativity.
The celebrity D.J Jimmy Savile is perhaps the most representative figure of Late Elizabethan culture: combining its three main passions of Pop Music, Television and Charity Fundraising. If the working class identified themselves solely with the products of mass culture the upper class had nothing to offer but nostalgia. The few novelists who people pretended to read focused on the past and adopted a uniform Proustina, elegiac tone. By the 1980s Victorianism had overturned whatever foothold modern culture had in Britain; Oxford University students affected the mannerisms of Waugh and the Regency, Blackadder and Brideshead were on T.V. The generation who came of age during this time convinced themselves Britain's fortunes lay not in Rockstar games but Posh Ocado Chunky Chips.
The other distinguishing feature of the Late Elizabethan Era was the enthusiastic pursuit replacement migration; the importing of Mirpuri workers began in the late 50s in order to staff the outdated textile factories kept artificially alive by planning restrictions; Carribean and Indian immigration to London soon followed. Immigration was conducted under the auspices of the Monarchy, the fact that Queen Elizabeth remained Queen of Jamaica even as the British had no sovereignty there was used to give Jamaicans British passports with which they could move to Britain. The British Empire was in a good posistion to enjoy the economic benefits of cheap labour without replacement migration; one can imagine a situation where simple economic tasks like textile manufacturing and coal mining were outsourced to colonies, while complex ones like aeronautics or computing fueled domestic growth at home for the white population. Instead, Britain embarked upon the strange course of importing low IQ people to fuel a low tech at home while relying on foreign manufacturers for complex goods.
When the Potemkin industrialism of the North failed the replacement population was used primarily in the 'service economy' to depress native workers but a significant percentage of replacement migrants did nothing at all: foreign nationals prodigiously enjoyed access to the British welfare, justice and healthcare system without reprimand. Meanwhile, the fashion for egalitarianism enacted laws which protected them from criticism and favoured them in employment. The result was the creation of a priviliged caste in many inner cities who made use of a functional immunity to commmit crime for the terrorising of the remaining natives. In some Late Elizabethan towns it was estimated at least 10% of the white female populationf fell victim to racially motivated sexual trafficking. The omerta surrounding this scandal was one of the contributing factors to the Reclamation and public antipathy towards the regime, what stuns the future historian is how long it lasted, as late as Queen Elizabeth II's death some commentators still spoke of her without mentioning it.
The immigrant population was partly tolerated on account of the collapse in the birthrates of the native population. The meaning of this 20th century phenomenon is still hotly debated by the College of Eugenicists till this day, we shall not try to explain its causes here. Its result was that Late Elizabethan Britain was increasingly split into two groups: a large, older section of society who had enjoyed the largesse of the 20th century welfare state and a small, youthful minority who were expected to pay for the public debt incurred by it. The first group used Egalitarian Democracy to outvote their younger, smarter progeny; it is one of the most comical experiences in History to see how great an emphasis was placed by Late Elizabethan propaganda on youth and rebellion placed next to the objective demographic fact that this was the oldest, most controlled and defernetial society in British history.
The foreign policy of the Late Elizabethan polity received more attention than it was worth at the time; our conclusion is that it was nonexistant. Without the Empire the British state lacked any real interests to defend, it made up for them in 'committments'. The European Union was sedulously courted at exactly the moment it ceased to be of any importance. The United States was obeyed in all things without reward. Expensive wars were fought to this end in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was seen as a victory that the Thatcher Ministry was able to defend the tiny Falkland Islands from invasion by a third world country. The 'War on Terror' was rendered obscene by the toleration extended to the terror state which occupied West England, sponsoring bombings which, while impotent, claimed the lives of more British citizens than were killed by Islamic terrorism. One triumph we will not begrudge the Late Elizabethan state is its intelligence service which succeeded briefly in blackmailing a significant portion of the U.S ruling class; however, this advantage was squandered before the inevitable backlash at its public revelation erased all gains.
From the core features of egalitarianism, replacement migration and decolonisation there is a remarkable continuity across the Late Elizabethan era. The ministry which took power in 1979 was accused of all kinds of reformist deviance but in retaining the restirctions on Planning meant that its changes to the economy were entirely superficial and in keeping with prior dogma. We see similar superficial changes in contemporary Russia, France and Scandinavia. The ministry which took power in 1997 was not the progenitor of any revolution; it was, however, the moment where the convention of decadence was consciously adopted as an unalterbale facet of national identity. Decline was rechristened progress; progress, oudatedness; stagnation, dynamism and credulity wisdom. The civil service which had previously been incompetent became merely malevolent with its subordination to political officers. The architects of New Labour perhaps saw themselves as revolutionaries but we see that every cause they espoused was in keeping with the inherited wisdom of the preceding forty years.
The physical passing of the Monarch from which the epoch takes its name coincided neatly with a number of events precipitating the end of the Late Elizabethan Era. The decision in 2020 to extend the logic of the Fiscal-Welfare state to its maximal conclusion and shut down the productive economy for the benefit of elderly pensioners, while borrowing hundreds of billions of pounds to be paid by a tiny minority of graduates, proved to be the last straw. The Late Elizabethan state could either continue with the unpopular policy of lockdown temporarily repressing spending, or face the brunt of inflation. Global economic factors such as the decline of Chinese consumer demand and rising energy prices contributed to exacerbate this essential contradiction in the system. The lacklustre reception of the new King told the lie that the status quo enjoyed huge popularity, so credulously asserted by so many voices at the time, the riots which followed showed this ignorance to be dangerous.
It is for this reason that so many textbooks, of which this one is a faithful imitator, elect to close the 'Era of Stagnation' in 2022 with Elizabeth II's death; thenceforward Britain entered the 'Time of Troubles' which only ended with the proclamation of the Second Meritocracy in 2045. The future was to be harsh and dangerous; however, it was also a bolder, more exciting time especially for the youth. The hedonistic intrigue and piratical attitudes of 'the revolutionary generation' may appal some timorous minds today but it must be remembered they grew up with the expectation of decline and the injunction of "all or nothing".