James Cook reminds us of the common feeling of the English speaking peoples.

Between the 19th and 28th April 1770, 238 years ago, Lieutenant James Cook was sailing off the Australian coast near Botany Bay. As Master of the barque Endeavour, he was sent by the Admiralty to chart the southern seas and discover what land lay there. He made his first landfall at what he named Botany Bay on 29th April. He had already completed the circumnavigation of both islands of New Zealand, demonstrating that they were two distinct islands and not part of a southern continent.

After his first voyage Cook was promoted to Commander, and entrusted with a larger ship and support vessels to undertake two more expeditions with better equipment. He became Captain between the second and third, and met his untimely death on the beach of a Pacific island in 1776 in circumstances which still give rise to argument over who was to blame for the breakdown in relations between hosts and visitors.

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The significance of Cook’s voyages was great. It gave Britain the initiative in settling and developing the trade of both Australia and New Zealand. It demonstrated the substantial advances Britain had made in charting and navigating, with the advent of the marine chronometer for longitude measurement, and it led to the huge geographical reach of the English speaking world. It confirmed that the UK has a global presence, not a European one. The presence was based on seapower, and sustained by doughty settlers in the far flung continents of the world.

When the UK joined the Common Market in 1973, one of the most difficult features of the arrangements was the future of agricultural trade between the UK and Australia and New Zealand. The bad rules and protectionist instincts of the CAP damaged both trade and relations between ourselves and kith and kin in the new world of Australasia. As it turned out, they have prospered mightily despite it, whilst the UK has backed trade with a slow growing part of the world, Europe, to some extent at the expense of the far faster growth in Asia.

Today as we remember Cook’s skill and the bravery of his crews, we should wish to ensure that in future we remember the importance of the Asian and Australasian links. They are an integral part of the English speaking world, and they are the future. We need to develop our common cause and common interests through the Commonwealth and World Trade Organisation, through the affinity of the English speaking peoples and the free flow of talent and ideas between our countries.

Euroenthusiasts in the UK have sought to highjack Sir Winston Churchill as an advocate of their cause of linking the UK so tightly to the EU that we cannot follow our natural links with the English speaking world in the same way. We should remember that whilst Churchill did indeed want a strong EU, he did not envisage the UK being part of a European political union.

Churchill wrote a History of the English Speaking Peoples, not a History of the European Peoples. He concluded that four volume work by saying:
“Here is set out the long story of the English speaking peoples….Another phase looms before us, in which the alliance will once more be tested and in which its formidable virtues may be to preserve Peace and Freedom. The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope. Nor should we seek now to define precisely the exact terms of ultimate union”. Churchill saw the English speaking peoples coming closer together, first through a defence union and subsequently something more. This is the opposite of asserting that the UK should become a wholly owned subsidiary of the EU. In a world where US supremacy will in due course be challenged by China we need to think more about strengthening those ties and relationships.

The dynamism of Asia, and the success of the freedom loving model adopted by the USA, Australia and New Zealand, should make us welcome the spirit of Cook. Britain’s future still lies with the English speaking world. At its centre today rests mighty America. Tomorrow at its heart will be successful India. India, once the jewel in the British crown, will become the English speaking locomotive of Asia and in due course the economic leader of the English speaking peoples. British trade in services and her pattern of inward and outward investment is based on the English speaking world, for that is where we find most in common.Trade in goods, where the EU is the biggest area, is a less enduring relationship than mutual investment.

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4 Comments

  1. Freeborn John
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    The demographic trends strongly point to our natural partners in the English-speaking world becoming more influential as the 21st century progresses. The population of all the Anglosphere countries is rising strongly. The USA was a superpower in 1945 when its population was 140 million. It is now 300 million and projected to rise to 400 million by 2050 and 500 million by 2100. The UN projects the UK population rising from 58.8m in 2000 to 69m in 2050, Canada from 30.6m to 42.7m, Australia from 19m to 28m and New Zealand from 3.8m to 5.2m. Indeed the population INCEASE in the 1st half of this century in these 5 countries alone is estimated at 170m; not far short of the ENTIRE estimate (195m) for the combined populations of France, Germany and Italy by 2050.

    The population of the Continent is falling, with that of Germany and Italy each predicted to fall by 8% by 2050 and even steeper declines occurring throughout Eastern Europe and Russia.

    In 1898 Bismarck was asked what the decisive factor in modern history is. His answer was "That North America speaks English". The primacy of the relationship between Britain and the English-speaking countries was the right choice throughout the 20th century but all the demographic and economic trends indicate it will be an even better choice in the 21st century.

  2. Tony Makara
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    It is unfortunate that since our membership of the EU we have basically abandoned our old friends in the commonwealth. More should be done to re-establish cultural and where expedient, economic ties between English speaking nations.

    We share a common heritage and these countries still refer to us as the mother nation. We can take great pride in the fact that our forefathers built these great nations at a time when mechanized labour was non-existent. Thus demonstrating the exceptional creative spirit that still lies dormant in our people today.

    It is without bias that I say the British people along with the Romans, have done more than any other peoples to shape the course of the world. We need to remember that, remember what our forefathers created and remember the common bond that we share with other English-speaking nations.

  3. mikestallard
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Three very disparate points:
    First of all let me congratulate you on your consistent stand against the monster in Brussels. I respect you for that – not just speaking, but turning out and supporting. I do hope that you are getting somewhere. It is getting desperate now.
    Second, Cook really was a genius. HMS Palendra was sent out to search for the Bounty mutineers and crashed in the coral sea. Cook actually navigated through those treacherous and lethal waters with a sailing ship – I have been recently – and it is very scary.
    Third, my unusual name has prompted one of our family to start our family name website. Yes, people from England, but also from Canada, Australia, USA have excitedly signed up thinking that they were unique!
    So far not one person has signed up from Europe. I wonder therefore to which countries I am closest?

  4. Jonathan Robson
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    James Cook was my childhood hero – he seemed to embody everything a boy could achieve. From humble origins to a great adventurer and explorer. Cooks Father and sister lived in Redcar where I once lived, and as a boy living near the sea there was no greater sense of the spirit of Cook. Revered in Australia and New Zealand – he has been forgotten by the children of today (with much more of our island heritage)

    Our past and future have always been with the English speaking nations – but with the rise of the EU, Britain has lost its way. The peoples of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are not just our friends but our cousins – does anyone turn their backs on relations and side with strangers?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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