Britain colonized India in the 1700s and began to rule India in the late 1800s. Queen Victoria of England called India the “Jewel of the Crown”. Britain would continue to do so until a man named Mohandas Gandhi helped lead India to independence in 1947 without firing a shot. Gandhi became an inspiration to people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In the late 1800s, the Industrial Revolution pushed a drive for raw materials that saw many European countries “scrambling for Africa” for control of the land and materials there. This led to all but two countries in Africa being colonized by European powers; Ethiopia and Liberia, the latter being a state created by the U.S. for returned slaves.
Britain and France had the most colonial land in Africa between them. One of the most infamous tragedies in the “Scramble for Africa” was Belgium and King Leopold’s conquest of the Congolese during the late 1800s at the height of the rubber market. An estimated 8-10 million Congolese lost their lives. The Holocaust of WWII, in comparison, saw the murder of 11 million people, including 6 million Jews.
British businessman Cecil Rhodes started the DeBeers diamond company in a country named after him, Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe and Zambia). At one time, he controlled 90% of the world’s diamond market. Today DeBeers controls 40%. Conflict diamonds, brought to much of the world’s attention with the film “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo di Caprio, are diamonds that come from areas in Africa that are controlled by military regimes that exploit people and whose mining often involves violence, bribes, and intimidation on a grand scale. Today, the Kimberley Process Certification attempts to minimize these diamonds as much as possible, but it is not easy. When your teacher recently got married in 2009, I asked if the diamonds were conflict free. The only thing they could tell me was, “Hopefully, but we can never be sure,” and pointed to their Kimberley certification. One of the best ways to insure that diamonds are not “blood diamonds” is to ask for diamonds from Canada.