As many Americans no longer believe in American exceptionalism and others believe America's greatness is guaranteed to extend perpetually, we could all benefit by reviewing the history of the British Empire, the realm from which we sprung and acquired so much.
By the time most baby boomers were born, the British Empire had declined. The Nazis and Japanese had been defeated in World War II, and two major military powers -- the United States and the Soviet Union -- were faced off at the beginning of a nearly half-century-long struggle we call the Cold War.
The great British Empire, which dominated the world mere decades before, was rarely in our current events radar, and it got little better treatment in our history courses, except as the villain we had to defeat in two wars to attain our independence and as the waning world power whose chestnuts we had saved from Adolf Hitler's fire. Oh, how much we missed, not just of British history but of our own, because we can't fully appreciate our greatness without understanding much more about our immediate ancestor.
But there's an easy way to make up for all that lost time, a way to fill in the gaps and much more. My friend Harry Crocker's "Politically Incorrect Guide to the British Empire" has just been released, and it's a one-stop shop for telling us all we should have learned about that empire and precisely how much we owe it.
We remain in awe of the enormity and dominance of the Roman Empire -- and rightly so -- but did you realize that at its height, the British Empire was the largest empire ever, covering a quarter of the world -- even half, if you consider its control of the oceans -- and governing a quarter of the people on the planet?
Though it is de rigueur today to condemn British colonialism, Harry not only defends the Brits' colonial achievements but also unashamedly champions them. "The empire," he writes, "was incontestably a good thing. The fact that it is controversial to say so is why this book had to be written. In the groves of academe, colonialism and imperialism are dirty words, the fons et origo of Western expansion with all its alleged sins of racism, capitalism, and ignorant, judgmental, hypocritical Christian moralism."