This begins a series of looks into the vast number of topics concerning humanity in the 40k universe. We start with the Empire of mankind (EoM), for a number of reasons, firstly they represent humanity, and is as a result easiest to explain without further context, Secondly the EoM is, at least to some degree a part of in what happens in the rest of the narrative, and as a result, The EoM has by far the most material written about it.
These first chapters will be dedicated to a broad overview of the EoM, as well as to contrast it with some potential real world concepts. In the first part will we discuss how we can find similarities between the EoM and Colonial Great Britain, more specifically their colonialism and nationalism. The Empire of Mankind can be seen as a glorification as well as a stark criticism of imperialism and colonialism. 1
The empire is described in their related texts as the “universe sole and rightful ruler” .J.D. (2016) The Empire of Mankind’s is presented as being ruled by an absent ruler (Se EoM: 3 The God Emperor), in his place is an unimaginable large governmental body of scribes, bureaucrats, rule makers and statesmen. This organisation, just like Colonial Britain is centrally controlled. In the case of the EoM this entity is known as the High Lords of Terra (Hill 2016). This can be compared to the central rule of the British control of their colonies. In reality the rule was in fact quite localized due to distance between Britain and her colonies. Greater decisions, and of course the restitution of profits was left to the ruler “at home”. This is true of the EoM as well, only on a mind bogglingly large scale. Despite these long distances and independent rule, these planets and spaces stations under mankind’s control, still expected to pay large amount of taxes as well as to stay true to the “true Imperial values”. This again, can be linked to how great Britain ruled their colonies (Pennycook 1998).
To further cement the allegory to the British colonies are the rulers of Imperial planets named “planetary governors”, not unlike the title colonial governor given to the rulers of British colonies.
It is said that said that amongst all of the colonial powers, Britain was most eager to spread their culture to their colonies (Pennycook 1998). For example they stared cricket leagues in several of their colonies, and it’s said that while Germans built railroads, Brits made horse racing tracks. Likewise does the EoM bring their creed, customs and religion to each planet they “liberate”, like with the colonial counterparts, some cultures and people encountered became what was called “sanctioned aliens”, many others were destroyed (Hill 2016). For example the British used the implementation of cricket to strengthen their hold of their colonies and form a feeling of unification. Kulkarni, Tapas.
This leads us in the the most controversial and difficult topic of this comparison, how the EoM sees “the other” and how it compares to their real life contemporaries.
The British Empire as well as the other colonial powers has a well documented and bloody history with what they saw as “the local savages”, as mentioned before the “best” outcome usually to become a sanctioned alien to one of these powers, slaves in costume if not in name, always the “lesser”. But to understand how the British colonial power saw the other, we must first discuss how it saw itself. The empire is always described as the cultivated one, the intelligent, mature and masculine. In comparison the “other” is seen as lesser, savage, childish and feminine (Pennycook, A. 1998). As you can see, does the British empire need others to define itself as superior.
The Empire of Mankind is the same ideology, expanded on a galactic scale, and against not just humans, but different sentient species as well. The EoM has several “others” to use to distinguish itself with, alien species, “heretics” and mutants are always something that the EoM can identify itself as “better” then. The virtuous do differ slightly between the two , but, some values, such as strength, civilisation, and purity, seems to exists within both values. Other species being “pacified” or exterminated to the last individual, all in the name of the survival of the Empire of Mankind (Hill 2016).
Lastly I will discuss how these two colonial powers justify their conquests and exterminations. Part of the strategy of colonial England was to paint the colonization effort as a great adventure, where great men went on journeys of grand discoveries, slaying monsters, and (hopefully for the rulers), died som heroic death somewhere. The actual reasons can more concisely be narrowed down to economical and political reasons, as well as a need to “educate and help” the local population. (Pennycook, A. 1998). In the Warhammer universe there is a similar comparison to the wanderlust in the “rogue traders”, that will be explored in a later chapter. The Empire of Mankind is on the other hand described as to follow a sort of “divine plan”. It was their the will of their Immortal God Emperor that humanity would rule the stars. And as their god commands, so shall it be. In other word, a literal form of divine destiny (Hill. 2016).
In conclusion can we se several ties between the fictional Empire of Mankind and the real colonial powers, and Britain in particular. This chapter has been but a small taste of our further discussion in order to familiarize the reader with my arguments and the topics we will discuss, we will return to the EoM later in our discussion topic. Next chapter will dive into how the Empire itself is described and the military focused stories that it lives within.
1 My choice to compare the EoM with just the franchise creators Games Workshop is based in Great Britain, and as will get more and more apparent, they use a lot of inspiration from their homeland in their work.
Hill, J.D. (2016). Astra militarum. Games Workshop.
Kulkarni, Tapas. Deliberate export. Retrieved 2017-11- 19 from https://spreadofcricket.weebly.com/sources.html
Pennycook, A. (1998). English and the discourses of colonialism [Elektronisk resurs]. London: Routledge.