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The British Empire consisted of the protectorates and other territories which the United Kingdom administered between the 16th and the 19th Century. The Empire was not only the largest in history, but also the global power for a period exceeding a century. By 1913, the British Empire had predominated more than 412 million people, which was an estimate of 23% of the universal inhabitants at that time. Additionally, the British Domain had dominated a vast area by 1920, which was equivalent to 24% of the world’s total land area. In fact, “the empire on which the sun never sets “was a catchphrase that described the British Empire. Notably, the administrative, morphological, cultural, and legal heritage of the Empire is broad globally since many territories were under control of the British Domain (Jackson 109). Therefore, this paper will highlight the contribution the British Empire to cultural exchanges and trade.
The Rise of the British Empire
The British Realm started to gain momentum in the 15th Century. Apart from dominating many territories, the Kingdom developed other desires of entrepreneurship, unrestricted trade, obligatory labor, and inflexible pyramids. The desire to acquire wealth from colonized nations resulted in some individuals becoming excessively wealthy, while others became poorer than before. In fact, there was a considerable gap between the affluent and the underprivileged both at home and overseas. Notably, the process led to the illegalization of the unfortunate in the society (Jackson 110). The Europeans were superior to their colonies, and therefore, they had to adhere to the rules, the culture, and the language of the masters. The colonists executed their superpowers over the colonies rendering them desperate, immobilized, deprived, dependent, and vulnerable.
The first country to fall a victim of the British Pinnacle was the Ireland. The colonists invaded the wilderness of the country and took control of the land for personal gains. In fact, according to the British Rulers, the property was up for grabs, and therefore the natives had no means to own it (Jackson 111). Further, the oppressors argued that the inhabitants did not know how to utilize the land, hence could not benefit from it. The Englishmen compelled the Irishmen to believe that they were uncivilized and uncultured. Such profiling made the Irish people think that they were weaker than their colonialists and so the land could only belong to the British Crown. That kind of perception and intellectualism brought fame to the oppressors, who engaged in vices such as grabbing of land and injustice to the natives. Therefore, the British colonizers established colonies that brought them significant gains. (Jackson 112).
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In the 17th Century, the African continent became a target because it was a source of wealth to the British Empire. The enormous wealth originated from the slave trade since the British men purchased the slaves at a low price and would capture as many as possible. The colonizers made the Africans believe that they were inferior and took advantage of them. The slave trade boosted the economy of the ports such as Cardiff, Bristol, Glasgow, and Liverpool (Harding 235). In fact, the ports became so powerful and wealthy that it resulted in the development of merchants, prosperity of many corporations, and many people accumulated a lot of wealth. The slave trade was such a profitable business opportunity that was widespread in the African continent. The British Territory subjected the Africans to cruel injustices, racism, abject poverty, and economic instability.
As a result of the slave trade, the Kingdom became the world’s authoritarian regime because of the enormous profits it gained. The slave trade was a platform for growth and the development of the economy of the British Empire. The slave business boosted the advent of entrepreneurship, industrial development, and the rise to power to become the world’s most powerful empire. The creation of the companies and the accumulation of indescribable resources would automatically result in a measure of stability, the creation of employment opportunities, economic progress, and enlargement. By the middle of the 19th Century, the British Empire was the most prevalent and the wealthiest domain in the world. In such a high profile position, there was a significant detachment between Britain and around the other countries. Mostly, the different regimes had a firm conviction that Britain was naturally superior and therefore it became more natural for the British Empire to accomplish the imperialism (Harding 236).
The Expansion of the British Colonies
The British Empire expanded so rapidly between 1870 and 1900 as a result of various factors. Between those periods, the kingdom had indeed occupied a massive area of four million square miles. The British Empire registered a rapid expansion of the realm within a short span of time. One of the primary factors that resulted in the prompt extension was the economic incentive of Britain (Harding 237). The kingdom had an aspiration to secure the commercial welfares overseas of the enterprises previously founded on individual gains. Some of the companies include Rhodes, the British South African Company, the Goldie’s United Africa Company, and the East India Company. The companies provided ready markets for the British goods as well as the availability of cheap raw materials.
An additional significant aspect that heightened the fast expansion was the industrial revolution which catered for the essential implements for the kingdom. The tools that aided the empire to conquer their rivals included the steamships, the railway line, and the Gatling guns. With such improved technological strategies, the empire would colonize its targets with much ease. Similarly, during the depression from 1875, the industrial revolution inspired the desire to procure new markets. In fact, it was easy for the empire to explore new localities as a result of the improved infrastructure (Harding 238). The financiers preferred to capitalize on new areas to raise wages in their vicinities. Therefore, the desire to search for the new markets extended the British Empire.
Indeed, the rise of new powers threatened the Britain’s economic and imperial sovereignty. In 1871, the Germany conquered Europe because Austria-Hungary was subordinate to it. Therefore, Germany speedily gained supremacy over Britain. In fact, the British Empire felt that Germany had become an economic competitor. Consequently, Britain had to act swiftly to retain its authority and reputation. Similarly, during the American Civil War, high wartime rates remained in the USA, which generated another intimidation to the British Empire. Correspondingly, France had also gained prominence after the Franco-Prussian War, hence creating another threat to the British Empire (Harding 238). The new powers created a stiff competition for raw materials, slaves, and the new markets in the undeveloped areas. The emergence of the modern authorities heightened Britain’s desire to shield its supremacy.
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On the islands of the Caribbean and North America, the British Colonizers set up plantations to produce tobacco and sugar in the 17th Century (Buckner 88). The farmsteads enticed many European immigrants. Therefore, the Great Britain initiated the slave trade to acquire workers to work on the farms. The British sold sugar, American timber, English cloth, manufactured goods, and West Indian molasses to the colonies. However, the territories would sell the African slaves in Britain who worked on the plantations. The British government passed a law that compelled the colonies to trade with the British ships alone to safeguard and increase their treasure. Therefore, the provinces could only sell their products in the British Territory hence strengthening and expanding it.
After 1763, the British extended its territory after conquering India. Further, there were more colonies in Australia and New Zealand in the 1770s. In fact, Captain James Cook aided in the acquisition of the new settlements through his voyages. During the Napoleonic Wars between 1799 and 1815, Britain emerged triumphant. As a result, the British further increased its associations. Since Britain had become a superpower state in the world, it adopted the policy of free trade. In 1807, the British government banned slave trade to enhance the lives of the many native dwellers (Buckner 89). The abolishment of slavery later occurred in 1833.
The Colonial Culture and Economy
The British rulers had a significant impact on the cultural, political systems, and the economy of the colonies. The colonies had to adhere to the rules and regulations of the colonizers. Additionally, the British Empire introduced western education, democracy, and civilization to its inferiors. However, slavery, racism, and rampant injustices prevailed during the colonial period. Many fell victims of horrible torture, restrictions to conduct free trade, crimes against humanity, as well as land grabbing (Buckner 90). The rule had a gradual impact on the economic, social, and cultural life of India. Initially, the British colonizers had come to India as traders and had become rulers and administrators.
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Many of the changes that occurred to the Indians were through education. At first, the East India Company had the notion that it was not its obligation to introduce the Western culture of the Indians. The Muslims attended the Madrasa classes, while the Panthalassa taught a type of special education that met the requirements of the rural school (Buckner 91). However, at the beginning of the 19th Century, the company imparted the Western Education while the missionaries had earlier on introduced Christianity through education.
The British East India Company was indeed the world’s first multinational organization. It had obtained its contract from the British in 1600. The primary objective why Britain established the company in India was to conduct trade. In fact, the empire did not have an intention of colonizing India. The company indeed engendered enormous revenues for the stakeholders. Therefore, the company had a remarkable reputation. Many British young people dreamt of working for the company since it had created employment opportunities and improved the standards of living for the people (Buckner 90). After the India Mutiny, the British made India a colony in 1858. The company had made broad interests, and it had become difficult for the Britain to manage it. For that reason, the British government had to take over the business.
The primary goal of the British Kingdom was to acquire as many colonies as they could to provide cheap raw materials for their factories. Additionally, the provinces would as well offer ready markets for the finished products from the Empire (Buckner 89). It was illegal for the colonies to manufacture goods. Instead, their significant responsibility was to provide raw materials at a low price while the colonizers processed finished products. The provinces would then purchase the finished products from the colonizers at a higher cost. Therefore, Britain generated a lot of wealth from the trade. The natives were only expected to practice business with the British states.
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The heavily industrialized European states such as France, Britain, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands were competing for global influence. Each nation wanted to defend its supremacy and territories through imperialism and limit the prospects of others (Buckner 87). The scramble for territorial and commercial domination resulted in the desire to control trade in essential mineral and other resources. Other reasons that motivated the willingness to take over as many regions as possible were to civilize the natives. Similarly, the British Kingdom influenced the culture of the colonies. Indeed, all the counties that the regime colonized communicate in English as the official language. Moreover, the inhabitants embraced the contemporary dressing code as well as access new medical attention. Notably, there was the improvement of infrastructure, diverse technology, and the formation of democratic political systems.
There are many legacies of the British Empire on its colonies in the modern society. For instance, over 400 million people use the English language as their mother tongue in nine states, while other 30 nations use English as their second official language. Therefore, most of the British colonies embraced the English language. Additionally, the British Kingdom influenced the education system in its colonies. Before the colonization, most individuals could not read and write. Therefore, the British introduced the formal type of education in their colonies. Nowadays, the colonies have emulated the British school systems. Many of the nations that the British colonized adopted the democratic way of governance. Now, the constitution is the set of laws that the citizens obey. Some parliaments make laws which govern the people. Lastly, the Commonwealth is the greatest legacy because it consists of 53 states which still maintain their close relations with Britain.
- Buckner, Phillip A. Canada and the British Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
- Harding, Nick. Hanover and the British Empire: 1700-1837. Woodbridge: Boy dell Press, 2007. Print.
- Jackson, Ashley. The British Empire: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.