The British Empire were the remnants of the British Dominions, Colonies, Protectorates, Mandates and other territories that Britain had created across the world on every continent except Antarctica. Some of these colonies are still owned by United Kingdom, having been either recognised as legal territories or acquired through disputes such as Gibraltar and the Falklands War.
Table of Contents
- 1 History: Expansion Imperialism and Colonialist conquers
- 2 Legacy
- 3 Politics and Government
- 4 Finances and Economics
- 5 Armed Forces
- 6 Culture and Society
- 7 Religion
- 8 Sciences and Technologies
- 9 See Also
History: Expansion Imperialism and Colonialist conquers
The Empire in North America
Britain, or England, at the time, began their first attempts to colonize North America when the Virginia Company of London began a colony on Roanoke Island, Virginia in 1584. However, the colony disappeared in 1590 under mysterious circumstances and England would not be able to attempt to colonize again until 1607, when they formed the new colony of Jamestown, Virginia. This time, the colony overcame their challenges and prospered, especially in their production of trade of tobacco with the local Native Americans. Another colony at New Plymouth, Massachusetts, was then formed in 1620 and also succeeded in their environment. Many more colonies of England followed afterwards and soon, England controlled all of the eastern coast of the modern country of the United States of America. The Spanish, who once had supreme power over the New World, no longer could compete evenly with either England or France after losing a number of naval battles to the two super powers, making France the only true threat to New England.
In 1756, England made an alliance with Prussia then began the Seven Years' War after Frederick II of Prussia attacked the following three nations: France, Austria, and Russia. Despite being mostly unsuccessful during the war in Europe, Britain challenged France's colonies in North America and India. To improve their chances of victory, the French then quickly moved to form an alliance with the Native American enemies of Britain. The Native Americans, knowing the terrain better than the French, were able to slow down the advancing British army in a series of ambushes but they couldn't ultimately stop them. Britain finally reaches Québec, arguably the most important city in New France, and takes the city in 1759.
The growing empire then set sail for Havana, Cuba, controlled by Spain at the time, and captured it as well in 1762. The Treaty of Paris, in 1763, finally ends the war and hands over most of the territories of New France and Florida, in exchange for Cuba, to Britain. Following the Seven Years' War, Britain colonized and expanded further in Canada and prospered commercially in the fur trade. However, as new challenges opposed the super power, the nation began to ignore the colonies wishes for representation in Parliament and their protests, which would ultimately lead to the American Revolutionary War and the loss of their colonies to the new nation, the United States of America in 1775. Canada, fortunately, to this day remains under the slight control of the Constitutional Monarchy of Britain but Canada does have its own Constitution, other branches of government and is considered independent.
British Control in South America
The British never made colonial attempts at settling South America themselves but instead, captured the Dutch colony of Guyana, its capital being Georgetown, in 1796. The Dutch, however, were given back the colony in 1802 but ultimately lost the colony once again a year later, officially recognising British supremacy in 1814. The colony's economy was greatly built on sugarcane production and trade but also became well known for its railway, the first to ever be built in South America. The spread of the ideal of independence soon reached the little colony, however, and declared independence for itself in May 26, 1966.
The British Supremacy of Africa
The United Kingdom was mainly interested in India because they wanted to maintain secure communication lines to India, which led to British interests in Egypt and South Africa. The British controlled:
- Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
- British Somaliland
- British East Africa Kenya Colony, Uganda Protectorate, Tanzania Tanganyika Territory, Zanzibar
- Southern Rhodesia
- Northern Rhodesia
- British South Africa South Africa Transvaal Colony, Cape Colony, Colony of Natal, Orange River Colony, South-West Africa
- The Gambia
- Sierra Leone
- British Togoland
- British Gold Coast
Expansion in Asia
The British government wasn't actually responsible for the start of the colonial expansion in Asia. Instead, the British East India Company, one of the most successful in history, initially simply set up trading posts along India's coast. When the Seven Years War began in 1756, the French trading posts, Britain's greatest rival, in India had already been so weakened by Robert Clive and his forces, that by 1761, French power in India was now in full decline. The British then turned their attention to the rest of India, knowing that India's Mughal Empire was in well decline and that the local rulers weren't much stronger either. At the Battle of Plassey, in 1757, Robert Clive also fought the Ruler of Bengal against overwhelming odds. This crucial battle gave the British control of the richest area of India (now modern-day Bangladesh) and the capital, Calcutta, one of the most important ports in India. From here, the British steadily overwhelmed the French and India's remaining rulers. The company became incredibly rich and powerful but India became so financially important to the government's income that they took control of the political administration in 1784. Even the Mughal Empire ultimately became very dependant on the British and the Maratha Confederacy, Britain's greatest native threat, was annihilated in Third Anglo-Maratha War 1813-1823. Maratha's fall was followed quickly by the rest of India and eventually, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and part of Malaysia. In 1857, a series of uprisings against the British began when Bengali soldiers in the British Empire began protesting but soon, this spread throughout the Asian possessions of Britain. The mutiny lasted over a year but the British ultimately, regained control. The Indian Mutiny, however, scared the government to such an extent that they took full control from the company in 1858, causing the once rich corporation to lose all over their governing powers. The government established the British Raj to maintain stability in India and the large territory of the empire soon became the keystone of the empire. Then, just like the rest of their empire they incorporated Industrialism into their Asian nations but unlike the rest of their empire, it was prided so much that Queen Victoria was nicknamed "the Empress of India". However, after World War II, in 1947, revolts in India, Pakistan, modern-day Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, inspired greatly by Mohandas Ghandhi, ultimately gained all of these nations independence; Myanmar followed the next year. More than a decade later, Malaysia also left the empire.
The Empire in Australia and New Zealand
When explorers, mainly from Spain and Portugal, sighted the Pacific Ocean, they consistently missed Australia, Terra Australis or, The Southern Continent even the famous Spanish explorer, Ferdinand Magellan. Eventually, however, the East India Trading Company officially sighted Australia's northern shores. The Dutch then sent more explorers to investigate, accidentally discovering New Zealand in the process, as well in 1642. However, no one attempted to colonize Australia or New Zealand for more than a century afterwards. Eventually, although not Britain's original instructions for him, James Cook, due to temptation and to keep the French from claiming Australia or New Zealand, abandoned his given task of observing a rare astronomical phenomenon, the Transit of Venus, and explored Australia and declared part of it under British control in April 29, 1770. Britain now had a new continent to settle and explore further and to do this, they sent a series of fleets of transport ships, carrying many, not colonists, but prisoners and enough supplies to form a colony, These fleets would be known as the First Fleet, the Second Fleet, and the Third Fleet. When the First Fleet arrived on January 20, 1788, it would take a year or two for the convicts to finally settle themselves in. The Second and Third Fleets then resupplied the colony, in New South Wales, Australia, with more supplies in 1790 and then again a year later. The settlers then began to explore Australia's coastlines further but after doing so, they began investigating inland, into the territory of Australia's native's, the Aboriginals. The conflict with the Aboriginals ensued for many years but the British seemed to dominate the continent much more so than the natives and finally, in 1861, the exploration of Australia was complete but Britain had other issues elsewhere, in New Zealand, as well.
The natives of New Zealand, the Maori, were far more aggressive against Europeans than the Aboriginals. The first contact between Europeans and the Maori ended badly when four Dutch crew members were killed in a dispute. However, when James Cook rediscovered New Zealand, Europeans, once again, began encroaching on native land. At first, New Zealand was so feared that only fishermen, missionaries, whalers, and sealers lived there and in few numbers. Gradually, however, just like the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, etc., the Maori were faced with epidemics of diseases, weakening their numbers and strength. Constantly, there would be skirmishes between the two groups and until 1839, no formal colony of Britain existed in New Zealand, neither peace. When the New Zealand Company finally did create such a colony, a year later, Britain and the Maori chieftains agreed to a peace treaty. Now that New Zealand at last had a colony and a relatively peaceful environment, it soon experienced a huge population boom. But the new settlers began encroaching on Maori territory, again, breaking the agreement of the peace treaty, and leading to more skirmishes between the British and the Maori. The Maori's fortified settlements, or Pa, defended the natives for over 15 years from these skirmishes. The Pa were fortified to such an extreme extent that not even the European firearms and other artillery were able to successfully penetrate them. At last, the British had had enough, they sent a massive army to finally finish off the Maori, starting the Waikato War in 1864. Also helping the British with this was the new disarrangement of power amongst the native clans. The Maori had recently elected their first king before, they were simply led separately by a number of chieftains and this new arrangement made the Maori community incredibly weaker. However, even with the massive army and the disarray of the aggressive natives, the British struggled to beat the Pa and the rest of their defenses. The War ended later that year in favor of Britain and now, the Maori were ultimately too weak to resist the British any longer. They soon submitted to Britain's harsh terms and all of New Zealand became part of the massive empire.
Australia and New Zealand remained under British rule for about 4 decades until those who lived on both islands sought independence and their own government. Unlike the American colonies, the British allowed them to do so right around the beginning of the 20th century. In exchange, Australia and New Zealand kept close ties to Britain, helping Britain in both World War I and II.