The sun never set on the British Empire, until it did. After World War II the balance of power had truly shifted away from this ageing colonial set up. US-led NATO (headed by the Five Eyes) and the USSR-led Warsaw Pact were the dominate global players who frowned upon European colonialism.
In order to establish such a colossal empire a strong naval and merchant fleet was necessary- Britain is an island, to get anywhere else boats were a necessity. So you could say they got pretty good at building them. Liberalism was an essential ideology behind the Empire- trade was how Europe would enact a delicate balance of power in attempts to avoid destructive continent wide wars.
Unfortunately this simply meant outsourcing violence elsewhere on foreign lands. The latent prosperity within colonies would be funnelled back to Britain instead of staying in the region. The origins of the British Empire can be found in the plantations of Ireland.
Britain was a major player in the slave trade. After losing the Thirteen American Colonies in the War of Independence Britain had to look elsewhere on the globe to find somewhere to pillage and oppress in order to sustain itself. The exploration of the Pacific and the foundation of East India Company in Asia ensured that the loss of America would not mean the loss of the Empire.
Decolonisation and decline of the British Empire occurred after World War II. Britain began a largely peaceful disengagement from its colonies, I say largely peaceful because they were only handed off once non-Communist governments and parties were in place to to over. This was the Cold War remember, and anti-imperialism was beaten by anti-Communism any day of the week.
Relics of the British Empire still exist today; the borders of the new nation-states born from ex-colonies were decided by the old powers, governance structures were passed down, language remained, the Commonwealth means that the Queen is still the Head of State for many countries. In 1945 the number of people under British rule outside the UK was around 700 million, by 1965 this had tumbled to five million, three million of which were in Hong Kong. Once Hong Kong was transferred to the Chinese government this number fell again.
The British Empire is often glorified, the narrative of a civilising mission was present throughout its history and still holds sway today. Former colonies are still recovering- the Sykes-Picot agreement is one reason for the strife in Iraq and Syria at the moment. Decisions made hundreds of years ago on an unwilling population are reaching through history to slap us in the face for our mistakes.
Was The British Empire A Force For Good Or For Evil?
The British Empire is the largest empire ever seen on the face of this planet. The empire was divided into two. The first part of the empire revolved around the British colonies in America that were popularly known as the thirteen colonies. These gained independence from Britain in 1783. The second part of the empire, which developed from the first empire, came later. It started during the Napoleonic wars and survived throughout the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. In fact, the British withdrew from its last colony, Hong Kong, in 1997; indeed the empire lasted for a long time. It developed from India and spun to regions of Africa and Australia. The influence and the power of the empire spun around the world shaping it in different ways. This influence is still evident in many places that fell under its control (Ferguson, 2004). To many people the world is the way it is due to the effects of the British Empire. Certainly, this empire just like other numerous empires before it and after it had triumphs and humiliations; however, the fact that this empire had numerous good effects cannot be overemphasized. The empire impacted positively on Britain and the colonies.
The first notable positive effect of the empire is industrialization. The British having been ahead in industrial evolution helped spread technology to new places around the world. Particularly, the British Empire was responsible for the development of early industries in their colonies (Balasubramanyam & Wei, 79). They built industries in the colonies such as sugar factories, cotton factories and tobacco industries. Certainly, this was a new development in these colonies that later led to the colonies mechanizing their cottage industries for mass production. The industries built by the British laid the foundation for industrialization in these countries.
The development of infrastructure is another positive impact brought about by the empire. To manage the colonies and open them up for easier mobility, the British needed to have proper infrastructure in place. As a result, they constructed numerous roads, railroads, airports and ports in their colonies. For instance, the British developed the Suez Canal and an important sea passage from Europe to India as well as developed a 70, 000 mile of paved roads, 40,000 miles of railroads in India and others (Iyer, 2004). They also constructed numerous ports, roads and railroads on their colonies in Africa. This was indeed a great development in these countries, and the accessibility of different places became easier since roads and railroads now linked the places. Such developments are still very efficient till this day and age
The empire was also responsible for the spread of new agricultural technologies and farming methods. In many nations that the British colonised, they introduced plantation farming, by cultivating many parts of what was “wilderness” into farmland (Chin, 2009). Vast chunks of...
Loading: Checking Spelling0%