The rise and fall of the British Empire

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  • Created by: Anoush
  • Created on: 29-11-15 23:50
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  • The rise and fall of the British Empire
    • It was often said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire because of its span across the globe.
    • Critical turning points
      • By 1921, the British Empire held a population of 458 million (approx 1/4 of world's population).
      • The steamship and telegraph uderpinned imperial strength, allowing it to control and defend the sprawling Empire.
      • After WW2, Britian was left bankruptafter the negotiation of a $3.5bn loan- last installement repaid in 2006.
    • Reasons for growth
      • Mercantilism and Chartered Monopoly Companies
        • The moarchy could give permission to claim lands on their behalf and exploit the natural resources.
        • In the Caribbean, the British created sugar plantations by taking over land previously used by the locals to grow food
        • British manufacturers saw colonialism as a way of obtaining cheap raw materials for their products.
          • Industrialists were fiercly supportive of colonial government policy.
      • Slavery- would show how exploitative this system could be. Plantations needed labour and labour was available, cheaply in West Africa.
        • The loss of generations of healthy adults impoverished many formely wealthy African empires.
        • Between 1550 and 1850, nearly 8 million West Africans were taken to Brazil alone to work as slaves.
      • Military power
        • In the ninetieenth century, there was no maritime power who could come close to challenging domination of the maritime communication and trade routes.
        • The British navy of 100,000 men (World's largest) existed mainly to protect Britians trade routes and project its power overseas.
          • The defence budget for 1898 was 2.5% of GDP- little higher than the Uk's budget now, and far less was spent in the Cold War.
      • Technological and industrial superiority
        • Britian became the 1st to harness the power of steam which unleashed an Industrial Revolution and mass-produced goods that would flood global markets.
        • Provided a technological gap that non-europeans find difficult to compete with.
          • Precision-made weapons, train locomotives would provide outstretched British armed forces with unparalleld advantages.
        • This wasn't challenged until the development of guerrilla warfare in the twentieth century.
      • Strategic mperatives
        • New colonies were added to defend existing ones- e.g. British were keen to take control of the Cape colony from the Dutch during the Napoleonic wars to secure the main sea route to India.
        • When the Suez Canal was openned in 1869, the British took a controlling interest in the Suez Canal Company due to the access it gave to the Indian Oceon.
    • Why did the British Empire collapse?
      • Competition- rise of the USA and soviet Russia buoyed by massive WW2 investment in industry.
      • Nationalism- Ghandi in India, the Boers in S. Africa and so on. Britian had to contend with better organised nationalist political movement with an ageing infrasturcture and outdated means of control.
      • WW2- dominated the British industrial capacity with bombing.
      • Massive loans from the USA and expenditure on war bankrupted Britian. There was just no money left to afford the means of control, yet not all colonies were given up.
      • The need for reconstruction at home. Londo and many other major cities were in ruins with mill. homeless.
      • In 1952 it was agreed that British troops wuld withdraw from the Suez Canal and Sudan would become independent by 1955. Britian lost its position in the Middle East, along with India.
    • The legacy
      • Religious conflicts e.g. N Ireland, India.
      • Poverty resultig from domination e.g. natives/slaves.
      • Millions died from European diseases.
      • British overseas territories; football, hockey; Anglicised legal systems, parliments; Christianity; speaking english.


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