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HY 200 Topics in History: British Imperialism   Tags: block 6, course guide, history, international, politics  

Last Updated: Jun 17, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Great Britain & the U.S.

from the World War 1  

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Special Collections, Tutt Library, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado


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"British Empire" from Credo Reference

Overseas territories ruled by Britain from the 16th to the 20th century. Historians distinguish two empires. The first, based mainly on commercial ventures (such as sugar and tobacco plantations), missionary activities and slave trading, resulted in the creation of British colonies in the Caribbean and North America in the 17th century. This 'First Empire' was curtailed by the loss of 13 US colonies, at the end of the American Revolution (1775-81). The 'Second Empire' was created in the 19th century, with Queen Victoria its empress. The East India Company acquired a larger trading empire as a result of the Napoleonic Wars. Colonialism increased dramatically from the 1820s. British expansion was predominantly in the Far East, Australia (initially with the penal colonies), Africa and India. As a result of the Indian Mutiny (1857), the British government assumed direct responsibility for the administration of India. In the "scramble" for Africa, imperialists such as Cecil Rhodes were thwarted in their desire to create a continent-wide empire by the South African Wars. By 1914 the empire comprised c.25% of the Earth's land surface and population. Virtually all the constituent members gained independence in the period after World War 2. Most subsequently became members of the Commonwealth.

British Empire

Despite the loss of the USA (1783) and the strong anti-imperialist pressure of the free trade faction, the British Empire continued to expand throughout the 19th century. By 1914 (shown here), the Empire included all of India, Canada, Australia, most of the Cape to Nile 'corridor', which ran up e Africa, and many small islands of strategic importance.

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