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An Accidental Empire. British got their Empire in a `fit of absence of mind` There was no systematic plan to build an Empire, rather it just happened.

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Presentation on theme: "An Accidental Empire. British got their Empire in a `fit of absence of mind` There was no systematic plan to build an Empire, rather it just happened."— Presentation transcript:

1 An Accidental Empire

2 British got their Empire in a `fit of absence of mind` There was no systematic plan to build an Empire, rather it just happened. In fact, many in Britain against establishing an Empire as it was expensive to maintain and defend. There are two stories to the Empire: one is of shame, of theft, greed, cruelty, massacre, genocide and cynical self-interest by white Europeans exploiting weaker people; the other is about dreams and hope, about making the world a better place and spreading the advantages of science and technology to those less fortunate than the British. A difficult story to tell.

3 The New World  British Empire building began with a sailor called Giovanni Caboto, A.K.A John Cabot.  Henry VII gave him money as he had already turned down Columbus.  Cabot sailed west until he hit “New-found-land.”  Unknown to him, he was founding the British Empire.  The spice trade was very attractive to the British, so they needed to get past the New World and on to Asia, but couldn’t find a route through.  Under Elizabeth I they obtained money from the New World through piracy.  Then Elizabeth funded Sir Walter Raleigh’s journey and he founded Virginia, which lasted, but a year.  Under James I 1607, Jamestown set up, but anti-smoking drive reduce the demand to back.  Failure of these colonies could have been the end of British colonialism, but religious strife proved otherwise.  Pilgrim Fathers-the Mayflower-1620-Massachusetts.  1630 John Winthrop landed in Massachusetts, two years later, Catholics arrived in Maryland and the Scottish set up a colony in Nova Scotia (new Scotland).  By the end of the century the English had enough colonies in the New World to rival the French and the Spanish.

4 Sugar At first English didn’t know what to do with colonies. Soon they discovered furs, tobacco, fish and potatoes. But the product that really mattered was sugar. Sugar made colonisation worthwhile. You could eat it shape it, use it to sweeten anything and it tasted good. However, it required a lot of hard work. Slaves. Sugar islands became rich, so rich, in fact, the British seriously thought about giving Canada back to the French in return for just one Sugar island in the Caribbean. Interesting to note that by the time slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833, a way of growing sugar beet in Britain had been discovered, so there was less need for slave labour in the Caribbean colonies.

5 The British in India.  The story begins in 1599, a group of merchants set up the East India Company in London to trade with the East.  Sir Thomas Roe first Englishman to go out, made a deal with the Mughal Emperor so he could build a trading base in Surat on the west coast.  Then King Charles II married a Portuguese princess and she gave him the Indian port of Bombay as a wedding present.  Gradually the English got sucked into the world of Indian politics, which meant taking sides in a series of very bloody civil wars.  So trading companies set up their own armed forces and by the 18th century, the British East India Company had an army to fight the French East India Company.  In 1751, under the command of Robert Clive the British company, defeated the French and more or less drove the French out of southern India.  The Black Hole of Calcutta proved one of the main reasons for the British taking taking India over: Clive headed North and defeated the Nawab and his French allies at Plassey in 1757. Clive had 3000 man, the Nawab had 68,000. How did he win? He cheated. The Emperor handed Bengal over to the British.  The Battle of Warren Hastings. By the 1770s East India Company was nearly bankrupt Clive called back to England to face corruption charges. Warren Hastings sent out to India to clean things up, but he was not a good administrator, and during his time in office the terrible famine hit Bengal, which killed 5 million people. Hastings recalled to London.  Hastings trial dragged on for four years but eventually he was found not guilty. However, the government decided to take over India itself as a result of the mess.  The British government took a new line in India. Instead of trying to fit into the Indian way of doing things they would make the Indians do things the British way: British laws and British education.


7 Afghanistan British worried about the Russians moving in. So they sent spies to the north-west Frontier, this intriguing was called the “Great Game”. British attempted to take over Afghanistan (1839-42) to prevent the Russian’s coming through there but it was unsuccessful. They tried again in 1878 and that too was unsuccessful. The British also took over Sind in 1843, Punjab in 1845-1849 and Burma in 1885-6. The Indian Mutiny. In 1857, India rose in revolt, three main reasons: The “lapse” rule. Greased cartridges. An old prophesy in 1857 sepoys at Mirput refused to use their bullets, killed their officers, and started a huge rising against British rule. This led various Indian rulers to seize the chance to get their kingdoms back. This rebellion was very bloody. After the rebellion both sides were deeply shocked by the violence and now the British government took over completely from the old East India Company and tried to give Indians more of a say in governing the country. This revolt was a terrible warning of what could happen if they got governing India wrong.


9 Australia and New Zealand British had become very interested in the possible uses of exotic plants in the Admiralty sent out ships like HMS Bounty to go and find them. Capt. Cook on the HMS Endeavour came across such a rich collection of plants that he called the place Botany Bay and claimed it for Britain before going on to explore the rest of the Pacific. The British were used to sending prisoners to the American colonies. But after America’s independence, they had to look elsewhere, the first shipload arrived in 1788. On the convicts` release aborigines were simply pushed off their land. Situation in Tasmania was much worse. It was here the worst criminals were dumped and on release they hunted the indigenous population, within 70 years all the aborigines were dead. New Zealand didn’t escape but the Maoris were luckier than the Tasmanians as the British saw them as “noble savages”. By the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, the Maoris gave their country to the British who flooded New Zealand with European settlers and simply drove the Maoris off their land. China and Opium. A war without excuse. East India company found that it could make a lot of money by exporting opium to China, despite all the Chinese government could do to stop it. In 1839 the Chinese raided the drugs ships and warehouses. Lord Palmerston sent a fleet of gunboats to Canton and opened fire. Chinese had to give up Hong Kong, agreed to let the British import opium and agreed not to stop the British drug dealers ever again. However, the Chinese did try again in 1856, when they stopped a British ship for piracy and the British invaded China. They took Beijing and forced the Chinese to open even more of their ports to British trade.

10 The Scramble for Africa Until the 1880s, the British weren’t really interested in getting colonies. They cost a lot of money for no very obvious return. Suddenly the British became really keen on their empire. They didn’t just like their empire, they believed in it. They started calling it the “Empire on which the sun never sets.”-a name with two meanings. They believed their empire to be one of the greatest forces for good the world had ever seen. So they started taking over more and more the world’s surface, especially in Africa. David Livingstone, one of the few heroes in this story. A doctor and a missionary, he went to Africa to spread the gospel, heal the sick and find out more about it. Unlike those who came after him, Livingstone respected the Africans and didn’t want to disrupt their way of life. He would have been horrified if he had been able to see what would happen as a result of his reports. Henry Stanley, sent out to look for Livingstone, was a different man altogether-dishonest and a sadist. Ultimately, he helped King Leopold take over the Congo.

11 South Africa, Zulus and the Dutch In 1795 British took the Cape of Good Hope from the Dutch. Strategically important. Dutch unhappy and so began the Great Trek. Set up the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Zulu Empire growing in strength and territory under Shaka. Dutch asked British for help, so they did (in 1879) but they had an ulterior motive. After initial success the Zulus were beaten. Two years later British attacked the Dutch (the Boers – the Boer War) but were defeated at the battle of Majuba Hill. The Second Boer War occurred when the Boers discovered they were sitting on huge diamond mines and the British wanted them. Boers attacked before the British could and in 1899 invaded British territory. Taught the British a lesson. Ultimately British defeated them, but guerrilla warfare continued. Concentration camps used to control the population. British Imperial dream turning into a nightmare.

12 Cutting up Africa Egypt important to Britain -Suez Canal. Canal run by the British and French. 1880 popular uprising in Egypt Dealt with by the British but it left them with all Egypt`s problems. Like the Sudan – wanted to be independent. Under the Mahdi, a big Muslim uprising was on- going. British/Egyptians sent an army to deal with it but it was wiped out. Cairo decided to pull out of Sudan but there were still Europeans in Khartoum. 1884 Gladstone sent General George Gordon to get them out. Another unmitigated disaster. Many other European countries now involved in Africa: The French (North and West Africa), the Italians (Libya), the Germans (East Africa) and Belgium (the Congo basin). Conflict between the European powers became inevitable. France vs. Britain In 1898 British sent huge army into Sudan to get revenge for the Gordon disaster; at the same time, a small French expedition was sent into the Sudan to claim it for France. Both met up and a stalemate ensued. L`affaire Fachoda. Demonstrated that Britain were the number one power in Africa, if not the world.

13 The Irish Irish very active in the Empire. Despite Act of Union, Ireland more or less a British colony. Absentee landlords. Campaign began- for a fairer system of rents and then Home Rule. Charles Stuart Parnell, an Irish Protestant MP led the campaign. Gladstone tried but in 1886 and 1893 his Home Rule bills were thrown out. Ireland would have to wait.

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