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British Imperial History (Essay Sample)


discussing the main reasons whey Britain began to develop an overseas empire from the beginning of the 17th century. Sources=4


British Imperial History
Course Professor University State Date
British Imperial History
The British Empire is referred to as the first global empire in history. At its peak, the empire spread over an expanse of more than 13 Million Square miles, the equivalent of about a quarter of the total earth’s surface (Levine, 2007, p. 46). It covered the area from the Americas and Canada in the West, Africa, Australia, Middle East and parts of Far East. The empire is noted to have been in existence for about 2 to 5 centuries. There are main theories explaining the greatness of this empire, such as national pride and unity, industrial development and strategic planning. However, this paper highlights some of the factors which contributed to the rise of the Empire, which rose from a conglomeration of few islands in the Atlantic Ocean in Western Europe. It is worth noting that such factors contributing to the growth of the empire will be discussed from a broad point of view.
Firstly, the expansion of other nations surrounding Britain was a threat to its superiority in Europe. Hence, since Britain could not conquer and control Europe, she capitalized on subduing foreign lands. Her strategic location was an added advantage in developing allies and markets overseas. Secondly, Britain’s supremacy was a result of tact and strategizing. Romanova (2005) notes that The Blue Water policy, as the strategy came to be known, focussed on overseas trade and naval strength. King Henry VII established a financial and military foundation for the empire, upon which his successors would capitalize. Noting that the seas remain as the most important trade roots, a powerful naval force implied more control over the seas.
What is more, the naval force was essential in frustrating any attempts of invasion by her rivals, hence ensuring a strong and stable government at home while pursuing new lands abroad. The greatness of the British military could be seen in its victory in the Opium war in China, where China was compelled to surrender Hong Kong into British hands (Romanova 2005). The war came about as a result of trade: China was unwilling to harbour foreigners in their nation; Britain moved in to acquire residence for its subjects through negotiations and battles.
At the same time, Britain used diplomacy and finance to develop allies in Europe, and hence reduced the threat of possible invasion. Gunboat diplomacy is a term coined by diplomat thinkers in the 20th century. The term explains how the empire, and other colonizers, sought diplomatic negotiations with some of these nations. The superior nation would intimidate other less powerful nations into concessions by demonstrating their naval magnificence (Hyam, 2010, p. 65). British Empire occasionally displayed its naval strength on the shores of nations it sought negotiations.
Thirdly, Britain development as an industrial nation before most other nations secured it a first place in international trade. The desire for the nation to expand its economic frontiers, just like most other European nations in the 17th century saw an increasing desire to increase European holdings and plunder. Most European nations were competing for resources and markets in other continents. This formed a benchmark from where alternative ways to expand the empire overseas were given the first priority at large. Research records that during the 1600s, Britain had a large middle class population, an implication of a thriving commerce sector and settlement overseas (Levine, 2007). Its extensive trade networks in the 18th century led to Britain being acknowledged as the main controller of other nations’ commerce, besides being the world’s greatest imperial structure. One of the most outstanding manifestation of the empire’s greatness in trade was the cotton mill industry introduced in 1780 (Romanova, 2005).
On the fourth point, it is understandable from studies that freedom and bureaucracy enabled individuals and companies to venture into foreign lands (Levine, 2007). As a matter of fact, most of Britain’s colonies were founded by private investors with a Royal approval. For instance, India was founded by the East India Company as it sought for resources in the Far East. Similarly, South Africa colony came about as a result of Cecil Rhodes expansion.
Fifthly, the agenda of colonizing and utilizing forced labour and slavery, ethnic cleansing and land grabbing against under developed natives only implied an accelerated spread of the Empire. For example, scattered populations of hunters and gatherers in Ireland, America and Africa were easy targets for labour in industries, while their lands were sought after for Agricultural development. The lands also provided an easy access to resources. Africa became an important figure in colonization only after the 19th century, before which it was mainly a source of raw materials and slaves (Hyam, 2010).
Finally, it is worth contemplating that all the aforesaid factors simulated a sense of pride and unity in which the people were proud to be associated with their government. Combined w...
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