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British Empire Of The Nineeenth Century Revision Notes

History Notes > British History VI: 1815-1924 Notes

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The British Empire in the Nineteenth Century What was the 'imperial ethos' at home supposed to be???Patriotism Excitement, adventure Military values Reverence for monarchy Quasi-religious approach to being a world power

Professed benefits of Empire??Provided glamorous, profitable, cheap imports Provided foreign markets for exports at high rates Supported safe and unusually profitable outlets for British capital. Created a network of ports in Gibraltar, Malta, Singapore, Bermuda, Hong Kong and Alexandria as mercantile shipping routes and naval cruisers.

Sir John Bowring, governor of Hong Kong to Lord Clarendon: 'It is no unusual characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon race that they begin by trading and end in governing'

Andrew Porter, Oxford History of the British Empire (xx).??

India o Conquest of the Sind, Punjab (1840s), Burma (1852-5). Hong Kong o Acquired in 1842 and extended in 1898. o Soon Singapore, Malayan mainland and parts of Borneo fall too. Africa o By 1911, Britain owns 2.8 million square miles of Africa ? though trade only brings in around 3.8%!
Different degrees of empire. o Formal Empire o Informal Empire

Andrew Porter 'The empire and the world', pp. 135-160, ed. CHG Matthew, The Nineteenth Century: the British Isles: 1815-1901 (Oxford, 2000).What does the British Empire look like in 1815?
o India o South Africa o Canada

?o West Indies: Jamaica and Barbados o Islands: Trinidad, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Demerara o Africa: Gambia, Gold Coast. By 1900 we see the expansions below and: o Hong Kong (1842) o Singapore o Borneo Pattern of Expansion: o The period sees formal expansion of the empire.
? Canada ? provinces extended westwards through Alberta and British Columbia on the Pacific Coast ? incorporated into a federation enshrined in the British North America Act (1867).
? The Commonwealth of Australia (1901).
? Expansion in South Africa ? led to the final British occupation of cape Town in 1806. o "Sub-imperialisms" was gaining importance too.
? The supplanting of native practices for colonial government.
? White settler population is 550,000 (1815) ? 11.5 million (1901) with trade valued at PS118 million!
? Accounts for 13.6% of Britain's total overseas trade!
? Though other parts of empire don't flourish:
? British Guiana goes from being worth 17.6% of British trade (1815)
? 0.57% (1901) o The impact of free trade, slave emancipation.
? India retains central importance [we are told]:
? By 1870, India was central to balancing Britain's international trade
? fdsfsd
? Growth in Africa in the late 19th C:
? 1901 ? British Africa was 2.8 million square miles and had a population of 40 million, but their trade with Africa was only 3.7%
of British overseas trade.

Patrick O'Brien, 'The Costs and Benefits of British Imperialism 1846-1914', Past & Present (August 1988), pp. 163-200.?

Levels of British influence in 1914 o Formal Empire
? India (322 million, 2 million sq miles) o Dependant Colonies:
? 60 of these (5.2 million natives) o Jurisdictional and political influence:
? 5 dominions (24 million citizens, 7.6 million sq miles) Did this supranational goliath have any benefits?
o Marxists
? Exaggerate the economic gains of empire.
? Assume industrialisation was fed through mercantilism in foreign economies. o Smith
? Colonies are bad
? Impose heavy, unfair burdens on British taxpayers
? Increased threat of war


? Their debates are over:
? Emigration of British overseas labour
? Profitability of investing money to support capital formation in the empire
? Potential gains from political ties to colonies and dominions. o Conservatives
? Wakefield, Giffen, Ashley, Cunningham
? Empire provided outlets for 'surplus' population, capital and commodities. o Hobson
? Empire
? Costly and ineffective alternative to social reform
? An obstacle to the structural changes required for the future vitality of the British economy. o Modern economic historians:
? Argue:
? Britain would have been commercially involved in the same polities, even if they hadn't had a Colonial Office and formally ruled them.
? Thus, o What incremental costs and extra benefits did empire provide?
Commodity Trade British economy is obviously related to international commerce. o Dependant
? On foreign markets to sell British manufacturing goods
? Re-export manufactured exports
? Rely on foreign and imperial foodstuffs supply. o Except coal, by 1913, a staggering 90% of raw materials for domestic industry came from abroad.
? But how much of this was from empire?
Empire's contribution o Really quite limited
? Imports
? In 1860, only 1/5th of imports emanated from empire, by 1914, this rose to just 1/4.
? No imperial commodities were exclusive o Competitive prices would be paid regardless of origins.
? Exports
? To Empire o Fluctuate between 1/4 and 1/3 [peak of 39% in 1902).
? Significant but not overwhelming.
? Gains in 1880-1900 of formal empire
? Aren't really reflected in the profits. o Without empire?
? Magnitude of loss on commodity trade from dismantling empire was 1.1%
of Britain's GDP in 1913 [Edelstein)
? Even if such countries didn't trade with GB, there were other markets. o?Probability of political corruption at home.

??????Migration of Capital and Labour Did British citizens or capitalists really invest in empire?
o In 1914
? 'Direct' investment constituted around 35% of British capitalists' asset value.
? Nowhere near amount invested directly into the home economy. o Though, much of trade was 'portfolio' investment that did not travel directly through the metropolis. Where is money placed?
o Foreign Assets
? More attractive than shares sold for imperial government or imperial enterprises. o Securities
? Shares, Bonds from 'white dominions' far more appealing than shares in Indian or colonial enterprises. Emigration o 1853-1910
? 2/3rds of people leaving UK left for destinations outside the empire. Returns on Investment Lenin o Makes empire out to be a haven for Britain's surplus which staved off diminishing returns to investments within the home economy. o Not unconvincing Lehfeldt and Cairncross o Show that:
? British capitalists secured higher rates of return by investing outside UK by around 1.58% a year. o Moreover,
? Between 1877-86, foreign equities rose to double the level of returns available in the UK. o But, imperial specifically?
? On par with domestic investment from 1870-1914. Well look at this fact: o Between 1860-1884, Empire gave an annual rate of return of 9.7% (greater than home or foreign investment). o Though this drops between 1885-1912
? Empire (only 3.3%), UK (5.5%) Growth of imperial sentiment o Led investors towards the dominions and colonies.
? Though don't overstate, this would have happened anyway!
Shares o Many companies' shares are owned exclusively by founding families or social networks o Company law did not always protect the interests of investors. Imperial Budgets and Strategic Necessities Empire isn't an economic necessity o So why are Britons being taxed to keep it?
? Ministers + public didn't view it like that.
? Difficult to separate two considerations

o??Military expenditure into those necessary for realm security and commerce protection Revenues required to maintain imperial rule.

o Taxation o Paid for
? Military expenditure
? National debt o 1860 - 1914
? British taxpayer paid more for imperial defence than anywhere else in Europe Did Britain run empire 'on the cheap'?
o No
? Britain is subsidising empire
? Colonial Office sought to make all dominions self-sufficient financially
? Only in India was this possible, India paid military expenditure.
? In Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Newfoundland
? Their governments o Pay only 10% of taxes on military compared to Britons.
? At same time, they get access to London capitalmarkets, cheap services from crown agents.
? Dependent colonies contributed next to nothing towards their own defence. o In Australia, from 1865-1912, budget percentage dedicated to defence was just 35%Royal Navy ports
? Argument runs that domestic economy was vulnerable to blockade without naval supremacy.
? Mythical o Unconvincing
? Half of total military spending by parliament for sailors and troops was for territory outside imperial waters. Who really benefits from government expenditure allocated to support imperial rule, foster trade and mitigate risks of private investment?
o Gentlemanly capitalists
? Financiers, bankers, merchants, shippers
? Make the most money of empire, while most English people cheerfully shouldered a tax bill which derived little tangible pecuniary gains. A Retrospective Balance Sheet for Empire A timeline o After Vienna (1815)
? Britain emerge victors
? A governing elite frame foreign policy on the assumption that the security and vitality of economy + society rests on defence of the empire.
? Corn Law Repeal (1846)
? This assumption came under attack o Money spent on defence on an indefensible geographical entity would be very costly. o These Radicals win the argument in the mid-19th Century
? From 1883 - 1914


Resurgence of imperialism.

Money o Britain did not make supernormal profits from empire
? The only way to do this was through conquest of loot and pillage like in Leopold's Congo.
? Isn't this against the rule of law argument that the British Empire professed?
Empire, strategically important?
o Liddell Hart
? Empire 'represented the greatest example of strategical overextension in history'.
? A fair comment?
o Yes
? Manpower and resources the Empire brought to the table in the First World War
? Though,
? 80% of casualties and 88% of expenditure to defeat Germany came directly from the taxpayer.
? Provided Britain with 'great power' status.

John Darwin 'Imperialism and the Victorians: The Dynamics of Territorial Expansion', The English Historical Review, Vol. 112 (June 1997) pp. 614-642.??

What is imperialism?
o The sustained effort to assimilate a country or region to the political, economic or cultural system of another power. o Formal
? Explicit transfer of sovereignty and administrative control. o Informal
? Control through trade, investment or diplomacy
? Often supplemented by unequal treaties and periodic armed intervention. Why did formal and informal empire actually happen?
Gallagher and Robinson o The 'imperialism of free trade'
? Relentless expansionism of Victorian Britain was key
? The form imperialism took was shaped by circumstance. Concomitant model o 5 steps
? 1) Informal empire
? Preferred type of imperialism o Convenient, cheap
? 2) Informal empire abandoned for direct annexation when 'national' interests are at stake.
? 3) Annexation
? Occurs usually when the periphery are going through sociopolitical change or 'crisis'.
? 4) Scale of intervention the product of the 'official mind'.

?An organism largely free from undue external influence and guided by its own memories, traditions and values.
? 5) Formal expansion was influenced heavily by India. o A reactive process post-1880
? Empire-building
? Protecting old zones of influence
? 'Stabilising' Britain's place against ambitious European powers in extra-European settings.
? Imperial dynamic
? By this point, is lost, defensive and conciliatory. Critics of this model: Cain and Hopkins o 'Official Mind' is bogus
? Really just the mouthpiece of 'gentlemanly capitalism'
? A commercial (rather than industrial) ethos infused with gentlemanly values of a rentier class in southern England. o Periphery 'crises'?
? These don't drive empire-building
? More the quickening pulse of British commercial enterprise +
energy of gentlemanly capitalists. o Criticism
? Overstatement of 'gentlemanly capitalists'
? Lack of clarity about who drives imperialism in peripheries
? No challenging of the bifurcation of 'informal' and 'formal' empire in Gallagher. In reality, a diverse number of forces driving imperialism forward.Private British interest?

Settler, commercial, missionaries
? These guys are harbingers of 'informal empire'
? Attempted to 'convert' independent regions of periphery to an extension of Victorian Britain. Informal Empire o Two models
? 'western' model
? British influence entirely through private interest + enterprise o As seen in Latin America.
? 'eastern' model
? British influence through tariff regime, treaty ports, concessions, gunboats o A commercial-diplomatic regime fashioned to the circumstances of a particular region.
? Not a portmanteau policy applied willy-nilly. o Yet extremely unstable
? Could elad The most Victorian governments could reasonably expect to exert o Opportunism and timidity
? A pragmatic acceptance of limited power. o Free Trade in Peru o?

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