Empire and Colonialism

The British Empire and Colonialism historic theme starts with 16th century exploration. Use the timeline to chart the course of British expansion, entwined with the history of overseas trade routes. Use the map to discover the extent of British imperial growth. The timeline will help set the context of this complex historical theme.

  • Business and Industry - why is it important in family history?
  • Paris Peace Conference 1919
  • The Crystal Palace
  • Richard I Coeur de Lion Plantagenet King
  • Angevin and Plantagenet Empire
  • Reconnecting with Burma
  • Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee
  • Lancashire Cotton Famine
  • Migration of Indians to the Colonies
  • American War, prison hulks, Joseph Banks, Australia. Connect!
  • Japan and the Colonial Powers

British Empire and Colonialism Timeline

Interactive and evolving timeline, is displayed on this page. Browse the timeline and chronology and watch for links to posts on specific topics and subjects connected to the the theme of Empire and Colonialism and its impact on British History.

British Empire and Colonialism
Map of the British Empire 1733 Henry Popple

Started in the 16th century, Britain and her colonies constitutes an important theme in modern history. The Empire began chiefly for the purposes of trade and gradually evolved into a complex web in which new nations were eventually projected out into an independent existence, by the actions of the old nations.

Within a global concept, the British Empire represented a large proportion of European expansion but at what point in history did the Empire turn into the Commonwealth and why does it endure?

In different parts of the world ‘Empire’ took on a very different meaning and although it is not possible to disinherit the past there must surely be some times, looking back on the British Empire and colonialism, when it would be very nice to be able to do so.

This is an evolving theme that will grow over time. It is easy to use and search, with links and entries being frequently added and updated. A tool to use with our interactive maps and take your own voyage across the history of the British Empire.

Britain’s colonial past has in many ways, made us more connected to the present.

We have connections and responsibilities in parts of the world that might otherwise be strangers to. We are a nation of migrants and all the richer for it. As long as we face our history we should be brave enough not to deny it and in this theme we hope we can show some of the less known aspects to colonialism that have shaped our past.

Take a look at some of our other themes, migration and Business and Occupations, that connect with Empire and Colonialism

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Paris Peace Conference 1919

Paris Peace Conference 1919

Was the Paris Peace Conference and four months of wrangling amongst the Allies robbing Germany of its Empire a key document that impacts on British Appeasement Policy in 1938 1939 and was it also a major factor in the problems that led to WW2? In full knowledge of its content is Chamberlain all too aware of its implications and seeks to appease Germany’s imperialist pretensions because of it, or in spite of it. Before we judge Chamberlain should we not take a long hard look at Britain in the ‘interwar years’ and how these outcomes constrain the options available as Baldwin resigns and Chamberlain picks-up the poison chalice.

Richard I Coeur de Lion Plantagenet King

Richard I Coeur de Lion Plantagenet King

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Plantagenet Monarchs

Richard the First, Richard Coeur de Lion the Lionheart, hero or villain? How does he fit in history why was he so absent from England. A formative member of the House of Angevin as son of Henry II…was he a better King than his younger brother King John?

Angevin and Plantagenet Empire

Angevin and Plantagenet Empire

What led to the downfall of the Anjevin Empire? Where does the word Plantagenet come from? When did the French last successfully invade england? A converging and connecting point in history between empires and dynasties find out more with this linked chrnology…

The Mast Trade

The Mast Trade

The Mast Trade, of huge importance to the growth of the Royal Navy and the British Empire. Timber played a pivotal role in building a nation. Deforestation does not a nation make.

Last Remnants of British Colonial Rule

Last Remnants of British Colonial Rule

British Colonial rule. What will the release of the ‘Migrated Archives’ available for examination at The National Archive, tell us about the final demise of the British Empire. Quiet waters or turbulent currents beneath the surface?

Reconnecting with Burma

Reconnecting with Burma

Our strong historical connections with Burma are remembered today as the British prime minister David Cameron visits Burma. The names of Rangoon and Mandalay form strong visions in the minds of many as we reconnect with this beautiful and strategically important country

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

With Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee year underway, how did the Empire celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee?

Lancashire Cotton Famine

Lancashire Cotton Famine

This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series Industrial Revolution

The Lancashire Cotton Famine was a crisis in the Lancashire cotton industry in the early 1860’s, reminds us of the impact that global events have on individual economies. The world was as connected by trade and war 150 years ago as it is now. Nothing much changes

Migration of Indians to the Colonies

Migration of Indians to the Colonies

The Indian indentured labour programme emerged after the abolition of slavery and sent over a million workers to British colonies alone

Dorset and Botany Bay

Dorset and Botany Bay

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Australian Migration

What connects Dorset and Botany Bay? If any of your family were transported to Australia this will be of interest to you

American War, prison hulks, Joseph Banks, Australia. Connect!

The American War, Joseph Banks, prison hulks and Australia, what connects them all? Connections exist across all areas of history including our own, it’s just a matter of discovering them

Japan and the Colonial Powers

Japan was forced to open up it’s ports for trade with the west but this resulted in the Japanese have an unequal and uneasy relationship with the west in the years that followed

Empire and Colonialism Timeline

Browse, search, sort and click

CenturyDatesEventNarrative
16th Century1516Ottoman Empire won Egypt in 1516 (Turks)The territorial holding of Eqypt by the Ottomans which is challenged by Britain in the early 20th century had deep roots.
17th Century1601Jamestown Virginia the first British Settlers arrive in Virginia America.How did the Jamestown colony survive?
17th Century1630sPuritan ‘Great Migration’ of the 1630s to Massachusetts; their intention was to establish a theocracy
18th Cetury1773Britain commences highly lucrative Opium export via East India Company from Bengal
18th Century1798-1801French Expeditionary force takes Egypt under Napoleon but forced to retreat by BritainNapoleon was forced to retreat following defeat by Britain, the Ottoman and Mamluk forces.
19th Century1801-1807Egyptian period of anarchy with British failed attempt to invade in 1807Britain vainly attempted to invade Egypt and defeat the Ottomans in 1807 on behalf of the defeated Mamluks.
19th Century1811- Ottomans defeated MamluksOttomans led by Muhammed Ali and continued in the ensuing years with European influence as Archaeology of Egypt thrived. European trained Army unde Ibrahim pasha extends Egyptian rule via Sudan and Middle East
19th Century1839-1841 Convention of London 1840 and Treaty of London marks European intervention in Middle EastAll of the Middle East is restored to the Ottomans excluding Egypt and Sudan.
19th Century1859-1869Suez Canal Developed as Franco-Turkish ProjectCanal shortened major trading routes on long-hauls to Asia Australia and INDIA from 3 months to 3 weeks as example.)
19th Century1875Disraeli and Cabinet make lightening raid to purchase Suez SharesRothschilds secure the loan needed to purchase the shares from heavily indebted Khedive Ismail (the Egyptian Viceroy. Britain secures crtical control of route to India as wella s active interest in Egypt.
19th Century1882British Military Intervention in Egypt due to Anti-European Uprising.The British intervention was executed without any other international interference.
19th 20th century1884-1907British advisor to Khedive appoint Eveleyn BARINGBaring was appointed as Consul General in advisory role but securing British hand in government and stability of Egypt.
20th Century1900 Australia becomes a dominion
20th Century1907 New Zealand becomes A DOMINION
20th Century1910Union of South Africa formed includes Swaziland and becomes a dominion.
20th Century1920-1922 Gandhi as Nationalist leader launches Civil Disobedience Campaign against British1920-22 - Nationalist figurehead Mahatma Gandhi launches anti-British civil disobedience campaign.
20th Century19221st Cairo Conference
20th Century1931Statute of Westminster 1931 grants Legislative Autonomy to certain Dominions.Canada Newfoundland South Africa Australia and New Zealand become legislatively autonomous
20th Century1932Iraq granted independence 1932.
20th Century1936Anglo-Egyptian Treaty 1936 grants independence but Britain retains control of Suez CanalSuez remains critical to Britain and its overseas interests with unrest with Germany building access to oil and the Middle East and colonial forces in India are a high priority.