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Empire and Colonialism

We consider the theme of Empire and colonialism because it is this that charts the history of Britain from the C16th. The main thread of British expansion and imperialism is the history of the overseas trade routes. Once British and European eyes had been opened up to exploration beyond the Mediterranean and we had the expertise to break through the barrier that was the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, then the age of European dominance had begun.

Jubilee celebration 1897

Diamond Jubilee Celebration 1897

The Empire impacted upon everyone in Britain and ultimately governed how we would live and be governed.

    • Prior to Elizabeth I, England was not a particularly sea going nation
    • Hatred of Spain, who had been exploring and colonizing in the century before us, may well have been the driver behind imperialistic ambitions
    • Commercial rivalry and strength on the seas became the new force
    • Efforts to trace and maintain sea routes that resulted in trade meant supremacy at sea was essential
If colonial trade was an essential part of a country’s wealth and power, then it soon became evident that those nations who possessed military power at sea were the ones who would lay claim to the wealth of the colonies.
Our family histories are irrevocably tied up with the expansion of the empire. 
    • Think about the jobs your ancestors did, would they have been doing them if it weren’t for empire building?
    • Consider the development of our major port cities, what would they have become if it weren’t for trade?
    • Think about migrations internal and external, they were made possible because of trade and colonialism
Intriguing Connections
  1. The connection between suffrage and Empire is an intriguing one. As more and more people were given the vote, so their identification with the British Empire grew. They saw it as a personal honour that the power, greatness and supremacy of the British Empire should be maintained. Look at out themes of Leadership, power and politics and Major Events to follow political decisions of the time
  2. Newspapers, books and poems by writers such as Kipling, showed the man and woman on the street, how great the Empire was and how they were a part of it. With ships, colonies, armies and money, Britain was supreme, at least that is the way our ancestors would have viewed it.
  3. The Boer War was to come as a shock to the British public and marked a turning point in history………… See our postings on the Boer War and related articles
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