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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. 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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