Topic 49A – Development and administration of the british colonial empire In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Joseph conrad and rudyard kipling.

Topic 49A – Development and administration of the british colonial empire In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Joseph conrad and rudyard kipling.


British colonialism in the 17 C had obeyed a desire to expand British commerce. The British government did not exert a direct control on their colonies. The Chartered Companies, especially the East India, levant and Hudson´s Bay, were the ones to carry about the whole process of export-import, working mainly in the Commercial Triangle:

England exported manufactured products to Africa in Africa they acquired slaves, exchanging them for Raw materials in the W Indies

The commerce provided the enrichment of many merchants who managed to take part in British politics, so the British government started to exert deeper control in their economy. It had 2 consequences: an increasing competitiveness among the colonial powers, specially between France and England, and a enforcement of authority over the colonies. In fact, in the late 17C and and throughout the 18C all Britain´s foreign commercial, colonial, cultural, and political policies were dominated by the relationship with France. Some historians has described the series of wars that started in 1869 and continued intermittently until Waterloo (near Brussels, 1815, Napoleon Wellington) , as the second Hundred Years War.


The basis for the policy regulating the extraordinary expansion of British commerce in the 18C, was the Navigation Law, set by the Navigation Acts. Their main purpose was to channel the transactions between Great Britain and her colonial territories, saving the colonial products for British merchants, and the colonial markets to British manufacturers.

They consisted on 4 types of regulations, governing:

1 the nationality of the crews and ownerships of vessels to exclude the more efficient Dutch from the colonial carrying trade

2 the destination to which certain colonial goods could be shipped Some goods could only be exported to the mother country. England was, therefore, the first market of the colonies. They had to pass through England before being exported to other countries or back to other colonies.

3 an elaborate system of bounties and taxes bounties were granted to English manufacturers of linen, gunpowder, silks, and other textiles to allow them to compete with foreign manufacturers.

4 the manufacturers in which the colonies were allowed to engage the colonies were prohibited from the manufacture of wool, hats, iron, and other goods.

With these measures, Britain kept the control of the triangle.

After the 7 years war (1756 – 1763) the British Empire reached its height:

Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

North America: The thirteen american colonies, The Eastern shore of the present day Canada, Florida, and the lands west of the American colonies to the Mississippi river.

The West Indias:

Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Nevis, St Kitts, St Lucia, St Vincent, Tobago, Tortola, and above all Jamaica.

Bengal in India Scattered trading forts around the world.


Political relationship:

The first thirteen british colonies in north america:

They had a representative bourgueois system. They elected deputy assemblies, whose duty was to vote their laws. A Council would vote the laws in a second reading, and a governor who would carry the laws about.

Connecticut and Rhode Island: Charting colonies. granted to a corporation. Here the political problem reduced to the unrest of population who didn´t have the right to vote. These two colonies were autonomous

Maryland Pennsylvania and New Hampshire: Landowner colonies. granted as feuds. The problem laid on a struggle against the Council and the Governor, appointed by land owners.

Massachussets, NY, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia. Royal Colonies. Colonials were against Council, Governor and even the monarch. Colonials did not accept the royal right to veto their laws.

Economical relationship: navigation acts.

Social relationship:

The majority of politicians were indifferent to American problems. Colonies were ordained by God to provide raw materials and to accept manufactured articles in return.

For the majority of population, colonies were a dumping ground for thieves, bankrupts, and prostitutes for which they received tobacco in return.


ORIGINS: The discontent of the colonies began to be truly obvious in the war fought between 1689 and 1763. At the end of this war England had acquired from France: Canada and all the land between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, and from Spain Florida.

The war brought about fiscal and administrative problems.

To solve them, a tariff was proposed on sugar, molasses and rum imported into America from the West Indies. The colonies fought against it and won, denying the right of the British Parliament to tax the colonies without representation.

The same happened with the Stamp Act, imposing that stamps be affixed to newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents… the British gov. Repealed the act, but imposes the Declaratory Act asserting the Parliament´s right to legislate for the colonies.

Apart from these financial problems, another source of discontent in the colonies was the presence of the British Army with headquarters in NY and later in Boston. There were many clashes between colonialists and Red Coats. The worst: the Boston massacre in 1770.

In 1767, Townshend Acts, imposing duties on certain imports. Once again the British gov. Had to retreat, but left a tax on tea (The tea Act) to demonstrate that the Declaratory Act was being upheld. By the Tea Act, the East India Company, acquired a monopoly of the tea trade with America. The colonial response was to dump into the water a whole cargo of tea that had arrived to Boston harbour. This episody is known as the Boston tea Party.

The king of England, George III, decides to use the force, and the parliament passes a series of punitive measures, the Intolerable Acts. The result was a closer tie between the thirteen colonies.

September 1, 1774, a Congress was held in Philadelphia, where a boycott of British goods, and a Declaration and Resolves were adopted, declaring the colonists´right to life, liberty, and property.

From this date until July 4, 1776, the Americans fought against the British, not explicitly seeking independence.

July 4, 1776, John Hancock, president of the congress, signed a declaration of independence.

The war lasts until September 3, 1783. A definitive treaty is signed in which United States secure its independence. America was defined as as the land north of Florida, south of the Great Lakes and westward to the Mississippi. Canada and Nova Scotia remained British, Florida was Spanish and Lousiana was French.

The loss of the colonies was seen as caused by indifference. It was a lesson in punishment for sin. (Protestants always try to find a meaning in historical facts). This would influence the relationship with other colonies as India. (change from trade to government).


James Cook had discovered Botany Bay in 1770. Australia would be the new back yard for convicts. Free immigration would follow the creation of a penal colony. The first colony was New Wales of South.


In the first quarter of the 18C the British developed a mass taste for tea, then obtainable only from China. The East India Company gained direct access to China in 1713.

Initial problems:

Regular shipments were delayed by the wars in Europe and against the mughul the lack of interest shown by the chinese, both merchants and officials.

(small and inelastic market, while demand for tea continued to increase during the century)

The chinese only allowed foreigners to trade at Canton, under strict conditions: only 20 licensed Chinese merchants, the Cohong (1760) were allowed to foreign commerce.

In 1793 an embassy headed by Mcartney tried to open the Chinese market for England, but Quianlong, insisted in restricting commerce to Canton.

Chinese market was only opened to western countries at the end of the 19C.


During 18C not important: only some unimportant ports to capture negroes to send to the Western Indies.

They were afraid of the negro tribes.

North Africa was mainly colonized by French and Dutch.

By the end of the century, the Scottish James Bruce managed to explore Abyssinia (today Ethiopy) , the blue Nile and Nubia (costa egipto sudan etiopia). In 1778 he published the narration of his expedition, provoking great commotion in England. That year, the African society was established in London, to carry on explorations on the continent.

Some black slaves who had fled from America were given back to their countries. Free Town was founded in 1785 as a place of asylum for them.


Between the occupation of Ascension (1818) and of Basutoland (now Lesotho, in the middle of South Africa) (1868), the true British empire developed.

It was the result of the explotaition of America and Africa, by means of the mentioned commercial triangle, and the success of the continuous confrontations with the French.

Throughout the 19C the European countries, mostly the Brisish, settled in the colonial areas, and soon they acquired rather similar political, social and economic structures. The colonies stop being mere strategic posts to transform in acomplex economical net. But the same role: raw materials, market for manufactured products.

In the beginning of the 19C, Palmerston (foreign office minister), starts the liberation of commerce (Treaty of Cobden) and bets for peace, since war prevented commerce.

Slavery is banned in 1833, and the interests in Africa diminish. New commercial routes and markets are sought in

SOUTH AMERICA , Falkland Islands (Malvinas, southern point of south america)

INDIA settings in Ceylon (isla punta sur India), India and Burma. (?).Aden (south of Yemen)

CHINA, Singapore (between malasia and Sumatra) and Hong Kong (south coast of China),

In 1830 a law is passed by which the creation of mature self governments is provided to some territories. These territories become Dominions, based on independence and freedom.

1851 New wales of South, Tasmania Australia. Canada and Victoria

1837, the British Crown acquired the sovereignity of New Zealand, but due to their continuous squarrels with Maoris, it wouldn´t become a Dominion until 1872.

In Africa the Cape in 1872.

In Barbados, Bermudas Bahamas (Antillas), where whites were not majority self government was not provided.


From 1870 on European population had increased and industrialized greatly. The standard-living rose as well as the demand for exotic products. The betterment in communications and transports intensified the international trade: new markets, in Asia and Africa, by means once again of the Charting Companies:

The imperial Africa Company

The royal niger Company

South Africa Chartered Company

The so-called from Cape to Cairo Plantried to join their North African territory with the Southern Territories. The main instigator of this expansion was Cecil Rhodes. Britain acquires Rhodesia (Zimbawe), Bechuanaland (Bostwana), Somalia, Kenia, Uganda (under Somalia), and Sudan (left to Somalia) (Anglo-Egyptian).

England performed a missionary and philantropic role in their colonies after the abolition of slavery. Dr Livingstone was one of the main protectors of African natives.



During the 1st half of the 18C the french turned up as a serious threat to the English Company of the Eastern Indies. The conflict came to a critical point in 1746, when France took over Madras. However, it was returned to the British in 1748. Three years later, Robert Clive, an employee of the British Company won the control of Hyderabad and the Carnatic to the French.

The final phase of the quarrels between the two countries for the control of India developed as an extension of the 7 years war in Europe. The most important fact of the conflict was the victory of Clive in Plassey, which made the British owners of Bengala. According to the Peacement Treaty following the 7 years war, the french territory in India was reduced to a few factories, and the Company of the Eastern Indies acquired strategic positions in Bengala, and important areas of the Deccan.


To get their objectives, the British used their military power as well as extortion, and political manipulation of indian directives. The progressive lack of union among several indian kingdoms and principados prepared the way for the British dominion of the whole sub-continent, and other regions as Birmania.

In 1845 the sijs of the Punjab attack British positions, beginning a bloody and intermitent war that would end only 3 years later. The consequence of this war was the anexation of the Punjab by the Company. During the following years, the Count of Dalhousie, General Governor of the Company, anexed the kingdoms of Satara, Jaipur, Sambalpur, Jhansi and Nagpur, at the death of their governants. The administration of Dalhousie improved the situation of the country: railroads, bridges, roads, watering systems, telegraph. Restrictions to the sati (the inmolation of wives in the funerary pires of their husbands), and other old costumes. However, the indians didn´t show enthusiasm towards these reforms, but even fear and suspicion.

1857: the sepoys´ revolt: the hindu and muslim troops employed by the Company, rebelled spontaneously because of the use of cow and pork meat in a new kind of bullet. The moutineers occupy Delhi and other strategic points, killing hundreds of Europeans. In Nov of that year, the insurrection was suffocated. One of the results of the Indian moutin, was the passing by the parliament of the Better India Act, which transferred the administration of India from the Company to the British Crown. With this change, many abuses of the previous period were erradicated. Fiscal, governamental, teaching and social reforms. Extension of the Public works of Dalhousie.

During the last years of the 19C and the first of the XX, the political and social agitation spread throughout India. The intelectual indian elite, part of which had studied in Europe, combined successfully some aspects of western and eastern ideas and cultures. One of these was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The Indian nationalism began to threaten seriously the british position in the country. The Indian National Congress was one of the most influent asociations devoted to the fight against the British command. In the cultural level, the famous poet Rabindranath Tagore, made lasting contributions to the cause of Indian unity. The hostile manifestations became more and more frequent, particularly in Bengala. There also was terrorism on the part of the most radical ones.

The British government adopted a special criminal code to control the situation. In 1909 the Indian Council Act, introduced a low level of self government in India. The nationalistic movement didn´t find it to suffice their independence goals.

After the 1st world War, the tone of the indian resistance changed radically. Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi , a social and religious hindu reformer, asked the indians to face the British repression with passive resistance (Satyagraha, o abrazo de la verdad). In 1919, in Punjab, a disarmed crowd of men, women and children was massacrated by the British troops, while they were effectuating a pacific protest in a closed square. Amritsar massacre.

Gandhi postulated the boycott to british products, tribunals and schools, the no cooperation in politic life and the refusal to take british titles.

This resistance, would have long term results. In 1945, India becomes a founder member of the United Nations Organization, and in 1947, it becomes an independent country, member of the Commonwealth.