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How should we remember the British Empire?

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Kassandra Devolin

on 16 May 2011

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Transcript of How should we remember the British Empire?

Even after the decline of the empire,
Britain left its lasting legacy on many countries.
Canada and Australia are two examples of nations affected by Britain
through politics, language and religious ideals.
Both former colonies
have parliamentary democracy, speak English and practice Christianity
as one of their religions. Britain impacted millions of people
with an empire that stretched across the globe. But, was this empire a good force
did it cause suffering and misery
wherever it went? To answer this question,
a range of viewpoints must be examined.
The empire not only affected its own people,
but also those in Canada, the United States of America, Australia, India and Africa.
The empire also had an effect on immigrants
who migrated within. Britain The empire benefitted people in Britain greatly.
Not only did it bring luxury goods into the country from all over the world, it established a complex trading network.
As a result, British companies could trade to regions within the empire, from Canada to India. Liverpool port received most of the trade from America, Africa and the West Indies. Trade was crucial in the empire.
Trading kept the empire together.
Empire countries were major exports for Britain.
In India alone, during the year 1835, Britain exported 51, 777, 277 cloths. In Africa, 24, 000, 000 goods were exported in the year 1925. Needless to say,
the British people were able to experience a variety of foreign goods
at a very good cost. The trade network also imported raw materials, such as cloth, into Britain.
The British manufactured the cloth into material goods and sold them back within their empire at a higher cost. The empire created jobs within Britain, too.
At this time, there was high unemployment in Britain.
The poor often stole food to stay alive.
The new regions within the empire provided the less fortunate with jobs; working in the ports, manufacturing goods
or working in different areas throughout the empire,
like the fur traders.
Some of the poor immigrated to countries like Australia and Canada.
This gave them a fresh start at a better life. Australia Australia was "discovered" by James Cook.
In fact,
Australian Aborignees had been living in the region for thousands of years.
At the time of the Europeans arrival,
it was estimated there were 750 000 Aboriginals living there.
By the 1920s, this number fell by 90%.
The Aboriginals and British had violent clashes.
The introduction (by the Europeans) of sheep and rabbits disrupted the environment in Australia and the Aboriginal's food sources. Not only were many Aboriginals killed by the British,
missionaries sent to Australia tried to convert the rest of the population.

In 1846, colonists donated money to rent 15% of the entire land in Australia,
for the Aboriginal's use.
The Aboriginals received less than a quarter of the land
they had been living on for centuries. Settlers arrived in Australia in the early 1800s.
Few immigrants went to Australia compared to Canada.
Immigrants to Australia increased after the 1830s
because of the hunger, poverty, overpopulation and misery in Ireland.
Poor people from England also migrated.
Domestic servants, miners, carpenters, farmers, couples and shepherds went as well. Previous to Australia,
Britain had been sending its convicts
to North America
because its prisons were overcrowded.
After the American Revolution,
Britain had nowhere to send its criminals.
Then, Australia was discovered.

By the mid 1800s,
over 150, 000 convicts were transported
to the country.
They were used as a labor force.
After the convicts had finished their sentence,
they could go back to England, on a ticket of leave.
because Australia was under-populated,
the government tried to keep many of the criminals there. Many of the criminals stayed.
The transport of convicts stopped in the 1860s
because the settlers were beginning to see themselves as "Australians"
disliked Britain dumping its troubled people in their country. Another draw of the British to Australia, was the gold. The gold rush was a key factor
in bringing settlers into the country.
However, few got rich off the mines,
as the British government claimed them all for Britain. Africa The British actually contributed greatly to African society
during their time there.
Perhaps their greatest significance to African society
was attempting to abolish the slave trade. The British used slavery in the 1700s.
The slaves were used in the West Indies for the production of sugar.
After the British made slavery illegal,
they made it their mission to eradicate slavery completely. The British put large amounts of effort
into wiping out slavery.
Their efforts in West Africa closely linked traders to nations along the West African Coast.
These nations provided Britain with
gold, rare foods and other goods.
Throughout the 1800s,
Britain became powerful allies with West Africa. In 1873,
the British signed a treaty with the Sultan of Arabia,
making it illegal to transport slaves by sea.

Towards the end of 1888,
the British and Germans blockaded the coast of Arabia
and searched ships for slaves. During their time in Africa,
the British ran into problems with the Boers
(descendants of Dutch settlers).
The two groups had different views
on the African people
(the British thought they had rights,
the Boers disagreed)
The Boers disliked the British rule, too.
In 1899,
tensions led to the Boer War.
The British eventually won the battle. Unfortunately,
the British left South Africa during a time of racial divide.
A manifesto was sent to the British government
by the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society in July 1929.

The document stated black Africans and Chinese and Indian immigrants (brought to Africa by the British)
were being treated as inferiors to the whites,
who were ruling Africa at this time.

According to the Society,
no one but the white people could vote
and there were restrictions on where non-whites could could be
and what jobs they could have.

Despite the British government's protests, the racial divide remained. North America The empire was viewed differently in North America
by the two countries it colonized
- Canada and the United States. As a result of the fur trade, Europeans could buy furs for low cost in Europe. Unfortunately,
the British in North America affected Indigenous peoples in many ways.
European diseases, like smallpox, killed hundreds of First Nations.
The Europeans also hunted certain animals to the point of extinction, such as the buffalo, affecting the food sources of the First Nations.
the British and First Nations fought in certain cases,
killing many Indigenous people.
As settlers arrived, many First Nations lost their land. As the settler population grew in North America,
tensions began to arise between the United States and Britain.

The United States at that time was the Thirteen Colonies.
The settlers in the colonies resented the taxes and duties
that the British put on to the goods they traded.
They thought they should be represented in government since they paid taxes.

The King of England refused.

A few rich colonists decided the only way for America to be ruled was by its people.
And the American Revolution began.
It lasted from 1776 to 1783 and resulted in the defeat of the British.

And the end of the war the United States of America was born. In Canada, similar tensions began to develop. Eventually, a few Canadians revolted against the government, but these rebellions were defeated. To solve the discontent, the Earl of Durham investigated the cause. According to Durham, settlers did not think they were represented fairly, their assemblies were ignored by the British Governor and the Legislative Council, which held power, was not elected by the settlers. Durham suggested Canadians rule themselves - this, did not happen for a while. But as of 1840, the settlers' assemblies gained greater power. Since Canada remained close with Britain,
the Canadians adopted many British policies,
including the abolishment of slavery. India The British rule in India is controversial. Some argue it benefitted India,
while others believe it hindered the country. When the British colonized India, missionaries were brought with them.
The religious ideals of the missionaries were met with large amounts of opposition in India.
The British were shocked however, at the traditions in India,
such as the Sati.
The Sati was a Hindu custom in which dead bodies were burned.
Some missionaries noted wives were forced to burn themselves along with their dead husbands, so relatives could inherit the man's property.
Sati was banned in 1829 but became legal again after the Indian Mutiny. Britain benefitted from its colonization of India greatly.
In 1835, Britain imported 306, 086 cloths from India
and exported 51, 777, 277 cloths to India.
(The British, at first, promoted the Indian cloth industry. However, in the early 1800s,
cloth production became cheaper in British factories,
so the British gradually destroyed the Indian industry.) One of Britain's greatest assets was the Indian army.

(40% of Indian's wealth was spent on the army.)

The army was used by Britain all over the world, including South Africa and the World Wars. The British viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, said "As long as we rule India, we are the greatest power in the world. If we lose it we shall straightway drop to a third rate power." When Britain first arrived in India,
the British East India Company ruled the country.
After the Indian Mutiny,
which began partly because of the policies enforced by the Company,
power was handed over to the British government.

The government established the Council of India.
The Council ran India and consisted of British colonists.

The Indians, who'd lived in their country for years, could not govern themselves.
In 1885, the Indian National Congress, made up of well-educated Indians, wanted changes to the way India was ruled. The British helped India as well.
They brought in irrigation systems,
which increased the amount of land that could be used for farming.
they built railways,
which greatly improved agriculture, communications and industry.
(The railways were used for military purposes, too,
since they made it easy to transport troops.) Maps were published regularly
showing the slave traders' routes and areas
which slaves were taken from. While in Africa,
the British helped African society by building railways, providing healthcare
(Dr. Livingstone attempted to help hundreds of Africans by requesting smallpox vaccine
- as smallpox was killing many Africans),
education, jobs and building hospitals. The British remained closely tied with Canada.
Britain invested in building a railway
(the Canadian Pacific Railway)
in Canada which transported goods and people to the west.

The British's involvement in the railway
helped Canada's economy develop
and brought jobs for thousands of workers.
The railway also brought more settlers out west. When Britain arrived in both Canada and the US,
it established alliances with the First Nation groups living there.
The First Nations had been living in North America for generations.

The British's alliance with First Nation groups
benefitted them during the fur trade,
in which they traded with the Indigenous peoples for fur
in exchange, gave knives, blankets and other European goods. The British Empire was vast and powerful during its time. "The Sun Never set on the British Empire" is a true saying, simply because the empire expanded around the globe. At its peak, the empire was the largest in history
- it covered 25% of the world. Of course,
Britain also imported
a wide variety and diversity of goods
from each country in its empire:
The British East India Company brought
tea, silk and spices to Britain.
Canada was rich in animal furs.
Africa contained diamonds and gold.
The West Indies produced sugar and cocoa.
Australia provided crops and gold. How should we remember the British Empire? Many people migrated within the empire for various reasons.
Most of the people who immigrated to different countries were poor
and wanted a new start at a better life.
There were many poor people in Ireland, England and Scotland at this time.

In Ireland, during the early 1840s, blight destroyed potato crops
and did so for another ten years.
The potato crops helped small farmers survive
and pay rent to their landlords.

1 million people died from hunger and disease as a result of the famine.
1.5 million people emigrated during this period as a result. People from Scotland also immigrated.
In the Highlands of Scotland,
there was overpopulation, starvation and poverty.
Scottish folk often migrated to Canada
as there was lots of land
and the government wanted them. There are other cases of immigration.
In Britain,
it was noticed that poor people often committed crimes to survive
(one third of Britain's population was poor).
To reduce the rate of crime,
Britain sent some people to its colonies.
In one case,
young boys who'd been convicted were sent to Canada.
Most of the times,
the convicts did not re-offend. Another example of immigration within the empire
is a charity run by Dr. Barnardo.
The charity took in poor or unfortunate children
and cared for them.
Often these children were sent to British colonies to live normal lives.

some single mothers, unmarried, had their children simply taken away and sent to a different country.

This led to the question of whether or not
charities had the right to take children away from their families. So...how should we remember the British empire? This is a difficult question to answer.

While the British did harm to thousands of Indigenous people and took away their land, they also brought innovations, healthcare and new technology to regions within their empire.

The British also left behind their values and attitudes in each country, shaping the world we live in today.
In most areas the British ruled, democracies and multiculture societies have been established.

There is no denying the British caused ill, they did kill hundreds of Indigenous people, Indian people and exploited Chinese workers.
They also plundered resources from within their empire and forced people to immigrate.

But there is no forgetting the good they did, either. This is why we should neither remember the British Empire as completely evil,
nor as completely good.

The British Empire worked in its own interests;
it did what it had to do, in order to benefit Britain.

In the process it hurt and helped many people.

And this is how we should remember the British Empire. Migration Within the Empire Some people,
like Indians, Africans and Chinese,
were forced to move.
In the early 1700s,
Britain used African slaves in the West Indies during the production of sugar. Britain stopped using slaves, for unknown reasons,
but needed a large workforce to continue with production.
Many Indians left India because of poverty
or they were tempted by offers of work or high pay.
the workers were treated no better than the slaves who’d worked there before. During the 1800s,
over a million Indians left to work in the West Indies, South Africa, the Pacific Island and other parts of the British Empire.
The Chinese, like the Indians, provided a huge labor force.
Chinese workers were used in Africa and Canada to build railways. FINI By Kassie Devolin Background British rule in Australia was generally not good.
For most of the 1800s,
Britain sent convicts to the nation.

As well,
the empire's treatment of Australian aboriginees has left lasting effects on the descendants of these cultures today. The long term consequences of British imperialism still affect societies today.
In Canada alone, the government has not yet settled all the First Nation land claims
(as of 2001, there are still 71 land claims in negotiation and only 16 have been settled).
Not only are there land claims,
but First Nation peoples are demanding the right to self-govern themselves on their reserves.

A similar situation has occurred in Australia,
where Indigenous people have been marginalized as a result of European colonialism.
Only recently have Australian Aborigines began to develop political power.
In 1999,
the Australian government issued an official statement of regret
for the mistreatment of Indigenous people.

The Zulu people of South Africa, like the First Nations of Canada,
have also been fighting for self-government.
Before the Europeans arrival, the Zulu Kingdom had power over a large area of South Africa.
Under the British rule,
the Zulu people were oppressed and lost much of their cultural and political control. At the same time,
the effects of British rule have had positive impacts on society.
The establishment of democracies is just one example.
Innovations, improvements in health care and education
are other effects of the empire's rule.
the vastness of the empire allowed people to migrate,
giving poor people a chance at a new life
- this has created multiculture societies in many areas of the world today. FINI
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