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The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire
Transcript of The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire
The purpose of transporting prisoners was not simply to isolate them from mainstream society. A main reason that transport was initiated was to deal with increased poverty and the growing number of convicted criminals. An additional benefit of transportation was to use them for economic advancement and development of the post. Prisoners were required to work on a variety of projects which provided the infrastructure for the new nation. When most prisoners had served their term, they chose to stay in the colony. Many went on to assume leadership positions in the satellite government.Previous to British control, the island was inhabited by a group of aboriginal people. When colonial forces arrived, they made unequal treaties and pushed these people off of the most desirable land. Recent efforts to restore land to aborigines and include the population in decision-making have been marginal.
Australia remains connected to the United Kingdom despite its status as a completely independent nation. While it has been under self-rule since the mid 1800’s, it remained under the British crown (primarily of its own request) until as recently as 1986 when it finally gained complete independence. British colonies in India began as ports on the trade route to Asia controlled by the British East India Company. The people of India had become accustomed to domination as they had experienced conquering forces of many different empires throughout the past several hundred years. As British imperial power over the area grew, the British began to use India as a supplier of raw materials and a market over which they had exclusive domain. As dissent and rebellion grew in the colony, the British government stepped in and assumed direct control over the colony.
Interest in India centered less on populating the land and more on controlling the economic market and employing cheap labor. While the British had seen India as a culturally advanced society for many years, this changed to a more ethnocentric view of Indians as uncivilized at this time in order to advance their interests. The British forced the manufacturing endeavors of Indians to shut-down and then employed the people from these businesses in their own factories. They forced remaining Indian cottage industries to purchase raw materials only from the British trading companies, and to sell products back only to the British. They further controlled this market by selling raw materials at high costs and buying back the products at 25% below the actual market price.
One natural resource that India possessed in large quantities was salt. Salt became a controversial trade item when the British imposed a hefty tax on its sale. This would later be one of the rallying points for Indians to unite and expel English rule.
India was also a door into the Chinese market. The British were interested in selling Opium to China, where it had been outlawed, but not given up by the Chinese people. Once imperial rivalries began to swell across Europe, India became a strategic security post to protect British interests. Unlike many of the European colonies around the world, India resisted religious imperialism and did not embrace Christianity. India remains a nation devoted to Hinduism in most regions. Other British influences have remained, especially the use of the English language in the realm of commerce. India gained independence from British rule in 1947, and the territory was divided into modern-day India, Pakistan, and Myanmar. The British were not initially interested in colonization in Egypt. However, the idea to create the Suez Canal caused them to have a change of heart. The Suez Canal cut off six thousand tedious miles of travel which otherwise had to be made for a British ship to travel to India. The canal made their colony, India, in the East much more accessible than it had ever been before at a cheaper cost. Through lending aid to Egypt during one of their financial crises, England became the owners of the canal (which had been built by the French) and therefore controlled all activity through it.
Control and ownership of the Suez canal ended up being more of a burden for England than the country would have liked. Protection for the canal was expensive as Egypt was having a great deal of internal conflict. However the canal was too profitable to dismiss. While the British never rule formally in Egypt, they did control the canal until 1954. Interests in South Africa began as port cities to use on the route to Asia. However, with the advent of the Suez Canal all port cities became obsolete. Without this purpose, the colonies at the cape might never have amounted to an imperial settlement. However, diamond fields (as well as gold fields) in Kimberly in the interior of the country were discovered in 1870.
South Africa had already experienced its share of conquerors. Beginning with the Bantu groups who migrated from central Africa, such as the Zulu and Xhosa, Africans had almost entirely wiped out the native Khoi San population who originally inhabited the land. Next came the Dutch who had set up a colony much like the British as a trading post and port city on the way to the east. The Dutch sent modest numbers of colonists who eventually worked their way to the interior of the country and through war with the Africa peoples claimed much of the land for their own. When it came time for the British to take over the land rich with diamonds, these descendents of the Dutch (Afrikaners or Boers) were the greatest obstacle to British success and resulted in a series of brutal wars called the Boer Wars.
In the end, the British succeeded and held on to the colony. However, in 1906 they decided to turn the colony over to the Afrikaners to rule and remain only as an economic investor. This became yet another example of British interest lying entirely in the economic outcomes that a colony could produce. The first profitable endeavor that the British undertook in West Africa was the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. This business linked the two sides of the Atlantic and produced huge profits for British merchants. However, the British did develop a conscience and eliminated the trade altogether. Once this was finished, they set up Freetown in Sierra Leone (which remains the capital city today) where they relocated freed slaves. they looked for other money-making interests in the region.
One of the main draws to the West coast of Africa after the disintegration of the Slave Trade was the availability of vegetable oils. The industrial revolution had necessitated the use of oils, such as palm, which would be used as lubricants for machines and the manufacture of soap. Because of the difficulty of planting, harvesting, and producing the oil, the demands of labor were more brutal than in most other regions.In addition to palm oil, the British were also interested in ivory, originating from the tusks of elephants and necessitating the killing of the animal to harvest the resource. The other item of interest was the gold that existed in mines that had once been part of the Salt-Gold Trade initiated by the kingdom of Ghana across the Sahara desert.
Sierra Leone gained independence in 1961 and was essentially abandoned by the British. A similar fate awaited other West African nations which have since experienced political unrest and struggles for power. Jamaica is among the oldest of British colonies around the world. Prior to British colonization, the island had already been conquered and ruled by the Spanish, which meant the British had to fight the Spanish before gaining control in 1655. All of this with little regard for the dwindling native population of the island.
British interest in the island came as a result of the industrial revolution and the demand for raw materials to be shipped back to England and used to produce consumer goods in the new factories. One item in particularly high demand was sugar, which was a crop that could not be grown in the temperate climate of Europe as it required a tropical environment. In addition to sugar, less notable quantities of Bananas and Coffee were produced on the island for the benefit of the English. The large scale crop production required a great deal of labor, and the most cost-effective way to secure this labor was through slavery. The slave trade provided for another money-making venture for Europe and even more incentive to maintain the colony at Jamaica. In addition to the labor provided by slaves, a number of Irish laborers were also shipped to the colony and German managers were often employed to supervise operations.
By the 1930’s, Jamaica did not provide much income for England and was not, therefore, desirable anymore. Jamaica did not receive independence until 1962, however, after having participated in self-governance for more than twenty years. While this island of the Caribbean is completely free of British rule today, many others such as the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas are still direct colonies of the United Kingdom. After gaining most of the territory which is modern day Canada from France in the Seven Years war of the late 1700’s, the British have been dominant in the region ever since. Unlike the American colonies who rebelled and gained independence from Britain, a majority of people in Canada have always been supportive to British connections and control.
Interests in the area now known as Canada quickly turned from exploration and economic success to settlement and colonization. The fur trade was a major draw for Europeans as well as the potential for gold. The fertile soil of Canada produced many grains that are still exported in large quantities to Europe today.
Canada and the United Kingdom remain tightly connected today in a relationship that is far more similar to the colonial past than any of the former British colonies. Canada celebrates its independence as July 1st 1868. While Canada has had its own government and ruled its self, it was a British protectorate for many years and was subject to British decisions in issues of foreign policy and English interests. Today the connections remain so strong that Canadian currency carries a picture of Queen Elizabeth of England. The most vocal opposition to this relationship comes from Quebec where nationalist movements among the people have long pushed toward independence for the province. The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire