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The ‘second’ British empire. Mark Knights. What were the characteristics of this ‘second empire’.

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what were the characteristics of this second empire
What were the characteristics of this ‘second empire’
  • From an empire based on trade and primarily focused on the Atlantic and Caribbean to one based on territory, more global in its interests (especially in the east), more diverse, more authoritarian, less tolerant?
  • Expansion of dominion. Earl of Shelburne 1784: ‘trade with informal control if possible; trade with rule if necessary’.
  • Last week we looked at the dilemma posed as a result of the Seven Years War. Loss of America was a crisis.
  • But not all planned – the importance of war in shaping the emergence of empire – but now much more of a blueprint of ambition
wars against france 1792 1815
Wars against France 1792-1815
  • Continental
    • Involving Russia, Prussia, Austria and Spain
    • Mutual rivalries
    • Problem of Britain’s lack of allies (1803-5 fighting France alone and again 1807-8). Coalition only in 1814, producing defeat of France; and only as a result of huge subsidies to allies (£26.5m 1813-15; GB paying for half the allied force. National debt increased from £239m in 1792 to £861m in 1815).
  • but also imperial war
    • Lord Aukland 1799 ‘The security of Europe is essential to the security of the British empire. We cannot separate them’. Henry Dundas said the West and East Indies were ‘of infinite moment, both in the view of humbling the power of France and with the view of enlarging our national wealth and security’.
redrawing the map
Redrawing the map
  • Shattering and reconstruction of old empires: Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and French
    • American revolution had seen fracturing of British empire;
    • the French empire began to disintegrate in 1790s before rising again in a new, primarily European form;
    • In South America the Spanish empire began to crumble.
  • GB emerged dominant global empire
the arenas of war
The arenas of war
  • West Indies
  • North America
  • East Indies
  • Spanish America
  • India and its approaches
west indies
West Indies
  • Need to defend British colonies
  • Aim to deprive France of wealth – economic warfare [Dundas ‘all modern wars are a contention of the purse’]
  • Rebellion in St Domingo 1791
  • GB occupied almost all French West Indies by 1794
  • But 1795 France regained Guadaloupe; by 1801 Toussaint l’Ouverture headed St Domingo after successful slave rebellion. French attempt to regain it temporarily succeeded but 1803 French force surrendered and Haiti became independent.
  • But GB also occupied Dutch Guiana and Demarara in South America.
  • Exports of GB goods to West Indies boomed: from £2.2m in 1790-2 to £3.6m 1799-1801; imports from West Indies grew from £3.9m to £5.1m.
  • Economic success there enabled GB to defeat Napoleonic France’s attempt at blocking trade.
north america
North America
  • 1800 Spain ceded Louisiana to France
  • 1803 sold by France to America for $3m
  • Americans increasingly resentful of British naval blockades and disruption to trade; and America had thoughts of gaining Canada.
  • 1812 war
east indies
East Indies
  • Dutch supremacy there shattered by French invasion and domination by 1795.
  • Stadtholder William V fled to GB and ordered all Dutch colonies to surrender peaceably to GB, to keep them out of French hands (Cape of Good Hope; Trincomalee)
  • Java – GB did not have enough man-power; period of semi-independence. 1811 GB mounted force in response to French presence there and Thomas Stamford Raffles became lt-gov, intent on reorganising Java with view to keeping it after the war for the East India Company (lucrative coffee!).
spanish america
Spanish America
  • Spain internally weak (Carlos IV)
  • Disastrous intervention in French revolution – forced into peace in 1795 and into alliance with France in 1796, bringing it into war with GB; Spanish fleet defeated at Trafalgar, leaving its colonies open to attack.
  • 1806 GB descent on Buenos Aries; second attack 1807 also repulsed.
  • GB therefore supported revolutionaries to subvert Spanish power.
  • 1807 France seized Spain, breaking lines of communication with South America
  • 1810 saw 4 major revolts in Spanish America, but only successful in Argentina.
  • 1820s saw Spanish empire in South America collapse
  • Portuguese court had fled (on French invasion in 1807) to Brazil under GB escort, so in return GB given trading privileges there
india the background
India – the background
  • East India Company founded 1600
  • 1613 established port of Surat on west coast, Madras and Calcutta.
  • 1661 Bombay gained as part of marriage dowry of Catherine of Braganza
  • Silk, cotton, salt-petre, peppers and tea
  • Periods of expansion:
    • 1756 Calcutta attacked by Nawab of Begal and Robert Clive sent to recover it – victory at Plassey in 1757
    • 1764 defeat of combined Indian army at Buxar, and treaty of Allahabad the following year, gave GB near sovereignty over Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Governor of province, with tax-raising powers.

Expansion took place vs wishes of company and parliament

    • 1767 secretary of the Company ‘we do not want conquest and power; it is commercial interest only we look for’
    • 1782 Parliament passed resolution against ‘schemes of conquest’ there
importance of indian trade
Importance of Indian trade
  • 1697 £263,000 of imports
  • 1712 £457,000
  • 1744 £743,000
  • 1748 £1,098,000
  • 1760 £1,786,000
  • 1763 £1,059,000
  • 1776-80 £1,303,000
  • 1781-5 £2,030,000
  • 1791-5 £4,024,000
  • 1795-1800 £4,834,000
  • French wars and disintegrating Mughal empire allowed and encouraged Gb expansion in India
  • By 1793 the French settlements in India had been seized
  • But France aided Tipu Sultan of Mysore – Gb invaded 1799 and annexed part of Mysore [Tipu had defeated GB forces in 1779]
  • North of Mysore lay the pro-French Nizam of Deccan – he was forced to expel French troops
  • The Nawab of the Carnatic had been in negotiation with Tipu, so Carnatic also seized.
Oudh brought under GB control.
  • Mq of Wellesley: ‘No greater blessing can be conferred on the native inhabitants of India than the extension of British authority, influence and power’
  • By 1813 GB ruled 50-60m people
  • Fear of French influence with the Maratha confederacy led to further intervention 1800-2 – GB victory under Arthur Wellesley, future duke of Wellington. GB forces reached Delhi.
  • 1815 France regained settlements but under strict conditions – no fortifications or troops and recognition of East India Company control.
the approach to india
The approach to India
  • Malta – important staging post
  • Egypt – Napoleon invaded 1798 and captured Cairo; Nelson, battle of the Nile trapped Napoleon there until escape in 1799.
  • Mauritius – captured 1810
  • Cape of Good Hope
  • Ceylon – capture of Trincomalee in 1795. 1818 war led to death of 10% of population and repression of Budhist culture
  • GB did not keep all colonial acquisitions – Guadaloupe, Senegal, Reunion, Martinique were returned to France; Java and Surinam to Dutch.
  • But GB colonies increased from 26 in 1793 to 43 in 1815 (Malta; Saint Lucia; Cape; Mauritius; Ceylon; Ionian islands)
  • French enthusiasm for overseas colonisation temporarily over
  • Spanish empire a husk and commercially penetrated
  • Holland unable to compete with GB
government over non white or non protestant populations
Government over non-white or non-Protestant populations
  • Canada: 1774 Quebec act continued system of government without assembly and special status given to French law and to catholicism (leading to protest in London). 1791 act divided Canada into Anglophone and old French, each with an elected assembly and legislative council.
  • Impose GB culture and governance?

1784 Sir William Jones founded Asiatic Society. Belief that India was better governed the more it was understood. Warren Hastings (governor 1772-85): ‘the people of this country do not require our aid to furnish them with a rule for their conduct or a standard for their property’. But Hastings also accused of accepting bribes (part of local custom?)

1793 Permanent Settlement imposed GB law. Rising missionary pressure. William Wilberforce urged Christianisation – Hindu divinities were ‘absolute monsters of lust, injustice, wickedness and cruelty’. Charles Grant hoped to diffuse ‘the lights and benign influence of the truth, the blessings of a well-regulated society, the improvements and comforts of active industry’.

Gb desire to shape India. James Mill’s History of British India (1806) complained of the compendium of Hindu law as disorderly.

Corruption of British virtue?

impose restraint on east india company
Impose restraint on East India Company?
  • 1689 enjoyed Crown support of James II; company split into two factions, united with parliamentary charter 1709
  • With acquisition of territory came dilemma of how to rule via a state-sponsored private company.
  • 1759 Clive suggested direct rule over Bengal: ‘so large a sovereignty may possibly be an object too extensive for a mercantile company; and it is to be feared that they are not of themselves able, without the nation’s assistance, to maintain so wide a dominion’.
  • 1773 act to create governor general with a supreme council – first participation of govt in administration: Treasury and secretary of state oversaw actions of governor and council.
  • 1784 board of commissioners to oversee all dispatches sent to India but state had no control over commercial matters
  • 1793 Conrwallis Code: restricted ranks of government to Europeans
  • 1813 Company monopoly broken
pacific exploration
Pacific exploration
  • 1764 garrison Falklands islands
  • 1766 Samuel Wallis landed on Taihiti
  • Cook’s voyages, first to Taihiti (1769)and then to New Zealand and east coast of Australia, 1771; second voyage 1772-4 across Pacific. 3rd voyage 1776-7, Hawaii, America’s north-west coast
  • 1787 penal colony established at Botony Bay
  • 1795 London Missionary Society – 30 missionaries to Taihiti in 1796
a good thing
A ‘Good thing’??
  • Controversialist Niall Ferguson, Empire (2003): ‘Today, the principal barriers to an optimal allocation of labour, capital and goods in the world are, on the one hand, civil wars and lawless, corrupt governments – which together have condemned so many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia to decades of impoverishment – and, on the other, the reluctance of the United States and her allies to practise as well as preach free trade, or to devote more than a trifling share of their vast resources to programmes of economic aid. By contrast, for much (though certainly not all) of its history, the British empire acted as an agency for imposing free markets, the rule of law, investor protection and relatively incorrupt government on a roughly a quarter of the world. The empire also did a good deal to encourage those things in countries which were outside its formal imperial domain but under its economic influence through the 'imperialism of free trade'. Prima facie, there therefore seems a plausible case that empire enhanced global welfare – was, in other words, a Good Thing’.
  • So in this version ‘Britain made the modern world’
  • Priyamvadha Gopal: ‘Ferguson's 'history' is a fairytale for our times which puts the white man and his burden back at the centre of heroic action. Colonialism - a tale of slavery, plunder, war, corruption, land-grabbing, famines, exploitation, indentured labour, impoverishment, massacres, genocide and forced resettlement - is rewritten into a benign developmental mission marred by a few unfortunate accidents and excesses’.
  • Andrew Porter: ‘Ferguson’s own ‘on-balance-beneficial’ legacy of empire offers no new insight but rather the refurbishment of a much older conventional – some would say Whiggish – wisdom. Far from updating our view of empire, in highlighting the interplay of ‘liberty’ and ‘slavery’, Ferguson looks backward to an outdated literature, and at times is consequently wide of the mark’
  • What are the characteristics of modern empires?