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The First British Empire

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  1. The First British Empire History 3152 September 26, 2007

  2. Population of London • London: more populated than other British cities and most European cities • Grew steadily through the course of the long eighteenth century • 1700: over ½ million • 1800: 1 million • 1850s: over 2 million • opportunities for work and leisure • youth and a preponderance of women

  3. Great Fire of London • 1666; recovering from the Plague • Accidental Fires common • Lots of open fires: burned in houses, shops and workshops; • artisans kindled them in braziers in the streets. • Timber was the most common building material, and straw was laid on floors and stored in stables and outhouses. • No Fire Department.

  4. Great Fire of London, 1666 • Started Sunday, September 2 • Ended Wednesday, September 5 • Destroyed: • More than 13,000 houses • 87 churches • The main buildings in the City • Human Costs: • Only 5 deaths • Up to 200,000 people were left destitute. • The cost of accommodation soared • A fire court was set up to judge disputes over who owned which property.

  5. The Main Points • Traditional Interpretation: first empire was about trade/commerce! • Trade was most often the driving force behind colonial expansion BUT other factors matter too • Settlers were important, especially in North America and the West Indies

  6. Differences between this early imperialism & what will come • Primary focus for colonization was NOT the spreading of British values (political, social, or cultural) • The British Government was not in control (North America as exception?) • Fewer settlers on the whole • Women were less involved (except North America)

  7. Similarities between 1st and 2nd empires • Use of local leaders for ease of establishing rule and maintaining order • Corruption at home and abroad; fears of the corrupting influence of empire • Economic and Commercial Benefits (diminish with time) • Orientalist/Racist thought

  8. Similarities between 1st and 2nd empires (continued) • Need for military conquest and long-term military presence • Use of Indian Sepoys • Creation of racial, class-based, religious, and gendered hierarchies (only this is much greater in the 2nd empire) • Fears about racial miscegenation

  9. Empire in 1713

  10. Empire in 1763

  11. Empire in 1850

  12. Empire in 1914

  13. The Seven Years’ War, 1756-1763 • First truly global war • War as means of gaining land • Britain and France clashed in India & North America-1754 • Fighting in Europe—summer 1756 • Growth of British Army string of victories in 1759 and on • War finally ends in 1763

  14. The Treaty of Paris, 1763 • Britain’s Empire truly established through this treaty • France pretty much humiliated by this war; lost any real claim in India and lost Quebec • In the treaty process, Britain secured • West Indies (Grenada, Domenica, St. Vincent, Tobago), • Senegal • Bengal • All of North America east of Mississippi

  15. The West Indies • Among the 1st colonial possessions; think “Caribbean” • Private companies treaties • Very profitable; “plantocracy” Tobacco replaced by sugar (mid 1600s) • Sugar: indentured servants from British Isles replaced by African slaves

  16. The Triangular Trade (Slavery) • By 1660s, more slaves in West Indies than white settlers! • Expanded at rapid rate • Royal Africa Company carried out most of the slave trade • Guns, rum, trinkets to W. Africa • Slaves to W. Indies and N. America • Sugar to Britain

  17. Slavery • 1772: slavery illegal in England • 1807: British abolish slave trade • 1833: British end slavery in their empire • Evangelicals • Women

  18. North America: Upper & Lower Canada • Canada was not yet united • Upper Canada: Ontario • Lower Canada: Quebec • British eventually shape united Canada as they add more territory to it • Used as military base during war with U.S. • Some in U.S. sought to take control of Canada during war of 1812; invasion attempt failed spectacularly

  19. North America: the 13 colonies • Financially successful: fur trade, tobacco, cotton • Strong, active settler population bent on expansion • Tense relations with Native Americans; increasing number of slaves • Some self-government: Royal Governor, appointed advisory council, elected assembly

  20. North America: the 13 colonies • Tensions after 1763; British had to maintain 10, 000 soldiers in colonies • Taxes imposed directly from Parliament in London • 1764 Sugar Act • 1765 Stamp Act • Colonial Resistance • British: sovereignty of Parliament

  21. The American Revolution or Civil War? (1775-1783) • Colonists asserting rights as Englishmen • Rebelled against infringement of self-governance • The inherit “Englishness” of the Declaration of Independence (7/4/1776) • Maintenance of relationship after war

  22. “Other” actors in war • Loyalists • Numbers overestimated by Brits • 1/3-1/4 of population • Most go to Canada after war • Retribution • Native Americans • Retribution after Brits leave • Not all sided with Brits • Slaves (Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation) • Some sent to Canada (most died there) • Retribution

  23. Ireland • Question to ponder: does Ireland fit in with the empire? • Penal Laws, Test Act, and emigration • Protestant Ascendancy • Church of Ireland (Anglican) • Presbyterians (Scotch-Irish) • Irish or English?? • Land problem: ownership, absentee landlords, Ulster Right

  24. Ireland: part II • Lord Lieutenant and Irish Parliament • 1494: Poynings’ Law • 1719: Declaratory Act • 1782: Poynings’ Law repealed • 1782-1800: Legislative Independence for Ireland

  25. Irish Resistance & Sectarian Tensions • Agrarian Violence: long tradition • Usually result of landlords abusing their power • As population expands, more pressure on land (increased in late 18th C) • Peep O’Day Boys (Prot.) & Defenders (Catholic)

  26. The United Irishmen, 1791-1798 • Wolfe Tone, Anglican, founder • Bring all Irishmen together; self-rule • Goals: reform Parliament, total religious equality • 1794: forced underground; contact with Defenders • 1795: Orange Order formed—protect the Protestant Ascendancy

  27. The United Irishmen, 1791-1798 • Ideals of French Revolution popular with UI • Presbyterians got very involved • Planned uprising (with French aid) for 1798 • Uprising failed miserably • Act of Union, with Great Britain, 1/1/1801

  28. India • East India Company formed in 1600 • Colonization truly begins after Battle of Plassey in 1757 • Moghul Empire crumbling • British use local leaders to secure trade and “gifts” • British-controlled territory grows incrementally • EIC never hesitated to use force

  29. “Black Hole” of Calcutta & the Battle of Plassey • By end of 7 Years’ War: the French presence will be gone • 1750s: fight over Bengal (Calcutta) • Some Indian leaders resistant to British expansion; willing to fight • Siraj-ud-Duala vs. Robert Clive • Siraj trying to protect Calcutta • Takes city easily; 40 prisoners • Prison cell=“Black Hole” of Calcutta

  30. Battle of Plassey, 1757 • Clive furious when prisoners were dead • “Proof” of Indian barbarism and cruelty • Wins great victory in Plassey • Depended on Indians who wanted Siraj out • Mir Jafar made Nawab; seen as puppet of Clive (he was) • Cash payments were enormous

  31. In the Wake of Victory • EIC gains official in Treaty of Paris • Bengal “belonged” to Brits • 1760: Nawab Mir Kasim fought for north Bengal & Bihar (with Nawab of Awadh) • 10/23/1760: Battle of Buxar • EIC continues to expand its territory bit by bit • 1765 secured “diwani” for Bengal, Bihar, Orissa • 1769: famine killed 10 million in Bengal!

  32. Interference in Indian culture, customs and religion • 1784: India Act (board of control) • By 1830s: British gov’t mostly in control • Initially British gov’t promised not to interfere in Indian religion or culture • Increased role of British gov’t led them to have increased sense of right to interfere in Indian life • Abolition of Thuggee, Sati and female infanticide (Indian=barbaric) • Thuggee: murder and robbery • Sati (suttee): widow burning