Empire in the 19th century
The British had three motives for imperialism in the 19th
1) Economic reasons
Gain raw materials for industrialization, creation of
markets for manufactured goods.
2) Political reasons
To secure safe naval and supply stations
or other strategic areas for the safety of the nation. The Suez canal,
The United States and Hawaii, the
3) Cultural reasons
A sense that European nations had superior institutions and that other places would benefit from them. Also, Social Darwinism advocated that
some races were more advanced and had the biological right to dominate others.
had several trading ports around India
during the Mughal Dynasty. In the 1750s Robert Clive won the Battle of Plassey which drove out the French and opened the door for
greater influence by the East India Company.
As the Mughal Empire weakened, the
East India Company (EIC) took advantage and worked local disputes in order to
gain more power. (In this sense, the British
in India and
the Dutch in Java established patterns of colonization that many other nations
would adopt in the 19th century). At this point, the EIC was granted
considerable rights in the name of the British government. It could make
treaties, engage in war, and establish commercial relations. This was due to the fact that transportation
and communication were so rudimentary as to make direct control from England
Change in Colonial societies
In early societies, British (and Dutch) colonists had to
accommodate themselves to local styles of food, dress, and housing. Most representatives of the colonizing
countries were male, so intermarriage with locals was common.
In the late 1790s and early 1800s there was a movement to
reform the corruption within the EIC’s administration
of India. Administration was reformed but at the
expense of limiting the involvement of Indians in their own government. Under the auspices of Social Darwinism, the
British no longer mingled, interacted or tolerated the indigenous people and
customs. Intermarriage between Brits and
Indians declined. The British brought
what they thought to be the basis of Western civilization: western style
education, technology and administrative organization. Ironically, this created a class of educated
middle class Indians (such as Ghandi) which would
later lead the Indian independence movement against the British in the 20th
The EIC employed Indian troops known as sepoys
(both Hindu and Muslim) to help them rule.
The Sepoys rebelled in 1857 and began to
slaughter British people. Queen
Elizabeth ordered India
to fall under direct control of the British crown.
Colonial rule transformed India. Its economy was designed around the
production and export of tea, coffee and opium.
Modern railroads and telegraphs connected diverse regions. Education spread the English language. In the late 19th century new
attitudes toward other races brought changes in colonial societies. Theories of racism led the English to assume
their race was superior. Hindu practices
were banned (sati). Europeans began to
isolate themselves from indigenous people.
As laws forbidding interracial marriages were passed, women were brought
to India and
British families became insulated from Indian culture. However, British education nurtured the
growth of an Indian middle class with a common culture.
The Dutch East India Company had established a presence in South
Africa since 1652 (Cape
Town). As more
settlers came over the years, the white settlers (called Boers or Afrikaners)
pushed further inland, taking land from the indigenous people. Some ethnic groups, such as the Khoikhoi, were wiped out by warfare, epidemics, and
The British took over the Cape during
the Napoleonic Wars and British rule and law was imposed. After slavery was outlawed, the Afrikaner
economy declined and many whites began the Great Trek eastward, bringing
serious conflict with the Zulu and Ndebele tribes. In the mid 19tn century these pioneers
created several independent republics loosely supervised by the British
Things changed in the latter half of the 19th
century when the world’s largest gold and diamond deposits were discovered in South
Miners and prospectors flooded to South
Africa and the Boer War (or South African
War) began. The British won this war,
but established peace with the Afrikaners with a settlement that ensured the
privileges of the white colonists over the indigenous blacks. The racial tensions continue to today.