British Empire and Commonwealth 1

British Empire and Commonwealth Part I


British Empire and Commonwealth [- k ɔ mənwelθ], English British Empire [ br ɪ t ɪ ʃ empa ɪ ə], since the end of the 19th century, more and more British Commonwealth of Nations [ br ɪ t ɪ ʃ komənwelθ ɔ v ne ɪ ʃ nz], since the Second world war Commonwealth of Nations.

From the beginning to the American Revolution

The British Empire owes its creation and expansion to the interaction of government policies and non-governmental initiatives (by seafarers, settlers, trading companies). “The flag followed trade” – this formula, which captured a basic feature of European colonial policy up to the 19th century, applies in particular to the British Empire. Important prerequisites for the overseas activities of the British, which began relatively late, were firstly the “Age of Discovery” with which the island of England moved from the periphery of Europe to the center of a new global system, and secondly the conflict with Spain through which the traditional trade route was crossed the Netherlands (stacking place Antwerp) was closed to English merchants, so that they had to look for new markets, The war provoked by this with the victory over the Spanish Armada (1588) provided the groundbreaking power-political prerequisite. What had already started in the 16th century (Merchant Adventurers 1552, Moscow Company 1555, Levante Company 1581) continued steadily in the 17th century: Well-funded trading companies equipped with monopoly privileges (East India Company 1600, Virginia Company 1606, Hudson’s Bay Company 1670) established bases and trading posts in the Atlantic and Caribbean (Bermuda 1612, Barbados 1627, Jamaica 1655) and in India (Madras 1639, Bombay 1662, Calcutta 1690). In order not to be excluded from the slave trade, they established themselves on the west coast of Africa. This closed the Europe-Africa-America triangle, which is important in terms of trade policy, for England. In addition to trade and sea power, settlement colonies formed the third basic element of the British Empire. In the 17th century economic and v. a. Religious motifs (exodus of persecuted Puritans, Catholics and others minorities) for the establishment of the first colonies in North America (Virginia 1607 and 12 other colonies until 1732). Bases and settlement colonies were only under the loose supervision of the mother country, which, however, with the Navigation Act (1651, 1660) and the Staple Act (1663), provided the emerging trading empire with the basic order by consistently subordinating the economy of the overseas possessions to the mercantile interests of the mother country became: On the one hand the colonies were only allowed to import European products via England, on the other hand they were only allowed to export their products via England.

While the Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch were the main rivals to English overseas expansion in the 17th century, Great Britain had to contend with itself in the 18th century BC. a. deal with France. As a result of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713 / 14) and the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), France had to cede almost all of its American possessions, especially Canada, to England and also lost its influence in India, which in the subsequent period was completely under the Control of the English East India Company fell.

The Peace of Paris in 1763 was both a climax and a turning point in the history of the so-called first or older British Empire. In the face of new, extended domains, the latter was faced with the question of the extent to which it could continue to be a trading empire or to what extent new forms of more political organization should be sought. When the attempt was now made to give the American colonies a greater share in the growing costs of the military and administration, they demanded in return the guarantee of colonial political self-determination, which should also be co-determination within the framework of a reformed empire. The conflict became a dispute of principles (Declaration of Independence 1776),

From the end of the 18th century to 1918

When Great Britain lost its American colonies, it already had the basis in the east (especially with India) for a new second global British Empire, which at the end of the 19th century comprised a quarter of the earth’s surface and ruled over a fifth of the world’s population (1901 around 400 Million people). These included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the entire Indian subcontinent as well as Burma and Malaysia and, in Africa and the Middle East, a contiguous land mass that stretched from the Cape Colony to Palestine and Iraq. The policy of expansion was only occasionally pursued deliberately by the London government, such as during the Napoleonic Wars and towards the end of the 19th century; otherwise there were actors on the spot (“men on the spot”), governors and military commanders. B. C. Rhodes in South Africa and Charles Napier (* 1782, † 1853) in India, who, through unauthorized action, presented the London metropolis with a fait accompli. In addition, a global network of maritime bases such as Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, Singapore and Hong Kong was available to the fleet that secured this empire.

At the same time, according to Extrareference, the second British empire was not only a new but also a different world empire in which trade and rule were no longer a unity. In order to convert Great Britain’s lead in industrial production, finance and trade worldwide into profit, there was no longer any need for direct political rule, but only for the guarantee of general free trade. Since the beginning of the 19th century there has been an “informal empire” that extends beyond the borders of the official empire as a result of the “free trade imperialism” that worked within the framework of an initial economic globalization and managed without the means of direct rule and with financial and economic penetration overseas Countries satisfied. South America and China are examples of this.

Regarding the organizational form of the empire, three areas can be distinguished: the dominions, the crown colonies and the complex of the Indian domain.

The lesson learned from the American War of Independence led to a flexible policy of London towards the white colonies of the Empire in the 19th century, in which the political independence of the colonies could be linked to the continued unity of the world empire under the leadership of Great Britain. This concept found its first expression in 1839 in the Durham Report, which paved the way for the self-government of the Canadian provinces, which finally became the Dominion of Canada in 1867. The problem of the coordination between the laws passed in overseas territories and the imperial laws passed in the motherland was solved in 1865 in the Colonial Laws Validity Act.

British Empire and Commonwealth 1