The British Empire consisted of territories taken into conquest by Great Britain. These included both land and water territories. There were several reasons why the British conquered these territories include:
- The quest for trade and commerce
- Need to get raw materials for industries
- Need for cheap labour to work on the farms and plantations
- Need to exercise authority and gain political power in the world
The First British Empire
The beginning of the British Empire dates back to the 15th century when Britain was exploring both water and land territories. During this period, the Great Britain moved in search of commercial exploits. Trade in newfound territories was mostly done through chartered companies. In territories where there lacked a proper governing system and leaders, the charter companies took complete rule.
The first British colonies included the Americas and the Caribbean areas. Great Britain conquered these particular areas because of the quest for sugar and cotton empires. It sourced many of its raw materials from these territories
Additionally during the establishment of the first British Empire, the Great Britain took charge of most naval territories. This meant that most of the important tradeable commodities were taken to the British Empire.
Some parts of India, Canada and Africa also became the colonies of the British during the 17th and 18th century. These colonies also provided much needed raw materials. However, Africa was more of a quest for cheap labour. The British invaded the African territories so as to get cheap labour through the booming slave trade.
Slaves were traded from the varied colonies in Africa. These were moved to America and parts of the Caribbean to work in the plantations and farms.
The Second British Empire
The second British Empire consisted mainly of the remaining parts of India, New Zealand, Australia and islands along the pacific. New Zealand and Australia were discovered by the famous Captain James Cook.
During the establishment of the second British Empire, Great Britain faced several challenges. First most of the colonies were fighting against colonial rule. Additionally, several European countries started competing with Britain for some of their colonies. This is why some of the European powers such as Germany, France and Belgium ended up gaining control of some of these colonies.
The Decline of the British Empire
In the 18th century slavery and slave trade were both abolished though at different time periods. Britain thus had to relinquish its power over some of the areas. The decline of the empire began with the British giving governmental powers to the white colonies. These became self ruling territories and eventually the British colonial masters begun freeing some of their former conquest territories.
By mid 20th century, many of the British colonies had regained back their independence from the British. Instead the Commonwealth program was formed to replace the British rule with a system where locals organized themselves and ruled their own countries. Majority of the African countries were the last to gain independence from the British.
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