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The History of British Empire

Overseas territories linked to Great Britain in a variety of constitutional relationships, established over a period of three centuries. The establishment of the empire resulted primarily from commercial and political motives and emigration movements, its long endurance resulted from British command of the seas and preeminence in international commerce, and from the flexibility of British rule. At its height (à son apogee) in the late 19th and early 20th cent., the empire included territories on all continents, comprising about one quarter of the world’s population and area. Probably the outstanding impact (l’impact majeur) of the British Empire has been the dissemination of European ideas, particularly of British political institutions and of English as a lingua franca, throughout a large part of the world.

The First Empire
The origins of the empire date from the late 16th cent. with the private commercial ventures, chartered (franchisées) and encouraged by the crown, of chartered companies. These companies sometimes had certain powers of political control as well as commercial monopolies over designated geographical areas. Usually they began by setting up fortified trading posts (établir des comptoirs commerciaux fortifiés)  but where no strong indigenous government existed the English gradually extended their powers over the surrounding area. In this way scattered posts (des comptoirs disséminés) were established in India and the East Indies (for spices (des épices), coffee, and tea), defying Portuguese and later Dutch hegemony, and in Newfoundland (for fish) and Hudson Bay (for furs), where the main adversaries were the French.

In the 17th cent. European demand for sugar and tobacco led to the growth of plantations on the islands of the Caribbean and in SE North America. These colonies, together with those established by Roman Catholics and Protestant dissenters in NE North America, attracted a considerable and diversified influx of European settlers (colons). Organized by chartered companies, the colonies soon developed representative institutions, evolving from the company governing body and modeled on English lines.The need for cheap labor to work the plantations fostered (généra) the growth of the African slave trade (commerce esclavagiste). New chartered companies secured posts on the African coasts (côtes) as markets for captured slaves from the interior. An integrated imperial trade arose, involving the exchange of African slaves for West Indian molasses and sugar, English cloth and manufactured goods, and American fish and timber (bois de construction). To achieve the imperial self-sufficiency (auto-suffisance) required by prevailing theories of mercantilism and, more immediately, to increase British wealth and naval strength, the Navigation Acts were passed, restricting colonial trade exclusively to British ships and making England the sole market for important colonial products.

Developments in the late 17th and early 18th cent. were characterized by a weakening of the Spanish and Dutch empires, exposing their territories to British encroachment (installation, annexion), and by growing Anglo-French rivalry in India, Canada, and Africa. At this time the British government attempted to assert (affirmer) greater direct control over the expanding empire. The success of the American Revolution marked the end of the first British Empire.

The Second Empire
The voyages of Capt. James Cook to Australia and New Zealand in the 1770s and new conquests in India after 1763 opened a second phase of territorial expansion. The victories of the Napoleon Wars added further possessions to the empire, among them Cape Colony, Mauritius, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, British Guiana (Guyana), and Malta. During the second empire mercantilist ideals and regulations were gradually abandoned in response to economic and political developments in Great Britain early in the 19th cent. Britain’s new industrial supremacy lent (conférait) greater force to doctrines of free trade, which, as part of their critique of mercantilism, questioned the economic value of political ties (liens politiques) between the colonies and the mother country. The plight (situation) of large nonwhite populations within the empire became a matter of concern to humanitarians. Abolition of the slave trade (1807) and of slavery (1833) was accompanied in the colonies by efforts to improve the lot of indigenous groups. Better communications and the establishment of a regular civil service facilitated the development of a more efficient colonial administration. A trend of opinion (courant d’opinion) in Britain favoring colonial self-government, made the British, now engaged in liberalizing their own governing institutions, willing to concede certain powers of self-government to the white colonies. The British North America Act of 1867 inaugurated a pattern of devolution (une série de dévolutions)  followed in most of the European-settled colonies by which Parliament gradually surrendered its direct governing powers; thus Australia and New Zealand followed Canada in becoming self-governing dominions. On the other hand, the British assumed greater responsibility in Africa and in India, where the Indian Mutiny had resulted (1858) in the final transfer of power from the East India Company to the British government. In the later decades of the 19th century there occurred a revival of European competition for empire in which the British acquired or consolidated vast holdings in Africa–such as Nigeria, the Gold Coast (later Ghana), Rhodesia (Zambia and Zimbabwe), South Africa, and Egypt–and in Asia–such as Burma (Myanmar) and Malaya.

The size and wealth of the empire and the anxieties produced by European colonial competition stimulated a desire for imperial solidarity. The Imperial Conference, begun in 1887, represented an attempt to strengthen Britain’s ties with those colonies that had become self-governing territories.

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BRITISHEMPIRE

3 Répondez aux questions suivantes:

Comment dit-on :

l’équipage d’un bateau          ………………………….

Etre acheminé vers                 ………………………….

Un comptoit commercial        ………………………….

Le commerce d’esclaves        ………………………….

Des mantières premières        ………………………….

Quel était le but des actes de navigation ?

Dans la fresque murale de l’East India Company, quel animal symbolise l’Angleterre ? Quel est le fleuve représenté ? Quelle image des colonies donne cette peinture ?

Dans The Secret of England’s Greatness, comment les relations de pouvoir sont-elles représentées ?

Selon Linda Colley, quelle couleur symbolise l’Angleterre sur les cartes de l’empire ? Pourquoi ?

Sur la carte de 1905 pourquoi l’Australie apparaît deux fois ?

Dans la toile de Zoffany, représentant le Colonel Mordaunt, comment les couleurs sont-elles utilisées ? A quoi pouvait servir une telle oeuvre ?

Dans l’aquarelle représentant la cérémonie d’Ayudha Puja, comment l’autorité anglais est-elle représentée ?

Dans la carte de Fullarton, de 1872, comment les éléments décoratifs sont répartis ? Comment les peuples colonisés sont représentés ?

Write a 15 line long commentary of M.P. Formerly 1886 illustrated map.