The foundation of the British Empire was when England and Scotland were separate kingdoms. The Brits were a sea-faring nation and were key players in the voyages of discovery of the 15th century onwards. As land was discovered it was claimed for the crown, as in this case; Australia, New Zealand and parts of Africa – although they ended up having to fight for territory in the Boer War. They lost the American colonies after a tea party in Boston. India was a slightly different case as it was colonized by the East India Company, a private commercial concern, but eventually the expanding British Empire took it over as part of the empire.
The main reason why Britain chose to create an empire was because at the time that the empire began, the riches of the world were up for grabs – gold and diamond mines, slaves, ivory, tea and coffee, silk, anything the fashion required. In most cases Britain got there first and was able to get everything and anything they wanted. However, other countries (who were not part of the empire) soon began trading and shipping which also began causing trouble. Overall there are as many negative reasons of having an empire as much as there is positive. That is why I will be evaluating whether having an empire was good or bad.
Starting with the positive points, one is that just by having an empire was a huge advantage as Britain could easily trade with its colonies like India for cotton and tea, with Jamaica for tobacco, etc. Buying primary products for cheap and selling the tertiary product for a far higher price back to the same countries meant that they earn money to spend on improving the military forces, the navy, the government and other necessary things. Britain’s Empire covered one quarter of the land on the whole globe and one fifth of the world’s population.
Some of Britain’s many colonies were India, Canada, Australia, Jamaica, about a third of Africa and many others. This made it really hard to fight back against the British because they had powerful armies made up of soldiers throughout the world. Britain was extremely proud of its empire and enjoyed the fact that it made the country very important internationally. The leader of Germany for example was very impressed by the British Empire and wanted to make Germany more like Britain. This is an advantage because the other countries took Britain seriously and treated it with respect because of its Empire.
However, the negative points are as just important as the positive. As Britain was a demanding country and many British people felt they were superior to most other races. They felt they had a right to rule over other people, such as the hundreds and millions of people living in India. This meant that there was a constant threat that a country could decide to fight for its independence. Another negative point was that other countries, particularly Germany, were jealous of the Empire and by 1910 there was a growing threat that Britain would be forced to go to war to defend its empire.
That would disrupt the main benefit of empire: being able to make a large profit from trading. Overall I think the British Empire was a good thing and affected the world in a good way; brought medicine, a democratic parliamentary system of government, law and order to the countries that needed it the most, as we can see today most countries that Britain has ruled over, are more developed than others for example in India, Britain created the railway which today without it, people would have poorer lives as they wouldn’t be able to get around to buy the most simple things like food in the nearest city as there is a lot of rural areas.
The British created a strong bond with Australia, the laws are still very similar today, they drive on the left side of the road and brought rabbits to Australia; however they caused a massive deforestation they cut down nearly half of New South Wales’s trees and drove the Tasmanian tiger to extinction. The British had also created a lasting effect in Jamaica; it had successfully maintained the sugar plantations even after slavery was abolished in 1838.