This essay investigates the literature on the expansion of the British Empire. It examines the factors that triggered the industrial revolution: obsession improved agriculture, improved transport, good labor supply and the presence of a pro-business government. According to the literature, expansion of the British Empire into Asia, Australia, America and Africa faced severe challenges including great threats of war like that from Napoleon. The literature notes that economic prowess can have significant effects on the global political control.
The Expansion of the British Empire the Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution affected both the European working class and the European middle class. This marked a break from an era where people lived on their farms, had their hand crafted goods made at home and their power supply entirely of human and animal sources. This radical change was attributed to improved agriculture, advancement in technology, adequate supply of raw materials, improved transport and good labor supply. In the 18th century, for instance, manufacture of cotton in England was transformed by series of inventions, giving rise to a completely new mode of production as the factory system. However, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries the revolution did not just change the production capacity of Europe, the United States and England, but it also transformed these societies down to their very roots (Feinstein, 1998).
The British Empire’s grip of the global dominance was considerably shaken after the loss of the Thirteen American Colonies. This caused Britain to shift their attention from America to Asia, the Pacific and later to Africa. As a matter of fact, America had provided an ideal location to transport thousands of convicts as the penalty for criminal offenders in Britain. With such a loss, attention shifted immediately to the Pacific area and particularly Australia. This was the period between 1783 and 1840 that saw the new colony of Australia become extremely profitable exporter of wool and gold. In the end, the real effects of this trade was felt everywhere across Australia with its capital Melbourne becoming the richest city after London in the British Empire (Daunton, 1995).
This spread of tentacles saw the creation of the East India Company to drive the expansion of the British Empire in Asia. To effectively address this, at first the British Army had joined its troops with the Royal Navy at the Seven Years’ War. The two military powerhouses go on cooperating in other arenas outside Asian with considerable success of this cooperation being the exile of Napoleon from Egypt and the capture of Java from the Netherlands (Bordo, and White, 1991). To this end, Britain got the perfect opportunity to engage in an increasingly profitable trade of opium with China. This trade served a great deal to reverse the economic imbalances that had seen serious outflows of silver from Britain to China (Daunton, 1995).
The period between 1815 and 1914 marked what is popularly known as Britain’s Imperial Century. The British rule dominated the world unchallenged for all this period. Their victory over Napoleon had left them with no significant rival except for Russia. (Bordo, and White, 1991). Due to this, they adopted a role of a global policeman, controlling the economies of other countries like China, Argentina and Siram. By the end of this period, roughly 400 million people had been added to British Empire and adoption of new communication technologies had taken root (Kaukiainen, 2001).
Back in Britain, a stable economic system was credited for all this success. The new national monarchies had created a reliable atmosphere for the industrial revolution. Besides this, the emergence of gold and silver in the new world had more than doubled the European prices in less than a century. This stimulated activity and eventually gave the wealthy class more money to invest in new ideas. This coupled with the Capitalism of Adam Smith that gave people desire to further the industrialization leading to a competition that created the economic boom (Feinstein, 1998).
Essentially, the rapid expansion of the British Empire to America, Asia, the Pacific and Africa was triggered by a variety of new inventions like technology, education, mining, improved transport and better agricultural practices. The overall success was crowned by the fact that the British Empire already had significant control of the world and enjoyed good labor supply, reliable source of raw materials and wider market for their industrial commodities. In addition, their prowess was marked with the emergence of private banking and modern banking facilities like the State Bank and the promissory notes (Daunton, 1995).