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Asses The Significance Of Economic Reasons Influencing Britain’s Relationship With Its Empire In Africa In The Period 1870 1981?

2296 words - 10 pages

Asses the significance of economic reasons influencing Britain’s relationship with its empire in Africa in the period 1870-1981?

Britain’s relationship with Africa was a very volatile one. By 1914 Britain was able to took control over nearly 30% of Africa’s population and most of African territory (5 million square miles) where under British control. By doing this Britain was able to gain the ‘Lion’s share’ over the other European powers which were competing for control in Africa. On the other hand by the end of the 20th century Britain’s influence in its African empire had shrinked dramatically. The process of colonization which mainly took part between 1870-1914 and decolonisation ...view middle of the document...

” According to this Study published by Hobson, Hobson believed that there was a positive correlation of the discovery of diamonds in 1869 and of gold in 1886 in South Africa and the establishment of the new formal imperialism. Another key factor that led to the colossal change in Britain’s foreign policy concerning the African empire was the fact that by the early 1880s Egypt was facing many problems in the form of bankruptcy and a nationalist revolt. According to Bernard Porter and the “Lion’s share”, the Egyptian situation was extremely worrying for the British as it produced a strong feeling of insecurity. This mainly happened as Britain’s economic interests concerning the Suez Canal where of immense strategic importance as 80% of British traffic of trading ships going to India, the most important colony of Britain, and the Far East passed through there. The British wanted to prevent the French from gaining the upper hand in the Canal and this persuaded the then British Prime Minister Gladstone to order the invasion and conquer of Egypt in 1992. We can understand that the economic interests were of such immense power that, were the main factor in convincing Gladstone which was very reluctant to expand the British Empire at first, but when taking into account that the Prime Minister himself had an economic interest in the form of shares of the Suez Canal lead to the Prime Minister agreeing to the invasion. Therefore some may say that expansion the of British empire were due to private motives of individuals, but nevertheless the main factor of this private motives were economic reasons. In addition, Britain also had significant investments in Egypt that needed to be protected as trade with Egypt was vital for the British economy. What is more according to Hobson’s study another important driver for African expansion were the domestic economic reasons. The unequal distribution of wealth, under consumption and fall in investment encouraged Britain to change its relationship towards Africa in order to protect its own problematic economy. This can be better understood as trade with the empire was vital for the British balance of payments. The British were able to import raw materials from Africa at extremely low prices and export back to Africa as with no tariffs imposed (due to formal imperialism) their products were very attractive for the locals. Therefore this allowed Britain to maintain its position as an important financial nation. All of these information are backed up by P J Marshall where it states that a greatly expanded British Economy referring to the newly conquered colonies would provide a much bigger base for taxation and borrowing thus benefiting the British domestic economy. In addition another fact which proves the importance of economic factors was that the expanding empire could provide abundant land for the British Agriculture to flourish. According to P J Marshall areas such as Trinidad and the area now known as Guyana were...

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