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Emerging as a union between the British isles create by England the Kingdom of Great Britain blossomed into a global empire in the the 18th century. Britain's supreme naval power allowed her to colonize an annex vast territories, many of which had never been settled by an organized civilization before. At home the world's first factories created manufactured goods from raw materials taken from the wider empire. Empire and industrialization paved the way for the formation of the market economy and with government support private businesses turned Great Britain int the world's largest economy. On the other hand Great Britain's new dominance created unforeseen problems, distant colonial revolts and economic downturn created by market cycle strained Great Britain in the late 1700's.
The vastest of realms- 1800-1850
In 1820 Great Britain already occupied a quarter of the world's territory and boasted the second largest population in the world. Despite internal pressures her success was unmatched. Yet the size and diversity of the empire forced change at home. The voting public demanded greater representation in domestic and imperial policy and merchants increasingly dogged regulations designed to channel profit towards the ruling monarchy. Overseas dependent territories comprising of British settlers also fought for greater representation and autonomy.
To maintain the empire and allow further expansion a series of Liberal leaning prime minsters elected by the middle class ushered reforms to allow more citizens to benefit from the gains of the empire. The right to vote was expanded in Great Britain, overseas territories were permitted to have colonial parliaments while land grants were given to the poor to develop new territories. Taxes and tariffs were momentarily reduced in the first quarter of the 1800's to encourage global empire wide trade.
Previous restrictions on trade with foreign empires were loosened as to allow merchants to buy and sell goods with other empires for the first time. The East India Company remained as a monopoly in British trade and stunted commercial competition until the end of the century
In the first half of the 19th century the reforms created the foundation on which the present day British Empire would survive and that Great Britain itself would continue to profit from her colonial possessions. English British people enjoyed a new found incentive to participate in the empire, English people settled new lands, started businesses and became more literate. Living standards for English citizens rose rapidly often though at the expense of natives and indigenous civilizations overseas. At home emigration to the colonies created labor shortages in industry from which immigrants from within and outside the empire filled. Irish and Slavic neighborhoods became common place in British cities.
During the first half of the nineteenth century that Britain began to invent new technologies that transformed world development this included railroads, repeating rifles, vaccination medicine and the telegram. The change of lifestyle for many people as a result of this new technology was unprecedented, the defining point of the success was based on the distribution of the benefits to the commoners of Britain and overseas English..
The rise of the New Order- Commonwealth 1850-1900
The later half of the 19th century was as much as a time of social change as much as continued technological development. Intra-colonial relations dominated a country which ruled such a large portion of the world. Increasingly Great Britain was threatened by the development of her own colonies in North America, India and Australia which all held the potential to become larger economies than the home country. Great Britain used her position as the security and cultural heart of an empire that outgrew herself. In 1852 The British Empire and Commonwealth was turned into a supranational organization that bounded the empire not just on a colonial basis but a union based on mutual military cooperation and English Culture. Great Britain continued to use the national military to hold the empire together and colonial armies assisted in this goal. Colonies then were directed to anglicize their peoples by building secular education systems that would assimilate both English and non English colonial peoples to the English language and British customs.
The reformation of the British Empire and Commonwealth weakened on paper the absolute dominance of Great Britain but continued to ensure Britain's place as the ruler of her territories. The East India Company and other private companies were nationalized to manage the growing pan British international trade network. The Royal India Company acted as a go between commodity and local based businesses to handle logistics.
The necessity of Great Britain as the country's core remained through the 19th century. The new Anglicization policy created for the first time a global culture in which people were culturally together by the act of a single nation, while certainly empires had existed before none had permitted for all subjects to acclimate to Imperialism like Great Britain. Anglicization cause tension overseas, in the case of the Irish War, subjects from many of the territories interpreted the policy as an infringement of their native way of life. The benefits of such policy did continue to benefit the European subjects while relegating non European subjects to inferior status. At home urban industry exploited the working class many of which were foreign and gave rise to new global ideologies intent on transforming society. Still, Great Britain continued to grow in strength annexing vast swaths of Africa.
The last quarter of the 19th century saw rapid development but more tensions at home. The British public became more educated but divided between rich and poor, this was aggravated by the immigrant population that made 10% of Great Britain's people by 1890 and even more in her colonies . As overseas areas were developed there were less outlets for British people to advance their own interests. Technological development with the global imperial economy continued to accelerate but grew the most in the North American colonies.
The wider British Empire being uniquely inclusive compared to the other empires grew into global hegemony even among multiple empires. Great Britain's foreign policy became not just one of direct self interest but of holding a global order.
The Early 20th Century- Strains and fragile peace
The 1900's began with Great Britain suffering from a severe economic recession after a slump in the London Stock Exchange. After enjoying relative peace for decades the wider empire endured cultural and class warfare. Unemployment, labor strikes at home threatened to bring the economy to a halt. Overseas the growth of nationalism threatened to loosen Britain's grip on the commonwealth
Around the world, the global empires were suffering from the same threats, empires had visibly stretched themselves to their limits. Britain's friends and rivals were suffering fro
m internal dissent, the relations between the coexisting empires deteriorated. The decline of the Ottoman Turk were a lesson of he results of imperial demise. The experience of the Macedonian wars which 20th century weapons were used forewarned the results of what a larger war might mean for the empire Historically Great Britain engineered the institutions on which worldwide empires which remain viable through the present day.
Structural reform and improved diplomatic relations were a necessity. The Athenian conference in 1912 initiated by Britain created the Ministry of Nations a predecessor to the Global Security Conference. Under which eight empires, officially equal to each other met, biyearly or on a call of crisis. Wars, when they occurred were to kept regional, any power which attempted to start a global confrontation would face a war declaration from all other parties. Private Military Alliances customarily in the 19th century were prohibited. Imperial countries were called to assist each other in times of domestic crises, this was the good neighbor system. The War of Ottoman Dismemberment proved to be the first test for the Ministry of Nations which successfully oversaw the breakdown of old Turkish power without igniting a larger war.
To counteract the rise of revolutionaries in public a social welfare system was introduced for the working classes in Great Britain, parliament instructed colonial governments to consider similar measures. The Social Welfare System was designed in mind to improve the productivity of the working class and to give people the means to be stronger consumers. On the a flip side social rights, for Britain's women were put on hold for decades.
As the vast realms of the empire coasted on the new reforms, and the economic growth of the past, the idea of what "The Kingdom of Great Britain" and "The British Empire" began to change. The cultural identity of English culture had successfully disseminated throughout the colonies. Millions of people from the Americas, Asia and Africa were almost as "British" as the British themselves. Widespread understanding of the English language brought the empire together but also weakened direct control London had over the colonies. While little political reform was accomplished these soft changes would echo through the rest of the 20th century.
The "harmonious sun" 1970-1990
Towards a new era 1990-2000
British Antarctic Territory | British Atlantic Territory | British Somaliland | Falkland Islands | Gambia