The British Empire 
                                                              1815-1914

The Territories of the Empire:

Jamaica - Uganda

Jamaica: the island  was seized from Spain in 1655. Its  status was confirmed by the Treaty of Madrid in 1670 and quickly became a sugar producing island as well as being used by pirates and buccaneers. Sit Thomas Modyford was the island's first governor in 1661 being sent from Barbados and taking with him a thousand  settlers. As early as 1670 there were 57 plantations  and by 1780 more than a thousand  sugar plantations. Later coffee and rum became important exports. Slow progress towards emancipation of the slaves led to the Baptist War revolt in 1831but when  slavery was abolished there was economic chaos and a slump in sugar production. In October 1865 following years of exploitation of the ex-slave community the Morant Bay rising occurred with the brutal repression of Governor Eyre during which 439 black people were executed and 1000 homes burned. The Governor was subsequently exonerated of any charge of wrongdoing.


Kenya: The coast of Kenya has a history of association with traders going back to the c10th. Vasco da Gama visited in 1498 and Portuguese traders established posts from 1505. Trading communities were also established by Arabs from Oman. The inland was left undisturbed until the coming of missionaries in 1848 and the opening up of farmland by the British East Africa Company from 1888. In 1895 a protectorate was established which led to a steady flow of settlers and the construction of the Uganda railway from Mombasa to Lake Victoria. The protectorate did not become a Crown Colony until 1920.


Kuwait: in 1899 the emirate became a British Protectorate which gave the Amir increased protection against encroachment from the Turks.


Malaya: The East India Company first established a presence in the Straits before in 1896 a British Protectorate was established.


Maldives: an archipelago of 2,000 coral islands which were taken under British Protection in 1887 and administered from Ceylon.


Malta: In 1802 during the Napoleonic Wars, the Maltese people asked for British protection and for their civil and religious rights to be acknowledged. The islands (of Malta and Gozo) were formally annexed in 1814 and Grand Harbour, Valetta, became an important base for the Mediterranean fleet until 1979. During WW1, the island became a hospital base for the invasion of Gallipoli.


Manitoba: the easternmost of Canada's prairie provinces. It became British following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, being run by the Hudson Bay Company, until in 1870 a small area around Winnipeg was transferred to the new Dominion in response to the uprising by the Metis in the Red River colony. Garnet Wolseley was sent to quell the uprising.


Mashonaland: an area in the north east of Zimbabwe which from 1889 to 1923 was administered by the British South African Company before becoming part of Southern Rhodesia.


Matabeleland: the home of the Ndebele people during the scramble for Africa. Their king, Lobengula granted to Cecil Rhodes the right to develop the area's minerals. The Ndebele rose up against the British in 1893, but the uprising was put down by Rhodes.


Mauritius: Martinique was seized by the Royal Navy in 1810 and then formally annexed in 1814 at the Treaty of Paris, becoming a Crown Colony with an important naval base. The island's economy was based on sugar production and following the abolition of slavery indentured workers from India were brought in to supply labour to the industry.


Natal: a coastal settlement was established in 1824, mainly for hunters. In 1835 the town of Durban was founded (named after D'Urban, Governor of the Cape Province). Meanwhile forty miles inland the Boers established a capital for their settlers who had come from the Cape Province during the Great Trek. The Boers called their settlement Natalia but in 1843 this was annexed by the British and joined to Cape Province. In 1856 the separate colony of Natal was established. There was an important sugar industry which led to the importation of indentured labour from India. Bartle Frere was sent to South Africa in 1877 to attempt to create a federation of the various white settler colonies but only succeeded in creating an uprising of the Zulu nation and the debacle of Isandhlwana. Boer troops entered Natal during the First Boer War, defeating British forces at Majuba Hill in 1881 and then again during the Second Boer War in 1899 when they laid siege to Ladysmith and held up Buller's relief force at Colenso defeating them in a number of engagements including at Spion Kop.


New Brunswick: a Canadian maritime province that was granted to Britain by the French at the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Responsible government came in 1848 and in 1868 the area became part of the dominion of Canada.


Newfoundland: British claims to the territory went back to the reign of Henry VIII. A governor was appointed in 1729 and settlement increased throughout the 18th century. Self government was granted in 1855 but it was decided not to join the Canadian federation.


New South Wales: Cook discovered Botany Bay in 1770 and the botanist  Joseph Banks urged the government to use one of its harbours as a penal colony. With the independence of the American colonies it became urgent to find  another penal colony so Banks' suggestion was a timely one  for the government. The first penal colony was established in 1788 in Botany Bay when the first fleet of eleven ships arrived.  Officials hoped that penal servitude would be not only be  a check on crime but would  in time lead to the reform of criminals by making them  the basis of a new colony. The first governor of the colony was Captain Arthur Philip - he had with him male and female convicts, soldiers, free settlers and officials - and having anchored off Botany Bay decided on a better location for his ships, a nearby bay which became Sydney Harbour. Within twenty years the population of the colony had risen to 38,000 and the economy was sound, although free settlers continued to  be scarce. Sheep, introduced in 1797,  had  become the most important part of the economy with over 300,000 sheep producing 10 million pounds in exports by 1830. Penal transportation continued until 1840 by which time 80,000 inhabitants had come as convicts compared to 70,000 free  settlers. A nominated  legislature was set up in  1823 followed by a partially  elected one in 1843. Federation of the Australian colonies came in 1901.


New Zealand: the islands were visited by whalers, sealers and timber traders from the 1790s. The first Christian mission was established in the Bay of Plenty in 1814 before Wakefield and the New Zealand Company brought large scale emigration to the islands in the 1830s. To head off a possible French interest in the islands, in 1840 Captain William Hobson was sent to establish British sovereignty and sign a treaty with the local Maoris (1840 Treaty of Waitangi). A separate colony was established in 1841 and much of the early development of towns was through the New Zealand Company. In 1852 a quasi federal structure was created by Governor Grey, with self government following in 1856. The economy of the islands became to be based on wool and with the coming of refrigeration in the 1880s, exports of meat began and became a major industry.


Nigeria: earliest British involvement began with the taking of  Lagos in 1851 for use as a naval  base for the squadron involved in stopping the slave trade. The territory was administered from Sierra  Leone initially until a separate colony was  established in 1886. The government reluctantly established the crown colony only after French and German interest in the palm oil trade. At the same time the Royal Niger Company negotiated treaties with many inland tribal leaders until in 1900 all of the Company's land was passed over to  the British government which established the protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. The name was suggested by Flora Shaw, colonial editor of the Times.


Nyasaland: became a British protectorate in 1891.


St Helena: this island in the middle of the South Atlantic was claimed by the Dutch but annexed by the East India Company in 1651. The British government assumed full responsibility in 1834 and it was  to St Helena that Napoleon was sent in 1815, and where he  died in 1821.


Rhodesia, Southern: following the movement up the Zambezi by missionaries and traders, Cecil Rhodes believed there was the possibility of gold being mined, and in 1890 settlers under the British South Africa Company moved north from Bechuanaland into the lands of the Mashona, Matabele and Ndebele. There followed constant fighting until the lands of the local people were confiscated after 1896. In 1911 the lands of the British South Africa Company were divided administratively into Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia with the Zambezi as the border.


Northern Rhodesia:The British South Africa Company acquired rights in the area when they signed an agreement with the leader of the Barotse people in 1891. Various territories were amalgamated by the Company into Northern Rhodesia in 1911 but the territory was dependant to a large degree on the policies decided in Salisbury, capital of Southern Rhodesia.


Sierra Leone: was associated with the slave trade from 1562 and later used by the Royal African Company. The spread of ideas on the emancipation of slaves led to the creation of the Sierra Leone Company in  1790 which bought land and founded Freetown as a  settlement for 60 Europeans and 400 freed slaves, mainly from Bristol and other British  ports. The Church Missionary Society became involved with the territory which was taken over by the government in 1807 after which it became a crown colony.


Trinidad: an island captured from the Spanish in 1797 and ceded to Britain in 1802 along with Tobago. The two islands became a joint colony in 1888.


Uganda: the accession of a weak ruler to the area of Buganda brought a breakdown in law and order and threatened the safety of existing missionaries. To stabalise the area and prevent  German interest the Imperial East Africa Company sent Frederick Lugard to negotiate a treaty with the Kabaka (ruler). Lugard was eventually successful in negotiating a treaty with the Kabaka and then when he returned to the UK persuaded the authorities to make  Uganda a protectorate. The Protectorate was declared in June 1894.



Australia c1850

Crossing a drift in Natal c1870

Grand Harbour, Malta c1800

Jamaica c1820

Northern and Southern Rhodesia

Nigeria