The British Empire

1815-1914

Talk on ‘The Expansion of Victoria’s Empire’

When Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 as an eighteen year old, the British Empire was in a period of transition. It's scattered territories covered two million square miles. These territories mainly in the Caribbean and in India existed mainly for trading purposes, to make money for British merchants and to provide British industrialists with the raw materials for their emerging factories and for a market for the products of those factories. By the time Victoria died in 1901, the Empire covered some 12.8 square miles, one fifth of the world and included 60 dependencies and a number of dominions. The Empire by then served not just merchants and industrialists but also settlers, missionaries, explorers, financiers and those wanting work within the Colonial service.


The Empire in 1901 had become the largest empire the world had ever seen and had a lasting impact on not just Britain but vast areas of the world - an impact that remains with us today. As a result of the Empire Britain became a net importer of food and raw materials, and therefore dependant on trade whilst every country that was part of the Empire was affected by it. Boundaries, settlement, economic development, cultural change, legal systems were all affected by the British Empire and debates continue as to the exact nature of the impact of Empire.


This talk looks at how and why the Empire expanded  and to what extent it did so as a result of government policy and to what extent the expansion was the result of a reaction to geo-politics. Salisbury presided over much of this expansion but was he the architect of the expansion?


For more information on the expansion of Victoria’s empire, click here


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