Essay on The Rise of Empire: British Imperialism

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The word 'Empire’ which was derived from the Latin word 'imperium', when first used in the English language, meant independence. It was under the rule of King Henry VIII that England was called an Empire which affirmed its 'spiritual and temporal independence'. (1) Imperialism, on the other hand, means 'the rule of the Empire'. But this is a simplistic understanding of the term, devoid of its complex layers of meaning given to it by historical events. The term 'colonialism' works to provide a better picture of the weight 'imperialism' holds in our times. Ania Loomba develops the OED definition of the word colonialism from an innocuous 'settlement' to the more insidious - 'the conquest and control of other people's land and goods.'(2) The …show more content…
One notices that tracing the exact roots of British imperialism is a daunting task given the varied developments scattered over almost two centuries. Sir Lucas helps resolve matters when he says-

"The English had their age of discovery, adventure, and privateering, and after the glamour was over, there came a prosaic time in the seventeenth century when settlement began and grew as a sober matter of business."(5)

The above quote not only helps in situating colonial settlement in somewhat exact historical framework, but also gives the motivation behind these settlements. The men who looked to improve their fortunes joined the colonial bandwagon. The success that the British were enjoying in their endeavours were visible in the list of territories under their control. By the 17th century the British had taken over various regions in America along with Spanish colonies such as St.Kitts, Barbados et cetera. In these colonies, constituting the present day West Indies, the British invested in sugar plantations. Since sugar crops required cheap labour the British entered into slave trade as well, bringing slaves from West Africa. Gradually the slaves were employed in the cotton plantations in Southern America ensuring more profits for the imperial masters. It was as a result of these and many such conquests that Britain became the leading industrial nation in the world by the end of the 18th
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