BRITISH EMPIRE, the name now loosely given to the whole aggregate of territory, the inhabitants of which, under various forms of government, ultimately look to the British crown as the supreme head. The term "empire" is in this connexion obviously used rather for convenience than in any sense equivalent to that of the older or despotic empires of history.
The land surface of the earth is estimated to extend over about 52,500,000 sq. m. Of this area the British empire occupies nearly one-quarter, extending over an area of about 12,000,000 sq. m. By far the greater portion lies within the temperate zones, and is suitable for white settlement. The notable exceptions are the southern half of India and Burma; East, West and Central Africa; the West Indian colonies; the northern portion of Australia; New Guinea, British Borneo and that portion of North America which extends into Arctic regions. The area of the territory of the empire is divided almost equally between the southern and the northern hemispheres, the great divisions of Australasia and South Africa covering between them in the southern hemisphere 5,308,506 sq. m., while the United Kingdom, Canada and India, including the native states, cover between them in the northern hemisphere 5,271,375 sq. m. The alternation of the seasons is thus complete, one-half of the empire enjoying summer, while one-half is in winter. The division of territory between the eastern and western hemispheres is less equal, Canada occupying alone in the western hemisphere 3,653,946 sq. m., while Australasia, South Africa, India and the United Kingdom occupy together in the eastern hemisphere 6,925,975 sq. m. As a matter of fact, however, the eastern portions of Australasia border so nearly upon the western hemisphere that the distribution of day and night throughout the empire is, like the alternations of the seasons, almost complete, one-half enjoying daylight, while the other half is in darkness. These alternations of time and of seasons, combined with the variety of soils and climates, are calculated to have an increasingly important effect upon the material and industrial, as well as upon the social and political developments of the empire. This will become evident in considering the industrial productions of the different divisions, and the harvest seasons which permit the summer produce of one portion of the empire to supply the winter requirements of its other markets, and conversely.
The empire contains or is bounded by some of the highest mountains, the greatest lakes, and the most important rivers of the world. Its climates may be said to include all the known climates of the world; its soils are no less various. In the prairies of central Canada it possesses some of the most valuable wheat-producing land; in the grass lands of the interior of Australia the best pasture country; and in the uplands of South Africa the most valuable gold- and diamond-bearing beds which exist. The United Kingdom at present produces more coal than any other single country except the United States. The effect of climate throughout the empire in modifying the type of the Anglo-Saxon race has as yet received only partial attention, and conclusions regarding it are of a somewhat empiric nature. The general tendency in Canada is held to be towards somewhat smaller size, and a hardy active habit; in Australia to a tall, slight, pale development locally known as "cornstalkers," characterized by considerable nervous and intellectual activity. In New Zealand the type preserves almost exactly the characteristics of the British Isles. The South African, both Dutch and British, is readily recognized by an apparently sun-dried, lank and hard habit of body. In the tropical possessions of the empire, where white settlement does not take place to any considerable extent, the individual alone is affected. The type undergoes no modification. It is to be observed in reference to this interesting aspect of imperial development, that the multiplication and cheapening of channels of communication and means of travel throughout the empire will tend to modify the future accentuation of race difference, while the variety of elements in the vast area occupied should have an important, though as yet not scientifically traced, effect upon the British imperial type.
The white population of the empire reached in 1901 a total of over 53,000,000, or something over one-eighth of its entire population, which, including native races, is estimated at about 400,000,000. The white population includes some French, Dutch and Spanish peoples, but is mainly of Anglo-Saxon race. It is distributed roughly as follows: -
United Kingdom and home dependencies
British North America
Africa (Dutch and British)
West Indies and Bermuda
- - - - -
The native population of the empire includes types of the principal black, yellow and brown races, classing with these the high-type races of the East, which may almost be called white. The native population of India, mainly high type, brown, was returned at the census of 1901 as 294,191,379. The population of India is divided into 118 groups on the basis of language. These may, however, be collected into the following principal groups: -
i. Munda (Kolarian).
(G) Unclassed, e.g. Gipsy.
Ceylon, high type, brown and mixed
Straits Settlements, brown, mixed and Chinese
Hong-Kong, Chinese and brown
North Borneo, mixed brown and Sarawak
- - - - -
Of the various races which inhabit these Eastern dependencies the most important are the 2,000,000 Sinhalese and the 954,000 Tamil that make up the greater part of the population of Ceylon. The rest is made up of Arabs, Malays, Chinese (in the Straits Settlements and Hong-Kong), Dyaks, Eurasians and others.
The West Indies, including the continental colonies of British Guiana and Honduras, and seventeen islands or groups of islands, have a total coloured population of about 1,912,655. The colonies of this group which have the largest coloured populations are: -
Jamaica - Chiefly black, some brown and yellow
Trinidad and Tobago - Black and brown
British Guiana - Black and brown
- - - - -
The populations of the West Indies are very various, being made up largely of imported African negroes. In Jamaica these contribute four-fifths of the population. There are also in the islands a considerable number of imported East Indian coolies and some Chinese. The aboriginal races include American Indians of the mainland and Caribs. With these there has been intermixture of Spanish and Portuguese blood, and many mixed types have appeared. The total European population of this group of colonies amounts to upwards of 80,000, to which 15,000 on account of Bermuda may be added.
Chiefly black, estimated
The aboriginal races of South Africa were the Bushmen and Hottentots. Both these races are rapidly diminishing in numbers, and in British South Africa it is expected that they will in the course of the twentieth century become extinct. Besides these primitive races there are the dark-skinned negroids of Bantu stock, commonly known in their tribal groups as Kaffirs, Zulu, Bechuana and Damara, which are again subdivided into many lesser groups. The Bantu compose the greater part of the native population. There are also in South Africa Malays and Indians and others, who during the last two hundred years have been introduced from Java, Ceylon, Madagascar, Mozambique and India, and by intermarriage with each other and with the natives have produced a hybrid population generally classed together under the heading of the Mixed Races. These are of all colours, varying from yellow to dark brown. The tribes of Central Africa are as yet less known. Many of them exhibit racial characteristics allied to those of the tribes of South Africa, but with in some cases an admixture of Arab blood.
Protectorate - Black and brown:
- Natives (estimated)
- Asiatics (estimated)
Zanzibar - Black and brown
- - - - -
Nigeria (including Lagos) - Black and brown
Gold Coast and hinterland - Chiefly black
Sierra Leone - Chiefly black
Gambia - Chiefly black
- - - - -
From east to west across Africa the aboriginal nations are mostly of the black negroid type, their varieties being only imperfectly known. The tendency of some of the lower negroid types has been to drift towards the west coast, where they still practise cannibalistic and fetish rites. On the east coast are found much higher types approaching to the Christian races of Abyssinia, and from east to west there has been a wide admixture of Arab blood producing a light-brown type. In Uganda and Nigeria a large proportion of the population is Arab and relatively light-skinned.
Australia - Black, very low type
- Chinese and half castes, yellow
New Zealand - Maoris, brown, Chinese and half castes
Fiji - Polynesian, black and brown
Papua - Polynesian, black and brown
- - - -
The native races of Australia and the Polynesian groups of islands are divided into two main types known as the dark and light Polynesian. The dark type, which is black, is of a very low order, and in some of the islands still retains its cannibal habits. The aboriginal tribes of Australia are of a low-class black race, but generally peaceful and inoffensive in their habits. The white Polynesian races are of a very superior type, and exhibit, as in the Maoris of New Zealand, characteristics of a high order. The natives of Papua (New Guinea) are in a very low state of civilization. The estimate given of their numbers is approximate, as no census has been taken.
Indians - Brown
The only coloured native races of Canada are the Red Indians, many in tribal variety, but few in number.
Ceylon and Eastern Colonies
British Central Africa
Australasia and Islands
- - - - - -
This is without taking into account the population of the lesser crown colonies or allowing for the increase likely to be shown by later censuses. Throughout the empire, and notably in the United Kingdom, there is among the white races a considerable sprinkling of Jewish blood.
The latest calculation of the entire population of the world, including a liberal estimate of 650,000,000 for peoples not brought under any census, gives a total of something over 1,500,000,000. The population of the empire may therefore be calculated as amounting to something more than one-fourth of the population of the world.
It is a matter of first importance in the geographical distribution of the empire that the five principal divisions, the United Kingdom, South Africa, India, Australia and Canada are separated from each other by the three great oceans of the world. The distance as usually calculated in nautical miles: from an English port to the Cape of Good Hope is 5840 m.; from the Cape of Good Hope to Bombay is 4610; from Bombay to Melbourne is 5630; from Melbourne to Auckland is 1830; from Auckland to Vancouver is 6210; from Halifax to Liverpool is 2744. From a British port direct to Bombay by way of the Mediterranean it is 6272; from a British port by the same route to Sydney 11,548 m. These great distances have necessitated the acquisition of intermediate ports suitable for coaling stations on the trade routes, and have determined the position of many of the lesser crown colonies which are held simply for military and commercial purposes. Such are the Bermudas, Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, Ceylon, the Straits Settlements, Labuan, Hong-Kong, which complete the chain of connexion on the eastern route, and such on other routes are the lesser West African stations, Ascension, St. Helena, the Mauritius and Seychelles, the Falklands, Tristan da Cunha, and the groups of the western Pacific. Other annexations of the British empire have been rocky islets of the northern Pacific required for the purpose of telegraph stations in connexion with an all-British cable.
For purposes of political administration the empire falls into the three sections of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with the dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man; the Indian empire, consisting of India and the feudatory native states; and the colonial empire, comprising all other colonies and dependencies.
In the modern sense of extension beyond the limits of the United Kingdom the growth of the empire is of comparatively recent date. The Channel Islands became British as a part of the Norman inheritance of William the Conqueror. The Isle of Man, which was for a short time held in conquest by Edward I. and restored, was sold by its titular sovereign to Sir William Scrope, earl of Wiltshire, in 1393, and by his subsequent attainder for high treason and the confiscation of his estates, became a fief of the English crown. It was granted by Henry IV. in 1406 to Sir John Stanley, K.C., ancestor of the earls of Derby, by whom it was held till 1736, when it passed to James Murray, 2nd duke of Atholl, as heir-general of the 10th earl. It was inherited by his daughter Charlotte, wife of the 3rd duke of Atholl, who sold it to the crown for £70,000 and an annuity of £2000. With these exceptions and the nominal possession taken of Newfoundland by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583, all the territorial acquisitions of the empire have been made in the 17th and subsequent centuries.
The following is a list of the British colonies and dependencies (other than those belonging to the Indian empire) together with a summary statement of the date and method of their acquisition. Arranged in chronological order they give some idea of the rate of growth of the empire. The dates are not, however, in all cases those in which British sovereignty was established. They indicate in some instances only the first definite step, such as the building of a fort, the opening of a trading station, or other act, which led later to the incorporation in the empire of the country indicated. In the case of Australian states or Canadian provinces originally part of other states or provinces the date is that, approximately, of the first settlement of British in the district named; e.g. there were British colonists in Saskatchewan in the last half of the 18th century, but the province was not constituted until 1905. Save where otherwise stated, British authority has been continuous from the first date mentioned in the table. Reference should be made to the articles on the various colonies.
Method of Acquisition.
Possession taken by Sir H. Gilbert for the crown.
" A second time in 1816.
" Did not become wholly British until 1713.
" Ceded to France 1632; recovered 1713.
" Finally passed to Great Britain in 1803.
Settlement. Danish forts bought 1850, Dutch forts 1871. Northern Territories added 1897.
Settled by East India Co. Government vested in British crown 1833.
Settlement and conquest.
N.W. Territories of Canada
Settlement under royal charter of Hudson's Bay Co. Purchased from imp. gov. 1869, and transferred to Canada 1870.
Turks and Caicos Is.
Prince Edward Is.
With New Brunswick and Nova
Cession. Afterwards in French possession. Reconquered 1803.
Settlement. Reoccupied 1832.
Settlement. Separation from N.W. Territories of Canada 1905.
1786 to 1824
Settlement and cession. Vested (1858) in crown by E.I. Co. Transferred from Indian to colonial possessions 1867. Malacca in British occupation 1795-1818.
Separated from N. W. Territories of Canada 1905.
New South Wales
Cape of Good Hope
Capitulation. Present limits not attained until 1895. First British occupation 1795-1803.
Settlement by Red River or Selkirk colony. Created province of Canada 1870.
Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
B. Columbia and Vancouver Island
Settlement under Hudson's Bay Co. Entered Canadian confederation 1871.
Settlement. Natal Boers submit 1843.
Separated from New South Wales 1859.
Separated from New South Wales 1851.
Settlement and treaty.
Treaties. Kowloon on the mainland added in 1860; additional area leased 1898.
Cession. Incorporated in Straits Settlements 1906.
Cession. South Nigeria amalgamated with Lagos, under style of Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria 1906.
W. Pacific Islands, including including Union, Ellice, Gilbert, Southern Solomon, and other groups
High commission created by order in council, giving jurisdiction over islands not included in other colonial governments, nor within jurisdiction of other civilized powers. Protectorates declared over all these islands by 1900.
Federated Malay States
Occupied by treaty.
Treaty and settlement under royal charter. Protectorate assumed 1888.
Treaty, conquest and settlement under royal charter. Chartered Co.'s territory transferred to crown, and whole divided into North and South Nigeria 1900.
Occupation and cession. Protectorate declared 1887.
Protectorate declared. Southern portion annexed to Cape Colony 1895.
Annexation. Incorporated in Natal 1897.
British East Africa
Treaty, conquest and settlement under royal charter. Transferred to crown 1895.
Treaty, conquest and settlement under royal charter.
Treaty and protectorate.
Lease from China.
Pacific Islands -
- Christmas, Fanning, Penrhyn, Suvarov
Annexed for purposes of projected Pacific cable.
- Choiseul and Isabel Is. (Solomon Group)
- Tonga and Niué
Orange Free State
Annexation. Formerly British 1848-1854.
Transvaal and Swaziland
Annexation. Formerly British 1877-1881.
Kelantan, Trengganu, etc.
Cession from Siam.
In the Pacific are also Bird Island, Bramble Cay, Cato Island, Cook Islands, Danger Islands, Ducie Island, Dudosa, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Kermadec Islands, Macquarie Island, Manihiki Islands, Nassau Island, Palmerston Island, Palmyra Island, Phoenix Group, Purdy Group, Raine Island, Rakaanga Island, Rotumah Island, Surprise Island, Washington or New York Island, Willis Group and Wreck Reef.
In the Indian Ocean there are, besides the colonies already mentioned, Rodriguez, the Chagos Islands, St Brandon Islands, Amirante Islands, Aldabra, Kuria Muria Islands, Maldive Islands and some other small groups.
In certain dependencies the sovereignty of Great Britain is not absolute. The island of Cyprus is nominally still part of the Turkish empire, but in 1878 was handed over to Great Britain for occupation and administration; Great Britain now making to the Porte on account of the island an annual payment of £5000. The administration is in the hands of an official styled high commissioner, who is invested with the powers usually conferred on a colonial governor. In Zanzibar and other regions of equatorial Africa the native rulers retain considerable powers; in the Far East certain areas are held on lease from China.
Egypt, without forming part of the British empire, came under the military occupation of Great Britain in 1882. "By right of conquest" Great Britain subsequently claimed a share in the administration of the former Sudan provinces of Egypt, and an agreement of the 19th of January 1899 established the joint sovereignty of Great Britain and Egypt over what is now known as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
The Indian section of the empire was acquired during the 17th-19th centuries under a royal charter granted to the East India Company by Queen Elizabeth in 1600. It was transferred to the imperial government in 1858, and Queen Victoria was proclaimed empress under the Royal Titles Act in 1877. The following list gives the dates and method of acquisition of the centres of the main divisions of the Indian empire. They have, in most instances, grown by general process of extension to their present dimensions.
Method of Acquisition.
1639 to 1748
By treaty and subsequent conquest. Fort St George, the foundation of Madras was the first territorial possession of the E.I. Co. in India. It was acquired by treaty with its Indian ruler. Madras was raised into a presidency in 1683; ceded to France 1746; recovered 1748.
1608 to 1685
Treaty and cession. Trade first established 1608. Ceded to British crown by Portugal 1661. Transferred to E.I. Co. 1668. Presidency removed from Surat 1687.
1633 to 1765
Treaty and subsequent conquests. First trade settlement established by treaty at Pipli in Orissa 1633. Erected into presidency by separation from Madras 1681. Virtual sovereignty announced by E.I. Co., as result of conquests of Clive, 1765.
United Provinces of Agra and Oudh
1764 to 1856
By conquests and treaty through successive stages, of which the principal dates were 1801-3-14-15. In 1832 the nominal sovereignty of Delhi, till then retained by the Great Mogul, was resigned into the hands of the E.I. Co. Oudh, of which the conquest may be said to have begun with the battle of Baxar in 1764, was finally annexed in 1856.
By conquest and treaty.
Eastern Bengal and Assam
Conquest and cession. The Bengal portion of the province by separation from Bengal in 1905.
Conquest and cession.
Conquest and annexation. Made into distinct province 1859.
N.-W. Frontier Province
Ajmere and Merwara
By conquest and cession.
Conquest and annexation.
Conquest and treaty.
The following is a list of some of the principal Indian states which are more or less under the control of the British government: -
1. In direct political relations with the governor-general in council.
2. Under the Rajputana agency.
Jaipur (and feudatories).
3. Under the Central Indian agency.
4. Under the Bombay government.
Kolhapur (and dependencies).
5. Under the Madras government.
6. Under the Central Provinces government.
7. Under the Bengal government.
8. Under United Provinces government.
9. Under the Punjab government.
10. Under the government of Burma.
In addition to these there are British tracts known as the Upper Burma frontier and the Burma frontier. There is also a Sphere of British influence in the border of Afghanistan. The state of Nepal, though independent as regards its internal administration, has been since the campaign of 1814-15 in close relations with Great Britain. It is bound to receive a British resident, and its political relations with other states are controlled by the government of India. All these native states have come into relative dependency upon Great Britain as a result of conquest or of treaty consequent upon the annexation of the neighbouring provinces. The settlement of Aden, with its dependencies of Perim and Sokotra Island, forms part of the government of Bombay.
This vast congeries of states, widely different in character, and acquired by many different methods, holds together under the supreme headship of the crown on a generally acknowledged triple principle of self-government, self-support and self-defence. The principle is more fully applied in some parts of the empire than in others; there are some parts which have not yet completed their political evolution; some others in which the principle is temporarily or for special reasons in abeyance; others, again - chiefly those of very small extent, which are held for purposes of the defence or advantage of the whole - to which it is not applicable; but the principle is generally acknowledged as the structural basis upon which the constitution of the empire exists.
In its relation to the empire the home section of the British Isles is distinguished from the others as the place of origin of the British race and the residence of the crown. The history and constitutional development of this portion of the empire will be found fully treated under separate headings. (See England; Wales; Ireland; Scotland; United Kingdom; English History; India; Africa; Australia; Canada; etc.)
It is enough to say that for purposes of administration the Indian empire is divided into nine great provinces and four minor commissionerships. The nine great provinces are presided over by two governors (Bombay and Madras), five lieut.-governors (Bengal, Eastern Bengal and Assam, United Provinces [Agra and Oudh], the Punjab and Burma), a chief commissioner (the Central Provinces) and an agent to the governor-general (the N.-W. Frontier Province). The four minor commissionerships are presided over each by a chief commissioner. Above these the supreme executive authority in India is vested in the viceroy in council. The council consists of six ordinary members besides the existing commander-in-chief. For legislative purposes the governor-general's council is increased by the addition of fifteen members nominated by the crown, and has power under certain restrictions to make laws for India, for British subjects in the native states, and for native Indian subjects of the crown in any part of the world. The administration of the Indian empire in England is carried on by a secretary of state for India assisted by a council of not less than ten members. The expenditure of the revenues is under the control of the secretary in council.
The colonial empire comprises over fifty distinct governments. It is divided into colonies of three classes and dependencies; these, again, are in some instances associated for administrative purposes in federated groups. The three classes of colonies are crown colonies, colonies possessing representative institutions but not responsible government, and colonies possessing representative institutions and responsible government. In crown colonies the crown has entire control of legislation, and the public officers are under the control of the home government. In representative colonies the crown has only a veto on legislation, but the home government retains control of the public officers. In responsible colonies the crown retains a veto upon legislation, but the home government has no control of any public officer except the governor.
In crown colonies - with the exception of Gibraltar and St Helena, where laws may be made by the governor alone - laws are made by the governor with the concurrence of a council nominated by the crown. In some crown colonies, chiefly those acquired by conquest or cession, the authority of this council rests wholly on the crown; in others, chiefly those acquired by settlement, the council is created by the crown under the authority of local or imperial laws. The crown council of Ceylon may be cited as an example of the first kind, and the crown council of Jamaica of the second.
In colonies possessing representative institutions without responsible government, the crown cannot (generally) legislate by order in council, and laws are made by the governor with the concurrence of the legislative body or bodies, one at least of these bodies in cases where a second chamber exists possessing a preponderance of elected representatives. The Bahamas, Barbados, and Bermuda have two legislative bodies - one elected and one nominated by the crown; Malta and the Leeward Islands have but one, which is partly elected and partly nominated.
Under responsible government legislation is carried on by parliamentary means exactly as at home, with a cabinet responsible to parliament, the crown reserving only a right of veto, which is exercised at the discretion of the governor in the case of certain bills. The executive councils in those colonies, designated as at home by parliamentary choice, are appointed by the governor alone, and the other public officers only nominally by the governor on the advice of his executive council.
Colonial governors are classed as governors-general; governors; lieut.-governors; administrators; high commissioners; and commissioners, according to the status of the colony and dependency, or group of colonies and dependencies, over which they preside. Their powers vary according to the position which they occupy. In all cases they represent the crown.
As a consequence of this organization the finance of crown colonies is under the direct control of the imperial government; the finance of representative colonies, though not directly controlled, is usually influenced in important departures by the opinion of the imperial government. In responsible colonies the finance is entirely under local control, and the imperial government is dissociated from either moral or material responsibility for colonial debts.
In federated groups of colonies and dependencies matters which are of common interest to a given number of separate governments are by mutual consent of the federating communities adjudged to the authority of a common government, which, in the case of self-governing colonies, is voluntarily created for the purpose. The associated states form under the federal government one federal body, but the parts retain control of local matters, and exercise all their original rights of government in regard to these. The two great self-governing groups of federated colonies within the empire are the Dominion of Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia. In South Africa unification was preferred to federation, the then self-governing colonies being united in 1910 into one state - the Union of South Africa. India, of which the associated provinces are under the control of the central government, may be given as an example of the practical federation of dependencies. Examples of federated crown colonies and lesser dependencies are to be found in the Leeward Island group of the West Indies and the federated Malay States.
This rough system of self-government for the empire has been evolved not without some strain and friction, by the recognition through the vicissitudes of three hundred years of the value of independent initiative in the development of young countries. Queen Elizabeth's first patent to Sir Walter Raleigh permitted British subjects to accompany him to America, "with guarantee of a continuance of the enjoyment of all the rights which her subjects enjoyed at home."
This guarantee may presumably have been intended at the time only to assure the intending settlers that they should lose no rights of British citizenship at home by taking up their residence in America. Its mutual interpretation in a wider sense, serving at once to establish in the colony rights of citizenship equivalent to those enjoyed in England, and to preserve for the colonist the status of British subject at home and abroad, has formed in application to all succeeding systems of British colonization the unconscious charter of union of the empire.
The first American colonies were settled under royal grants, each with its own constitution. The immense distance in time which in those days separated America from Great Britain secured them from interference by the home authorities. They paid their own most moderate governing expenses, and they contributed largely to their own defence. From the middle of the 17th century their trade was not free, but this was the only restriction from which they suffered. The great war with France in the middle of the 18th century temporarily destroyed this system. That war, which resulted in the conquest of Canada and the delivery of the North American colonies from French antagonism, cost the imperial exchequer £90,000,000. The attempt to avert the repetition of such expenditure by the assertion of a right to tax the colonies through the British parliament led to the one great rupture which has marked the history of the empire. It has to be noted that at home during the latter half of the 17th century and the earlier part of the 18th century parliamentary power had to a great extent taken the place of the divine right of kings. But parliamentary power meant the power of the English people and taxpayers. The struggle which developed itself between the American colonies and the British parliament was in fact a struggle on the part of the people and taxpayers of one portion of the empire to resist the domination of the people and taxpayers of another portion. In this light it may be accepted as having historically established the fundamental axiom of the constitution of the empire, that the crown is the supreme head from which the parts take equal dependence.
The crown requiring advice in the ordinary and constitutional manner receives it in matters of colonial administration from the secretaries of state for the colonies and for India. After the great rupture separate provision in the home government for the administration of colonial affairs was at first judged to be unnecessary, and the "Council of Trade and Plantations," which up to that date had supplied the place now taken by the two offices of the colonies and India, was suppressed in 1782. There was a reaction from the liberal system of colonial self-government, and an attempt was made to govern the colonies simply as dependencies.
In 1791, not long after the extension of the range of parliamentary authority in another portion of the empire, by the creation in 1784 of the Board of Control for India, Pitt made the step forward of granting to Canada representative institutions, of which the home government kept the responsible control. Similar institutions were also given at a later period to Australia and South Africa. But the long peace of the early part of the 19th century was marked by great colonial developments; Australia, Canada and South Africa became important communities. Representative institutions controlled by the home government were insufficient, and they reasserted the claim for liberty to manage their own affairs.
Fully responsible government was granted to Canada in 1840, and gradually extended to the other colonies. In 1854 a separate secretary of state for the colonies was appointed at home, and the colonial office was established on its present footing. In India, as in the colonies, there came with the growing needs of empire a recognition of the true relations of the parts to each other and of the whole to the crown. In 1858, on the complete transference of the territories of the East India Company to the crown, the board of control was abolished, and the India Council, under the presidency of a secretary of state for India, was created. It was especially provided that the members of the council may not sit in parliament.
Thus, although it has not been found practicable in the working of the British constitution to carry out the full theory of the direct and exclusive dependence of colonial possessions on the crown, the theory is recognized as far as possible. It is understood that the principal sections of the empire enjoy equal rights under the crown, and that none is subordinate to another. The intervention of the imperial parliament in colonial affairs is only admitted theoretically in so far as the support of parliament is required by the constitutional advisers of the crown. To bring the practice of the empire into complete harmony with the theory it would be necessary to constitute, for the purpose of advising the crown on imperial affairs, a council in which all important parts of the empire should be represented.
The gradual recognition of the constitutional theory of the British empire, and the assumption by the principal colonies of full self-governing responsibilities, has cleared the way for a movement in favour of a further development which should bring the supreme headship of the empire more into accord with modern ideas.
It was during the period of domination of the "Manchester school," of which the most effective influence in public affairs was exerted for about thirty years, extending from 1845 to 1875, that the fullest development of colonial self-government was attained, the view being generally accepted at that time that self-governing institutions were to be regarded as the preliminary to inevitable separation. A general inclination to withdraw from the acceptance of imperial responsibilities throughout the world gave to foreign nations at the same time an opportunity by which they were not slow to profit, and contributed to the force of a reaction of which the part played by Great Britain in the scramble for Africa marked the culmination. Under the increasing pressure of foreign enterprise, the value of a federation of the empire for purposes of common interest began to be discussed. Imperial federation was openly spoken of in New Zealand as early as 1852. A similar suggestion was officially put forward by the general association of the Australian colonies in London in 1857. The Royal Colonial Institution, of which the motto "United Empire" illustrates its aims, was founded in 1868. First among leading British statesmen to repudiate the old interpretation of colonial self-government as a preliminary to separation, Lord Beaconsfield, in 1872, spoke of the constitutions accorded to the colonies as "part of a great policy of imperial consolidation." In 1875 W. E. Forster, afterwards a member of the Liberal government, made a speech in which he advocated imperial federation as a means by which it might become practicable to "replace dependence by association." The foundation of the Imperial Federation League - in 1884, with Forster for its first president, shortly to be succeeded by Lord Rosebery - marked a distinct step forward. The Colonial Conferences of 1887 and subsequent years (the title being changed to Imperial Conference in 1907), in which colonial opinion was sought and accepted in respect of important questions of imperial organization and defence, and the enthusiastic loyalty displayed by the colonies towards the crown on the occasion of the jubilee manifestations of Queen Victoria's reign, were further indications of progress in the same direction. Coincidently with this development, the achievements of Sir George Goldie and Cecil Rhodes, who, the one in West Africa and the other in South Africa, added between them to the empire in a space of less than twenty years a dominion of greater extent than the whole of British India, followed by the action of a host of distinguished disciples in other parts of the world, effectually stemmed the movement initiated by Cobden and Bright. A tendency which had seemed temporarily to point towards a complacent dissolution of the empire was arrested, and the closing years of the 19th century were marked by a growing disposition to appreciate the value and importance of the unique position which the British empire has created for itself in the world. No stronger demonstration of the reality of imperial union could be needed than that which was afforded by the support given to the imperial forces by the colonies and India in the South African War. It remained only to be seen by what process of evolution the further consolidation of the empire would find expression in the machinery of government. A step in this direction was taken in 1907, when at the Colonial Conference held in London that year it was decided to form a permanent secretariat to deal with the common interests of the self-governing colonies and the mother-country. It was further decided that conferences, to be called in future Imperial Conferences, between the home government and the governments of the self-governing dominions, should be held every four years, and that the prime minister of Great Britain should be ex officio president of the conference. No executive power was, however, conferred upon the conference.
The movement in favour of tariff reform initiated by Mr Chamberlain (q.v.) in 1903 with the double object of giving a preference to colonial goods and of protecting imperial trade by the imposition in certain cases of retaliative duties on foreign goods, was a natural evolution of the imperialist idea, and of the fact that by this time the trade-statistics of the United Kingdom had proved that trade with the colonies was forming an increasingly large proportion of the whole. In spite of the defeat of the Unionist party in England in 1906, and the accession to power of a Liberal government opposed to anything which appeared to be inconsistent with free trade, the movement for colonial preference, based on tariff reform, continued to make headway in the United Kingdom, and was definitely adopted by the Unionist party. And at the Imperial Conference of 1907 it was advocated by all the colonial premiers, who could point to the progress made in their own states towards giving a tariff preference to British goods and to those of one another.
The question of self-government is closely associated with the question of self-support. Plenty of good land and the liberty to manage their own affairs were the causes assigned by Adam Smith for the marked prosperity of the British colonies towards the end of the 18th century. The same causes are still observed to produce the same effects, and it may be pointed out that, since the date of the latest of Adam Smith's writings, upwards of 6,000,000 sq. m. of virgin soil, rich with possibilities of agricultural, pastoral and mineral wealth, have been added to the empire. In the same period the white population has grown from about 12,000,000 to 53,000,000, and the developments of agricultural and industrial machinery have multiplied, almost beyond computation, the powers of productive labour.
It is scarcely possible within this article to deal with so widely varied a subject as that of the productions and industry of the empire. For the purposes of a general statement, it is interesting to observe that concurrently with the acquisition of the vast continental areas during the 19th century, the progress of industrial science in application to means of transport and communication brought about a revolution of the most radical character in the accepted laws of economic development. Railways did away with the old law that the spread of civilization is necessarily governed by facilities for water carriage and is consequently confined to river valleys and sea-shores. Steam and electricity opened to industry the interior of continents previously regarded as unapproachable. The resources of these vast inland spaces which have lain untouched since history began became available to individual enterprise, and over a great portion of the earth's surface were brought within the possessions of the British empire. The production of raw material within the empire increased at a rate which can only be appreciated by a careful study of figures, and by a comparison of the total of these figures with the total figures of the world. The tropical and temperate possessions of the empire include every field of production which can be required for the use of man. There is no main staple of human food which is not grown; there is no material of textile industry which is not produced. The British empire gives occupation to more than one-third of the persons employed in mining and quarrying in the world. It may be interesting, as an indication of the relative position in this respect of the British empire to the world, to state that at present it produces one-third of the coal supply of the world, one-sixth of the wheat supply, and very nearly two-thirds of the gold supply. But while these figures may be taken as in themselves satisfactory, it is far more important to remember that as yet the potential resources of the new lands opened to enterprise have been barely conceived, and their wealth has been little more than scratched. Population as yet has been only very sparsely sprinkled over the surface of many of the areas most suitable for white settlement. In the wheat lands of Canada, the pastoral country of Australasia, and the mineral fields of South Africa and western Canada alone, the undeveloped resources are such as to ensure employment to the labour and satisfaction to the needs of at least as many millions as they now contain thousands of the British race. In respect of this promise of the future the position of the British empire is unique.
It is not too much to say that trade has been at once the most active cause of expansion and the most potent bond of union in the development of the empire. Trade with the tropical and settlement in the temperate regions of the world formed the basis upon which the foundations of the empire were laid. Trading companies founded most of the American and West Indian colonies; a trading company won India; a trading company colonized the north-western districts of Canada; commercial wars during the greater part of the 18th century established the British command of the sea, which rendered the settlement of Australasia possible. The same wars gave Great Britain South Africa, and chartered companies in the 19th century carried the British flag into the interior of the African continent from south and east and west. Trading companies developed Borneo and Fiji. The bonds of prosperous trade have kept the Australasian colonies within the empire. The protection of colonial commerce by the imperial navy is one of the strongest of material links which connect the crown with the outlying possessions of the empire.
The trade of the empire, like the other developments of imperial public life, has been profoundly influenced by the variety of local conditions under which it has flourished. In the early settlement of the North American colonies their trade was left practically free; but by the famous Navigation Act of 1660 the importation and exportation of goods from British colonies were restricted to British ships, of which the master and three-fourths of the mariners were English. This act, of which the intention was to encourage British shipping and to keep the monopoly of British colonial trade for the benefit of British merchants, was followed by many others of a similar nature up to the time of the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 and the introduction of free trade into Great Britain. The Navigation Acts were repealed in 1849. Thus for very nearly two hundred years British trade was subject to restrictions, of which the avowed intention was to curtail the commercial intercourse of the empire with the world. During this period the commercial or mercantile system, of which the fallacies were exposed by the economists of the latter half of the 18th century, continued to govern the principles of British trade. Under this system monopolies were common, and among them few were more important than that of the East India Company. In 1813 the trade of India was, however, thrown open to competition, and in 1846, after the introduction of free trade at home, the principal British colonies which had not yet at that date received the grant of responsible government were specially empowered to abolish differential duties upon foreign trade. A first result of the commercial emancipation of the colonies was the not altogether unnatural rise in the manufacturing centres of the political school known as the Manchester school, which was disposed to question the value to Great Britain of the retention of colonies which were no longer bound to give her the monopoly of their commercial markets. An equally natural desire on the part of the larger colonies to profit by the opportunity which was opened to them of establishing local manufactures of their own, combined with the convenience in new countries of using the customs as an instrument of taxation, led to something like a reciprocal feeling of resentment, and there followed a period during which the policy of Great Britain was to show no consideration for colonial trade, and the policy of the principal colonies was to impose heavy duties upon British trade. By a gradual process of better understanding, largely helped by the development of means of communication, the antagonistic extreme was abandoned, and a tendency towards a system of preferential duties within the empire displayed itself.
At the Colonial Conference held in London in 1887 a proposal was formally submitted by the South African delegate for the establishment within the empire of a preferential system, imposing a duty of 2% upon all foreign goods, the proceeds to be directed to the maintenance of the imperial navy. To this end it was requested that certain treaties with foreign nations which imposed restrictions on the trade of various parts of the empire with each other should be denounced. Some years later, a strong feeling having been manifested in England against any foreign engagement standing in the way of new domestic trade arrangements between a colony and the mother-country, the German and Belgian treaties in question were denounced (1897). Meanwhile, simultaneously with the movement in favour of reciprocal fiscal advantages to be granted within the empire by the many local governments to each other, there was a growth of the perception that an increase of the foreign trade of Great Britain, carried on chiefly in manufactured goods, was accompanied by a corresponding enlargement of the home markets for colonial raw material, and consequently that injury to the foreign trade of Great Britain, while as yet it so largely outweighed the trade between the United Kingdom and the colonies, must necessarily react upon the colonies. This view was definitely expressed at the Colonial Conference at Ottawa in 1894, and was one of the factors which led to the relinquishment of the demand that in return for colonial concessions there should be an imposition on the part of Great Britain of a differential duty upon foreign goods. Canada was the first important British colony to give substantial expression to the new imperial sentiment in commercial matters by the introduction in 1897 of an imperial tariff, granting without any reciprocal advantage a deduction of 25% upon customs duties imposed upon British goods. The same advantage was offered to all British colonies trading with her upon equal terms. In later years the South African states, Australia and New Zealand also granted preferential treatment to British goods. Meanwhile in Great Britain the system of free imports, regarded as "free trade" (though only one-sided free trade), had become the established policy, customs duties being only imposed for purposes of revenue on a few selected articles, and about half the national income was derived from customs and excise. In most of the colonies customs form of necessity one of the important sources of revenue. It is, however, worthy of remark that in the self-governing colonies, even those which are avowedly protectionist, a smaller proportion of the public revenue was derived from customs and excise than was derived from these sources in the United Kingdom. The proportion in Australasia before federation was about one quarter. In Canada it is more difficult to estimate it, as customs and excise form the principal provision made for federal finance, and note must therefore be taken of the separate sources of revenue in the provinces. With these reservations it will still be seen that customs, or, in other words, a tax upon the movements of trade, forms one of the chief sources of imperial revenue.
The development of steam shipping and electricity gave to the movements of trade a stimulus no less remarkable than that given by the introduction of railroads and industrial machinery to production and manufactures. Whereas at the beginning of the 19th century the journey to Australia occupied eight months, and business communications between Sydney and London could not receive answers within the year, at the beginning of the 20th century the journey could be accomplished in thirty-one days, and telegraphic despatches enabled the most important business to be transacted within twenty-four hours. For one cargo carried in the year at the beginning of the 19th century at least six could now be carried by the same ship, and from the point of view of trade the difference of a venture which realizes its profits in two months, as compared with one which occupied a whole year, does not need to be insisted on. The increased rapidity of the voyage and the power of daily communication by telegraph with the most distant markets have introduced a wholly new element into the national trade of the empire, and commercial intercourse between the southern and the northern hemispheres has received a development from the natural alternation of the seasons, of which until quite recent years the value was not even conceived. Fruit, eggs, butter, meat, poultry and other perishable commodities pass in daily increasing quantities between the northern and the southern hemispheres with an alternate flow which contributes to raise in no inconsiderable degree the volume of profitable trade. Thus the butter season of Australasia is from October to March, while the butter season of Ireland and northern Europe is from March to October. In three years after the introduction of ice-chambers into the steamers of the great shipping lines, Victoria and New South Wales built up a yearly butter trade of £1,000,000 with Great Britain without seriously affecting the Irish and Danish markets whence the summer supply is drawn. These facilities, combined with the enormous additions made to the public stock of land and labour, contributed to raise the volume of trade of the empire from a total of less than £100,000,000 in the year 1800 to a total of nearly £1,500,000,000 in 1900. The declared volume of British exports to all parts of the world in 1800 was £38,120,120, and the value of British imports from all parts of the world was £30,570,605; total, £68,690,725. As in those days the colonies were not allowed to trade with any other country this must be taken as representing imperial trade. The exact figures of the trade of India, the colonies, and the United Kingdom for 1900 were: imports, £809,178,209; exports, £657,899,363; total, £1,467,077,572.
A question of sovereign importance to the continued existence of the empire is the question of defence. A country of which the main thoroughfares are the oceans of the world demands in the first instance a strong navy. It has of late years been accepted as a fundamental axiom of defence that the British navy should exceed in strength any reasonable combination of foreign navies which could be brought against it, the accepted formula being the "two-power standard," i.e. a 10% margin over the joint strength of the two next powers. The expense of maintaining such a floating armament must be colossal, and until within the decade 1890-1900 it was borne exclusively by the taxpayers of the United Kingdom. As the benefits of united empire have become more consciously appreciated in the colonies, and the value of the fleet as an insurance for British commerce has been recognized, a desire has manifested itself on the part of the self-governing colonies to contribute towards the formation of a truly imperial navy. In 1895 the Australasian colonies voted a subsidy of £126,000 per annum for the maintenance of an Australasian squadron, and in 1897 the Cape Colony also offered a contribution of £30,000 a year to be used at the discretion of the imperial government for naval purposes. The Australian contribution was in 1902 increased to £240,000, and that of the Cape to £50,000, while Natal voted £35,000 a year and Newfoundland £3000. But apart from these comparatively slight contributions, and the local up-keep of colonial fortifications, - and the beginning in 1908-1909 of an Australian torpedo-boat flotilla provided by the Commonwealth, - the whole cost of the imperial navy, on which ultimately the security of the empire rested, remained to be borne by the taxpayers in the British islands. The extent of this burden was emphasized in 1909 by the revelations as to the increase of the German (and the allied Austrian) fleet. At this crisis in the history of the two-power standard a wave of enthusiasm started in the colonies, resulting in the offer of "Dreadnoughts" from New Zealand and elsewhere; and the British government called an Imperial Conference to consider the whole question afresh.
Land defence, though a secondary branch of the great question of imperial defence, has been intimately connected with the development and internal growth of the empire. In the case of the first settlement of the American colonies they were expected to provide for their own land defence. To some extent in the early part of their career they carried out this expectation, and even on occasion, as in the taking of Louisburg, which was subsequently given back at the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle as the price of the French evacuation of Madras, rendered public service to the empire at large. In India the principle of local self-defence was from the beginning carried into practice by the East India Company. But in America the claim of the French wars proved too heavy for local resources. In 1755 Great Britain intervened with troops sent from home under General Braddock, and up to the outbreak of the American War the cost of the defence of the North American colonies was borne by the imperial exchequer. To meet this expense the imperial parliament took upon itself the right to tax the American colonies. In 1765 a Quartering Act was passed by which 10,000 imperial troops were quartered in the colonies. As a result of the American War which followed and led to the loss of the colonies affected, the imperial authorities accepted the charge of the land defences of the empire, and with the exception of India and the Hudson Bay territories, where the trading companies determined to pay their own expenses, the whole cost of imperial defence was borne, like the cost of the navy, by the taxpayers of the United Kingdom. This condition of affairs lasted till the end of the Napoleonic Wars. During the thirty years' peace which followed there came time for consideration. The fiscal changes which towards the middle of the 19th century gave to the self-governing colonies the command of their own resources very naturally carried with them the consequence that a call should be made on colonial exchequers to provide for their own governing expenses. Of these defence is obviously one of the most essential. Coincidently, therefore, with the movements of free trade at home, the renunciation of what was known as the mercantile system and the accompanying grants of constitutional freedom to the colonies, a movement for the reorganization of imperial defence was set on foot. In the decade which elapsed between 1846 and 1856 the movement as regards the colonies was confined chiefly to calls made upon them to contribute to their own defence by providing barracks, fortifications, etc., for the accommodation of imperial troops, and in some cases paying for the use of troops not strictly required for imperial purposes. In 1857 the Australian colonies agreed to pay the expenses of the imperial garrison quartered in Australia. This was a very wide step from the imperial attempt to tax the American colonies for a similar purpose in the preceding century. Nevertheless, in evidence given before a departmental committee in 1859, it was shown that at that time the colonies of Great Britain were free from almost every obligation of contributing either by personal service or money payment towards their own defence, and that the cost of military expenditure in the colonies in the preceding year had amounted in round figures to £4,000,000. A committee of the House of Commons sat in 1861 to consider the question, and in 1862 it was resolved, without a division, that "colonies exercising the right of self-government ought to undertake the main responsibility of providing for their own internal order and security, and ought to assist in their own external defence." The decision was accepted as the basis of imperial policy. The first effect was the gradual withdrawing of imperial troops from the self-governing colonies, together with the encouragement of the development of local military systems by the loan, when desired, of imperial military experts. A call was also made for larger military contributions from some of the crown colonies. The committee of 1859 had emphasized in its report the fact that the principal dependence of the colonies for defence is necessarily upon the British navy, and in 1865, exactly 100 years after the Quartering Act, which had been the cause of the troubles that led to the independence of the United States, a Colonial Naval Defence Act was passed which gave power to the colonies to provide ships of war, steamers, and volunteers for their own defence, and in case of necessity to place them at the disposal of the crown. In 1868 the Canadian Militia Act gave the fully organized nucleus of a local army to Canada. In the same year the imperial troops were withdrawn from New Zealand, leaving the colonial militia to deal with the native war still in progress. In 1870 the last imperial troops were withdrawn from Australia, and in 1873 it was officially announced that military expenditure in the colonies was almost "wholly for imperial purposes." In 1875 an imperial officer went to Australia to report for the Australian government upon Australian defence. The appointment in 1879 of a royal commission to consider the question of imperial defence, which presented its report in 1882, led to a considerable development and reorganization of the system of imperial fortifications. Coaling stations were also selected with reference to the trade routes. In 1885 rumours of war roused a very strong feeling in connexion with the still unfinished and in many cases unarmed condition of the fortifications recommended by the commission of 1879. Military activity was stimulated throughout the empire, and the Colonial Defence Committee was created to supply a much-felt need for organized direction and advice to colonial administrations acting necessarily in independence of each other. The question of colonial defence was among the most important of the subjects discussed at the colonial conference held in London in 1887, and it was at this conference that the Australasian colonies first agreed to contribute to the expense of their own naval defence. From this date the principle of local responsibility for self-defence has been fully accepted. India has its own native army, and pays for the maintenance within its frontiers of an imperial garrison. Early in the summer of 1899, when hostilities in South Africa appeared to be imminent, the governments of the principal colonies took occasion to express their approval of the South African policy pursued by the imperial government, and offers were made by the governments of India, the Australasian colonies, Canada, Hong-Kong, the Federal Malay states, some of the West African and other colonies, to send contingents for active service in the event of war. On the outbreak of hostilities these offers, on the part of the self-governing colonies, were accepted, and colonial contingents upwards of 30,000 strong were among the most efficient sections of the British fighting force. The manner in which these colonial contingents were raised, their admirable fighting qualities, and the service rendered by them in the field, disclosed altogether new possibilities of military organization within the empire, and in subsequent years the subject continued to engage the attention of the statesmen of the empire. Progress in this field lay chiefly in the increased support given in the colonial states to the separate local movements for self-defence; but in 1909 a scheme was arranged by Mr Haldane, by which the British War Office should co-operate with the colonial governments in providing for the training of officers and an interchange of views on a common military policy.
The important questions of justice, religion and instruction will be found dealt with in detail under the headings of separate sections of the empire. Systems of justice throughout the empire have a close resemblance to each other, and the judicial committee of the privy council, on which the self-governing colonies and India are represented, constitutes a supreme court of appeal (q.v.) for the entire empire. In the matter of religion, while no imperial organization in the strict sense is possible, the progress made by the Lambeth Conferences and otherwise (see Anglican Communion) has done much to bring the work of the Church of England in different parts of the world into a co-operative system. Religion, of which the forms are infinitely varied, is however everywhere free, except in cases where the exercise of religious rites leads to practices foreign to accepted laws of humanity. It is perhaps interesting to state that the number of persons in the empire nominally professing the Christian religion is 58,000,000, of Mahommedans 94,000,000, of Buddhists 12,000,000, of Hindus 208,000,000, of pagans and others 25,000,000. Systems of instruction, of which the aim is generally similar in the white portions of the empire and is directed towards giving to every individual the basis of a liberal education, are governed wholly by local requirements. Native schools are established in all settled communities under British rule.
Literature. - In recent years the subject of British imperialism has inspired a growing literature, and it is only possible here to name a selected number of the more important works which may usefully be consulted on different topics: Sir C.P. Lucas, Historical Geography of the British Colonies (1888, et seq.); H.E. Egerton, Short History of British Colonial Policy (1897); H.J. Mackinder, Britain and the British Seas (1902); Sir J.R. Seeley, Expansion of England (1883); Growth of British Policy (1895); Sir Charles Dilke, Greater Britain (1869), Problems of Greater Britain (1890), The British Empire (1899); G.R. Parkin, Imperial Federation (1892); Sir John Colomb, Imperial Federation, Naval and Military (1886); Sir G.S. Clarke, Imperial Defence (1897); Sidney Goldmann and others, The Empire and the Century (1905); J.L. Garvin, Imperial Reciprocity (1903); J.W. Welsford, The Strength of a Nation (1907); Compatriots Club Essays (1906); Sir H. Jenkyns, British Rule and Jurisdiction beyond the Seas (1902); Bernard Holland, Imperium et libertas (1901); (for an anti-imperialist view) J.A. Hobson, Imperialism (1902). See also the Reports of the various colonial conferences, especially that of the Imperial Conference of 1907; and for trade statistics, J. Holt Schooling's British Trade Book. For the tariff reform movement in England see the articles Free Trade and Protection.
(F. L. L.)
 The census returns for 1901 from the various parts of the empire were condensed for the first time in 1906 into a blue-book under the title of Census of the British Empire, Report with Summary.
 The white population of British South Africa according to the census of 1904 was 1,132,226.
 Or "Board," as it became in 1605.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)