There’s a lot of debate about what constitutes the first British empire but I would see it as beginning in the 16th century when the English started going across the Atlantic and lasting until around 1807 with the end of the British slave trade. Partly, I suspect, because of current interests in racial politics, there can often be an unexamined belief that somehow the empire was about white Britons governing non-white people outside of Europe. Again, the British Library is the best place to look. So the trading companies that went on to become the plantation colonies were financed by merchants. Certain employment groups benefited particularly from British expansion, among them those in the marine industries that supported empire. Required fields are marked *. 2. The 1860 Beijing treaty, concluding the second Opium War, finally forced the legalisation of the drug in China. Whenever you had mines established around the empire, it was often Welsh or Cornish who inhabited them. It’s only now that this view is being reassessed and historians are beginning to investigate the variety of ways in which the end of empire may have affected the home country. The purpose of a dissertation proposal is to provide a glimpse of your complete paper. Topics View all Topics Kings and queens . Try searching key terms in the relevant catalogues: British Library Manuscript Catalogue (particularly for … Jamaica’s Morant Bay Rebellion: brutality and outrage in the British empire, El Alamein: The British empire’s last hurrah, The battle of Rorke’s Drift: a symbol of empire. For example, the British empire was still an Atlantic empire after the War of Independence, with lots of colonisation in Canada. To assume that everything the British did was damaging is incorrect. A sense of a common British identity was very strong in the later 19th century, particularly among people of British origin in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and English-speaking South Africa. They never fully amalgamated into something called Britishness. Peter Marshall is the author of Remaking the British Atlantic: The United States and the British Empire after American Independence (OUP, 2012), Answered by Dr Sarah Stockwell, King’s College London. Huw Bowen is editor of Wales and the British Overseas Empire: Interactions and Influences, 1650–1830 (Manchester University Press, 2011), Answered by Professor Peter Marshall, King’s College London. But you can be more specific than that and say, for example, that parts of the West Country derived sustained benefit for its flagging wool-textile industry through bulk exports to the subcontinent. It used to be the prevailing view that the American revolution was a dividing line between the so-called first and second British empires. Jeremy Paxman’s Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British is published by Viking (2011), Answered by Professor Linda Colley, Princeton University. Another dimension of the end of empire just beginning to receive attention is that of its effects on the large number of Britons who were employed in the colonies. I’m interested in India, whose historians have been unable to quantify the ‘drain of wealth’ from the subcontinent with any degree of certainty. They are seen as the start of a long-standing, ongoing western conspiracy to undermine the country. In the late 19th century in New Zealand there was almost complete democracy for white people – much greater democracy than in Britain itself – but in large parts of Africa democracy was a distant dream. Thank you for subscribing to HistoryExtra, you now have unlimited access. That is why 1807 was such a watershed for the British empire, because it changed that old symbiotic relationship between the state and the merchants. Obviously the demographic majority was English and generally it was English administrative systems and English common law that was reproduced around the empire. You can unsubscribe at any time. As 3 rd-year students scramble to finish their dissertations and as 2 nd-year students begin formulating topics for their own, it’s worth noting the dramatic expansion in the availability of sources for the study of modern British and British imperial history in recent years. But identifying specifically where and who benefitted from the empire has proved to be difficult. By entering your details, you are agreeing to HistoryExtra terms and conditions. The extension of settlement, including the effects of contact between European settlers in Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples. There were different views of what being British or English meant and the Americans often felt that they were better freeborn Englishmen than the British themselves. It is, however, doubtful whether the mass of British people ever felt much sense of common identity. You may wish to use these as a starting point to develop your own topic. Transformation of the medical practice in Britain over the ages. It contributed to Britain’s initial decision not to join the European Economic Community at its foundation in 1957, while some British businesses also remained focused on traditional markets that were increasingly less important to the country than those in Europe. Similarly, there are ways in which the US remained economically and culturally dependent on the empire for much of the 19th century. They colonised on behalf of the state. Select a topic which interests you. A number of the significant generals within the empire were Anglo-Irish figures. The quality of authority was always highly variegated. But the passive participants in empire – the stay-at-homes who invested in overseas enterprise – derived benefit from imperial expansion in a broader sense. In addition, you are going to have a big advantage over other students, since you will be getting outside help. The best dissertations are often grounded in manuscript sources. British loans to India secured a handsome return in interest, and Indian taxes and revenue paid for the salaries and pensions of the British administration there. To help you get an idea on interesting dissertation topics on history, here are some outstanding topic ideas on British History brought to you by awesome writers from WritingJobz.com –. The following archives hold the majority of core material related to the history of the British Empire. India was of prime importance to the British economy. The fact that we find ourselves living in a union is partly a consequence of an empire. Love during the time of Queen Victoria – a study of class, gender and sexuality. But even if Britain has done its best to forget its opium-trading past, this is a history that has resonances for global politics today. These were often faced with a situation of either adapting or losing significant areas of their business. There was however an uneven distribution across Britain. As opposed to, say, Spain or Portugal, Britain was rather late at getting into the Atlantic world and by the time we had arrived all the gold and silver, valued as representative of a nation’s comparative wealth, had pretty much been taken up by the Iberian powers.