Territorial Expansion


The impression given by looking at a late Victorian map of the world would make the observer believe that Great Britain ruled most of it. The large amount of red, depicting British holdings seemed to cover large swathes of the planet. How much of this land acquisition was for economic reasons? How much for reasons of defence, or ideological reasons, how much for the sake of political advantage?   This essay will discuss what exactly appeared to be the reasons for territorial expansion in the nineteenth century covering not only economic interests but analysing what other factors were relevant and helped to shape the nature of imperialism.   Three aspects will be particularly featured here; firstly, from Block Six, (Nations and Imperialism), Africa and the Victorians and the European Powers and Africa followed by, from Block Four, (Slavery and Freedom),

A conclusion will be put forward regarding the beneficiaries of such territorial expansion as discussed here – was this merely trade that benefitted, or was there some other aspect that outweighed this?   Finally, an answer will emerge following this analysis – to what extent were economic interests the primary motivation for territorial expansion?

Britain, of course was not the only imperial power seeking to acquire territories. France, Belgium and Germany, among others, were all queuing up to take a slice for themselves.   In the later part of the nineteenth century, it was companies and organisations rather than the British government who were increasing their influence overseas, most notably in Africa. Christian missionaries had travelled the length and breadth of Africa bringing a ‘civilising’ religious message, building places of worship, and places of education, whilst explorers had opened up previously unknown lands. Sending reports home to the popular press, whose readership devoured the tales of this land of plenty, brim full of resources waiting to be exploited. No wonder then, that the British...