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Forces and Interests that Lay Behind English Overseas Expansion

The British Empire covered one-fifth of the globe and ruled 400 million subjects belonging to various religious and ethnic groups. It acted as the “centre of the world” for trade, communications, migrations and naval-military power. In other words, it had become the Empire on which “the sun never set”. 1 The foundation for such exploits was laid in the early modern period, especially the late 16th and 17th centuries. The dynamics within the Empire continually evolved throughout the early modern period. It was also subject to external pressures, such as foreign rivals, wars, revolts and economic change. This essay explores the forces and interests that existed in those times.The history of the British Empire building has its roots in the individual evolutions of the Three Kingdoms – England, Ireland and Scotland. Both England and Scotland were composite monarchies that applied “colonialist principles of settlement, acculturation and economic dependency to civilize its territorial margins and their inhabitants”. They also exhorted overseas adventures into the Atlantic during the early modern period.2England’s reign over diverse annexes of territories during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries provides the first example of empire formation. The inhabitants of these lands were discriminated against and treated to military aggression. Even the indigenous pagan people, considered as barbarians, were coerced to convert to Christianity. So there is sufficient precedence to the British imperialistic endeavors that peaked during the 18th and 19th centuries.To conquer the world, the English first needed a vision of themselves as an imperial nation. This self-image as an independent and omnicompetent country, as well as one with the potential to control other countries and regions of the world, had to precede the acquisition of an empire and so the English needed an imperial ideology before they could begin toconstruct an empire indeed.