Causes for the Decline of the British Empire
There were several causes for the decline of the British Empire. The British Empire is considered as the first genuinely worldwide dependencies system. This system comprised of protectorates, colonies and other territories spanning for about three centuries under sovereignty of the Great Britain’s crown and the British government’s administration. Although this empire had dominion in many parts of the world, it has been declining since the end of the Second World War. Several factors have been attributed to the decline or fall of this empire.
What were the major causes for the decline of the British Empire?
Some of the major factors that led to the decline of the British Empire include:
- Economic downfall
With the expanding territory, the British Empire had increasing military expenditure because it had to fund wars with the colonial rivals mainly France, Holland and Spain. The money that Britain generated from its colonies was used in military expenditure. British Empire also added harsh laws while imposing taxes, controlling exports and restricting routes of trade and this made life difficult in the colonies. This led to the emergence of independence wars. Many colonies started revolting against the British Empire. Between 1897 and 1907, British fortunes were hit by a high tide at the time of the imperial conquest. An example of this was the Boer War in South Africa that was fought between 1899 and 1902. This was a longer and costlier war.
This was also another cause of the decline of the British Empire. Mercantilism was an economic system that was practiced in Europe between 16th and 18th century. It refers to economic nationalism whose aim is to build a powerful and wealthy state. The goal of this system is to increase the wealth of the state by imposing harsh regulations on commerce. The British Empire imposed these regulations for the interest of the Empire. This approach however led to stagnation of the economy because colonies were interested in exporting without importing. Consequently, there were revolts as colonies were against this notion and they wanted free trade. For instance, America was one of the colonies that wanted free trade.
- Triangular trade
This was the trade in the routes that linked American colonies, England and Africa. This trade increased the slave and merchant population. A wealthy class also emerged and this dominated politics and trade in the colonies. Eventually, goods smuggling from the colonies started. Harsher laws and capital punishment were enforced to counter this act. This increased anger among the wealthier individuals leading to revolution and independence wars in America and other colonies.
When did the causes of the decline of the British Empire become apparent?
The decline of the British Empire due to these and other factors became apparent after the Second World War. This was the time when the British Empire was no longer able to fund the administration of a quarter of the global population that it had in its colonies. Although in several wars the British Empire had been victorious, it was facing many conflicts abroad and even at home. After the Second World War, the entire Europe was in ruins. Power was transferred from rivals in Europe to the Soviet Union and the United States which emerged as superpowers. Additionally, the British Empire realized that some colonies deserved and were capable of governing themselves. This is because the Empire could no longer keep these colonies quiet by telling them that they lacked the capability to govern themselves. This was because the colonies had begun to engage in peaceful protests or armed rebellion with an aim of getting their right to self-govern. Eventually, the British Empire had to give into their demands and grant them independence.
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