Dominion – control or exercise of control; sovereignty
Protectorate – protection and partial control by a superior power
Procedures and Activities (adjust appropriately to the students’ level):
Ask students what they think of when they hear the term: “British Colonies.” Students may connect this term with the Thirteen Colonies in the Eastern United States. Explain that Great Britain had a world-wide empire.
Pass out political world maps to each student. Tell them to write their names on he maps but to wait before coloring any countries in.
Put the political world map in transparency form, on the overhead projector. Use an overhead marker to color Great Britain on the map transparency. Ask students to locate the nation of Great Britain on their maps and color it in.
Discuss the small size of this island country in comparison to the world. Tell students the object of this map is to locate the colonies of Great Britain and color them in.
Using handout “Colonies of Britain”, and a world map in an atlas or textbook to locate the (harder to find) countries, color the larger, major colonial nations of Great Britain on the overhead. (Canada, Australia, India, Egypt, Sudan, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Iraq, portions of Antarctica, the U.S. east of the Mississippi, etc.) Each time a nation is filled in on the overhead map, the students will color the same nation on their maps, using a colored pencil. The idea behind this lesson is to show the spread of the empire and the vast territory controlled by Britain. The map is too small for students to label the countries or locate all of the small regions of empire.
Ask students to think about how the small island nation became an empire by the end of World War I. Introduce the subject using teachers notes “The Rise of the British Empire”. Students should take notes and discuss each item and rationale.
Discuss the scope of the empire and the reasons for growth:
How do you think people viewed the British at the height of the empire?
What do you think it was like to be a British citizen during this time period?
What do you think it was like to be a native inhabitant living in a British colony during this time?
Discuss the vocabulary words: mercantilism, dominion, and protectorate.
Discuss Britain’s motivation for colonization. (Answers should include information from the Teacher Notes.)
Share with students that many western nations felt the need to share their religion and became missionaries to societies with different beliefs.
What may have been the ultimate goal of Great Britain?
How do you suppose the policy of colonialism affected the British economy? (It made many British citizens wealthy.)
What do you see as the primary motivation for following a policy of imperialism? (Students may say for the economy, to remain a world power, for defense, to spread English civilization, etc.)
Are there any countries today that remind you of the British Empire?
Have students take another look at the World Map on the overhead with the largest colonies filled in. Refer to Teacher Notes, and show the trade route strategies exercised by Britain.
Ask students for comments on the amount of territory Britain controlled.
How did the Great Britain become a powerful empire?
Mercantilism Economic policy that required nations to colonize weaker nations to obtain natural resources Global expansion Trade routes needed to be protected East India Company – monopoly on trade with India
By the late 1800’s, dissatisfaction with British brewed feelings of nationalism for Indians.
Additional important points:
India was considered a region of vast riches to the British. They needed to protect India from other power seekers. Great Britain continued acquiring colonies, some for the specific purpose of strategic positioning to protect their interests in India.
In 1600, the British East India Company pursued the spice-rich East Indies. Through their exploration efforts, this company was eventually given total control (by the British government) over British trade with India; imports and exports.
Point out the pattern of British colonization in Africa, from north to south, with the specific goal of controlling waterways to the East.
Remind students that the sea was the major transportation mode during this time period. Ships carrying goods had to sail around the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of Africa. Great Britain controlled African territory from Capetown, in the south, to Alexandria in the north. One could travel overland for 7,400 kilometers of land without ever leaving the British Empire. In addition Britain was afforded valuable seaports on the Mediterranean Sea because of territorial acquisitions.
The importance of control of the southern route around Africa remained essential until 1869, when the construction of the Suez Canal made a short cut for trade.
Discuss the vocabulary words: mercantilism, dominion, and protectorate. Explain that in addition to Britain, other Europeans were scrambling to gobble up colonies in an effort to bolster their economies. France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Germany were imperialistic as well; however, Britain was the most powerful and the most successful. Advise students to remember that “colonies equaled profit.”
Share with students that many British missionaries attended to the colonies to expose natives to religious views of the empire. While this theme gave credence to the benevolence of the empire in taking colonies under its wing, anti-imperialists insisted that it was greed for increased military power and economic gain that the colonization continued.