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Africa, India, and the New British Empire,


After studying this chapter students should be able to:

1. Describe the development of new states and secondary empires in Africa, understand the relationship between these new states and secondary empires, and understand the role of Europeans in the decline of the slave trade and the rise of the “legitimate trade” from 1750 to 1870.

2. Understand the development of British rule in India, the contradictory policies (social reform versus support of tradition) of the raj, and the significance of the Sepoy Rebellion.

3. Understand the roles of technological change and market demand in the development of the New British Empire.

4. Describe and give concrete examples of the ways in which African, Asian, and Pacific peoples demonstrated the continued vitality of local cultures during this period.


I. Changes and Exchanges in Africa

A. New African States

1. Serious drought hit the coastlands of southeastern Africa in the early nineteenth century and led to conflicts over grazing and farming lands. During these conflicts, Shaka used strict military drill and close-combat warfare to build the Zulu kingdom.

2. Some neighboring Africans created their own states (such as Swaziland and Lesotho) to protect themselves against the expansionist Zulu kingdom. Shaka ruled the Zulu kingdom for little more than a decade, but he succeeded in creating a new national identity as well as a new kingdom.

3. In West Africa, movements to purify Islam led to the construction of new states through the classic Muslim pattern of jihad. The largest of these reform movements occurred in the Hausa states and led to the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate (1809–1906).

4. The new Muslim states became centers of Islamic learning and reform. Sokoto and other Muslim states both sold slaves and used slaves to raise food, thus making it possible for them to seclude free Muslim women in their homes in accordance with reformed Muslim practice.

B. Modernization in Egypt and Ethiopia

1. In Egypt, Muhammad Ali (r. 1805–1848) carried out a series of modernizing reforms for Egypt that combined Western methods with Islamic religious and cultural traditions.

2. Muhammad Ali’s grandson Ismail placed even more emphasis on westernizing Egypt. Ismail’s ambitious construction programs (railroads, the new capital city of Cairo) were funded by borrowing from French and British banks, which led Britain and France to occupy the country when the market for cotton collapsed after the American Civil War.

3. In the mid- to late nineteenth century Ethiopian kings reconquered territory that had been lost since the sixteenth century, purchased modern European weapons, and began to manufacture weapons locally. An attempt to hold British officials captive led to a temporary British occupation in the 1860s, but the British.

C. European Penetration

1. In 1830, France invaded Algeria; it took the French eighteen years to defeat Algerian resistance organized by the Muslim holy man Abd al-Qadir and another thirty years to put down resistance forces in the mountains. By 1871, 130,000 European settlers had taken possession of rich Algerian farmland.

2. European explorers carried out peaceful expeditions to trace the course of Africa’s rivers, assess the mineral wealth of the continent, and convert Africans to Christianity. David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley, and other explorers traced the courses of the Nile, the Niger, the Zambezi, and the Congo rivers.

D. Abolition and Legitimate Trade

1. In 1808, news of slave revolts like that on Saint Domingue and the activities of abolitionists combined to lead Britain and the United States to prohibit their citizens from participating in the slave trade. The British used their navy to stop the slave trade, but the continued demand for slaves in Cuba and Brazil meant that the trade did not end until 1867.

2. As the slave trade declined, Africans expanded their legitimate trade in gold and other goods.

3. The most successful new export was palm oil, which was exported to British manufacturers of soap, candles, and lubricants. The increased export of palm oil altered the social structure of coastal trading communities of the Niger Delta, as is demonstrated in the career of the canoe slave Jaja, who became a wealthy palm oil trader in the 1870s.

4. The suppression of the slave trade also helped to spread Western cultural influences in West Africa. Missionaries converted and founded schools for the recaptives whom the British settled in Sierra Leone, while black Americans brought Western culture to Liberia and to other parts of Africa before and after emancipation in the United States.

E. Secondary Empires in Eastern Africa

1. When British patrols ended the slave trade on the Atlantic coast, slave traders in the Atlantic trade began to purchase their slaves from the East African markets that had traditionally supplied slaves to North Africa and the Middle East. Zanzibar Island and neighboring territories ruled by the sultan of Oman were important in the slave trade, the ivory trade, and the cultivation of cloves on plantations using slave labor.

2. The demand for ivory along the East African coast allowed African and Arab merchants hundreds of miles inland to build large personal trading empires like that of Tippu Tip. Historians refer to these empires as secondary empires because they depended on Western demand for ivory and other goods and on Western manufacturers for weapons.

II. India Under British Rule

A. Company Men

1. In the eighteenth century, the Mughal Empire was defeated and its capital sacked by marauding Iranian armies, while internally the Mughal’s deputies (nawabs) had become de facto independent rulers of their states.

2. British, French, and Dutch companies staffed by ambitious young “company men” established trading posts in strategic places and hired Indian troops (sepoys) to defend them. By the early 1800s, the British East India Company had pushed the French out of south India, forced the Mughal Empire to recognize company rule over Bengal, and taken control of large territories that became the core of the Bombay Presidency.

B. Raj and Rebellion, 1818–1857

1. The British raj (reign) over India aimed both to introduce administrative and social reform and to maintain the support of Indian allies by respecting Indian social and religious customs.

2. Before 1850, the British created a government that relied on sepoy military power, disarmed the warriors of the Indian states, gave free reign to Christian missionaries, and established a private land ownership system to ease tax collection. At the same time, the British bolstered the traditional power of princes and holy men and invented so-called traditional rituals to celebrate their own rule.

3. British political and economic influence benefited Indian elites and created jobs in some sectors while bringing new oppression to the poor and causing the collapse of the traditional textile industry.

4. Discontent among the needy and particularly among the Indian soldiers led to the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857. The rebellion was suppressed in 1858, but it gave the British a severe shock.

C. Political Reform and Industrial Impact

1. After the rebellion of 1857–1858, the British eliminated the last traces of Mughal and company rule and installed a new government administered from London. The new government continued to emphasize both tradition and reform, maintained Indian princes in luxury, and staged elaborate ceremonial pageants known as durbars.

2. An efficient bureaucracy, the Indian Civil Service (ICS), now controlled the Indian masses. Recruitment into the ICS was by examinations that were theoretically open to all, but in practice, racist attitudes prevented Indians from gaining access to the upper levels of administration.

3. After 1857, the British government and British enterprises expanded the production and export of agricultural commodities and built irrigation systems, railroads, and telegraph lines. Freer movement of people into the cities caused the spread of cholera, which was brought under control when new sewage and filtered water systems were installed in the major cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

D. Indian Nationalism

1. The failure of the rebellion of 1857 prompted some Indians to argue that the only way for Indians to regain control of their destiny was to reduce their country’s social and ethnic divisions and to promote a Pan-Indian nationalism.

2. In the early nineteenth century, Rammouhan Roy and his Brahmo Samaj movement tried to reconcile Indian religious traditions with western values and to reform traditional abuses of women. After 1857, Indian intellectuals tended to turn toward western secular values and western nationalism as a way of developing a Pan-Indian nationalism that would transcend regional and religious differences.

3. Indian middle-class nationalists convened the first Indian National Congress in 1885. The congress promoted national unity and argued for greater inclusion of Indians in the Civil Service, but it was an elite organization with little support from the masses.

III. Britain’s Eastern Empire

A. Colonies and Commerce

1. British defeat of French and Dutch forces in the Napoleonic Wars allowed Britain to expand its control in South Africa, Southeast Asia, and the southern Caribbean.

2. The Cape Colony was valuable to Britain because of its strategic importance as a supply station on the route to India. In response to British pressure, the descendants of earlier French and Dutch settlers (the Afrikaners) embarked on a “great trek” to found new colonies on the fertile high veld that had been depopulated by the Zulu wars.

3. The British also established a series of strategic outposts in Southeast Asia. Thomas Raffles established the free port of Singapore in 1824, Assam was annexed to India in 1826, and Burma was annexed in 1852.

B. Imperial Policies and Shipping

1. Britain in this period was more interested in trade than in acquiring territory. Most of the new colonies were intended to serve as ports in a global shipping network that the British envisioned in terms of free trade, as opposed to the previous mercantilist trade policy.

2. Whether colonized or not, more lands were being drawn into the commercial networks created by British expansion and industrialization. These areas became exporters of raw materials and agricultural goods and importers of affordable manufactured products.

3. A second impetus to global commercial expansion was the technological revolution in the construction of oceangoing ships in the nineteenth century. Use of iron to fasten timbers together and the use of huge canvas sails allowed shipbuilders to make larger, faster vessels that lowered the cost of shipping and thus stimulated maritime trade.

C. Colonization of Australia and New Zealand

1. The development of new ships and shipping contributed to the colonization of Australia and New Zealand by British settlers who displaced the indigenous populations.

2. Portuguese mariners sighted Australia in the early seventeenth century, and Captain James Cook surveyed New Zealand and the eastern Australian coast between 1769 and 1778. Unfamiliar diseases brought by new overseas contacts substantially reduced the populations of the hunter-gatherers of Australia and the Maori of New Zealand.

3. Australia received British convicts and, after the discovery of gold in 1851, a flood of free European (and some Chinese) settlers. British settlers came more slowly to New Zealand until defeat of the Maori, faster ships, and a short gold rush brought more British immigrants after 1860.

4. The British crown gradually turned governing power over to the British settlers of Australia and New Zealand, but Aborigines and the Maori experienced discrimination. However, Australia did develop powerful trade unions, New Zealand promoted the availability of land for the common person, and both Australia and New Zealand granted women the right to vote in 1894.

D. New Labor Migrations

1. Between 1834 and 1870, large numbers of Indians, Chinese, and Africans went overseas as laborers. British India was the greatest source of migrant laborers, and British colonies (particularly sugar plantations) were the principal destinations of the migrants.

2. With the end of slavery, the demand for cheap labor in the British colonies, Cuba, and Hawaii was filled by Indians, free Africans, Chinese, and Japanese workers. These workers served under contracts of indenture that bound them to work for a specified number of years in return for free passage to their overseas destination; a small salary; and free housing, clothing, and medical care.

3. These new indentured migrants were similar to the European emigrants of the time because they left their homelands voluntarily to make money that they could send or take back home or to finance a new life in their new country. However, people recruited as indentured laborers were generally much poorer than European emigrants, took lower-paying jobs, and were unable to afford the passage to the most desirable areas.

IV. Conclusion

A. Britain’s Expansion from the European Perspective

1. Britain’s power in the Indian Ocean Basin and South Pacific continued dominance begun by the Portuguese and Spanish, and then by the Dutch during the earlier imperialistic age.

2. Britain’s control over South and Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand continued the conquest and colonization of the Americas.

3. The importance of Britain’s growing domination lay in their demand for new resources found in Africa and southern Asia.

B. Britain’s Expansion from the Perspective of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific

1. African and Asian consumers preferred some of the industrially produced goods found in Europe over local handicrafts.

2. Britain’s commercial expansion provided new markets for Asian and African goods as well.

3. Local power relationships affected native cultures more than did European forces.

4. Africans and Asians learned how to challenge western powers on their own terms.


1. What were the causes of the development of new states in southern and inland West Africa between 1750 and 1870? What role did the West play in the establishment of these states?

2. What are the differences between British involvement in Africa and in India during this period, and how would you explain those differences?

3. How did British policy in India change as a result of the Sepoy Rebellion?

4. What role did technology play in the development of the British Empire during this period?

5. In what ways did Britain’s Industrial Revolution affect Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean?

6. How did African and Asian people respond to the British Empire, and why? State and justify your position.

3. Prepare a report on the environmental effects of British imperialism in Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and the New Zealand–Australia area during the period 1750–1870. Your report may be general, or it may focus on a particular issue or region.

4. Write a research paper on any one African or Indian regional state of your choice, the Maori, or the Australian Aborigines in the period 1750–1870.

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