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"Imperial reform in the 19th century was primarily motivated by economic factors

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Introduction

"Imperial reform in the 19th century was primarily motivated by economic factors." How accurate a description is this, with reference to the changes made in the administration of the British Empire, 1815 to 1870? The period 1815 to 1870 was characterized by radical change in the character of the British Empire, to the extent that, by the end of the period, the empire consisted of two distinct parts: one made up of 'dependent' colonies, experiencing direct formal rule; and the other made up of self-governing 'settlement' colonies. This development occurred as a result of a series of social, political and economic reforms. In order to judge whether economic factors dominated imperial reform during this period, an assessment of the causes and nature of reforms is necessary. However, while imperial reform was multicausal, great weight can be given to the argument that underlying economic factors which stimulated initial social reform and change, which in turn propagated political reform. One of the earliest reforms was the dismantling of the slave system, initiated by Britain in 1807 through the end to British involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, and again in 1834 through the abolition of colonial slavery. The abolition can be seen as a result of a combination of economic, social and political factors. ...read more.

Middle

While the immediate cause of the mutiny was a revolt by Sepoys in the Indian army in 1857 owing to a dispute about loading the Enfield rifle in a manner against their religious beliefs, the underlying causes focus on political and economic grievances. Territorial expansion in the Punjab, Sind, Berar and Oudh, and the resulting 'westernisation' policy caused widespread social and political discontent. The Indian people felt that they were being forced to accept and 'alien' culture and that they lacked political power within their own country. This discontent was exacerbated by economic grievances following the end of the East India Company's monopoly on business in 1813, which opened India up to competition by Britain's industrialists and merchants. This led to India being flooded with cheap British goods, and high rent being introduced by British property developers, leading to the devaluation of Indian products and economic decline. The Mutiny was a fundamental turning point in the history of British rule in India, and led to reforms which introduced total British rule. The reforms focus on the replacement of the Governor-General by a Viceroy; the re-organisation of the British Indian Army through the strengthening of the European element; the reduction of power of the sepoys; the end to the involvement of the EIC in the machinery of British rule; ...read more.

Conclusion

In addition, there were economic advantages to the British economy of Britain denying the dependent colonies the right to impose protective tariffs, as this destroyed the development of industry, affecting India most severely as it became a huge captive market for British goods. Therefore, free trade couple with having colonies was economically beneficial. The economic reforms which characterised the period of "New Imperialism" can thus be seen as motivated primarily by the need to protect existing trade links and to prevent the absorption of overseas markets into the increasingly closed imperial trading blocs of rival powers. Owing to her superior position in industry and trade, Britain tended to benefit from the introduction of free trade and end of protectionism. Thus, these reforms were stimulated chiefly by economic advantages. Therefore, all forms of imperial reform in the 19th century were influenced by economic factors to an extent. Underlying economic factors contributed to social and political change which resulted in the abolition of slavery and the granting of self-government to settlement colonies. Moreover, economic benefits of the free trade reforms directly stimulated them. Thus, while not all of the reforms were a direct result of economic factors, underlying economic reasons influenced all the reforms to a certain extent, often producing the social and political factors which eventually stimulated reform. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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