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The Costs and benefits of British Imperialism 1846-1914.

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The Costs and benefits of British Imperialism1846-1914 The authors Patrick O'Brian and Paul Kennedy have both composed a debate within three articles examining whether O'Brian's theories of British imperialism being negative and that "Britain required an empire which neither benefited trade nor defence"1, contrary to Kennedy's belief that imperialism had many benefits such as trade and access to markets, as well as having resources citied around the world and not being a huge burden on the British taxpayer. Both parties appear to disagree with the effects on Britain and even disagree with the reliability of each others sources. The structure of O'Brian's argument focuses on the four topics which have been debated before, which are emigration of British Labour overseas the profitability of investing capital into the empire, the potential gains from the ties created and also the kingdoms security in hindsight referring to Germany but in particular to those of France and Russia who were seen as the threat of the time. ...read more.


It is believed by him that Britain was there to maintain its own trade and India and Raj needed to have Britain to subsidise them in their infrastructure and trade. Other arguments revolve around the costs of Britain's military and the facts around the perceived threat to Britain's security. O'Brian's table four shows taxes collected in the United Kingdom were higher than any other country in Europe, and by a "considerable margin"4. This table also shows military expenditure was also considerably more also though the standard of living and incomes per head were higher therefore the British taxpayer had more money to afford these taxes. O'Brian's estimated figures suggest French and German incomes per head amounted to seventy percent of British taxpayers, with military expenditure per capita at forty-eight percent. This shows military expenditure was low considering vast empire that needed to be controlled but this money could have been spent elsewhere. ...read more.


O'Brian has used many authors to back up his argument. A strong point from Kennedy is that expenditure was big but in real terms it wasn't due to the higher standard of living British Taxpayers had. On the other hand there are many ways to interpret the figures thus easy to manipulate as found in O'Brian's case. Kennedy also looks in hindsight which can be a weakness. At the time people regarded France and Russia to be the greater threat, which wasn't the case in 1914. Therefore errors with expenditure and tactics to counter threats could easily be made due to wrong information at the time. Both articles are very valid opinions in determining the costs and benefits in this debate, and allowing other authors to investigate the two versions. O'Brian appears to be the weaker argument though. It agrees with Hobson's analysis that empire represented an increasingly costly alternative to social reform and to structural changes within the domestic economy6. Kennedy stated taxes raised were not the same across Germany or any other part of Europe there were different circumstances in each country. ...read more.

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