Andrew Edbauer: Oct 31 Journal

The book I am reading for Mondays paper The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes fits in well with the readings we have been doing for the class, because it goes along with Levine’s idea that Australia was set up as a convict colony to begin with.  The book also shows that at the beginning there was no real intent of British people to settle in Australia, because its intention was to be a convict colony. It covers what we have talked about in class about Australia being a convict colony although it goes into much more depth than the basic description Levine has given us so far.  The book covers the originally settlement and the movement of Aborigines inland due to this colonization.

The book, however, goes into a much deeper concept with the different native aborigine groups.  For example it describes each one separately and covers their way of life, and customs.  The book also gives a good chronological account of when the continent of Australia was actually formed and allows the reader to understand that it used to be much bigger, but rising sea levels in BC times pushed it back.  The original settlers were Asian, and Aborigine people although by the team the British arrived, each of those populations had gone down significantly.  For example the Aborigine people only had about 30,000 people living throughout the continent when the British arrived.  The book also brings up the idea that the Australian colony was a quite brutal place at the time of settlement, hence the name Fatal Shore.  The convicts were treated extremely harshly, and the Aborigine customs were extremely harsh as well.  This book so far has done a very good job linking up with the class, as well as bringing about new ideas to the table.

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Journal 5: Marshall Article

Marshall’s thesis in this article is that the British settlement in India was made up of primarily soldiers and employees of the East India Company, with a small group that assimilated into Indian culture.

British Growth in India

-Predominately male at the start and stayed that way for the most part

-The population in India did not represent the population in Britain

-Many lower class workers moving from Britain to India for jobs in East India Company

-Some wealthier upper class move to India to be officers in army and live a lavish lifestyle

-In 1861 100,000 British men to 35,000 British women, and by 1901 female to male ratio was 384 to 1000

East India Company

-Many people employed were only there for a short period of time

-The company was a huge economic boost for the British economy, half of the revenue of the British state

-Extremely involved in British national politics which meant the success of the company was imperative

-Mix of Indian and British employees, but the British employees often held higher positions while the Indians did more of the labor

Royal Army

-Many of the soldiers sent to India had joined with the idea of staying in India and building a life

-Only around 6% of soldiers brought wives to India, while many soldiers married Indian women or the small proportion of British women that were there

-Many of the soldiers, however, were subject to heavy drinking and crime

-Cases of murder and looting by the British soldiers

-The military also had a 7% death rate per year in India opposed to 1% back in Britain

Separation Between Indians and British

-There was a very clear separation between the two cultures

-British were very distant from the Indian culture, and vice versa

-This was seen through different neighborhoods and the jobs that they held

-There was, however, a small group of British who married Indian women and had children setting up a small mix between the cultures

 

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Week 4 Post: Gould Article

Gould’s article raises some interesting points about the British Empire’s imperial status both before and after the revolution in America.  Before the revolution Britain’s empire sprawled from the Isles, to Australia in the East, and the America’s in the far west.  Gould notes that the British empire was extremely distinct during this time because every one of its colonies was inherently British in nature.  This means that the people in the colonies all dressed like the British, spoke English, and in very broad terms was essentially English culturally.  Before the revolution the British government had a fairly firm grip on their colonies around the world using the same judicial systems and economic systems.  The idea to tax the colonies like the people living back in Britain, however, led to the revolution in America and the ultimate loss of that colony Britain.

What happened after the revolution was intriguing, because Gould shows that the British themselves did not seem all that confident in their abilities to keep other colonies after their falter with America.  Britain tightened up their government, and cut back significantly on privileges they had given to the US colonies.  This action shows that the British were somewhat worried about their ability to control their colonies outside of the immediate British Isles.  In the immediate period after the British Empire saw a spike in the other colonies rumbling of revolution or unhappiness with the empire.  For example Gould points out that Scotland settled with Britain on terms of union only after they agreed to Presbyterianism being the official religion in Scotland.  Gould also says that in Bengal there was enough of a concern for the British to take them into account.

This article parallels that of Linda Colley as it gives a bit of a different perspective of what the British empire looked like after the revolution.  These articles caused me to wonder if the Empire was really as strong as it seems in the textbooks.  Granted the British Empire still dominated much of the world in terms of military and economic perspectives, but the American Revolution showed that they were by no means invincible.  Rather they were the complete opposite.  After the revolution they seemed like a country that was very afraid to lose other colonies and essentially spiral out of power.  The common people may not have been worried, but it is evident that the people at the top of the British Empire were threatened by this turn of events.  This led them to tighten up control on their other overseas colonies, and really go back to a much more conservative nature of rule.  These actions and the piece by Linda Colley leads me to believe that Britain realized the world was catching up, and if they had kept that “liberal” method of rule, their Empire would have crumbled in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution, especially with Napoleon building up strength in France.

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Colley Article: Post 3

Linda Colley’s article on the seizure of European sailors all around the globe gives a glimpse of what the captured sailors faced and dealt with during their captivity. She compiles a number of first hand accounts of the sailors and details the differences that each one faced.

The accounts show what exactly these men faced while abroad, often times being forcibly circumcised and stripped of their British identities.   This led to a struggle for these men to deal with the fact that what they had considered their identities were now gone and they were being forced to assimilate into a new culture.  Besides being circumcised the men were forced to wear, in one instance, middle eastern dress, and were forced to have their ears pierced in multiple places.  Through this action they were marked as slaves and forced to be soldiers and artisans.  This led to a huge shift of “power” for the sailors, because before they were captured they were part of the strongest nation in the world.  Now in captivity they were put on the lowest scale of a different society in which they knew no language or culture.  It seems in their minds they had been reduced to nothing more than a native.

Even if the men were able to escape and manage their way back to Britain, life was not an easy one.  They had been completely stripped of their British identity and in a sense had to re-learn all of British culture.  As one sailor put it, “I did not know my own father and mother, nor they me.”  This is a perfect example of what had happened.  Britain was no longer home and they no longer knew how to identify themselves.

These captivities also led to another question in the British empire, which begged the question of would their power in the world go down if more and more men were captured?  The British, it seems, were duly aware of this notion.  To counteract this threat they enlisted the help of foreign soldiers from around Europe.  This group included new sailors the Germans, Swiss, Dutch, and black slaves.  By doing this the British were able to send groups around the world to keep their power and influence up, even if it was not with their own people.

At the end of the article Colley brings up an interesting point, she notes that the British felt a loss of culture and identity when they were captured, and made note of the fact of how awful the experience was.  Colley looks at this as if she was a captive of the British.  This is how many of the people influenced by British rule in their land felt; a loss of culture and identity.  This last statement shows that in some ways the British empire was hypocritical in their views by taking over different lands, but condemning those that captured their own.

 

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Craton Article: Post #2

The Craton article’s main focus is showing how the West Indies transformed from a sparsely inhabited tropical oasis into a booming set of islands filled with plantations, sugar, and slaves, and then touches on the emancipation of slaves and the decline of the formal British presence.  Craton starts the article with an overview of how the West Indies were founded and then moves into the gradual expansion of inhabitants up to the full blown “occupation” by the European powers.  Craton shows how the West Indies became extremely successful at a very rapid pace, and also shows the lifestyle that came to the islands.  For example he shows how lavishly the British elite lived, and also noted the way the different groups were treated.  He notes that the British did not force religion on the slaves, but rather were strict with their own people, but would let the slaves practice their own religion.

Craton also shows the differences between the elite class and the planter class.  The elite lived a luxurious lifestyle with no private family, servants, and all lived within sections of elite.  The planters on the other hand had family’s with nuclear structures like that back in Britain.  Craton notes that many of the children were sent back to Britain for schooling, but not all came back.  Many made great livings in Britain, but those who were unsuccessful ended up back on the islands.

Craton also begins to get at a few questions.  The one that stuck out the most was why did the British keep a stronghold in the West Indies?  This can be answered by the fact that it was purely economical and was a benefit for Britain.  The sugar produced on these islands were a huge resource for the British, because it allowed them to trade with other countries and was also extremely profitable back in Britain.  Sugar was in such high demand that it would have been foolish to give up the Indies and one of their most priced crops, because sugar could not be produced in Britain.

The last few pages of the article show how the “plantocracy” survived even after emancipation.  The sugar industry was still thriving which meant people had a reason to live there.  It also meant that planters still had a reason to plant and grow sugar.  This lead to nations that were uniquely British in form.  The planters still had influences on socioeconomic reform, but also assimilated British culture into their lives by incorporating clubs and athletics such as cricket into their society.

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In class notes

British Empire

  • Chronology
  • 1500s added Scotland and Wales area
  • 1700s added Ireland
  • 1800s spread through parts of Europe then shrunk back to England, Scotland, Wales
  • Geographically
  • depending on time stretched all the way to North America and Australia
  • now consists of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
  • held all of Ireland at one point
  • Thematically
  • far reaching imperialists who dominated the world from 1500s to the 1800s
  • still a major power in today’s world
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