Although Great Britain suffered temporarily due to the American Revolution, it eventually became an even more powerful and expansive empire as a result of it and strengthened its stronghold in the East. Examine. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:

  • The question expects us to examine whether the loss of British Control in America led to changes in its approach which enabled it to strengthen its hold over another empire (India). Thus we need to point out the steps British took in India post-American declaration of independence that enabled it to strengthen its hold over India.
  • In the introduction, Mention that post-American declaration of independence we lived in the era of pax Britannica which meant that Britain took learnings.
  • In the main body, we have to examine the steps taken by the British to consolidate its hold over India and the learning that the British took from the American revolution which enabled it to take these steps. Eg Pitts India act 1784, posting experience people in India like Cornwallis, Lord Wellesley’s policy of territorial expansion etc
  • Mention your view on the assertion made in a statement based on arguments made in the conclusion.

Answer:

The American war of independence (1776-1783) was concluded by which the British had to recognize the freedom of the 13 American colonies. British had lost their territories and market for their factory goods, especially the monopoly of Tea etc. They also lost their source of raw materials like cotton in America. So they shifted their focus towards the east. Britain’s defeat in the American War of Independence meant the loss of the American colonies and the end of the ‘first British Empire’.

Steps taken by the British to consolidate its hold over India:

  • Britain regarded itself as ‘ruler of the waves’. The songs ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ show this. Many British people at the time thought that they were doing the right thing by taking the British government and Christianity to the rest of the world, ending slavery and barbaric traditions and bringing ‘civilisation’ and an international ‘Pax Britannica’, or ‘British peace’. The British generally felt that the way they lived their lives was the right way. 
  • Empire was now more than just about discovering new lands and building them up. Most of the world was now known and belonged to someone. Therefore, the British had to colonise established countries with populations and leadership systems of their own.
  • Great Britain’s attitude toward how to build its empire changed as well. Britons began to think of colonization more in terms of conquest and annexation and, as a result, it governed its colonies in a more authoritarian manner.
  • It led to the Pitt’s India act in 1784, by which the British government brought the East India Company’s rule in India under the control of itself. This Act provided for the appointment of a Board of Control and provided for a joint government of British India by both the Company and the Crown with the government holding the ultimate authority.
  • It was done in the wake of fear of losing monopolies and the market of India and to prevent Indian people from revolting on the lines in America. The governor-general post was established in British India to control the administration under the crown rule directly.
  • The new administration expended their military strength and focused on the expansion of the territory by any means. Lord Cornwallis who played in controlling the American Revolution to some extent was transferred to India to use his experience and not to repeat the mistakes which have been done earlier.
  • Britain had to find a new market for its factory goods and raw material for their factory and to
    protect its monopoly of trade in India to compensate for the loss in America. It initiated differential trade tariffs and started building railways to give a competitive effect to their goods in the Indian market and use India as a raw material hub.
  • It uses both expansionist tactics like subsidiary alliance and friendship to consolidate their control over the administration of the country.
  • British also took the initiative to knock out French from India by annexing Yanam and Pondicherry and also defeated their alliance of Mysore.

The learning that the British took from the American revolution which enabled it to take these steps:

  • American Revolution influenced even the colonial policy towards white-dominated colonies like South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Earlier they were given the concession in course of time they were offered even dominion status. Furthermore, in the context of India, Pitt’s India act was introduced after losing America. Britain moved towards India and gave this colony higher value. After the American Revolution, the British modified its policy even to Ireland.
  • Great Britain may have lost the thirteen colonies in America, but it still had Canada and land in the Caribbean, Africa, and India. Great Britain began to expand in these regions, building up what has been called the Second British Empire, which eventually became the largest dominion in world history.
  • Indeed, some historians argue that support for the crown grew. Political life quickly settled into much the same patterns as before the war, albeit with a greater emphasis placed on public opinion, a stronger sense of political parties and more concern with economic reform and corruption.
  • Demobilisation caused temporary difficulties, but low tariffs helped to stimulate trade and the economy recovered rapidly: by the 1790s, Americans were purchasing twice as much from Britain as they had as colonists in the 1760s.

In the end, although Great Britain suffered temporarily due to the American Revolution, it eventually became an even more powerful and expansive empire as a result of it.

 

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