Essay On British History
So I've just started my A Levels, I've only had a few lessons so we haven't covered that much but my teacher has set us a homework to write a 'mini essay' (intro, 2 paragraphs and a conclusion) on whether or not we agree that the British were successful in creating an empire.
I didn't take GCSE History so this is my first time writing a History essay ever really, was just hoping someone could give me some feedback? Is this alright as a first homework?
How far do you agree that the British were successful in creating an empire?
The British Empire began with the first empire, in the early 17th century, when Great Britain began to establish colonies around the world. From this point onward, continuing into the late 1800s, the British Empire grew significantly in size over three empires; at one point owning one fifth of the world’s population. Britain undoubtedly accomplished a great deal in their time as the biggest international superpower, but were they truly successful in creating an empire? Many historians would agree to a notable extent that this statement is true - the empire, whilst many argue it was unplanned, was a successful one. In the following essay I will discuss the successes and drawbacks of the British empire, and why I feel that, despite other opinions that view the empire as negative, it was highly successful.
The most significant success of the British empire, in my opinion, is that they spread the English language worldwide. This has remained over the course of many years, a way for people around the world to communicate and share a common language. Without this common language, I believe that countries would struggle to obtain the strong ties we have today. As well as the English language, the British spread the British judicial system to many areas worldwide. Another notable success of the empire is that they set up lines of communication between Britain and several other areas in the world (that have remained strong to this day) and kept cultural, political and social links with many of its colonies, mainly through the Commonwealth. Many countries are also now multicultural because of the achievements of the Empire. Alongside this, Britain fought hard during the 1800s to abolish slavery, a particularly paramount success. It is often said that the British Empire was about “discovering new lands and building them up”. Britain gained a large amount of power, which to me speaks for itself of the country’s success and while many would see this as a negative, that British rule was barbaric and that Great Britain forced its ideals onto others, to me it shows that Britain excelled in what it set out to do, building up colonies, creating a larger army, alongside spreading their name and influence. Britain’s rule was much less harsh than that of Russia, Germany and Spain - as modern historian Niall Ferguson stated. British rule was highly successful as there is evidence to suggest that they put more money into developing economies in several African countries. Britain provided support to help build economies around the world, with countries such as India having a strong economy today as a result of this. Australia, New Zealand and Canada are all also products of the British Empire.
On the contrary, there are clearly many negative elements of the empire. The British profited much off the transatlantic slave trade during the first empire, although fought with strong efforts to abolish slavery, and were successful in this during the second British Empire in the 1800s. Many argue that countries were taken advantage of and exploited for their exports by Britain, following colonisation. Further, many indigenous people were killed, such as Maoris and Aborigines, in order to make more land for settlers. Some argue that the empire was established by aggression, and there are many arguments to suggest that Britain got ‘too greedy’ and that was ultimately their downfall. Britain’s empire expanded to the point where they had little control over many of its colonies; and the empire ended up splitting into two different empires, dependent and settlement empires. My the 1960s, all areas of the British empire had gained their independence. A significant contraction in the empire, and a big crisis for Britain was the loss of the 13 American colonies in 1783. Americans fought for independence, due to the restrictive and unfair nature of the British rule. Several historians argue that the Empire resulted in loss of land, discrimination and prejudice, and historian Bryan Edwards, 1973, critiqued the tyranny of British Parliament and the ill treatment of Englishmen in Jamaica. He argued that this treatment was the reasoning behind the demand for independence among American colonists in the late 1700s.
In conclusion, ‘the sun never set on the British Empire’ - and there is extensive evidence to prove that Britain did create an empire, owning such a large percentage of the world, thus being a highly successful one despite the negatives. Despite some arguments that Britain forced their ideas onto others in a brash manner, countries around the world have advanced vastly as a result of the British empire. Although in the 1700s, Britain profited off slave trade, they fought and abolished it in the 1800s. The spread of the English language, a strong network of links between countries and economical advances around the world have all come as a result of the empire, which I feel are key points as to why the British truly were successful in creating an Empire. G.F. Lechie, a Napoleonic era writer, believed that expansion was a result of the 'enlightenment' of British people, and should therefore be welcomed - and with this statement I strongly agree.
This is a sample of our (approximately) 44 page long British History Iv Complete Essay Plans notes, which we sell as part of the History of the British Isles IV: 1500-1700 Notes collection, a 1st Class (73%) package written at University Of Oxford in 2012 that contains (approximately) 124 pages of notes across 10 different documents.
British History Iv Complete Essay Plans Revision
The following is a plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our History of the British Isles IV: 1500-1700 Notes. This text version has had its formatting removed so pay attention to its contents alone rather than its presentation. The version you download will have its original formatting intact and so will be much prettier to look at.
'In the period 1500-1700 significant changes to the English economy occurred only in the second half of the 17th century' How far, if at all, was status determined by wealth in 16th and 17th century England?
How effectively did economies adapt to increasing levels of population? (2011) Why did it prove impossible to establish Protestant uniformity in England?
'The English Reformation was not done to people, it was done with them' (E. Shagan). Do you agree? (2011) How effective were the means available to governments to change religious beliefs in England OR Ireland OR Scotland? (2010) Why did some groups reject the authority of the national established Church in the 17th century? (2008) In what circumstances could popular Protestantism take root? (2006) Did Wolsey or Cromwell do more to enhance the power and prestige of the Tudor monarchy?
How far is it true to say that the power of Parliament increased over the period at the expense of that of the Court?
Did Charles I in the period 1625-1640 seriously attempt to augment the power of the crown in his three kingdoms?
How coherent were the policies of Charles I's 'personal rule'? (2010) Were the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I exceptionally unstable? (2009) Why was Elizabeth a much more successful ruler in England than in Ireland?
Why was royal policy in Ireland in the 16th century so ineffectual? (2010) How important was the spread of plantations to the relationship between England and Ireland? (2011) Why were the Tudors more successful in dealing with the problems of Wales and the north than with those of Ireland? (2006)
'In the period 1500-1700 significant changes to the English economy occurred only in the second half of the 17th century' Introduction: Considerable change - more trends than distinct change Overall trend - growing industrialisation, agricultural development and a 'commercial revolution'
~ Only truly manifested after 1650?
Transition from feudalism to capitalism
~ Hobsbawm - 'General Crisis'
~ Yet England is anomalous Sharpe - may not have been a 'General Crisis' but were a number of decisive changes in 2/3 17th century Population: No statistics before 1540 General rise from around 1500 after plague of 14th century
~ Gains momentum
~ Particularly significant late 16th century - early 17th century England - 3m in 1550, 4m in 1600 and 5.25m in 1651 Trend slows and population remains static - may even have started to decline Price rises: 1500-1640 - grain prices rose seven or eightfold Population seen as major factor Population growth exceeded capacity of land not sufficient food supply and increase in prices Debasement of coinage and influx of bullion - Coleman claims that these merely maintained the 'momentum' of inflation Affected economy - less spending of population Decreased real wages and depleted disposable income Prices in 1600 were ~5.5 x what they had been in 1500 1650 Turning point: Coleman - mid 17th century turning point in population and prices Prices rose, particularly grain, before 1650 After 1650, grain prices plateaued and then declined - overall fall in food prices Larger disposable incomes increased livestock prices Agriculture: 90% people Hobsbawm - 1650-1750 long agrarian depression with falling grain prices, widespread conversion of arable land to enclosure and few innovations Coleman - turning point, must have been some improvements Kerridge - 'agricultural revolution' More acreage increased production
~ Enclosure, draining water from marshland 'Up and down' husbandry/ley farming - used by Kerridge yet Mingay and Thirsk dispute its widespread adoption - alternating method
~ Did help to increase output
Developments can only be seen after 1670 - country became a net exporter of grain Other innovations - floating of water meadows, new grasses and new fodder crops such as turnips All improved output and were mainly prevalent after 1650 - yet not just introduced at this time Effects and widespread use date from around 1650
~ Pamphlets and experiments date from 16th century Only really after 1650 that agricultural progress was popularised - increased livestock prices and development of regional specialisation Attitude to change
~ Coleman - more empirical and scientific approach Idea that before 1650 was new land and techniques - pay-off came later New World: Was exploration and colonisation throughout period Yet long-distance commerce accelerated 1640-60 and then advanced massively over next 30 years End 15th century - 90-95% internal trade New markets in West Indies and America - import of new goods such as sugar and tobacco English monopolies and new trading companies growth in industrial shipbuilding Significant market in re-exportation of colonial goods Little achievement in 16th century - effects of expansion only really seen after 1650 considerable mercantile advance Commercial Revolution: Prior to 1650s export was mostly unfinished cloth - new diversity after 1650 Slave trade - 1640 no slaves, 1700 ~ 118k
~ English companies gained control over trade in 1670s Urban expansion and development of financial institutions Also increase in trade through Irish ports Internal trade: More important Lacked extensive tolls and customs of the Continent Governmental action after 1660 to improve infrastructure Financial institutions
~ Scotland and Ireland still used bartering and payment in kind in some instances England's more developed economy bank notes, cheques and bonds
~ Good considering the state of the coinage Yet new finance only started after 1650
~ Institutions themselves only really existed after 1690s due to finance for William III's wars Urban growth: 1600 - still group of regional economies aiming for self-sufficiency By 1690 largest free trade area in Europe
~ Many towns with modern shops Sale of new goods from abroad
~ By 1700 manufacture higher quality goods such as clocks ourselves Innovative sale of services Idea of 'commercial revolution' Background causes of population, overseas exploration and innovation were present before 1650 Increase in disposable income later in 17th century Growth in areas such as London and Tyneside
London 1500-1700 grew in population by 12 or 13 - cultural focus point with new imported products and service industry Tyneside - increased coal production from 1570s - benefited from and caused integration of English economy Yet Scotland could not trade with some colonies Ireland had links with colonial trading Smaller towns grew due to the 'Great Rebuilding' - yet growth of towns was an ongoing process Towns were particularly important - uniquely concentrated population large consumption and demand for markets Can postulate a rise in consumerism Industry: 1500 - 90% exports were woollen cloth
~ Still major in 1700 but new ideas, especially Protestant refugees from France and Netherlands, led to 'New Draperies' and contributions in glass and paper
~ Important in competitive textile industry Mining development - iron, salt coal
~ Coal output grew particularly after 1650 Scotland and Ireland did not have same levels of industrial growth - insufficient infrastructure, smaller populations and lack of economic stimulation and investment Not Nef's early 'Industrial Revolution' - small units of production
~ May just be levelling with Europe Composition of export trade was fairly similar to 1550 Helped by profit inflation and population increase - only before 1650
~ Yet also home market and increased purchasing power - cheaper products for Thirsk's consumer society 1650 - innovations became more economically prudent due to rising wages and decrease in available labour 'Cottage industry' or putting-out system - subcontracted in smallholdings
~ More widespread in north due to partible inheritance - sub-parcellation of land Increased demand of the metropolitan market Conclusion: 1500-1700 significant change with increase in momentum after 1650 Continual trends Development occurred throughout but only became manifest after 1650 - then accelerated Should not be over-assessed yet commercial conditions of later 17th century were basis for later Industrial Revolution
How far, if at all, was status determined by wealth in 16th and 17th century England?
Introduction: Many factors influenced social position 1500-1700 distinct changes in social distribution of land, wealth, status and power much reported social mobility All have roots in wealth?
Difficulties: Ambiguous and not rigidly defined Lack of quantitative evidence Focus on upper groups - authors Generalisation - transition from feudalism to capitalism rise of 'middle classes' or 'middling sort' Hierarchy: Individual families as well as groups 2 tier - gentlemen and those who were not Vertical hierarchy of status Gregory King - hierarchy yet also division into 'wealth earning' and 'wealth destroying' Titular nobility labourers and servants Wrightson - both hierarchical and class structure Contemporary 'sorts' - William Harrison 1577 'the richer sort' and 'the middling sort' What is class? - different views of the good life and status?
Uncertain status and overlap Aristocracy: 'The better sort' Gregory King 1688 - ~16k families 150k people Hierarchy of titles directly linked to income Temporal lords - £2,800, gentlemen - £280 Groups in between such as baronets, knights and esquires Dominant social group - appear to have just needed wealth Yet were other definitions Sir Thomas Smith - any man 'who can live idly and without manuall labour and will bear the port, charge and countenance of a gentleman...shall be taken for a gentleman' Wealth was definitely needed but within this group - birth, titles, nature of wealth, land tenure, legal status, lifestyle, positions and offices Titular peerage had titles - nobilitas major and minor (gentry) Wealth influential - sale of honours in Stuart times especially Yet peerage were very small and gentry could be much richer - shows other factors Gentility: Descent and ancestry Contemporaries such as Mulcaster in 1581 criticised parvenu nobility Lineage - many traced ancestors back many generations to show superior status Rising to gentry coat of arms Many 'old' nobles criticised College of Arms for undiscerning grants Often wealth led people to buy into group Heraldry was popular yet hierarchy may not correspond to reality - Elizabethan PC provided opportunities for new families e.g. Seymour, Wriothesley, Dudley, Paulet and Paget
Military power: Decline in retaining encouraged by statute - less status from it Yet large scale military forces apart from under Cromwell were under control of nobles 1688 - Duke of Norfolk took Norwich with 300 armed men for Protestant cause and went on to hold East Anglia Could control county militia system - Earl of Warwick against royalists in Essex 1642 Overall declined and replaced by pocket boroughs and patronage networks of Commons Gentlemanly behaviour redefined during Renaissance - humanism and Puritanism specified that holding an office in service of state was as honourable Education: Military power and birth focus on reputation and honour as part of gentility Move towards political power and office holding - new aspect yet wealth still connected Education was key - useful for 'middling sort' Could be involved in court politics and acquisition of offices Worked as JPs and in county militia - showed responsibility and importance Noble participation - Yorkshire 1625-42 - 161 men from 136/750 local gentry families served as sheriffs, JPs or militia deputy lieutenants Parliament: Peers had their own house - had to be invited by the crown Yet others in 'richer sort' had reputation enhanced with this right 1547-84 - 199 seats created in Commons increased numbers eligible and wanted to participate Court was a further location - yet required large expenditure Stone - court led to decline in clientage and patronage as court now gave opportunities Privy Councillors - obviously benefited yet patronage was still important Wealth: Can argue other causes are secondary Money and possession of land needed for gentry Status only retained through maintenance of personal wealth Smith's lifestyle - in addition to office holding, conspicuous consumption and exhibition of wealth were extremely important 1660 - 'The Gentleman's Calling' 5 main qualities of wealth, authority, education, reputation and leisure Conspicuous consumption: Showed wealth and social status Stimulated consumerism - purchase of newly manufactured goods lifestyle of grandeur and luxury Urbanised towns became leisure area - especially London as cultural focal point for art and fashion Late 17th century - noble season began to develop e.g. went to Bath and London Governmental offices - show pomp and wealth Gentility and exhibition of wealth - hospitality and charity 1640 - total charity of £219,600 for landed classes Women - played a part with generosity showing wealth and giving authority Career: Trade was immensely discouraged Could be through military or investment e.g. mining
Most respectable was rental of land - possession of land showed status Divergence in land amounts shows hierarchy Yorkshire 1642 - 679 gentry families - only 73 had landed income of over £1k per year and 362 had income below £100 'Open elite' in lower reaches could be accessed primarily though wealth Upper reaches were more restricted - needed landed wealth Yorkshire 679 - only 108 had origins outside landed wealth Land was a source of wealth and also power - rentier landlords had power over county and positions in central and local government Conspicuous consumption - new houses in early 17th century 'the great rebuilding' Hatfield House 39k, Audley End £80k 'Middling Sort': Factors were also important to 'middling sort' in terms of class stratification and efforts to become gentry Not a 'rise of a middle class' as they were not a conscious class but are a distinguishable group Wealth - successful merchants often gained status of country gentleman 'Middling sort' particularly in urban areas - capitalistic and entrepreneurial ventures Development of professions shows 'rise' Lawyers called to the bar - 184 in 1570s, 383 in 1580s, 515 in 1630s and 714 in 1660s Doctors and army officers etc. also increased Professions workers increased by 70% 1680-1730 and documented rise before 1680 Shared culture - artefacts and material goods e.g. clocks and mirrors Emergence of 'urban gentry' or 'pseudo gentry' in provincial towns by late 17th century Yeomen: Rural equivalent of entrepreneurial urban merchants and professionals Most affluent social strata below gentry - rural capitalists Can argue that they were part of 'middling sort' - aspired to gentry Often little to separate apart from manual labour Distinguished from husbandmen and labouring poor despite similar work - due to wealth and participation in local government Wrightson - theory of 'clusters' where yeomen saw themselves as more similar to lesser 'parish' gentry and husbandmen saw themselves as closer to cottagers Lack of evidence - wealth is most important Common people: Harrison - last sort of people are poor labourers and husbandmen etc. 'Commonalty' made up half of population - yet lack of evidence for them Was differentiation between groups - husbandmen, cottagers and labouring poor Stratification generally on amount of land Yeomen generally owned their land Husbandmen 5-50 acres - far more numerous than yeomen Gloucestershire muster roll - 927 yeomen and 3774 husbandmen Cottagers had less than 5 acres and labouring poor had daily wage Clear hierarchy in rural England based on wealth - yet should not overstate as they were described as one group Conclusion: Intense scrutiny of social status and pervading idea of hierarchy
****************************End Of Sample*****************************
Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our History of the British Isles IV: 1500-1700 Notes.