Author: Adam

The Big Things That Never Were

The Big Things That Never Were

Opinion: The British Empire: A legacy of violence?


Sylvia Fahy

Updated March 1, 2010 7:38 p.m. ET

IN the late 18th century, the British Empire began to expand overseas. The first colony in the Americas was founded in 1607. By 1783 the British had established a colony on the north-eastern tip of India, which became the modern state of West Bengal. In that year, King George III issued royal proclamations declaring a permanent war against the Dutch West Indian Company for a period of eight years, beginning in 1782.

During the war, the British occupied and fought their way to victory over the Dutch in the Battle of Seringapatam and took control of Mauritius, an island off the northwest coast of Africa. The Dutch, unable to compete, sold it to Britain and Mauritius became a British colony in 1856.

The Dutch had not yet declared war against Britain in India, so it was an open question as to whether Britain (or its Indian viceroy, Lord Elphinstone) would ultimately capture Delhi, the capital of the Mughal Empire. The British did ultimately take Delhi, but only after the fall of the Mughal dynasty in 1761.

The British Empire was far larger than its predecessors. But its legacy, particularly as it pertains to the British colonization and control of Asia and the Pacific, is marked by a record of violent conflict and conquest, and a large body of scholarship has attempted to explore the causes.

But many of the key facts remain obscure. Here are the big things that never were:

The British conquest and control of Burma (formerly called British India); Indian and Pacific Ocean island colonies (including Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines) and the Middle East; the British colonies, trade and finance interests in India and Pakistan, a colony under British Rule since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947; of

Leave a Comment