Saturday, February 23, 2013

The British Empire

Hello! Here is a 5 part video about British expansion to the India and the African Continent. After the video, I have included some of the most important concepts and a brief overview of what it is about.

The British Empire, unlike other Empires, didn't exploit its colonies completely, but tried to improve them by bringing Christianity and British goods to them. This "New Spirit" of the British colonies was greatly enforced by the missionary and explorer David Livingstone, who was kind of an Indiana Jones with a Bible. David Livingstone began as a poor child laborer, but worked hard to get the education necessary to become a medical doctor. The "New Spirit" didn't really want to promote the slave trade, but to abolish it. The British anti-slavery movement was caused by a revival in religious interest. 

Some of the leaders of this "Revival" were members of a called Clapham Sect, which was a leading group of Anglican anti-slavery activists, including Zachary Macaulay and its center personality: William Wilberforce. The Anti-slavery activists in Britain and America were also known as "abolitionists." Under the pressure of these people, the British government abolished slavery in 1807.

The video is mainly about how Great Britain began to look for establishing colonies in Africa and the India. The British saw Africans as little more than animals, without a culture, without civilization. Still, they were interested in possessing African colonies because of the natural resources of the land, and another, more important reason. This reason was the slave trade. The British saw Africa as a great source of human strength, in the form of slaves. Slave trading was pretty profitable: for example, a sugar plantation of a hundred black slaves required at least 80 new slaves a year to maintain productivity. This continued to increase slave trade profits, which also increased the British interest in Africa. This was until the British abolished slavery.

Some African practices and parts of their culture really annoyed the British, such as their sensuality and polygamy (having multiple wives). This generated a culture shock, which is a misunderstanding between two cultures that dislike each other. David Livingstone began his major missionary work at the Kuruman mission in South Africa, became frustrated, and began to shift his focus to exploring the African interior. He was really surprised to see that slave trade was still active in East Africa, and wanted to create an  economic exchange between the British and the residents of the African interior that could help to replace the slave trade as a source of profit. He thought that the lower Zambezi river could be used as a trade route, and his motto was "Christianity, Commerce and Civilization."

In  the case of India, the British interests were completely different. The British accepted that Indians were civilized and had a culture which was different to theirs, so they treated them much better than how they treated the Africans. At first, they let them keep most of their traditions, but did impose some laws and destroyed some of the traditions they had. Still, Christianity is a proselytizing religion which is always looking for more people, new converts. The British India Company thought that it would harm commerce to try to change Indian culture or religion. In fact, some British would go to India and adopt some of their costumes and traditions. Still, the Clapham Sect and other evangelical Christians wanted the Parliament to allow them to send missionaries to India, which they accepted in 1807.

This created a great tension between the two civilizations. The missionaries were greatly annoyed by female infanticide (killing infants) and suttee (burning themselves in their husband's funeral). A while later, a rumor spread that the sepoys' (Indians in the British army) new cartridges were sealed with pork and beef fat, which was prohibited for both Muslims (they thought the pork to be unclean) and Hindus (they thought the cows were sacred).  The rumor set off a major mutiny in the army, which resulted in many British Deaths. This was called the "Sepoy Mutiny". The British sent more troops to India, and it was said that their path was marked by Indian soldiers hanging on trees.

Dr. Livingstone
Still, some Evangelicans, including Livingstone, thought that the Christianization of India and the other British colonies wasn't going fast enough. Some missioners that had decided to follow Livingstone discovered that he was wrong about many things: the Zambezi River wasn't totally navigable, and the places he wanted the missioners to stay in were unhealthy because of some mosquitoes that carried malaria.

Some time after, Livingstone went searching for the source of the Nile and disappeared for several years. A great journalist named Henry Morton Stanley went looking for him, and after a while he found him an African village named Tangayika. They say that the first thing Henry Morton Stanley said to him was: "Livingston, I presume?" Years later, in 1873, Livingstone died, and in that same year the slave trade in the east was abolished.

After all, Christianity stayed as a major religion in Africa by the use of military force of the British people.

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