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Empire How Britain Made the Modern World – Maxim Force – #5/6

04/03/2019

 

The ‘Scramble for Africa’ by competing European nations during the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign is the compelling tale of this programme. We learn how 10,000 independent African kingdoms became 40 European colonies over the course of two decades, in a drastic redrawing of the map. Indeed, by 1900 Britain owned half of Africa.

No longer dominated by moral and religious concerns, this new era was about power and the economy as the battle for raw materials progressed. Power was in the hands of bankers and industrialists such as Rothschild and Cecil Rhodes, as illustrated by their use of the new Maxim guns to keep any opponents in check. By this stage it was businessmen doing the colonising and not governments.

This was a time when young men from elite schools were sent to work in the colonies, with the sports fields of England used as training grounds for a career in the army. Images of heroes overcoming the native warriors were very popular. Archive film from this period, of battles such as Omdurman in Sudan, illustrate the power of British military tactics and show a complete disregard for supposedly inferior races. The Boer war and subsequent treatment of the Boers brought a moral backlash in Britain that signalled a new era for the British empire.

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