What was the impact of industrialization and imperialism on British politics from 1815–1867?

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The greatly expanding need for raw materials to fuel industry continued to accelerate throughout the 19th century. The late 18th–century loss of the North American colonies, confirmed by the War of 1812, helped turned British eyes elsewhere. The year 1815 is generally considered to mark the start of Britain’s “imperial...

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The greatly expanding need for raw materials to fuel industry continued to accelerate throughout the 19th century. The late 18th–century loss of the North American colonies, confirmed by the War of 1812, helped turned British eyes elsewhere. The year 1815 is generally considered to mark the start of Britain’s “imperial century,” which ran through the start of World War I in 1914. The period through the 1860s is marked by the ascent of Victoria to the throne in 1837. Only a few years earlier, slavery had finally been abolished throughout the empire. In 1813, the British East Indian Company lost its monopoly on trade and was finally dissolved in 1858. In 1814, Britain ceded some Caribbean colonies to France and the Netherlands under the Treaty of Paris.

The British expansion into Asia, including independently held territories, is marked by Stamford Raffles’s establishment of Singapore in 1819. The expansion of trade into China, however, was severely curtailed by the losses in the 1830s’ Opium Wars, which put a ban into effect. British indirect rule through the Indian subcontinent was consolidated, however, after the 1850s Sepoy Mutiny, leading to government takeover from the East Indian company. In 1870 Queen Victoria took the title Empress of India.

The establishment of the Colonial Office in 1850, which pulled together other government branches and liaised with the military, facilitated the control of far-flung outposts of empire, along with creating a multi-layered professional bureaucracy; colonial service became a respectable middle-class calling. An ostensibly parallel, but subordinate, indigenous civil service was also created to train native peoples for work in indirect rule. The idea of the Commonwealth, featuring limited “self-government” for some colonies, at least regarding internal affairs, also developed in the 19th century. Put into effect in Canada in 1847, it was extended to Australia, New Zealand, and southern African lands.

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