The Impact of the British Empire on Britain and its Citizens
Overview of the British Empire and Its Controversies
The British Empire was once a global superpower, spanning across Africa, Asia, and America, and imprinting British concepts on culture, religion, health, sexuality, law, and order on colonized countries. There is debate regarding the benefits and contributions of the colonies to the British economy, but little literature on the impact on the average British citizen.
Middle Class and the Empire
The British middle class played a significant role in building the empire, allowing doctors, scientists, geologists, soldiers, administrators, and entrepreneurs an opportunity that would have been otherwise denied. The middle class supported the aristocracy, giving them access to the colonies for work and earnings. The colonies also provided an avenue for self-expression, such as Dr. David Livingston’s work in Africa and countless explorers and scientists in India.
Empire and British Nationalism
The Empire instilled a sense of pride in the average British citizen, leading them to believe that they were part of the chosen race to rule the world. This idea was reflected in Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden.” The British middle class felt it was their god-given right to rule the world until the outbreak of World War II, which caused the first cracks in the Empire.
Working Class and the Empire
The working class in England was not as involved with the Empire, as they were preoccupied with surviving during the Industrial Revolution. Karl Marx’s theory began to gain momentum during this time.
The End of the Empire
In 1939, the consolidation of power by Adolf Hitler ruptured the British psyche and destroyed the economy, making it challenging to hold onto the Empire. The Middle class began to crack, and Lord Attlee decided it was time to dismantle the empire. By 1945, a strong nationalist movement and a poor economy led to the decision to dismantle the empire entirely.