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    The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (1688-1990)


    I. Whigs and Tories


    These two party names originated with the Glorious Revolution (1688)。


    The Whig were those who opposed absolute monarchy and supported the right to religious freedom for Nonconformists. The Whig were to form a coalition with dissident Tories in the mid-19th century and become the Liberal Party.


    The Tories were those who supported hereditary monarchy and were reluctant to remove kings. The Tories were the forerunners of the Conservative Party.


    I. Agricultural Changes in the Late 18th Century


    During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the “open-field” system ended when the Enclosure Act was passed. The movement lasted for centuries. Agricultural enclosure had good as well as bad results:


    (1) Farms became bigger and bigger units as the great bought up the small;


    (2) More vegetables, more milk and more dairy produce were consumed, and diet became more varied;


    (3) Enclosure was a disaster for the tenants evicted from their lands by the enclosures. These peasant farmers were forced to look for work in towns. Enclosure led to mass emigration, particularly to the New World;


    (4) A new class hostility was introduced into rural relationships.


    II. The Industrial Revolution (1780-1830)


    1.The industrial Revolution refers to the mechanisation of industry and the consequent changes in social and economic organization in Britain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


    2.Britain was the first country to industrialize because of the following factors:


    (1) Favourable geopraphical location. Britain was well placed geographically to participate in European and world trade;


    (2) Political stability. Britain had a peaceful society, which, after the 17th century, was increasingly interested in overseas trade and colonies. International trade brought wealth to merchants and city bankers. They and those who had done well out of new farming methods provided capital in large quantities for industralization.


    (3) Good foundation in economy. The limited monarchy which resulted from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 ensured that the powerful economic interests in the community could exert their influence over Government policy.


    (4) It was a country in which the main towns were never too far from seaports, or from rivers, which could distribute their products.


    (5) Britain had many rivers, which were useful for transport but also for water and steam power. Britain also had useful mineral resources.


    (6) British engineers had sound training as craftsmen.


    (7) The inventors were respected. They solved practical problems.


    (8) Probably laissez faire and “Protestant work ethic” helped.


    (9) England, Scotland, and Wales formed a customs union after 1707 and this included Ireland after 1807. So the national market was not hindered by internal customs barriers.


    (10) The enclosures and other improvements in agriculture made their contributions by providing food for the rising population, labour for the factories, and some of the raw materials needed by industry.


    3.Typical examples of the inventions during the Industrial Revolution


    (1) John Kay‘s flying shuttle in 1733;


    (2) James Hargreaves‘ Spinning Jenny in 1766;


    (3) Richard Arkwright‘s waterframe in 1769;


    (4) Samuel Crompton‘s mule in 1779


    (5) Edmund Cartwright‘s power loom in 1784;


    (6) James Watt‘s steam engine in 1765.


    4.Consequences of the industrial Revolution


    (1) Britain was by 1830 the “workshop of the world”;


    (2) Towns grew rapidly and became the source of the nation‘s wealth.


    (3) Mechanization destroyed the livelihood of those who could not invest in it . The working men worked and lived in a appalling conditions.


    (4) The industrial revolution created the industrial working class, the proletariat, and it later led to trade unionism.


    III. The Chartist Movement (1836-1848)


    1. Reasons for parliamentary reforms.


    (1) Power was monopolized by the aristocrats.


    (2) Representation of town and country, and North and South was unfair.


    (3) There were also various so-called rotten or pocket boroughs.


    2.Three Reform Bills


    Between 1832 and 1884 three Reform Bills were passed.


    a) The Reform Act of 1832 (also called the “Greater Charter of 1832) abolished ”rotten boroughs“, and redistributed parliamentary seats more fairly among the growing tows. It also gave the vote to many householders and tenant‘s, based on the value of their property.


    b) The New Poor Law of 1834 forced the poor people into work houses instead of giving them sufficient money to survive in their own homes.


    3.A People‘s Charter


    There was widespread dissatisfaction with the Reform Act of 1832 and the New Poor Law. In 1836, a group of skilled workers and small shopkeepers formed the London Working Men‘s Association. They drew up a charter of political demands (a People’s Charter) in 1838, with the intention of presenting it to Parliament. It had six points: (1)the vote for all adult males; (2)voting by secret ballot; (3)equal electoral districts; (4)abolition of property qualifications for members of Parliament; (5)payment of members of Parliament; (6)annual Parliaments, with a General Election every June.


    4.Results of the Chartist Movement


    Chartism failed because of its weak and divided leadership, and its lack of coordination with trade-unionism. The working class still immature, without the leadership of a political party armed with correct revolutionary theory. The Chartist movement was, however, the first nationwide working class movement and drew attention to serious problems. The 6 points were achieved very gradually over the period of 1858-1918, although the sixth has never been practical. Lenin said that Chartism was “the first broad, really mass, politically formed, proletarian revolutionary movement.”


    I. Trade Unions and the Labour Party


    1. The Trade Union Act of 1871 legalized the trade unions and gave financial security.


    2. The Labor Party had its origin in the Independent Labor Party(ILP), which was formed in January, 1893. In 1900, representatives of trade unions, the ILP, and a number of small socialist societies set up the Labor Representation Committee (LRC)。 The LRC changed its name to the Labor Party for the general election called for in 1906.


    II. Colonial Expansion


    1. The growth of dominions


    English colonial expansion began with the colonization of Newfoundland in 1583. Encouraged by Britain‘s control of the seas, especially by the rising tide of emigration, British colonialists stepped up their expansion to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, in the late 18th and the early 19th centuries. By 1900, Britain had built up a big empire, “on which the sun never set”。 It consisted of a vast number of protectorates, Crown colonies, spheres of influence, and self-governing dominions. It included 25% of the world’s population and area.


    Canada was ceded to Britain by the 1763 Treaty of Paris. French rights were guaranteed by the Quebec Act of 1774. The Canada Act of 1791 divided Canada into Upper Canada where the British had settled, and Lower Canada populated by the French. The British North America Act of 1867 established Canada as a dominion.


    English began to transport convicts to Australia in 1788. Free settlement began in 1816, and no convicts were sent to Australia after 1840. The gold rushes (1851-1892) brought more people to Australia, and in 1901 the six self-governing wer united in one dominion-the independent Commonwealth of Australia.


    New Zealand became a separate colony of Britain in 1841, achieved self-government in 1857, became a dominion under the British crown in 1907 and was made completely independent in 1931.


    1. The Conquest of India


    The British East India Company established in 1600. By 1819 the British conquest of most India was almost complete. After the muting of Bengal army in 1857, the control of India passed to the British Crown and Queen Victoria became Empress of India in 1877.


    2. The Scramble for Africa


    At the beginning of the 19th century British possessions were confined to forts and slave trading posts on the west coast. Over the 19th century the interior of Africa was gradually discovered and colonized by Europeans. Britain led the way in the race. Apart from the colonies in the South and West, Britain was also involved in the North East in Egypt and the Sudan.


    3. Aggression against China


    In 1840, the Opium War broke out between Britain and China. Since then, Britain gradually invaded many coastal areas and imposed a series of unequal treaties upon China.


    VI. Twentieth Century


    1. Britain and the First World War


    The Work War I was fought from 1914 to 1918 primarily between two European Power blocs: “the Central power”。 Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the “Allies”, Britain, France and Russia. During the war, the Britain lost much. Apart from the loss of manpower, there had been considerable disruption of the economy and society. Out of the war settlement came the establishment of the league of Nations.


    2. Britain Between the Two World Wars


    The effects of the New York Stock Market Crash of 1929 soon spread throughout Europe and by 1931 Britain was entering the Great depression.


    3. Britain and the Second World War


    As Adolf Hitler and Nazism showed off their aggressive momentum in Europe, Chamberlain, the Prime Minister, found his policy of appeasement of German aggression was no longer tenable, and was forced to declare war on Germany on September 3,1939.


    4. Postwar Britian


    (1) One of the most far-reaching consequences of the War was that it hastened the end of Britain‘s empire.


    (2) In 1952 Princess Elizabeth was crowned Queen Elizabeth II. Many people through television saw the ceremony.


    (4) In January 1973, Britain became a full member of the European Economic Community which was still called the Common Market in 1973. Britain witnessed the first oil shock in 1973.


    (5) Mrs Thatcher


    Thatcherism referred to the policies put forward by Margaret Thatcher, the first woman prime minister in England in 1979. The main contents of her policies included the return to private ownership of state-owned industries, the use of monetarist policies to control inflation, the weakening of trade unions the strengthening of the role of market forces in the economy, and an emphasis on law and order. To some extent her program was successful and she led one of the most remarkable periods in the British economy.



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