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Complete 5 page APA formatted essay: Nature of British Colonialism.

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So the course of the different British colonies is diverse.1

Generally, the overall quality of colonial administration improved at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the Colonial Office prospered under effective leadership who created distinct departments, recruited and hired experts in colonial management, and worked with true humanitarian intentions to create policy that recognized the human worth of the colonists. According to historian Harold J. Schultz, the leaders of the Office, “under the influence of the humanitarian and Evangelical movement, produced a colonial policy favoring missionary expansion and racial equality.”2

At the end of the nineteenth century, a wave of imperialist expansion swept over European nations. Fostered by nationalism, militarism, and the Industrial Revolution, Britain and its neighbors determined the best chance for real expansion was overseas. They began what is often termed a “scramble” for colonies, which may have been just as messy a process as the word implies. Britain began to feel threatened by the other nations’ expansion. It worried about its sources of raw materials, its markets, and its ability to conduct free trade.3 This fear affected its attitudes about colonies and its policies.

In Canada, colonial policy was influenced by friction between groups such as French and English, and Catholic and Protestant. In the north, early colonists were angered by the influx of new settlers and worried that local government might come under their control. In the south, the elected Assembly feuded with the upper house, which was seen as the governor’s cronies. There was actually a rebellion in 1837, which showed the British government how serious the Canada situation was. Britain sent Lord Durham to Canada to assess the situation and make recommendations.4

Lord Durham’s assessment concluded there were “two basic problems in Canada: ‘two races warring in the bosom of a single nation,’ and representative government without political responsibility for its actions.”5 He created a plan to unite Upper and Lower Canada to reduce racial differences, and offered ideas to reform the government to make it more honest and effective. His recommendation was to allow governors to select their ministers from members with a majority in the Assembly.6 In this way, the legislature would have a power check on the executive branch.

Durham’s plan was quite fair and reasonable. It showed that creating responsible government for at least some colonies was Britain’s goal. It suggested that the “colony-mother country” relationship would be one of voluntary association, and not coercion. Britain had been paying attention in the years after the American Revolution, and now had a different view of that relationship.7


All colonial policy is influenced by economics, but that seems to be especially the case with India. After the Seven Years’ War, the East India Company grew in power “from a trading post to a private imperial empire.”8 The company abused its power in India, governing without accountability. Corrupt officials made huge fortunes collecting taxes and pocketing them. Corruption became widespread enough to draw the interest of the House of Commons. Lord North reduced the company’s power but still left it with control.

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