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Harry Bojakowski Empire essay 2 Part b Some Historians have studied the Empire by using the concept of informal

l Empire. What has it added to our understanding and what are the disadvantages?
An imperialism of free trade was published in 1953 written by Robinson and Gallagher. They were interested by the way the USA in particular exerted economic and political control over client states. They considered how British imperialism may have worked in a similar way, with influence rather than conquest used to establish control. In this essay, we will explore how this approach has added to our understanding of the British Empire, by looking at the approach in detail such as providing us with a new definition of the Empire and investigating different examples of when it has been used. Following this, we will discuss the disadvantages of this approach, looking into what the critics have to say, and comparing this with other approaches, after which I will then come to an overall evaluation of the approach, analysing whether this approach can be used in combination with other approaches in order to reach a more richer interpretation and understanding of the British Empire. Robinson and Gallaghers informal approach provided historians of the British Empire with a new definition of what the Empire actually encompassed. They suggested that Britain exerted a lot of influence through trade and other means in certain area that were not formally controlled, essentially making them part of the British Empire as well; it would be dearly unreal to define the imperial history exclusively as the history of those colonies coloured red on the map. There is much evidence to support this view. For instance, it is undoubtedly true that Britain exerted a lot of influence in th Argentina, yet this was never part of the Empire formally. In the later 19 century Britain became very important to Argentina as the main source of financial credit and as a market for agricultural goods. Therefore it became of vital importance for the Argentina government to retain confidence in the British creditors. The Roca-Runciman pact that was signed in 1933 which meant tariff reductions on British goods was designed, according to Argentine nationalist historians, to preserve Argentina as a giant cattle ranch for British consumers. A theory, called the Dependency theory came about to try and explain this. It argued that whilst the British market had been of vital importance to Argentina, the Argentina market had merely been important, but not crucial, to Britain. Hence, the British had been in a position to manipulate Argentine economic policy to the latters disadvantage and the Britains advantage. This demonstrates this new definition of Empire; Britain was able to exert its influence over foreign countries, introduce English policies and use them to their advantage, much like Britain would do to formal colonies in the Empire, without actually formally annexing the nation. This therefore shows that this interpretation has added to historians understanding of the Empire as it allows his torians to look at parts of the world and considered them to be part of the Empire, that otherwise would have been disregarded, thus allowing historians to draw a more comprehensive and accurate interpretation of the history of the British Empire. Linking in with the previous point, this approach to the Empire further added to historians understanding in the sense that it changed the whole geographical view of the British Empire leading historians to study parts of the Empire that would have previously been ignored by Imperial historians. Robinson and Gallagher outlined this in their article; the conventional interpretation of the Empire continues to rest upon the study of the formal empire alone, which is rather like judging the size and character of icebergs solely from parts above the water line. An example of this would be the Opium wars. This was a perfect instance of gunboat diplomacy; Britain exerted control and influence by force without seeking formal annexation. The result of the First Opium war was Britain controlling the moth of the Yangtze and Shanghai, and forced the Chinese to sing a series of unequal treaties that turned control of much of the coast over to the west. After the Second Opium war the traditional values of an entire culture became undermined by Western Christian values. Here it is obviously evident that Britain was able to exerts strong control and influence other this nation without formally annexing the land. There was a similar occurrence in Latin America. The Monroe doctrine imposed by America, served British interests quite well enough. The doctrine made it clear that the United States would not tolerate foreign meddling in the Americas. This policy meant that Britain could get all the benefits of trade and investment in South America with very little of the administrative costs. In addition, it could be reasonably safe in the knowledge that other European states wouldn't be able to steal the markets through annexation. Britain had very strong commercial links with South America, especially with Argentina. In many ways, the influence and power that Britain could hold over the policies of the individual South American states meant that they could almost be termed as being part of Britain's informal empire. These two examples therefore demonstrate how the geography of the Empire completely changes once you start to look at the informal control and Empire as well, thus adding to historians understanding of the era of the British Empire. Another way in which studying the concept of the Informal Empire has added to historians understanding is by offering a complete new chronology of the Empire, by challenging assumptions about anti-imperialism and new imperialism and in fact suggesting a fundamental continuity of British Imperial policy. Imperial power expanded in the era of supposed antiimperialism. There was spreading British influence in Latin America, Africa and China. This informal Empire was cheap and therefore and attractive idea to the mid-Victorian mind. In mid-Victorian period countries such as Columbia, Mexico and Argentina became dependant on the British for financial support, export markets and manufactured supplies. The British thus developed political leverage over local rulers. There was further emphasis on the influence on colonies and not the seizure of colonies in the Tropical Africa. From 1840s-60s there was growing involvement. Expeditions to the Niger in 1841 and 47 along with a mission to Dahamey in 1850 and an assault on Lagos in 1851 are all examples of this. This

Harry Bojakowski Part b

Empire essay 2

informal expansion, coupled with the fact that there was some formal expansion, between 1841 and 1851 the British added New Zealand, Gold Coast, Labuan, Natal, Punjab, Sind and Hong Kong to their formal empire, changes the previously established chronology of the Empire. This informal approach therefore adds to historians understanding of the Empire as it helps to explain these periods of supposedly anti-imperialism and new-imperialism as well as providing new interpretations to arise of the continuity of British expansion. Furthermore, it was said that during the mid-Victorian era when it was widely accepted was an age of anti-imperialism Britain followed a policy of extending control informally if possible and only formally when necessary . This would explain as to why historians who have previously only looked at the Empire in the formal sense would see the era as an age of anti-imperialism because there was a lot of informal expansion, thus adding to historians understanding of the Empire further. From the mid-1830s-1860s, the British government intervened all over the globe, with the intention of removing barriers to trade, and ended up establishing an informal Empire in the regions of expansion as they were the dominate partner. This is evident in the Opium wars and intervention in Argentina, this occurred during the mid-Victorian era. When looked at like this, it seems that Britain had a very pro-active expansion and imperial policy in the mid-Victorian era, and this so called age of anti-imperialism, when approached informally, ceases to exist, thus changing the chronology of the Empire. Furthermore, when it was necessary the British did formally annex land during this time period as well. Robinson and Gallagher argued that both the mid Victorians and the late Victorians preferred to promote trade and security without the expense of Empire; but neither shrank from formal policies whenever they seemed necessary. For instance, further formal expansion into the Sudan was sparked by national religious rebellion against Egyptian rule led by the Mahdi which could have compromised Britains trade and economic advantage in that position of the world. This informal approach has therefore added to historians understating of the British Empire as i t others a different interpretation to do with the chronology of the British Empire, and allowing historians to look more deeply into the British governments policies and actions to do with the Empire, rather than just scratching the surface and taking ex pansion at face value which is the case when the Empire is looked at formally. This informal approach also led to new ways of explaining the shift in the character of imperialism at the end of th 19 century and why more territories underwent the transition from informal control to formal control. The emphasis on continuity of metropolitan attitudes and policies forced historians to find alternative explanations for the expansion of formal Empire. This created a shift to the periphery. Historians started to focus more on nationalist crises and the role of men on the spot to explain the shape and development of imperialism. In other words, the informal approach ultimately led to a further approach; the peripheral approach. This is evident in the fact that new historians such as J. S. Galbraith started to look at the Empire with this approach and draw interpretations that the edge of the Empire is a turbulent frontier. Furthermore, DK Fieldhouse offered an interpretation of British imperial expansion in the 1970s. It drew heavily upon Robinson and Gallagher and looked at the importance of peripheral factors in Asia as well as Africa. Linking in with this, O.B Pollacks study of Burma in 1851 highlights the role of merchants in Rangoon which sparked the second AngloBurmese war. It was British colonial officials in India who were the men on the spot that reacted to the arrest of some merchants for infringing local custom and reacted belligerently. These examples clearly outline how this informal approach as added to our understanding of the Empire by prompting other historians to develop a new approach and draw different interpretations that would have previously been made. Examples of this and men on the spot taking a more significant role are as follows. It was the threat to the Suez Canal caused by the Arabs nationalist revolt that forced Britain to react in the way that it did. Also, Sir Evelyn Baring was a British Controller General of Egypt in 1878 to 1879 who played a major role in pressurising the British government to overthrow him and replace him with Tewfil. Another example of men on the spot would be Admiral Sir Frederick Seymour, who was in command of a fleet and sailed to Alexandria when the nationalist riots broke out and initialised a bombardment without central government control. Informal Empire approach therefore has contributed to historians understanding of the Empire prompting historians to look at the actions of men on the spot for explain the Empire and leading to the peripheral approach being adopted by many historians, in turn creating many new interpretations of the history of the Empire and explanations that never would have previously come about. Overall, the studying of the concept of informal empire has contributed to historians understanding of the Empire through many factors. It has changed the chronology of the Empire, suggesting that there was a fundamental consistent government policy and imperial expansion through the supposed ears of anti and new imperialism. It prompted historians to look at the actions of men on the spot as a way of explaining the Empire and created new approach looking at the periphery of the Empire, as well as suggesting a new geography of the Empire and, arguably most importantly, a new definition of Empire. However, whilst theses are huge, significant contributions to the understanding of the British Empire, it must also be noted that there are many disadvantages, and in some cases, historians have been very critical of this approach. It is possible to cities the very concept of informal Empire, whilst looking at informal Empire is very useful, it could be argued that this ignores the actual differences between formal and informal control, leading to inaccurate interpretations. Does informal influence really mean that they were part of the Empire? If this was the case, then there would not have been a second Opium war for instance, they would have realised from the first Opium war that they are
th

Harry Bojakowski Part b

Empire essay 2

now effectively part of the Empire under informal control. My point here is that informal control or influence still leaves room for nations to take an independent path or go against what the British wanted. It is not until you have real, formal control via annexation of the land that the metropolis can have complete authority and exploit the land to their fullest, hence making it part of the Empire. Linking in with this point, Robinson and Gallagher argue that control was exercised through trade, migration and cultural links but the parts of the globe most affected by these things were not parts of the British Empire, formally or informally and Britain had very little influence on, for example in the USA. The third criticism of this approach in itself is that there may in fact be even more parts of the Empire that this approach does not cover and that this approach is far too simple. If this approach is to start to be used frequently then this approach and the formal approach may be assumed to be the only two possible, in which case major parts of the Empire could then forever be left out. It is further possible to identify many shortcomings in other aspects of the ideas which emerged from the concept of informal Empire. It could be argued here that informal Empire and control through influence was never an actual government policy and therefore it would be unfair to justify control through influence that did arise as being part of a formal Empire, but rather it just arose coincidentally and there was a mutual agreement amongst both parties, in which both parties gained advantages of the agreement. Furthermore, their emphasis on continuity has many weaknesses and th fails to take into account much evidence. There really were very strong anti-imperialism views in the mid-19 century, such as Cobden, and more famously Hobson: Empire makes the poor poorer and the rich richer. These are all examples of the main disadvantages of the informal approach. Of course, the informal Empire approach attracted critics as well. One of the earliest was D.C.M. Platt, who attacked the th argument on several grounds. He contended that in the early 19 century, the obstacles to the spread of the British rule, trade into the interior of some less developed regions of the world were far greater than Robinson and Gallagher allow. Poor transport and communications, hostility and resistance to foreign incursion into the local market, and sometimes the reluctance or inability of local populations living at substance level to buy British produce all served to minimise the effects of British trade upon local society. This outlines that looking at the Empire with an informal approach brings about false interpretations and that instead of political leveraged being brought about because of the metropolis being more powerful and influential, it was actually just because of the local economic preferences, thus not under informal control of the metropolis at all. Another early critic was O. Macdonough, who focused upon attitudes to Empire in British domestic politics during the mid-Victorian period. He notes the intensity of much of the anti-imperialisms among politicians between the 1840s and the 1860s as a factor to which Gallagher and Robinson pay far too little attention to. As a result, they miss the fact that attitudes even among the Liberals became markedly more bullish towards Empire towards the end of the century, not least in response to the perceived imperial ambitions of rival powers. Another criticism came from Cain and Hopkins, who said that whist they supported the concept of Empire they criticise Robinson and Gallagher for ignoring metropolitan economic forces. A more complex reassessment of this approach has come from John Darwin. Much of Darwins work tests the interpretation of British decolonisation as a conscious attempt by the British to lighten the load of imperial rule by replacing formal imperial rule by informal influence. He therefore postulates Robinson and th Gallaghers analysis of the later 19 century in reverse; a shift from formal to informal empire in order to reduce the th burden of imperialism on a beleaguered metropolitan economy. For him, a confusing aspect of the 19 century British Empire was its diversity of forms of rule, how this might be explained, and the extent to which it actually reflected consistency in the official mind of empire. Ultimately, Darwin is highly critical of the notion that there was ever a truly coherent official mind in London. He argues that there were numerous emerging factors made it increasingly difficult for politicians and civil servants to adhere to any established principles in the handling of imperial affairs. Here we can see that there are many disadvantages to the concept of informal Empire, and many critics as well. However, it come to a full, and more accurate conclusion about the true benefit of this informal approach we must first look at alternative approaches in comparison, and also see as to whether this approach when in combination with others could produce an even more enriched view of the Empire. For instance, an approach that focuses on formal Empire provided historians with definitive bounds and territory marks. This allows historians draw more solid interpretations about the Empire. This demonstrates that a shortcoming of the informal approach does not provide this, opening up to argument what actually is part of the informal Empire of Britain, thus allowing historians to come up with many different interpretations upon regions of the informal Empire that in itself is open to judgement. Comparing this approach with the metropolitan approach also demonstrates a further disadvantage of the informal approach. The informal approach only looks at influence and actions at the periphery of the Empire could mean that some historians using this approach could fall into the trap of completely ignoring the actions within the metropolis or the effects of the Empire here. There were definitely strong economic forces acting within the metropolis that played a strong role in the expansion of Empire. There was an economic impetus to imperialism, for instance the financiers and investors such as the Rowntree and Cadbury family that were based in London wanted to expand purely to enhance their market and exploit foreign resources to ensure greater profit. By using just an informal approach this would be completely ignored. Furthermore, approaches th which identify discontinuity with regard to the Empire during the 19 century are also very helpful as they allow such feelings to come alight, of which there were definitely some. Hobson for instance clearly had a hatred for Empire, along with others such as Lenin who said that whilst it was necessary, he was still ultimately against such concept. An approach such as the informal approach suggests that there was on consistent imperialism mind amongst the politicians at the time and that expansion was continuous. This is a shortcoming of this approach as approaches which identify discontinuity

Harry Bojakowski Part b

Empire essay 2

have suggested otherwise, and there is great evidence to suggest that whilst there was growing influence during the midVictorian era, there was not proper expansion via annexation until the late-Victorian era, demonstrating a change in mind set amongst the politicians; something that an informal approach does not allow to come to light, thus limiting interpretations that can be draw here. The informal approach therefore is a disadvantage as it has many shortcomings to it that could otherwise be avoided if another approach was adopted instead. However, whilst looking at alternative approaches and comparing them to the informal approach singularly demonstrates many shortcomings about using this informal approach, looking at this approach could be combined with others when studying the Empire could in fact produce an even more enriched view of the Empire, allowing historians to draw new or more complex interpretations. For instance, combining the informal and formal approach could demonstrate to historians differences between control and British interference and perhaps allowing historians to draw links between the amount and type of control the metropolis exerts over a certain nations or colony and where it is geographically positioned or what resources are available there. This would allow a more complex interpretation about the nature of metropolitan control over various parts of the Empire, thus allowing us to achieve a richer understanding of the Empire. Combining the informal approach with the metropolitan approach cold also allow new interpretations to develop. On example of this may be that events at the periphery and those of men on the spot, such as Cecil Rhodes and Jameson, could have had an impact on the metropolis and the way politicians and investors acted in response. When the Jameson raid was found to be a massive failure the government denied all responsibility and knowledge of the event, looking at these two approaches in combination would enable historians to understand why this may have been the case and draw links between certain actions carried out at the periphery and their effect on the metropolis, enhancing our understanding of the Empire even further. Similarly, combing approaches that identify discontinuity with the informal Empire approach could also be advantageous to historians studying the Empire. It will enable historians to draw more of a complex interpretation about the chronology of the Empire. Historians could perhaps draw links between the time of supposed anti-imperialism or new-imperialism and the type of control exercised by the metropolis over colonial regions. Perhaps the reason why the mid-Victorian era is seen as an age of anti-imperialism because control was exercised more through influence, and then during the age of new-imperialism there was more control through formal annexation? Looking at the empire with an informal approach in conjunction with this approach about discontinuity will allow such interpretations to arise. Therefore, when studying the Empire using the informal approach in combination with other approaches can in fact prove to be of an advantage and contribute to historians understanding of the Empire by allowing more complex interpretations to arise. This informal approach therefore has offered a lot to historians studying the Empire. It has offered us a complete new definition of the Empire, teaching us that the British control was not just confined to the parts coloured red on the map. In doing so it put forward a complete new geography of the Empire, opening up places of the Empire that would have otherwise been disregarded. As well as this, the informal empire approach taught us that the chronology of the Empire th was not as simple as it was first thought to be, and that perhaps there was continuity of British control through the 19 th century and into the early 20 century. Furthermore, it presented a way of explaining the shift in character of imperialism th at the end of the 19 century and new way of approaching the increased formal empire. However, there have been many disadvantages of this approach too, with many critics. It has been argued that the informal approach is far too simple, or that informal control does not actually mean that those nations are actually part of the Empire, causing historians to use this approach to draw inaccurate interpretations. There are also many shortcomings as well to this approach that would otherwise not arise if an alternative approach was adopted. For instance, it focuses too much on the periphery and the actions of the men on the spot and consequently ignores the economic driving forces within the metropolis of the impact that the Empire has had on the metropolis. Whilst there are these disadvantages and shortcomings however, when used in conjunction with other approaches it can be seen as contributing greatly to historians understanding of the Empire, allowing more complex interpretation to be drawn, and opening up new aspects and concepts of the British Empire that would otherwise not have arisen. So, I conclude that whilst there has been disadvantage and some shortcomings, these are minor in comparison to the amount that this approach has contributed to the understating of the British Empire; bring about complete new, and far more complex, interpretations that would have previously not been drawn.