Africa, India, and the New British Empire,
Changes and Exchanges in Africa
A. New Africa States
1. Serious drought hit the coastlands of southeastern Africa in the early nineteenth
century and led to conflicts over grazing and farming lands. During these
conflicts Shaka used strict military drill and close-combat warfare in order to
build the Zulu kingdom.
2. Some neighboring Africans created their own states (such as Swaziland and
Lesotho) in order to protect themselves against the expansionist Zulu kingdom.
Shaka ruled the Zulu kingdom for little more than a decade, but he succeeded in
creating a new national identity as well as a new kingdom.
3. In West Africa movements to purify Islam led to the construction of new states
through the classic Muslim pattern of jihad. The largest of these reform
movements occurred in the Hausa states and led to the establishment of the
Sokoto Caliphate (1809–1906).
4. The new Muslim states became centers of Islamic learning and reform. Sokoto
and other Muslim states both sold slaves and used slaves in order to raise food,
thus making it possible for them to seclude free Muslim women in their homes in
accordance with reformed Muslim practice.
B. Modernization in Egypt and Ethiopia
1. In Egypt, Muhammad Ali (r. 1805–1848) carried out a series of modernizing
reforms that were intended to build up Egypt’s military strength. In order to pay
for his reform program, Muhammad Ali required Egyptian peasants to cultivate
cotton and other crops for export.
2. Muhammad Ali’s grandson Ismail placed even more emphasis on westernizing
Egypt. Ismail’s ambitious construction programs (railroads, the new capital city
of Cairo) were funded by borrowing from French and British banks, which led
Britain and France to occupy the country when the market for cotton collapsed
after the American Civil War.
3. In the mid- to late nineteenth century Ethiopian kings reconquered territory that
had been lost since the sixteenth century, purchased modern European weapons,
and began to manufacture weapons locally. An attempt to hold British officials
captive led to a temporary British occupation in the 1860s, but the British
withdrew and the modernization program continued.
C. European Pentration
1. In 1830 France invaded Algeria; it took the French eighteen years to defeat
Algerian resistance organized by the Muslim holy man Abd al-Qadir and another
thirty years to put down resistance forces in the mountains. By 1871 130,000
European settlers had taken possession of rich Algerian farmland.
2. European explorers carried out peaceful expeditions in order to trace the course
of Africa’s rivers, assess the mineral wealth of the continent, and to convert
Africans to Christianity. David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley, and other
explorers traced the courses of the Nile, the Niger, the Zambezi, and the Congo
D. Abolition and Legitimate Trade
1. In 1808 news of slave revolts like that on Saint Domingue and the activities of
abolitionists combined to lead Britain and the United States to prohibit their
citizens from participating in the slave trade. The British used their navy in order
to stop the slave trade, but the continued demand for slaves in Cuba and Brazil
meant that the trade did not end until 1867.
2. As the slave trade declined, Africans expanded their “legitimate trade” in gold
and other goods.
3. The most successful new export was palm oil that was exported to British
manufacturers of soap, candles, and lubricants. The increased export of palm oil
altered the social structure of coastal trading communities of the Niger Delta, as
is demonstrated in the career of the canoe slave Jaja who became a wealthy palm
oil trader in the 1870s.
4. The suppression of the salve trade also helped to spread Western cultural
influences in West Africa. Missionaries converted and founded schools for the
recaptives whom the British settled in Sierra Leone while black Americans
brought Western culture to Liberia and to other parts of Africa before and after
Emancipation in the United States.
E. Secondary Empires in Eastern Africa
1. When British patrols ended the slave trade on the Atlantic coast, slave traders in
the Atlantic trade began to purchase their slaves from the East African markets
that had traditionally supplied slaves to North Africa and the Middle East.
Zanzibar Island and neighboring territories ruled by the Sultan of Oman were
important in the slave trade, the ivory trade, and in the cultivation of cloves on
plantations using slave labor.
2. The demand for ivory along the East African coast allowed African and Arab
merchants hundreds of miles inland to build large personal trading empires like
that of Tippu Tip. Historians refer to these empires as “secondary empires”
because they depended on Western demand for ivory and other goods and on
Western manufacturers for weapons.
3. Egypt’s expansion southward in the nineteenth century may also be considered a
secondary empire. Muhammad Ali invaded the Egyptian Sudan in order to
secure slaves for his armies.
India Under British Rule
A. Company Men
1. In the eighteenth century the Mughal Empire was defeated and its capital sacked
by marauding Iranian armies while internally, the Mughal’s deputies (nawabs)
had become de facto independent rulers of their states.
2. British, French, and Dutch companies staffed by ambitious young “Company
Men” established trading posts and strategic places and hired Indian troops
(sepoys) to defend them. By the early 1800s the British East India Company had
pushed the French out of south India, forced the Mughal Empire to recognize
Company rule over Bengal, and taken control of large territories that became the
core of the “Bombay Presidency.”
B. Raj and Rebellion, 1818–1857
1. The British raj (reign) over India aimed both to introduce administrative and
social reform and to hold the support of Indian allies by respecting Indian social
and religious customs. These contradictory goals led to many inconsistencies in
British policies toward India.
Before 1850 the British created a government that relied on sepoy military
power, disarmed the warriors of the Indian states, gave free reign to Christian
missionaries, and established a private land ownership system in order to ease
tax collection. At the same time, the British bolstered the “traditional” power of
princes and holy men and invented “traditional” rituals to celebrate their own
3. British political and economic influence benefited Indian elites and created jobs
in some sectors while bringing new oppression to the poor and causing the
collapse of the traditional textile industry.
4. Discontent among the needy and particularly among the Indian soldiers led to the
Sepoy Rebellion of 1857. The rebellion was suppressed in 1858, but it gave the
British a severe shock.
C. Political Reform and Industrial Impact
1. After the rebellion of 1857–1858 the British eliminated the last traces of Mughal
and Company rule and installed a new government, administered from London.
The new government continued to emphasize both tradition and reform,
maintained Indian princes in luxury, and staged elaborate ceremonial pageants
known as durbars.
2. An efficient bureaucracy, the Indian Civil Service, now controlled the Indian
masses. Recruitment into the ICS was by examinations that were theoretically
open to all, but in practice, racist attitudes prevented Indians from gaining access
to the upper levels of administration.
3. After 1857 the British government and British enterprises expanded the
production and export of agricultural commodities and built irrigation systems,
railroads, and telegraph lines. Freer movement of people into the cities caused
the spread of cholera, which was brought under control when new sewage and
filtered water systems were installed in the major cities in the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries.
D. Rising Indian Nationalism
1. The failure of the rebellion of 1857 prompted some Indians to argue that the only
way for Indians to regain control of their destiny was to reduce their country’s
social and ethnic divisions and to promote a Pan-Indian nationalism.
2. In the early nineteenth century Rammouhan Roy and his Brahmo Samaj
movement tried to reconcile Indian religious traditions with Western values and
to reform traditional abuses of women. After 1857, Indian intellectuals tended to
turn toward Western secular values and western nationalism as a way of
developing a Pan-Indian nationalism that would transcend regional and religious
3. Indian middle class nationalists convened the first Indian National Congress in
1885. The Congress promoted national unity and argued for greater inclusion of
Indians in the Civil Service, but it was an elite organization with little support
from the masses.
III. Britain’s Eastern Empire
A. Colonies and Commerce
1. British defeat of French and Dutch forces in the Napoleonic Wars allowed
Britain to expand its control in South Africa, Southeast Asia, and the southern
2. The Cape Colony was valuable to Britain because of its strategic importance as a
supply station on the route to India. In response to British pressure the
descendants of earlier French and Dutch settlers (the Afrikaners) embarked on a
“Great Trek” to found new colonies on the fertile high veld that had been
depopulated by the Zulu wars.
3. The British also established a series of strategic outposts in Southeast Asia.
Thomas Raffles established the free port of Singapore in 1824, Assam was
annexed to India in 1826, and Burma was annexed in 1852.
Imperial Policies and Shipping
1. Historians usually depict Britain in this period as a reluctant empire builder,
more interested in trade than in acquiring territory. Most of the new colonies
were intended to serve as ports in a global shipping network that the British
envisioned in terms of free trade, as opposed to the previous mercantilist trade
2. Whether colonized or not, African, Asian, and Pacific lands were being drawn
into the commercial networks created by British expansion and industrialization.
These areas became exporters of raw materials and agricultural goods and
importers of affordable manufactured products.
3. A second impetus to global commercial expansion was the technological
revolution in the construction of oceangoing ships in the nineteenth century. Use
of iron to fasten timbers together and the use of huge canvas sails allowed
shipbuilders to make larger, faster vessels that lowered the cost of shipping and
thus stimulated maritime trade.
Colonization of Australia and New Zealand
1. The development of new ships and shipping contributed to the colonization of
Australia and New Zealand by British settlers that displaced the indigenous
2. Portuguese mariners sighted Australia in the early seventeenth century, and
Captain James Cook surveyed New Zealand and the eastern Australian coast
between 1769 and 1778. Unfamiliar diseases brought by new overseas contacts
substantially reduced the populations of the hunter-gatherer Aborigines of
Australia and the Maori of New Zealand.
3. Australia received British convicts and, after the discovery of gold in 1851, a
flood of free European (and some Chinese) settlers. British settlers came more
slowly to New Zealand until defeat of the Maori, faster ships, and a short gold
rush brought more British immigrants after 1860.
4. The British crown gradually turned governing power over to the British settlers
of Australia and New Zealand, but Aborigines and the Maori experienced
discrimination. However, Australia did develop powerful trade unions, New
Zealand promoted the availability of land for the common person, and both
Australia and New Zealand granted women the right to vote in 1894.
New Labor Migrations
1. Between 1834 and 1870 large numbers of Indians, Chinese, and Africans went
overseas as laborers. British India was the greatest source of migrant laborers,
and British colonies (particularly sugar plantations) were the principal
destinations of the migrants.
2. With the end of slavery, the demand for cheap labor in the British colonies,
Cuba, and Hawaii was filled by Indians, free Africans, Chinese, and Japanese
workers. These workers served under contracts of indenture which bound them
to work for a specified number of years in return for free passage to their
overseas destination, a small salary, and free housing, clothing and medical care.
3. These new indentured migrants were similar to the European emigrants of the
time in that they left their homelands voluntarily in order to make money that
they could send or take back home or to finance a new life in their new country.
However, people recruited as indentured laborers were generally much poorer
than European emigrants, took lower-paying jobs, and were unable to afford the
passage to the most desirable areas.