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Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 608 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BRITISH EMPIRE, the name now loosely given to the whole aggregate of territory, the inhabitants of which, under various forms of government, ultimately look to the British crown as the supreme head. The term " empire " is in this connexion obviously used rather for convenience than in any sense equivalent to that of the older or despotic empires of history. The land surface of the earth is estimated to extend over about 52,500,000 sq. m. Of this area the British empire occupies Extent nearly one-quarter, extending over an area of about 12,000,000 sq. m. By far the greater portion lies within the temperate zones, and is suitable for white settlement. The notable exceptions are the southern half of India and Burma; East, West and Central Africa; the West Indian colonies; the northern portion of Australia; New Guinea, British Borneo and that portion of North America which extends into Arctic regions. The area of the territory of the empire is divided almost equally between the southern and the northern hemispheres, the great divisions of Australasia and South Africa covering between them in the southern hemisphere 5,308,506 sq. m., while the United Kingdom, Canada and India, including the native states, cover between them in the northern hemisphere 5,271,375 sq. in. The alternation of the seasons is thus co.nplete, one-half of the empire enjoying summer, while one-half is in winter. The division of territory between the eastern and western hemispheres is less equal, Canada occupying alone in the western hemisphere 3,653,946 sq. m., while Australasia, South Africa, India and the United Kingdom occupy together in the eastern hemisphere 6,925,975 sq. m. As a matter of fact, however, the eastern portions of Australasia border so nearly upon the western hemisphere that the distribution of day and night throughout the empire is, like the alternations of the seasons, almost complete, one-half enjoying daylight, while the other half is in darkness. These alternations of time and of seasons, combined with the variety of soils and climates, are calculated to have an increasingly important effect upon the material and industrial, as well as upon the social and political developments of the empire. This will become evident in considering the industrial productions of the different divisions, and the harvest seasons which permit the summer produce of one portion of the empire to supply the winter requirements of its other markets, and conversely. The empire contains or is bounded by some of the highest mountains, the greatest lakes, and the most important riversof the world. Its climates may be said to include all the known climates of the world; its soils are no less various. In the prairies of central Canada it possesses some of the most valuable wheat-producing land; in the grass lands of the interior of Australia the best pasture country; and in the uplands of South Africa the most valuable gold- and diamond-bearing beds which exist. The United Kingdom at present produces more coal than any other single country except the United States. The effect of climate throughout the empire in modifying the type of the Anglo-Saxon race has as yet received only partial attention, and conclusions regarding it are of a somewhat empiric nature. The general tendency in Canada is held to be towards somewhat smaller size, and a hardy active habit; in Australia to a tall, slight, pale development locally known as " cornstalkers," characterized by considerable nervous and intellectual activity. In New Zealand the type preserves almost exactly the characteristics of the British Isles. The South African, both Dutch and British, is readily recognized by an apparently sun-dried, lank and hard habit of body. In the tropical possessions of the empire, where white settlement does not take place to any considerable extent, the individual alone is affected. The type undergoes no modification. It is to be observed in reference to this interesting aspect of imperial development, that the multiplication and cheapening of channels of communication and means of travel throughout the empire will tend to modify the future accentuation of race difference, while the variety of elements in the vast area occupied should have an important, though as yet not scientifically traced, effect upon the British imperial type. The white population of the empire 1 reached in 19o1 a total of over 53,000,000, or something over one-eighth of its entire population, which, including native races, is estimated Popv/a- at about 400,000,000. The white population includes tlon. some French, Dutch and Spanish peoples, but is mainly of Anglo-Saxon race. It is distributed roughly as follows: United Kingdom and home dependencies . • 41,608,791 Australasia . 4,662,000 British North America 5,500,000 Africa (Dutch and British) 1,000,000 i India 169,677 West Indies and Bermuda 1oo,000 53,040,468 The native population of the empire includes types of the principal black, yellow and brown races, classing with these the high-type races of the East, which may almost be called white. The native population of India, mainly high type, brown, was returned at the census of 1901 as 294,191,379. The population of India is divided into 118 groups on the basis of language. These may, however, be collected into the following principal groups: (A) Malayo-Polynesian. (B) Indo-Chinese: i. Mon-Khmer. ii. Tibeto-Burman. iii. Siamese-Chinese. (C) Dravido-Muedd: i. Muedd (Kolarian). ii. Dravidian. (D) Indo-European. Indo-Aryan sub-family. (E) Semitic. (F) Hamitic. (G) Unclassed, e.g. Gipsy. Eastern Colonies Ceylon, high type, brown and mixed - . 3,568,824 Straits Settlements, brown, mixed and Chinese 570,000 Hong-Kong, Chinese and brown. 306,130 North Borneo, mixed brown and Sarawak 700,000 5,144,954 ' The census returns for 1901 from the various parts of the empire were condensed for the first time in 1906 into a blue-book under the title of Census of the British Empire, Report with Summary. 2 The white population of British South Africa according to the census of 1904 was 1,132,226. Of the various races which inhabit these Eastern dependencies the most important are the 2,000,000 Sinhalese and the 954,000 Tamil that make up the greater part of the population of Ceylon. The rest is made up of Arabs, Malays, Chinese (in the Straits Settlements and Hong-Kong), Dyaks, Eurasians and others. West Indies. The West Indies, including the continental colonies of British Guiana and Honduras, and seventeen islands or groups of islands, have a total coloured population of about 1,912,655. The colonies of this group which have the largest coloured populations are: Jamaica—Chiefly black, some brown and yellow 790,000 Trinidad and Tobago—Black and brown . 250,000 British Guiana—Black and brown . . 286,000 1,326,000 The populations of the West Indies are very various, being made up largely of imported African negroes. In Jamaica these contribute four-fifths of the population. There are also in the islands a considerable number of imported East Indian coolies and some Chinese. The aboriginal races include American Indians of the mainland and Caribs. With these there has been intermixture of Spanish and Portuguese blood, and many mixed types have appeared. The total European population of this group of colonies amounts to upwards of 8o,000, to which 15,000 on account of Bermuda may be added. Africa. South Chiefly black, estimated : • 5,211,329 Central . 2,000,000 The aboriginal races of South Africa were the Bushmen and Hottentots. Both these races are rapidly diminishing in numbers, and in British South Africa it is expected that they will in the course of the twentieth century become extinct. Besides these primitive races there are the dark-skinned negroids of Bantu stock, commonly known in their tribal groups as Kaffirs, Zulu, Bechuana and Damara, which are again subdivided into many lesser groups. The Bantu compose the greater part of the native population. There are also in South Africa Malays and Indians and others, who during the last two hundred years have been introduced from Java, Ceylon, Madagascar, Mozambique and British India, and by intermarriage with each other and with the natives have produced a hybrid population generally classed together under the heading of the Mixed Races. These are of all colours, varying from yellow to dark brown. The tribes of Central Africa are as yet less known. Many of them exhibit racial characteristics allied to those of the tribes of South Africa, but with in some cases an admixture of Arab blood. East Africa. Protectorate—Black and brown : Natives 4,000,000 estimated 25,000 Asiatics Zanzibar—Black and brown 200,000 Uganda . • 3,200,000 Total . . 7,425,000 West Africa. Estimated. Nigeria (including Lagos)—Black and brown 15,000,000 Gold Coast and hinterland—Chiefly black . 2,700,000 Sierra Leone „ 1,000,000 Gambia 163,000 18,863,000 From east to west across Africa the aboriginal nations are mostly of the black negroid type, their varieties being only imperfectly known. The tendency of some of the lower negroid types has been to drift towards the west coast, where they still practise cannibalistic and fetish rites. On the east coast are found much higher types approaching to the Christian races of Abyssinia, and from east to west there has been a wide admixture of Arab blood producing a light-brown type. In Uganda and Nigeria a large proportion of the population is Arab and relatively light-skinned. Australasia. 200,000 Australia—Black, very low type . . Chinese and half castes; yellow 50,000 New Zealand—Maoris, brown, Chinese and half 53,000 castes . . Fiji—Polynesian, black and brown . 121,000 Papua—Polynesian, black and brown . 400,000 824,000 The native races of Australia and the Polynesian groups of islands are divided into two main types known as the dark and light Polynesian. The dark type, which is black, is of a very low order, and in some of the islands still retains its cannibal habits. The aboriginal tribes of Australia are of a low-class black race, but generally peaceful and inoffensive in their habits. The white Polynesian races are of a very superior type, and exhibit, as in the Maoris of New Zealand, characteristics of a high order. The natives of Papua (New Guinea) are in a very low state of civilization. The estimate given of their numbers is approximate, as no census has been taken. Canada. Indians—Brown . . 100,000 The only coloured native races of Canada are the Red Indians, many in tribal variety, but few in number. Summary. Native Populations: India . . 294,191,379 Ceylon and Eastern Colonies 5,144,954 West Indies . 1,912,655 South Africa 5,211,329 British Central Africa 2,000,000 East Africa . 7,425,000 West Africa 18,863,000 Australasia and Islands 824,000 Canada . I00,000 335,672,317 White populations . 53,040,468 Total . 388,712,785 This is without taking into account the population of the lesser crown colonies or allowing for the increase likely to be shown by later censuses. Throughout the empire, and notably in the United Kingdom, there is among the white races a considerable sprinkling of Jewish blood. The latest calculation of the entire population of the world, including a liberal estimate of 65o,000,000 for peoples not brought under any census, gives a total of something over 1,500,000,000. The population of the empire may therefore be calculated as amounting to something more than one-fourth of the population of the world. It is a matter of first importance in the geographical distribution of the empire that the five principal divisions, the United Kingdom, South Africa, India, Australia and Canada Divisions. are separated from each other by the three great oceans of the world. The distance as usually calculated in nautical miles: from an English port to the Cape of Good Hope is 5840 m.; from the Cape of Good Hope to Bombay is 461o; from Bombay to Melbourne is 5630; from Melbourne to Auckland is 1~83o; from Auckland to Vancouver is 6210; from Halifax to Liverpool is 2744. From a British port direct to Bombay by way of the Mediterranean it is 6272; from a British port by the same route to Sydney 11,548 M. These great distances have necessitated the acquisition of intermediate ports suitable for coaling stations on the trade routes, and have determined the position of many of the lesser crown colonies which are held simply for military and commercial purposes. Such are the Bermudas, Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, Ceylon, the Straits Settlements, Labuan, Hong-Kong, which complete the chain of connexion on ,the eastern route, and such on other routes are the lesser West African stations, Ascension'; St. Helena, the Mauritius and Seychelles, the Falklands, Tristan da Cunha, and the groups of the western Pacific. Other annexations of the British empire have been rocky islets of the northern Pacific required for the purpose of telegraph stations in connexion with an all-British cable. For purposes of political administration the empire falls into the three sections of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with the dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man; the Indian empire, consisting of British India and the feudatory native states; and the colonial empire, comprising all other colonies and dependencies. In the modern sense of extension beyond the limits of the United Kingdom the growth of the empire is of comparatively O t6. recent date. The Channel Islands became British as a part of the Norman inheritance of William the Conqueror. The Isle of Man, which was for a short time held in conquest by Edward I. and restored, was 'sold by its titular sovereign to Sir William Scrope, earl of Wiltshire, in 1393, and by his subsequent attainder for high treason and the confiscation of his estates, became a fief of the English crown. It was granted by Henry IV. in I'4o6 to Sir John Stanley, k. C., ancestor of the earls of Derby, by whom it was held till 1736, when it passed to James Murray, 2nd duke' of Atholl, as heir-general of the loth earl. It was inherited by his daughter Charlotte, wife of the 3rd duke of Atholl, who sold, it to the crown for £70,000 and an annuity of £2000. With these exceptions and the nominal possession taken of Newfoundland by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583, all the territorial acquisitions of the empire have been made in the 17th and subsequent centuries. The following is a list of the British colonies and dependencies (other than those belonging to the Indian empire) together with a summary statement of the date and method of their acquisition. Arranged in chronological order they give some. idea of the rate of growth of the empire. The dates are not, however, in all cases those in which British sovereignty was established. They indicate in some instances only the first definite step, such as the building of a fort, the opening of a trading station, or other act, which led later to the incorporation in the empire of the country indicated. In the case of Australian states or Canadian provinces originally part of other states or provinces the date is that, approximately, of the first settlement of British in the district named; e.g. there were British colonists in Saskatchewan in the last half of the 18th century, but the province was not constituted until 1905. Save where otherwise stated, British authority has been continuous from the first date mentioned in the table. Reference should be made to the articles on the various colonies. Name. Date. Method of Acquisition. Newfoundland . 1583 Possession taken by Sir H. Gilbert for the crown. 17th Century. Barbados . . 1605–1625 Settlement. Bermudas . 1609 Gambia c. 1618 A second time in 1816. St Christopher 1623 Did not become wholly British until 1713. Novia Scotia 1628' Ceded to France 1632; recovered 1.713.
End of Article: BRITISH EMPIRE

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