The British Empire: Ideologies, Perspectives and Perceptions

The British Empire: Ideologies, Perspectives and Perceptions

The British Empire established an extremely varied and complex world in time and space. In its first phase, the North American colonies performed an important role in establishing the Empire. It then reached its height between the end of the 19th century and the First World War by means of military domination in India, Southeast Asia and Africa--expanding its influence after 1919 up to the process of de-colonization commencing from the middle of the 20th century.

With so many diverse cultures involved and the ever-changing proposed legitimate arguments for colonialism, the British Empire created a vast volume of work of the most varied kind--biographies, auto-biographies, travelogues, periodicals, political and economic essays, anthropological studies, paintings, sculptures, architecture, photography, poetry, stories and novels, which transmitted a plurality of voices with heterogeneous values and perspectives about the colonial experience.

In addition to exploring the concepts of empire, colony, colonialism and imperialism, it is important to analyze these individual and collective experiences, including the arguments for the benign "European civilizing mission" and the denunciation of covert economic interests. Another factor to be examined is the aggressive affirmation of British cultural superiority at the time, and the gradual consciousness-raising as to the value and legitimacy of different cultures conducive to dissonance, doubts and questions about the universality of the dominant culture and its manifestations. A third area of interest is the way in which the hierarchical social values in force in England at the time were transplanted to the colonies; and once there, were transformed or maintained through political and domestic authority or caught up in the collision between the attraction and repulsion towards other cultures.