Britain’s Imperial Century, 1815–1914: A Study of Empire and by Ronald Hyam

By Ronald Hyam

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The international diffusion of the Watt engine was such that by 1825 one-third of all the firm's steam-engines were sold outside Europe, with sales in India equal to those in the United States and Canada together; one engine had even been sold in the Congo basin. 21 Britain continuously sent artisans, entrepreneurs, engineers, foremen and operatives to found and work industries overseas, first in Europe, and then throughout the world. Britain built the railways of the world from Belgium to India, though the United States was an exception (even so it was estimated in 1857 that fully £80 million in American railway securities were held in The Foundations of Power, 1815-70 23 Britain).

After the Indian Mutiny, the predominant fear was not so much an anticipated direct Russian invasion of India, but alarm that she might promote internal subversion. Russia was regarded in these parts as the growing power, and Britain was not. Salisbury emphasised the importance of prestige in governing India. However strong frontiers and fortresses were, he observed in 1884, 'if the prestige of the Power coming against you is greater than your own, it will penetrate through that barrier; it will undermine your sway; it will dissolve the loyalty and patriotism of those you rule'.

The year 1846 was also marked by a big reduction in foreign timber duties, at which Canadian lumber interests protested. The disadvantage to Canada of the change of policy was obvious. The Earl of Elgin (Governor-General 1847-54) thought the proper course to follow was a yet further development of free trade by the repeal of the navigation laws and the extension of Canadian commercial intercourse with the United States. Repeal of the navigation laws was something which the colonies wanted, and so from 1849 it was no longer necessary in law for British merchandise to be carried in British-built ships.

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