The British Empire

  • A former collective term for the territories under the
  • leadership or control of the British crown, including those in
  • the Commonwealth of Nations and their colonies,
  • protectorates, dependencies, and trusteeships
  • (including the Dominion of Canada, Australia, India, & much
  • of Africa)
    • “Why does the sun never set on the British Empire?”
      “Because God doesn’t trust the British in the Dark.”

The Empire

  • Britain was the most powerful nation on earth, even more than the
  • USA today
  • Empire includes Canada, India, much of Africa, the Caribbean, parts of
  • the Middle East and various islands all over the world
  • the largest Empire in the history of the world (bigger than the Greek,
  • Roman, Persian etc. empires)
  • “the Sun Never Sets on the British Empire” – the idea that the empire was so large and covered so much of the planet that at any given time the sun was shining on part of the British Empire

Why an Empire?

  • Having colonies provides resources and raw materials leading to
  • wealth and power
  • the INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION began in England in the late 1700’s
  • leading to mass production, factories, jobs, growth industries and
  • cities
  • Wealth buys a lot of things . . .  like railroads, ships, and other large
  • construction projects to show off your power

The Victorian Era

  • Period when Queen Victoria was Queen
  • of England & the Empire (1837-1901)
  • Queen while Britain was at its peak
  • Longest reigning British Monarch
  • (King or Queen) (Elizabeth II may reign longer)
  • interested in technology & anything that
  • would increase the power and prestige of the Empire
  • including Railroads, Telegraph, Electricity, Telephone
  • Seen as a motherly/grandmotherly figure
  • to the people of the Empire

First Monarch of an independent (CANADA)

  • Britain’s POWER
  • Britain’s power is at its peak – the world is under a “Pax Britannica”
  • (a British peace)
  • Britain rules the waves with its ROYAL NAVY
  • Almost all world trade is done by sea – if you control the oceans you
  • control world trade – Britain controls the oceans
  • If Britain doesn’t want you to trade, you won’t, if they want you to do
  • something…eventually, you will (they’ll put ships off your harbours and
  • strangle you)

Other Victoria Era Items

  • There is growing wealth, but also widespread poverty in England
  • 1857 First Trans Atlantic Telegraph Cable
  • 1859 Big Ben (the bell, not the clock) built at
  • British Parliament
  • The British “control time” – World’s biggest clock
  • at the centre of the Empire’s capital (London)
  • 1863 First “subway” in London
  • 1875 First Telephone Cable laid in Britain
  • 1879 Electric Light Bulb (Thomas Edison, USA)
  • 1888 “White Chapel” Killings in London
  • (Jack the Ripper)
  • “Poufy” women’s clothing, top hats &
  • Bric-a-Brac decorations are in fashion
  • (think Mary Poppins and A Christmas Carol)


  • Monroe Doctrine
  • Early 1800’s policy to
  • prevent expansion of European
  • control (Britain, France
  • and Germany), further into the
  • Caribbean and South America after
  • Spain’s fall from the world’s power
  • nations
  • Britain & USA are NOT Allies at this
  • time

German Unification (1860’s):

  • Germany created from various German-speaking
  • provinces
    • Germany wants to show its strength – defeats France in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71)
    • Kaiser (King) Wilhelm II wants Germany to become a world power & colonial power like Britain (but most of the best colonies are taken)
    • Kaiser Wilhelm II is also the grandson of Queen Victoria & doesn’t want to anger Britain (yet)
    • 1901 Queen Victoria dies – with her death
    • Kaiser Wilhelm II loses a major sentimental block in the way of his plan for German Expansion
    • …perhaps into areas of British control?
      • Some other European stuff to bend your brain
      • Kaiser Wilhelm II, Czar Nicholas II and King George V (became King in
      • 1910) were all cousins and grandsons of Queen Victoria
      • (but we still had World War One, wouldn’t Grandma be proud?)


  • Canada is created by the Articles of Confederation and is “born” on
  • July 1, 1867
  • Canada is a Self Governing “Dominion” of Britain and a proud member
  • of the Empire, (but not fully independent)
    • Cannot make or change its own laws without British Gov’t approval
    • British Laws automatically apply in Canada until changed
    • Governor General is Britain’s representative in Canada’s Gov’t and on paper has much power
    • Canada has no real Army and no Navy at all – dependant on Britain for protection
    • Special trade deals make Canada dependent on Britain (imports and exports)
    • No Flag – Canada uses the Union Jack (British Flag)

Changing & Growing Canada

  • Canada
  • July 1, 1867
    • 4 Provinces:
    • Ontario, Quebec,
    • New Brunswick,
    • Nova Scotia
      • Manitoba joins  1870
      • British Columbia joins 1871
      • PEI joins 1873
      • Alberta &
        join 1905
      • By 1912 the
        map of Canada
      • is essentially
        what it is today
        (except for NFLD)

Need for Immigration

–       A lot of space, but most of it is empty!!

–       Cdn Gov’t has a strong desire to increase the population

-Most of the people are in Ontario, Quebec, Maritimes & BC

  • Very few people “Out West” (except for a few settlers & Metis)
  • Canada fears American Expansion:

–       USA is looking at Cda’s empty West…(more land, more land!!)

–       US Civil War just finished (1865) – US is a new world power with an experienced Army with nothing to do and there are still some bad feelings between Canada & USA (War of 1812 wasn’t that long ago)

-Canada needs “Canadians” out west to fully claim the land

  • (making babies is too slow, so Immigrants are needed!!)


  • Canada begins an era of “OPEN DOOR IMMIGRATION” under
  • Minister of the Interior CLIFFORD SIFTON
    • Almost anyone is encouraged/allowed to immigrate to Canada (especially FARMERS!!) – didn’t matter if they were British or Not
    • Canada advertised like a travel agency all over Europe with posters and special wagons with large signs
    • Free Land, Job Opportunities, chance for a new, fresh start in the
      New World – “Make your Fortune!”
    • Immigrants arrive by ship in Halifax, Quebec City
    • and ride the newly finished
    • Intercontinental Railway to the west

Hon. Clifford Sifton

  • Why are Farmers the “Most Wanted”

–       Europe has a very high population – they have to EAT

Growing WHEAT is like Growing $$$

  • (need wheat to make bread for a hungry Europe)
  • Wheat prices increased dramatically on world markets at the
  • Turn of the Century – Profits to be made for CANADA
    • Get people out to the prairies to grow WHEAT
  • But not all $$ and Sunshine on the Prairies

–       Lots of hardships for the new Canadians to deal with . . .

  • (that the gov’t didn’t tell them about of course)

–       Yes, the land is FREE, but its NOT CLEARED – trees, rocks etc have to be cleared by hand

–       `Immigrants will have to build

  • their own homes

–       first efforts were usually

  • “Soddies”
    like an igloo made of sod
  • Many European Immigrants were NOT prepared for the weather on the
  • prairies
  • Very Hot & Dry in Summer, Very Cold & Nasty in Winter

–       All you had with you was what you could carry/pull in a wagon

–       There was no real Infrastructure (roads, schools, stores etc.)

  • only a few scattered railway lines

–       HUGE expanse of land, no neighbours, little contact with others:

  • If a family got into trouble (illness, injury, fire) they were A L O N E!
  • So…Come to Canada, Free Land, Grow some Wheat, Get Rich

author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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