Basharat Hussain Qizilbash The po'wer of American empire is often compared with that of the British Empire. While America is huge in terms of its geographical size and human resources, Britain is a tiny island but in its heyday this tiny state built a global empire which was one hundred and fifty-three times its size. How can such a small country transform itself into a global giant can be a fascinating phenomenon for all those who are interested in the study of empire building. Before empires become a reality, they are conceived in the minds of visionaries. The statesman who envisioned Britain as a worldwide power in the first half of the 18th century was William Pitt, the elder although the claim that this realm of England is an empire was made as far back as 1533 in the times of Henry VIII. Empires are built by subjugating other people and their territories. The immediate rivals were France and Spain but British victories in the Seven Years war and the Napoleonic Wars established its status as the leading colonial power. This required massive expenditures in defence and by 1880s it was spending as much as the combined expenditure of the next two high-spending powers, Russia and France. Now, there was a need to institutionalise its status as an empire, so, first, in 1876, Queen Victoria was declared as the Empress of India and later on, May 24 - the birthday of Victoria - was launc-hed as the 'Empire Day from 1896. By 1900, the British Empire was at its zenith. In comparison with France which was the second largest empire encapsulating 52 million inhabitants, the British Empire extended over 400 million people and controlled a fifth of worlds land. The British Empire was not solely the states enterprise. States hunger for colonies was fully supported by greedy traders and maverick adventurers. For example, the traders had been making English settlements in the West Indies since the beginning of the 17th century. The credit of extending British power to Nigeria and South Africa goes to adven-turists like Lugard and Cecil Rhodes, the latter was in search of diamonds and gold. In fact, the Boer War of 1899-1902 that was exclusively fought to gain control of gold and diamond mines resulted in the death of over 27,000 Boer civilians. About two decades back, Australia and New Zealand were colonised in a brutal manner, particularly the Australian Aboriginese, who were hunted and killed as if little different from wild animals. In the process, the British also passed on two deadly Western diseases - smallpox and influenza - to the Australians. The colonial expansion created two dilemmas for British government: first, the affluence substantially increased the population in the major cities which can be understood from the fact that Liverpool had emerged as the most densely populated urban space in the world, with 138,224 people per square mile in 1841. Second, this rising population increased crime and mortality rates. By mid-nineteenth century, there were over 538 brothels in Liverpool alone with hundreds of prostitutes, of which there were at least 200 regular prostitutes under the age of 12. An innovative solution was finally found. Due to the expanding empire, there was a demand of labour in the colonies. So, not only ordinary citizens were encouraged to emigrate, the criminals were also transported to what came to be called 'the penal colonies, Australia and the West Indies being the prime examples. To facilitate this policy, the British Parliament enacted about 17 Acts between 1718 and 1763 legalising transportation as a penalty for even such petty crimes as the theft of property between a shilling and 2. About 158,000 convicts were shipped to Australia, and another 80,000 were dumped in America and the West Indies. The lure of riches with unlimited opportunities for plunder and exploitation tempted over two crore British nationals to move to colonies between 1815 and 1914. Once the colonies were militarily and politically subjugated, a number of ways were systematically devised in the name of 'free trade and commerce to milk their resources and wealth. To establish the monopoly of its corporate class, the Navigation Acts were enacted to prohibit the colonies from trading with foreign countries. To satiate the greed of British iron manufacturers, the North American colonies were debarred from making steel, refining iron and its finished articles. To provide undue advantage to its textile merchants, a ban was imposed on the wearing of imported printed fabrics in Britain. Such unequal trading policies enabled the British colonists to procure practically anything that was vital for Britains economic and industrial growth: furs from Canada, fish from New Zealand, sugar from Fiji and West Indies, silk from China, tea and jute from India and gold from South Africa. The exploitation of the vassal states was not just restricted to goods. In 1782, Sir John Macpherson admitted that Britain had received more than 50 million from India alone since 1757 - the year the East India Company captured Bengal after the historic battle of Plassey. This plundered wealth was reinvested to produce more wealth. By 1913, Britain had become the biggest overseas investor in the world, with a third of its wealth invested abroad. Probably the most tragic aspect of the British Empire building was that after the colonised had been plundered of their riches, they were forced to shed their blood for the security and longevity of the same blood-sucking empire. Ill give a few examples of their sacrifices in World War I. Out of 120,000 conscripted New Zealanders, 50,000 were injured and 18,000 killed; of the 332,000 Australians, 58,460 were dead whereas over 56,000 Canadian soldiers lost their lives in the service of the empire. Such an unjust system couldnt last for ever. The humiliating surrender of mighty Britain in Singapore and defeats in Malaya, Hong Kong and Burma during World War II sounded death knell for the imperial project and within two decades the empire disappeared as if it had never existed on the face of the earth. Sometimes the works of literature portray the situation more realistically than the tomes of history. The downfall of the empire is beautifully brought home to James Bond - an iconic British character by a gruff American character Milton Krest in Ian Flemings short story The Hilderbrand Rarity in these unforgettable words: Nowadays, there were only three powers - America, Russia and China, that was the big poker game and no other country had either the chips or the cards to come into it. Occasionally, some pleasant little countrylike England would be lent some money so that they could take a hand with the grown-ups. But that was just being polite like one sometimes had to be to a chum in ones club who had gone broke. Email: qizilbash2000@yahoo.com