British Empire Study Program

Overview     Reading     Study Aids     Questions    

The British Empire Study Program covers the government of Britain from the Glorious Revolution to the dawn of the Great War. It focuses on the dramatic developments of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and also includes the histories of British colonies in Asia, America, and Africa. The British Empire study program includes:

Why Study the British Empire

The British Empire is a vitally important, but not well understood period of history. Its influence on the modern world cannot be overstated. It was the birthplace of modern parliamentary democracy and the epicenter of the industrial and scientific revolutions. The ideas of free-trade, globalism, and modern capitalism were all brought forth from the British dominions. Imperial Britain revolutionized accepted ideas of international economics, trade, and banking and dominated these fields for much of the last 300 years.

From the 18th century on Britain dominated the fields of exploration and geography, especially in North America, the South Seas, and Africa. Britain produced many of the greatest mathematicians, scientists, and inventors that the world has ever known. It produced enough of the greatest political philosophers, statesmen and military leaders to lead the entire world into the modern era. British jurisprudence is the basis for most western legal systems and British accounting, corporation and central banking systems are the basis for the entire international monetary system.

The United States, is essentially a "spin-off" from the British Empire, but has taken a significantly different path. While America grew and thrived in limited isolation, Britain sought to spread its influence and commercial interests the world over and to modernize foreign lands (with or without consent). Because of the influence of the British Empire, English has become the lingua franca of the global economy. The legacy of British colonialism effects not only the developed world, but native populations in almost every corner of the globe.

In short, whether one approves or disapproves of various aspects of modernism; whether one exalts or laments the effects of British imperialism; the overall influence of British culture on the modern world is gigantic. The British Empire was a virtual juggernaut of modernization, for good or ill, and it is nearly impossible to understand the genesis of almost any modern idea, from capitalism to socialism, from free-trade, globalism, and industry, to scientific inquiry and religious pluralism, without understanding the contributions of Great Britain.

Reading Recommendations

The following links provide information about reading options for the British Empire. Details about the 'core' reading recommendations are listed below.

The history of 18th and 19th century Britain is more complicated than previous ages. By the 19th century Britain was no longer a kingdom but a worldwide empire governed by a parliament and private corporations. Much of the politics of Britain during the imperial age cannot be told in short, easy-to-understand stories, but there are a few student histories that cover the basics of both domestic and colonial activities.

Imperial Britain—The first three divisions of the British Empire program cover the British government from 1688 to 1914 A.D. Most intermediate histories of England cover this period at a superficial level and don't provide insights into the political drama of the age. However, the following books provide a decent introduction for younger students.

Advanced Readers—These books are recommended as 'core' reading for British Empire for more advanced students. They go into more detail in discussing political events.

British Colonies—Four of the five final units in the British Empire Program cover regions in Asia, Africa, and the Americas that were colonized by Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. The final Unit covers the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions. The following books cover these topics in detail and are recommended as core reading for units 4 to 8.

Study Aids

Study Aids are provided to help students review important characters and events. Some resources related to all of British history and others to specific historical eras.

British Empire Study Aids

Historical Maps Outline Maps
Timeline Major Characters
Wars and Battles Era Summaries

Historical Divisions

Review Questions

Students who are using the Heritage Quest Quiz Game to study British History may find these review questions helpful. (The app can be installed for free from the Google Play Store).

The worksheets listed below include at least 20 sample questions from each division. They can be printed and assigned as homework. Students can use the Quiz program to find answers as they earn knowledge medals.

Glorious Revolution Q/A Foundation of Empire Q/A
Height of Empire Q/A Colonies and Canada Q/A
British India Q/A Colonial Africa Q/A
Australia Q/A Science and Invention Q/A