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A History of British Colonialism

Our mission is to restore and make visible suppressed, destroyed, or underrepresented histories relating to British Colonialism. This page serves as a digital archive for such histories and will be continously updated.



16th century

The 16th century has long been celebrated as a time of great exploration and voyages of discovery. Behind these popular narratives hides the history of the establishment of English colonialism.

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17th century

During the 17th century, England introduced new forms and methods of colonisation, including the enslavement of people.

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18th century

As the British Empire expanded, the 18th century saw Britain profit from the exploitation of its colonies. This exploitation fuelled resistance to colonisation which was, in turn, met with brutal violence by the British.

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19th Century

During the 19th century, a series of new ideas came to underpin justifications for the British Empire. These included free trade, the civilising mission, and the need to compete with European rivals. Embedded within all of these ideas was the conviction that it was Britain’s right to colonise.

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20th century

Faced with popular anti-colonial political movements and insurgencies, Britain was forced to commit extensive resources to retain its colonies. Decolonisation in the 20th century was not the goal of the British Empire all along; it was forced upon Britain.

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21st century

Decolonisation is not complete. Britain today still possesses colonies, benefits from the legacies of its empire, and has failed to recognise its colonial past and present.

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We regularly add to this page. If you have an event or day in history that you would like us to include, please email us on info@museumofbritishcolonialism.org.

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