Imperialism can be defined as ‘the extension and expansion of trade and commerce under the protection of political, legal, and military controls’.1 Yet within Britain’s own network of colonies, factories, and outposts of what Burke termed ‘this vast, disconnected, infinitely diversified empire’, there were different kinds of imperialism.2 While the plantations of America and the West Indies were formed out of settlement, the displacement of the indigenous population, and the use of imported African slave-labour, the East India Company involved no such colonisation. The Company was scathingly described in 1766 as ‘a trading and a fighting Company’, revealing its contradictory position as a commercial entity with a private army, whose increasing belligerence would transform the existing framework of the Mughal Empire.3 Control over the Mediterranean (involving the outposts of Minorca and Gibraltar) was aimed at the larger strategy of curbing French imperial ambitions. The explorations of the Pacific by James Cook were carried out in the name of science, but he also had orders to annex territory in the name of Britain.
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Stephen H. Gregg
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