How Significant Was Strategic Factors in Influencing Britains Relations with Its African Empire?

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Strategic factors played a changing role in Britain’s relationship with its African empire throughout the expansion period 1870-1902, the consolidation period 1902-1955 and the de-colonisation period 1955-1981. In some of these periods Strategy was right at the foreground of Britain’s rule in Africa and other times it was pushed to the back by other major factors. These include economic considerations, International relations, changing attitudes and nationalism. Many historians such as Martin Pugh saw that ‘the most obvious motive for British expansion was strategic’. Britain’s strategic motives in Africa centred on thwarting the growth of rival European powers as well as securing its interests in Africa. However there was a clear symbiotic relationship between strategic and economic concerns, during the expansion period. One of the first incidents in Africa where this was made manifest was when Britain invaded Egypt in 1882. The Suez Canal was of major strategic importance as it allowed ships to access the empires ‘Jewel in the crown’ India faster, through the red sea instead on going around Africa, as well as faster transportation of Arab oil. The canal was also of economic significance as historian Simon Smith reminds us that ‘80% of the Suez traffic was British, and13% of Britain’s trade passed through the canal’ , this is due to most of Britain’s trade with India passing through the Suez. This dual economic and strategic importance of the Suez shows a strong symbiotic relationship. Britain’s taking of colonies for joint strategic and economic motives can be traced all over the continent. Another example of this is the Island of Zanzibar, of the east coast of Africa. Zanzibar was a strategic asset to Britain as it allowed it to monitor German presence around the Indian Ocean, in case Germany threatened India and Britain’s colonies in East Africa, As well
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