Demographics of the British Empire

By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time,[1]

Population

Territorial population distribution of the British Empire (1925)[2]

  British India (70.9986%)
  British Africa (10.6836%)
  United Kingdom (10.5308%)
  Other Asian colonies (2.9769%)
  British North America (2.0139%)
  Other colonies (1.1037%)

The following table gives the population of the British Empire and its territories, in several different time periods. The most populous territory in the empire was British India, which included what are now Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Territories 1814[3] 1881[4] 1901[5][6] 1913[7] 1925[2]
United Kingdom 16,456,303 34,884,848 41,458,721 45,649,000 47,307,000
British India 40,058,408 253,896,330 294,361,056 303,700,000 318,942,000
British Africa 128,977 1,526,110 43,000,000 52,000,000 47,993,000
Other Asian colonies 2,009,005 3,347,770 5,638,944 26,300,000 13,373,000
British North America 486,146 4,522,145 5,600,000 18,000,000 9,047,000
Australasia and Pacific 434,882 2,837,081 5,486,000 7,603,000
European dependencies 180,300 359,403 650,000 656,000
British West Indies 732,171 1,216,409 2,012,655 1,600,000 2,012,000
Total British Empire 61,157,433 305,512,568[8] 400,000,000[9] 447,249,000 449,223,000

Ethnicity

The empire's population was classified into white people, also referred to as Europeans, and non-white people, variously referred to as persons of colour, negros and natives.[3][6] The largest ethnic grouping in the empire was Indians (including what are now Pakistanis and Bangladeshis), who were classified into a number of individual South Asian ethnic groups.[6] The following table gives the population figures for white people and people of colour, in the empire and its territories, in 1814 and 1901.

Territories 1814[3] 1901[6]
White people People of colour White people People of colour
United Kingdom and home dependencies 16,636,606 ? 41,608,791 ?
British India 25,246 40,033,162 169,677 294,191,379
British Africa 20,678 108,299 1,000,000 33,499,329
Other Asian colonies 61,059 1,947,946 ? 5,144,954
British North America 486,146 ? 5,500,000 100,000
Australasia and Pacific 35,829 399,053 4,662,000 824,000
British West Indies 64,994 667,177 100,000 1,912,655
Total British Empire 18,001,796 43,155,637 53,040,468 335,672,317

Religion

The following table gives the population figures for the religions in the British Empire in 1901. The most populous religion in the empire was Hinduism, followed by Islam.[6]

Religion Population % of total population
Hinduism 208,000,000 52.4
Islam 94,000,000 23.7
Christianity 58,000,000 14.6
Buddhism 12,000,000 3
Paganism and others 25,000,000 6.3
Total British Empire 397,000,000 100

See also

References

  1. ^ Maddison 2001, pp. 97 "The total population of the Empire was 412 million [in 1913]", 241 "[World population in 1913 (in thousands):] 1 791 020".
  2. ^ a b "Area and Population of the British Empire". Historical Atlas of the British Empire. 1925.
  3. ^ a b c Patrick Colquhoun (1814). A Treatise on the Wealth, Power and Resources of the British Empire in Every Quarter of the World, Including the East-Indies: The Rise and Progress of the Funding System Explained. National Library of the Netherlands. p. 7.
  4. ^ Census of the British empire: 1901. Great Britain Census Office. 1906. p. xviii.
  5. ^ Census of the British empire: 1901. Great Britain Census Office. 1906. pp. xvi & xviii.
  6. ^ a b c d e f British Empire, 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
  7. ^ Maddison 2001, pp. 97 & 241
  8. ^ Smith, George (1882). The Geography of British India, Political & Physical. Oxford University. J. Murray. p. 3.
  9. ^ Census of the British empire: 1901. Great Britain Census Office. 1906. p. xvi.

Further reading

British Empire

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.During the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal and Spain pioneered European exploration of the globe, and in the process established large overseas empires. Envious of the great wealth these empires generated, England, France, and the Netherlands began to establish colonies and trade networks of their own in the Americas and Asia. A series of wars in the 17th and 18th centuries with the Netherlands and France left England and then, following union between England and Scotland in 1707, Great Britain, the dominant colonial power in North America. It then became the dominant power in the Indian subcontinent after the East India Company's conquest of Mughal Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 1757.

The independence of the Thirteen Colonies in North America in 1783 after the American War of Independence caused Britain to lose some of its oldest and most populous colonies. British attention soon turned towards Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. After the defeat of France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), Britain emerged as the principal naval and imperial power of the 19th century. Unchallenged at sea, British dominance was later described as Pax Britannica ("British Peace"), a period of relative peace in Europe and the world (1815–1914) during which the British Empire became the global hegemon and adopted the role of global policeman. In the early 19th century, the Industrial Revolution began to transform Britain; so that by the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851, the country was described as the "workshop of the world". The British Empire expanded to include most of India, large parts of Africa and many other territories throughout the world. Alongside the formal control that Britain exerted over its own colonies, its dominance of much of world trade meant that it effectively controlled the economies of many regions, such as Asia and Latin America.During the 19th century, Britain's population increased at a dramatic rate, accompanied by rapid urbanisation, which caused significant social and economic stresses. To seek new markets and sources of raw materials, the British government under Benjamin Disraeli initiated a period of imperial expansion in Egypt, South Africa, and elsewhere. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand became self-governing dominions.By the start of the 20th century, Germany and the United States had begun to challenge Britain's economic lead. Subsequent military and economic tensions between Britain and Germany were major causes of the First World War, during which Britain relied heavily upon its empire. The conflict placed enormous strain on the military, financial and manpower resources of Britain. Although the British Empire achieved its largest territorial extent immediately after World War I, Britain was no longer the world's pre-eminent industrial or military power. In the Second World War, Britain's colonies in East and Southeast Asia were occupied by Japan. Despite the final victory of Britain and its allies, the damage to British prestige helped to accelerate the decline of the empire. India, Britain's most valuable and populous possession, achieved independence as part of a larger decolonisation movement in which Britain granted independence to most territories of the empire. The transfer of Hong Kong to China in 1997 marked for many the end of the British Empire. Fourteen overseas territories remain under British sovereignty.

After independence, many former British colonies joined the Commonwealth of Nations, a free association of independent states. The United Kingdom is now one of 16 Commonwealth nations, a grouping known informally as the Commonwealth realms, that share a monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II.

Economy of the British Empire

After the defeat of France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), the British Empire emerged as the principal naval and imperial power of the 19th century. Unchallenged at sea, British dominance was later described as Pax Britannica ("British Peace"), a period of relative peace in Europe and the world (1815–1914) during which the British Empire became the global hegemon and adopted the role of global policeman. In the early 19th century, the Industrial Revolution began to transform Britain; by the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851 the country was described as the "workshop of the world".

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