Colonialism and Imperialism in Great Britain

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About this sample


Words: 1650 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Aug 1, 2022

Words: 1650|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Aug 1, 2022


Colonialism and imperialism have both played major roles in the development of the Belfast landscape that we know today. In the 1500s Ireland was initially taken over by Britain through settlements which were known as plantations in Ulster who were generally loyal to the British Empire. However, most of the remaining islands of Ireland opposed British rule therefore, years later Irish independence had been declared but Northern Ireland remained under British rule.

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This essay will describe the colonialism and imperialism of the British Empire in a global context including how Ireland, particularly Dublin, was impacted by the rule of British imperialism and how it differs to Belfast. Belfast today still has links to the British empire due to still being a member of the United Kingdom. This essay will explore how Belfast’s landscape has become what we know today and how monuments surrounding the City Hall emphasise the colonial and imperial past of the city.

Therefore, monuments and statues have been selected as a focus to describe the imperial and colonial past of Belfast as “monuments may become both historical symbols of nationhood and fixed points in our contemporary landscapes”.

Literature Review

Belfast’s contemporary landscape can be characterised by its links to colonialism and imperialism in the past. Although it has several definitions, colonialism can generally be defined as ‘the physical occupation of one land by peoples associated with another place’. Thus, it is generally the idea that land is owned by people that are not typically from this area. Additionally, imperialism is ‘a relationship of political, and/or economic, and/or cultural domination or subordination between geographical areas’. This indicates the complex, unequal relationships between these countries that imperialism causes. These terms can be used together in similar contexts. However, their differences are that colonialism is often described as the physical act of taking over areas by a certain more powerful country. Whereas imperialism focuses more on having power over less developed, less powerful countries through political and economic terms. Both colonialism and imperialism have had effects on nearly every continent but it has.

The British empire was argued to be one of the largest, most powerful empires in the world. This empire was so powerful that it had colonies in part of Antarctica, Canada, India and Australia. This map of the colonial world shows how important the British empire is in relation to imperialism and colonialism. For example, this map uses the Mercator projection which gives a distorted image of the globe which places England at the centre of the map, indicating its central position in colonialism creating a sense of superiority. Additionally, specific to this map, there are images surrounding the world. The figure of the monarch is symbolic of the queen, the head of the British Empire. She sits on a globe emphasising the ideology the British Empire had of ruling the world. These parts of the world that they have power over are also highlighted in red on the map, symbolising power and control. Imperialism and colonialism are still very much present today, as there are still some colonies in the modern world which are known as colonial hangovers. These are presented through relics. Phillips states that in these relics that Britain still owns areas such as Gibraltar, a part of Antarctica, the Falklands and Monserrat.

By the start of the 19th century, all of Ireland had become part of the United Kingdom indicating the presence of British imperialism. Whelan talks about Dublin’s colonial and imperial past shaping its current landscape using monuments and statues. In the late 18th century statues and monuments were erected and unveiled of rulers of the monarchy such as Queen Victoria, King William and both George I and George II before the achievement of independence in 1922. Whilst under the ruling of the British Empire statues were erected and unveiled to acknowledge the power of the British Empire, creating clear links between Ireland and its imperial rulers at that particular time. However, after Ireland achieved independence from their colonial and imperial rulers, many of these statues were demolished, destroyed or removed from their central positions in the city to more peripheral locations of the city. For example, in 1937, the demise of the statue was dedicated to King George II. This statue had been removed from the centre of St Stephen’s Green. Ironically, years later in 1966, a statue dedicated to Thomas Davis had been erected to replace the statue of the King, indicating the post-colonial period that occurred after Ireland declared independence. This became a common tendency in post-colonial Ireland as Whelan portrays the erection of monuments which were dedicated to Daniel O’Connell and Parnell who were central figures in the fight for independence in Ireland, emphasising the idea that monuments can create a sense of national identity.

“monuments may become both historical symbols of nationhood and fixed points in our contemporary landscapes 509”

In relation to Belfast, a colonial and imperial past has contributed to shaping its current landscape. The map presented by Fall shows the main shipping lines of the world in relation to the British colonial empire. A common pattern that can be noted is that majority of the shipping lines lead back to Britain, and more commonly port cities. Belfast is included as one of these port cities. This allowed for colonialism and imperialism to occur in Belfast due to its access points to import goods from colonial countries. Whelan illustrates public monuments and their power as “symbolic sites of meaning and explores their role in the construction of a landscape of colonial power”.

In Dublin, after Irish independence occurred, monuments and statues acknowledging the power of the British Empire had been removed or relocated. However, in Belfast, there are still statues giving recognition to the British monarchy, indicating Belfast’s remaining links to the British Empire. An example of this is the Victoria monument located outside City Hall in Belfast city centre shows the colonial and imperial past of Belfast as it has a central place in the city, indicating how imperialism was central to Belfast. This monument was sculpted and created by Thomas Brock and was revealed in 1903. This monument was built in celebration of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897. Queen Victoria is surrounded by bronze figures which represent the linen spinning and shipbuilding industries which symbolise the imperial and colonial past of Belfast. The linen industry in Belfast was an imperative factor of Belfast’s economic and industrial development. This industry benefitted greatly from colonialism as during periods of slave trading, Belfast Linen had been used and exported to be used as clothes for slaves in countries in the Caribbean, therefore contributing to Belfast’s colonial ties and additionally increasing its economic development. Furthermore, as the linen industry had become a huge part of Belfast’s economic and industrial development, the city was quickly becoming a leading city for manufacturing of the British Empire indicating the imperil past of Belfast.

In the ground of the City Hall, there are several war memorials. Located outside the City Hall is the Belfast Cenotaph and Memorial Garden, another monument indicating Belfast’s colonial and imperial past. This monument was designed by Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas, who was also the architect of the City Hall. This memorial is the only cenotaph in Northern Ireland thus it has a huge significance in Belfast’s landscape. It was erected to commemorate the soldiers who fought in the First World War on Armistice Day. This may link to imperialism in Belfast as many Ulster soldiers would have fought for Britain in the wars, emphasising British Imperialism in Belfast.

Furthermore, located on the East side of the City Hall, there is the Boer War monument. This monument was built by Sydney March as a memorial to those who were wounded or who died during the Boer War in South Africa. The Boer War intrinsically links Belfast’s contemporary landscape and its imperial past as the Boer War in 1899 saw an end to the power struggle faced in South Africa against the British Empire. It was perceived that a potential reason for the outbreak of the war was the British wanting to gain control of diamond and gold mines in South Africa, which was known as the ‘Scramble for Africa’. Therefore, linking to colonialism as the British empire were exporters of goods as non-European countries supplied these raw materials for example, India exported tea and Caribbean countries exported sugar which allowed for Empires and colonising economies to become richer and allow for industrialisation. Hence, The Boer War monument in Belfast’s contemporary landscape directly links Belfast to a colonial past through its involvement in this war.

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However, today, the world is facing a neo-colonial order. This can be through the context of global corporations having access to large markets. For example, in Belfast, Cleaver House had been previously named as the ‘Royal Irish Linen Warehouse’ of Robinson & Cleaver. This was predominantly used as a commercial base for producing linen as it quickly was becoming Belfast’s main source of economic development, along with the shipbuilding industry. However, today Cleaver House is now occupied by the American fast-food chain, Burger King. This emphasises this new idea of ‘McDonaldization’ of society and how it is changing the landscape around us, even within Belfast. This is the process by which the principle of the large corporate fast-food companies in America are starting to dominate many sectors of both American and global societies. In relation to Belfast, this McDonaldization is occurring as Burger King, a dominating fast-food restaurant replaces a building central to Belfast’s historical industrialisation but is now being used in a new imperial way. The income this company makes is very unlikely to impact or benefit Belfast’s economy at all, it benefits the company. Indicating a very strong, new sense of imperialism and neo-colonialism, emphasising that it will evidently always be changing and influencing the landscape of Belfast.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Colonialism and Imperialism in Great Britain. (2022, August 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from
“Colonialism and Imperialism in Great Britain.” GradesFixer, 01 Aug. 2022,
Colonialism and Imperialism in Great Britain. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 4 Mar. 2024].
Colonialism and Imperialism in Great Britain [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Aug 01 [cited 2024 Mar 4]. Available from:
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