2001_2_.deSilva - Colonial Expansion and Demographic Change...

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Ethnic Studies Report , Vol. XIX, No. 2, July 2001 © ICES Colonial Expansion and Demographic Change: The British and Russian Experience * K M de Silva Abstract The principal concern in this article is with the dispersal of peoples under colonial rule, primarily British colonial rule, and the contrast with the cognate process, the construction of the Russian Empire under the Tsars, and Stalin. The dispersal of communities under British colonial rule generally had an economic or social imperative, very seldom a political one, while political and strategic reasons were always features of Russian colonial expansion. This latter expansion, to the Baltic region, to Central Asia, and the Pacific, each involved a transfer of populations from which has emerged some of the difficult problems bequeathed to the world by the former Soviet Union. The article reviews the transfer of people from the territories the British ruled or controlled in the Indian subcontinent to British colonies in other parts of the world, a process governed entirely by economic considerations, a response to the operation of market forces. While the two processes, British and Russian, had many differences, they had some things in common as well. Post-colonial states face a common set of problems in fashioning policies to deal with immigrant minorities, introduced as in the British tradition, or imposed as in the Russian empire. I Introduction This article deals with one of the most complex and least researched aspects of colonial rule over the last three centuries, the transfer of populations, voluntarily and involuntarily, under colonial rule from one part of an empire—or indeed from outside the formal boundaries of an empire—to another. It seeks to identify some of the salient issues on the theme and, more important, to suggest areas within it that need further exploration. Those who engage in such a process of exploration will find a vast lode of material that researchers can mine well into the 21st century. One field in the wider theme of the transfer of peoples shall not be dealt with at all. It has its dozens of histories and scores of historians—the transfer, generally voluntarily, of people from Europe, principally from the British isles and north-western Europe, and later on from Central and Eastern Europe, to North America, South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. This is one of the great historic processes of the three hundred years or more, beginning in the 17th century. The scale of this transfer of communities was enormous. Some aspects of it have been studied in depth, the movement of European peoples to North America and Brazil, to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It would take a team of historians several decades to produce a composite picture of this great phenomenon, and to analyse its impact on the host societies. Perhaps it is something that will never be undertaken and not merely because of the massive costs of such an operation. Another aspect of British colonial rule, the transfer of people of African origin under the most brutal
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This note was uploaded on 04/12/2008 for the course HIST 402 taught by Professor Lomax during the Winter '04 term at Ohio Northern University.

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2001_2_.deSilva - Colonial Expansion and Demographic Change...

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