British Empire
Living in the British empire - The British view
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A British poster from 1927 called 'Highways of Empire'
(Catalogue ref: CO 956/537)
  • The Empire Marketing Board produced this poster. The Empire Marketing Board was a government department whose job was to promote trade between Britain and the empire.
  • The primary aim of the poster was, of course, to get people to buy goods from empire countries. In the 1920s British consumers had a good deal of choice. Empire goods had to compete with goods from the USA, South America and Japan.
  • This poster is a useful source to historians as it shows that the British empire was a major trading network, a bit like the modern European Union. The source is useful as it shows the extent of the empire (in red) and the trade routes that link the different parts of the empire.
  • By the time this poster was produced the meaning of the term empire had changed in Britain. In the 1700s and 1800s the empire was made up of lands that Britain ruled. By the early 1900s much of the empire was ruling itself. The empire was much more a community of nations, rather like the British Commonwealth today.
  • However, large parts of the empire, especially India and Africa, were still ruled directly by the British and were not independent.
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