British Empire, the name now loosely given to the whole aggregate of territory, the inhabitants of which, under various forms of government, ultimately look to the British crown as the supreme head. The term "empire" is in this connexion obviously used rather for convenience than in any sense equivalent to that of the older or despotic empires of history.
The land surface of the earth is estimated to extend over about 52,500,000 sq. m. Of this area the British empire occupies Extent. nearly one-quarter, extending over an area of about 12,000,000 sq. m. By far the greater portion lies within the temperate zones, and is suitable for white settlement. The notable exceptions are the southern half of India and Burma; East, West and Central Africa; the West Indian colonies; the northern portion of Australia; New Guinea, British Borneo and that portion of North America which extends into Arctic regions. The area of the territory of the empire is divided almost equally between the southern and the northern hemispheres, the great divisions of Australasia and South Africa covering between them in the southern hemisphere 5,308,506 sq. m., while the United Kingdom, Canada and India, including the native states, cover between them in the northern hemisphere 5,271,375 sq. m. The alternation of the seasons is thus complete, one-half of the empire enjoying summer, while one-half is in winter.
The division of territory between the eastern and western hemispheres is less equal, Canada occupying alone in the western hemisphere 3,653,946 sq. m., while Australasia, South Africa, India and the United Kingdom occupy together in the eastern hemisphere 6,925,975 sq. m. As a matter of fact, however, the eastern portions of Australasia border so nearly upon the western hemisphere that the distribution of day and night throughout the empire is, like the alternations of the seasons, almost complete, one-half enjoying daylight, while the other half is in darkness. These alternations of time and of seasons, combined with the variety of soils and climates, are calculated to have an increasingly important effect upon the material and industrial, as well as upon the social and political developments of the empire. This will become evident in considering the industrial productions of the different divisions, and the harvest seasons which permit the summer produce of one portion of the empire to supply the winter requirements of its other markets, and conversely.
The empire contains or is bounded by some of the highest mountains, the greatest lakes, and the most important rivers of the world. Its climates may be said to include all the known climates of the world; its soils are no less various. In the prairies of central Canada it possesses some of the most valuable wheat-producing land; in the grass lands of the interior of Australia the best pasture country; and in the uplands of South Africa the most valuable gold- and diamond-bearing beds which exist. The United Kingdom at present produces more coal than any other single country except the United States. The effect of climate throughout the empire in modifying the type of the Anglo-Saxon race has as yet received only partial attention, and conclusions regarding it are of a somewhat empiric nature. The general tendency in Canada is held to be towards somewhat smaller size, and a hardy active habit; in Australia to a tall, slight, pale development locally known as "cornstalkers," characterized by considerable nervous and intellectual activity. In New Zealand the type preserves almost exactly the characteristics of the British Isles. The South African, both Dutch and British, is readily recognized by an apparently sun-dried, lank and hard habit of body.
In the tropical possessions of the empire, where white settlement does not take place to any considerable extent, the individual alone is affected. The type undergoes no modification. It is to be observed in reference to this interesting aspect of imperial development, that the multiplication and cheapening of channels of communication and means of travel throughout the empire will tend to modify the future accentuation of race difference, while the variety of elements in the vast area occupied should have an important, though as yet not scientifically traced, effect upon the British imperial type.
The white population of the empire reached in 1901 a total of over 53,000,000, or something over one-eighth of its entire Population. population, which, including native races, is estimated at about 400,000,000. The white population includes some French, Dutch and Spanish peoples, but is mainly of Anglo-Saxon race. It is distributed roughly as follows: -
United Kingdom and home dependencies
British North America
Africa (Dutch and British)
West Indies and Bermuda
- - - - -
The native population of the empire includes types of the principal black, yellow and brown races, classing with these the high-type races of the East, which may almost be called white. The native population of India, mainly high type, brown, was returned at the census of 1901 as 294,191,379. The population of India is divided into 118 groups on the basis of language. These may, however, be collected into the following principal groups: -
i. Muṇḍā (Kolarian).
(G) Unclassed, e.g. Gipsy.