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Britain and Latin America

Britain and Latin America

(p.122) 7 Britain and Latin America
The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume III: The Nineteenth Century
Alan Knight
Oxford University Press

‘Informal empire’ was a two-way street, a construction of peripheral as well as metropolitan interests. There was also more to British imperialism than the official mind. Successful collaboration was vital for British interests to prosper; but collaboration did not require regimes or practices modelled on metropolitan lines, whether in Latin America, West Africa, or the Malay states. As British trade and investment grew, British interference and intervention declined. ‘Business imperialism’ or Latin American ‘dependency’ advanced, but the advance owed more to peripheral transformation than to metropolitan threats. The British economic presence in Latin America was important for Britain and crucial for Latin America. By 1914, Britain faced serious challenges to her established position in Latin America. In Latin America, as in her domestic industrialization, Britain enjoyed the temporary advantages of forwardness; but, having helped make Latin America stable, capitalist, and productive, Britain had no political monopoly on the fruits of those advances — which, by 1914, were increasingly being contested by both vigorous foreign competitors and nascent Latin American nationalists.

Keywords:   informal empire, Latin America, British imperialism, British trade, business imperialism, dependency, West Africa, domestic industrialization

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