The heart of the British Empire was the United Kingdom, the world’s largest and most industrialised economy in 1840. Lands in British possession were found around the world. Many were colonies – under direct rule from London – and others were in the hands of trading enterprises. The Atlantic empire included the sugar colonies of the British West Indies (whose slaves had recently been freed), Canada, Nova Scotia and others in British North America. The empire also included the strongholds of Gibraltar and Malta in the Mediterranean, slave-trade-related holdings on the West African coast and the fur-trading territories of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The eastern empire centred on British holdings in India, which were formally ruled by the British East India Company. There were colonies further afield – Cape Colony in Africa lay on the main British sea route to India and the Straits Settlements colony on the route to China. Australia, which had been annexed in 1788, was the site of three colonies – New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, both originally convict settlements, and South Australia. It was as part of New South Wales that New Zealand was first incorporated into the British Empire.
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