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Britain builds an empire  |  The rise of Victoria's empire End of empire  |

The Museum’s permanent exhibition features over sixteen themed galleries, divided into three main sections

Britain builds an empire

(1480 – 1800)
How did Britain’s empire begin? And who helped to build it?
These galleries tells the story of the empire’s early years...

  • how England’s merchants built private trading empires across the world
  • who gained and who suffered as the empire expanded into the Americas
and why Britain’s empire became predominantly based in the east.
View of galleries.

A view in Othaite (Tahiti)
The rise of Victoria’s empire

(1800 – 1900)
How did Britain’s empire work? And who benefited from it?
These galleries tells the story of the Victorian empire...

  • how Britain expanded and controlled its empire
  • who left Britain to live or work abroad
and what it felt like to live under British rule.
View of galleries

Photograph from the 1911 Delhi Durbar, India from the Twiss collection

End of empire

(1900 – today)
How did Britain’s empire come to an end? What replaced it?
These galleries cover the shift from empire to Commonwealth...

  • how the two world wars changed colonial attitudes
  • how Britain responded to nationalists’ demands for freedom
the legacy of the empire in Britain today.
View of galleries

Taken from an album recording the visit of Princess Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh to Kenya in 1952. Photograph depicts the Governor of Kenya, Sir Phillip Mitchell.

Britain builds an empire

  •   Exploration and plunder
  •   Luxurious trade
  •   Plantations in the Americas
  •   Islands of empire

<- - - Islands of empire: Britain's expansion into the Pacific and the birth of ‘colonial anthropological collecting’ are examined, together with the colonisation of the Australian subcontinent and the impact this had on the life of Australia’s first inhabitants.


The rise of Victoria’s empire

  •   Pax Britannica?
  •   Conflict and control
  •   Shrinking the globe
  •   Britain's white colonies
  •   Humanitaran impulse
  •   Empire at home

    <- - - Conflict and control: In order to govern effectively, the British imposed a whole range of administrative networks throughout their territories. This gallery shows how surveying, policing and law were introduced, together with systems of standardized time, weights and currencies.


End of empire

  •   Colonial families
  •   Forest, plain and jungle
  •   Developing dilemmas
  •   Empire embattled
  •   Commonwealth ideal
  •   The Commonwealth comes to Britain

    <- - - The Commonwealth comes to Britain: try our interactive quiz! Bringing us right up to the present day, our final gallery touches on immigration to Britain since the 1940s and highlights the legacy of empire in today's multiracial society.


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