Colonialism and the expansion of empires

Golden Jubilee commemorative plate

Made in Staffordshire, 1887
Earthenware, with printed decoration

Object number 10.67/1
Given by Mrs S Leek, 1967

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Golden Jubilee commemorative plate

This plate was produced to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. It shows the extent of the British Empire at the time, including key colonies on the ‘slave coast' such as Nigeria and Ghana. The economics of empire are made clear in this design, which lists the value of imports and exports, as well as its population and total area. Around a central compass motif is the motto, 'The Empire on which the Sun never sets'.

One of the ironies of the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 was that it stimulated the growth of the British Empire and development of other trade links. The British lead in abolishing the slave trade provided a sense of moral superiority over other nations, justifying the expansion of the British Empire through the civilising influence it could bring to the rest of the world. In particular, British missionaries believed they were bringing the salvation of Christianity to African societies that had been irreparably damaged by the institution of slavery.

This information was provided by curators from Gallery Oldham.