British Expedition to Tibet

Pax Britannica

Southern Asia 1904.0803

British Expedition to Tibet

Pax Britannica (3 August 1904)

Historical Map of South & Southwest Asia

While the British welcomed the Saudi restoration as a way to undermine Ottoman power, their main concern in the region remained Russia. To keep the Russians in check, Britain signed an alliance with Japan, but still feared Russian expansion into Tibet, which had effectively been independent of China since the mid-19th century. In 1904, the British invaded the Himalayan kingdom, forcing the Tibetans to accept their authority.


British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintained British India's influence in a number of Gulf states from the 19th Century until 1947. These states were nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.

Trucial Oman was the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region were often called the Trucial States, and later became the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they had little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, was comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.

The area under direct British rule was known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.

Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, were the hundreds of protectorates or 'princely states'. These were indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others were either collected into agencies - which might in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fell under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

Anglo-Japanese Alliance

The United Kingdom and the Empire of Japan sign the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in London, promising that they will support each other if either country becomes involved in a war with more than one Great Power. The Alliance marks an end of Britain's Splendid Isolation.

Russian influence in Persia

After consuming a 1900 Russian loan of 20 million rubles, Mozaffar ad-Din Shah of Persia is in serious financial straits. Russia grants a second loan of 10 million rubles, but demands tighter terms - insisting on the Russian-aligned Belgian oversight of all financial operations in Persia. This state of dependency lasts until the 1905 Russian Revolution, when Britain steps in with the Anglo-Persian agreement and counters Russian designs.

British expedition to Tibet

Colonel Francis Younghusband leads an expedition from British India to Tibet - a nominal part of the Chinese Empire - to establish diplomatic relations, resolve the Tibet-Sikkim border dispute, and preempt possible Russian designs on the country. When the Tibetans resist the incursion, the British fight their way into Lhasa with their modern weaponry only to find the Dalai Lama has fled to China.

Battle of Port Arthur

The Empire of Japan launches a squadron of destroyers on a surprise night attack against the Russian fleet anchored at Port Arthur, Manchuria. Engagements continue over the following morning, ending at midday when the Japanese withdraw. Although neither side has lost any major ships in the battle, the Russians are ill-equipped to repair their damages. The next day, on 10 February, the Japanese declare war, formally beginning the Russo-Japanese War.

Entente Cordiale

The United Kingdom and the French Republic sign the Entente Cordiale, improving Anglo-French relations by settling colonial differences: Britain is given dominance in Egypt and France in Morocco; disputes in West Africa are settled in France's favor;
France renounces rights to fisheries in Newfoundland; and Siam is to be divided into zones of influence.

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