This article is about a term for the centre of the British Empire. For other uses, see Metropol.

The metropole, from the Greek Metropolis 'mother city' (polis being a city state, hence also used for any colonizing 'mother country'; in ecclesiastical languages an archbishopric having precedence over the suffragans in its ecclesiastical province) was the name given to the British metropolitan centre of the British Empire, i.e. the United Kingdom itself. This was even extended, such that London became the metropole of the British Empire, insofar as its politicians and businessmen determined the economic, diplomatic, and military character of the rest of the Empire.[citation needed] By contrast, the periphery was the rest of the Empire, outside the British Isles themselves.

Metropole and periphery

The historiography of British metropole-periphery relations has traditionally been defined in terms of complete separation of the two with a distinctly one-way channel of communication; the metropole informed the periphery, but the periphery did not directly inform the metropole. Hence, the British Empire was constituted by the formal control of territories, by direct governance of foreign lands, instigated by the metropole.[1]

More recent work, starting with that of John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson in the 1950s, has questioned this and, instead, has posited that the two were mutually constituitive, such that each formed simultaneously in relation to the other.[1] Gallagher and Robinson were socialists, observing the rise of economic power of the United States in the developing world at a time when the African colonies British Empire was being granted independence, and theorised that both British and American 'empires' were similarly developed.[2]

Within Gallagher, Stevenson and Robinson's theory of 'free trade imperialism', the use of soft power, primarily through the employment of British capital, allowed the United Kingdom to extract concessions, primarily free trade for British manufactured goods, just as readily as if they had engaged in a costly military occupation of the territories.[3] In this interpretation, the economic informal Empire of the periphery created formal Empire as surely as the metropole did.

Other empires

Such cognate words as métropole (French) and metrópole (Portuguese) designate the main part of a country, usually on the European continent, as opposed to its colonial possessions and/or overseas territories:

Other countries use different designations. See also Mainland

See also


  1. ^ a b Webster (2006), p. 70
  2. ^ Webster (2006), p. 69
  3. ^ Webster (2006), pp. 70–1