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During the Napoleonic Wars the British occupied some French, Dutch and Danish colonies mainly in the Caribbean like: Dutch Surinam, Danish West Indies, French Martinique.

I have 2 questions:

  1. Why did the British not occupied Dutch Curaçao ?

  2. Why did the British not keep their occupations after the Napoleonic Wars? I know that they keept Malta (1800), Cape Town (1795), Trinidad (1795) and Ceylon (1795). Since United Kingdom was the 'winner' of the Napoleonic Wars I simply don't understand why they gave away these occupations to the 'losers' like France and Denmark.

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    My guess is that, after twenty years of war, the British were willing to trade a few non-strategic territories in the hope of a lasting peace with their European neighbors. – Steve Bird Nov 26 '15 at 10:28
  • Probably commercial. Colonies cost money to maintain, and don't always make money. They probably just kept the ones they thought they could effectively exploit... in every sense of that word. – Ne Mo Nov 26 '15 at 10:48
  • Also, as far as I can tell, the British did occupy Dutch Curaçao from 1800 to 1803 and then from 1807 to the end of the Napoleonic Wars when it was handed back. – Steve Bird Nov 26 '15 at 13:21
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    Because the architects at the Vienna Congress were wise and constructed a lasting peace. – Semaphore Nov 26 '15 at 15:09
  • I can't find a source for that right now but I vaguely recall that existing colonies (and in particular Barbados) were not keen on the competition from the French sugar islands, Martinique and Guadeloupe. It wasn't the first time the British gave them back to France. By contrast, they did keep the economically insignificant but strategically useful islands of Sainte-Lucie and Tobago. Also interesting, the British kept Mauritius but not Réunion… – Relaxed Nov 26 '15 at 16:17
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Unlike the earlier European wars of the 18th Century, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, from a British perspective, were not about acquiring or retaining territory. The purpose of war for the British Government was more of an ideological one, to prevent the spread of revolutionary ideas (especially to Britain) by restoring the French monarchy.

As a consequence, the war was waged against the French revolutionaries and Napoleon's Empire, rather than against the French state. Where territories were taken, it was done in order to help win the war rather than to expand the British Empire.

As has already been answered here, the peace deal at the end of the wars, was very lenient to the French. The hope being that a stable French empire under a restored French monarch was the best chance of a lasting peace deal.

Britain retained those territories that were strategically important to them, such as Malta (which gave them a naval base in the center of the Mediterranean) and the South African Cape (which gave them a base on the route to India).

  • One interesting thing to note is that this approach appears to have worked well - France regained much of its strength and remains a British Ally to this day (with one or two diplomatic "blips" along the way during the American War of Independence and WWII) – Jon Story Nov 27 '15 at 11:09
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    @JonStory: The American War of independence was not a "blip" because it preceded the Napoleonic wars. – Tom Au Nov 27 '15 at 22:27

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