Over the nineteenth century, the British Empire played a key role in the global movement of goods, people, and ideas. These global processes transformed the economies, social structures, and cultures of both Britain and numerous colonial contexts. This article demonstrates how these processes interacted with two core themes: imperial connections and colonial improvement. The imperial connection between James Matheson, the infamous China coast opium trader, and James Alexander Stewart-Mackenzie, Governor of Ceylon (1837–1841), is an effective case study which demonstrates how personal connections were maintained within and enhanced by movement around the British Empire. Crucially, this connection facilitated the application of ideas about improvement, developed in the Scottish Highlands, in colonial Ceylon. Thus, the imperial connection between Stewart-Mackenzie and Matheson was crucial in bringing ideologies of colonial improvement to life. This case study effectively demonstrates the crucial role that imperial connections and colonial improvement played in the global movement of goods, people, and ideas.