British Empire

British Empire

Overview
The British Empire comprised the dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

s, colonies
Crown colony
A Crown colony, also known in the 17th century as royal colony, was a type of colonial administration of the English and later British Empire....

, protectorate
Protectorate
In history, the term protectorate has two different meanings. In its earliest inception, which has been adopted by modern international law, it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger state or entity...

s, mandates
League of Nations mandate
A League of Nations mandate was a legal status for certain territories transferred from the control of one country to another following World War I, or the legal instruments that contained the internationally agreed-upon terms for administering the territory on behalf of the League...

 and other territories
Dependent territory
A dependent territory, dependent area or dependency is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a State, and remains politically outside of the controlling state's integral area....

 ruled or administered by the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. It originated with the overseas colonies
English colonial empire
The English colonial empire consisted of a variety of overseas territories colonized, conquered, or otherwise acquired by the former Kingdom of England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries....

 and trading post
Trading post
A trading post was a place or establishment in historic Northern America where the trading of goods took place. The preferred travel route to a trading post or between trading posts, was known as a trade route....

s established by England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

 in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire
Empire
The term empire derives from the Latin imperium . Politically, an empire is a geographically extensive group of states and peoples united and ruled either by a monarch or an oligarchy....

 in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1922 the British Empire held sway over about 458 million people, one-quarter of the world's population at the time, and covered more than 33700000 km² (13,011,642.7 sq mi), almost a quarter of the Earth's total land area.
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Timeline

927   England is unified by Athelstan of England after a long process of annexation.

959   Edgar the Peaceable becomes king of all England.

1002   English king Æthelred II orders the killing of all Danes in England, known today as the St. Brice's Day massacre.

1066   Harold Godwinson is crowned King of England.

1066   The Battle of Stamford Bridge marks the end of the Viking invasions of England.

1066   William the Bastard (as he was known at the time) invades England beginning the Norman Conquest.

1066   William the Conqueror is crowned king of England, at Westminster Abbey, London.

1174   William I of Scotland, a key rebel in the Revolt of 1173–1174, is captured at Alnwick by forces loyal to Henry II of England.

1189   Richard I "the Lionheart" is crowned King of England.

1192   Richard the Lion-Heart is captured and imprisoned by Leopold V of Austria on his way home to England after signing a treaty with Saladin ending the Third crusade.

 
Encyclopedia
The British Empire comprised the dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

s, colonies
Crown colony
A Crown colony, also known in the 17th century as royal colony, was a type of colonial administration of the English and later British Empire....

, protectorate
Protectorate
In history, the term protectorate has two different meanings. In its earliest inception, which has been adopted by modern international law, it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger state or entity...

s, mandates
League of Nations mandate
A League of Nations mandate was a legal status for certain territories transferred from the control of one country to another following World War I, or the legal instruments that contained the internationally agreed-upon terms for administering the territory on behalf of the League...

 and other territories
Dependent territory
A dependent territory, dependent area or dependency is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a State, and remains politically outside of the controlling state's integral area....

 ruled or administered by the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. It originated with the overseas colonies
English colonial empire
The English colonial empire consisted of a variety of overseas territories colonized, conquered, or otherwise acquired by the former Kingdom of England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries....

 and trading post
Trading post
A trading post was a place or establishment in historic Northern America where the trading of goods took place. The preferred travel route to a trading post or between trading posts, was known as a trade route....

s established by England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

 in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire
Empire
The term empire derives from the Latin imperium . Politically, an empire is a geographically extensive group of states and peoples united and ruled either by a monarch or an oligarchy....

 in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1922 the British Empire held sway over about 458 million people, one-quarter of the world's population at the time, and covered more than 33700000 km² (13,011,642.7 sq mi), almost a quarter of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

, linguistic
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 and cultural
Culture of the United Kingdom
The culture of the United Kingdom refers to the patterns of human activity and symbolism associated with the United Kingdom and its people. It is informed by the UK's history as a developed island country, major power, and its composition of four countries—England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and...

 legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, it was often said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire
The empire on which the sun never sets
The phrase, "the Empire on which the sun never sets", has been used with variations to describe certain global empires that were so extensive that there was always at least one part of their territory in daylight....

" because its span across the globe ensured that the sun was always shining on at least one of its numerous territories.

During the Age of Discovery
Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery, also known as the Age of Exploration and the Great Navigations , was a period in history starting in the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century during which Europeans engaged in intensive exploration of the world, establishing direct contacts with...

 in the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal
Portuguese Empire
The Portuguese Empire , also known as the Portuguese Overseas Empire or the Portuguese Colonial Empire , was the first global empire in history...

 and Spain
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

 pioneered European exploration of the globe, and in the process established large overseas empires. Envious of the great wealth these empires bestowed, England, France
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

 and the Netherlands
Dutch Empire
The Dutch Empire consisted of the overseas territories controlled by the Dutch Republic and later, the modern Netherlands from the 17th to the 20th century. The Dutch followed Portugal and Spain in establishing an overseas colonial empire, but based on military conquest of already-existing...

 began to establish colonies and trade networks of their own in the Americas and Asia. A series of wars in the 17th and 18th centuries with the Netherlands and France left England (Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

, following the 1707 Act of Union
Acts of Union 1707
The Acts of Union were two Parliamentary Acts - the Union with Scotland Act passed in 1706 by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland - which put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706,...

 with Scotland) the dominant colonial power
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

 in North America and India. The loss of the Thirteen Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 in North America in 1783 after a war of independence
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 deprived Britain of some of its oldest and most populous colonies. British attention soon turned towards Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Following the defeat of Napoleonic France
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

 in 1815, Britain enjoyed a century of almost unchallenged dominance, and expanded its imperial holdings across the globe. Increasing degrees of autonomy were granted to its white
White people
White people is a term which usually refers to human beings characterized, at least in part, by the light pigmentation of their skin...

 settler colonies
Settler colonialism
Settler colonialism is a specific colonial formation whereby foreign family units move into a region and reproduce. Land is thus the key resource in settler colonies, whereas natural and human resources are the main motivation behind other forms of colonialism...

, some of which were reclassified as dominions.

The growth of Germany
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 and the United States had eroded Britain's economic lead by the end of the 19th century. Subsequent military and economic tensions between Britain and Germany were major causes of the First World War, during which Britain relied heavily upon its empire. The conflict placed enormous financial strain on Britain, and although the empire achieved its largest territorial extent immediately after the war, it was no longer a peerless industrial or military power. The Second World War saw Britain's colonies in South-East Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 occupied by Japan, which damaged British prestige and accelerated the decline of the empire, despite the eventual victory of Britain and its allies. India, Britain's most valuable and populous possession, was given independence two years after the end of the war.

After the end of the Second World War, as part of a larger decolonisation
Decolonization
Decolonization refers to the undoing of colonialism, the unequal relation of polities whereby one people or nation establishes and maintains dependent Territory over another...

 movement by European powers, most of the territories of the British Empire were granted independence, ending with the handover of Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 to the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 in 1997. 14 territories remain under British sovereignty, the British Overseas Territories
British overseas territories
The British Overseas Territories are fourteen territories of the United Kingdom which, although they do not form part of the United Kingdom itself, fall under its jurisdiction. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not acquired independence or have voted to remain British territories...

. After independence, many former British colonies joined the Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, a free association of independent states. 16 Commonwealth nations share their head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

, Queen Elizabeth II, as Commonwealth realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s.

Origins (1497–1583)


The foundations of the British Empire were laid when England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

 and Scotland
Kingdom of Scotland
The Kingdom of Scotland was a Sovereign state in North-West Europe that existed from 843 until 1707. It occupied the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shared a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England...

 were separate kingdoms. In 1496 King Henry VII of England
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

, following the successes of Spain
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

 and Portugal
Portuguese Empire
The Portuguese Empire , also known as the Portuguese Overseas Empire or the Portuguese Colonial Empire , was the first global empire in history...

 in overseas exploration, commissioned John Cabot
John Cabot
John Cabot was an Italian navigator and explorer whose 1497 discovery of parts of North America is commonly held to have been the first European encounter with the continent of North America since the Norse Vikings in the eleventh century...

 to lead a voyage to discover a route to Asia via the North Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

. Cabot sailed in 1497, five years after the discovery of America, and although he successfully made landfall on the coast of Newfoundland (mistakenly believing, like Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

, that he had reached Asia), there was no attempt to found a colony
Colony
In politics and history, a colony is a territory under the immediate political control of a state. For colonies in antiquity, city-states would often found their own colonies. Some colonies were historically countries, while others were territories without definite statehood from their inception....

. Cabot led another voyage to the Americas the following year but nothing was heard of his ships again.

No further attempts to establish English colonies in the Americas were made until well into the reign of Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

, during the last decades of the 16th century. The Protestant Reformation
English Reformation
The English Reformation was the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....

 had made enemies of England and Catholic Spain. In 1562, the English Crown sanctioned the privateer
Privateer
A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers...

s John Hawkins
John Hawkins
Admiral Sir John Hawkins was an English shipbuilder, naval administrator and commander, merchant, navigator, and slave trader. As treasurer and controller of the Royal Navy, he rebuilt older ships and helped design the faster ships that withstood the Spanish Armada in 1588...

 and Francis Drake
Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake, Vice Admiral was an English sea captain, privateer, navigator, slaver, and politician of the Elizabethan era. Elizabeth I of England awarded Drake a knighthood in 1581. He was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588. He also carried out the...

 to engage in slave-raiding attacks against Spanish and Portuguese ships off the coast of West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

 with the aim of breaking into the Atlantic trade system. This effort was rebuffed and later, as the Anglo-Spanish Wars
Anglo-Spanish War (1585)
The Anglo–Spanish War was an intermittent conflict between the kingdoms of Spain and England that was never formally declared. The war was punctuated by widely separated battles, and began with England's military expedition in 1585 to the Netherlands under the command of the Earl of Leicester in...

 intensified, Elizabeth lent her blessing to further piratical raids against Spanish ports in the Americas and shipping that was returning across the Atlantic, laden with treasure from the New World
New World
The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

. At the same time, influential writers such as Richard Hakluyt
Richard Hakluyt
Richard Hakluyt was an English writer. He is principally remembered for his efforts in promoting and supporting the settlement of North America by the English through his works, notably Divers Voyages Touching the Discoverie of America and The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and...

 and John Dee
John Dee
John Dee was a Welsh mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, imperialist, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I.John Dee may also refer to:* John Dee , Basketball coach...

 (who was the first to use the term "British Empire") were beginning to press for the establishment of England's own empire. By this time, Spain was entrenched in the Americas, Portugal had established trading posts and forts from the coasts of Africa and Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 to China, and France
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

 had begun to settle the Saint Lawrence River
Saint Lawrence River
The Saint Lawrence is a large river flowing approximately from southwest to northeast in the middle latitudes of North America, connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. It is the primary drainage conveyor of the Great Lakes Basin...

, later to become New France
New France
New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763...

.

Plantations of Ireland


Though a relative latecomer in comparison to Spain and Portugal, England had been engaged during the 16th century in the settlement of Ireland, drawing on precedents dating back to the Norman invasion of Ireland
Norman Invasion of Ireland
The Norman invasion of Ireland was a two-stage process, which began on 1 May 1169 when a force of loosely associated Norman knights landed near Bannow, County Wexford...

 in 1171. Several people who helped establish the Plantations of Ireland
Plantations of Ireland
Plantations in 16th and 17th century Ireland were the confiscation of land by the English crown and the colonisation of this land with settlers from England and the Scottish Lowlands....

 also played a part in the early colonisation of North America, particularly a group known as the West Country men
West Country men
The West Country men were a group of wealthy individuals in Elizabethan England who advocated the English settlement of Ireland, attacks on the Spanish Empire and overseas colonisation. The group included Humphrey Gilbert, Walter Raleigh, Francis Drake, John Hawkins, Richard Grenville and Ralph Lane....

.

First British Empire (1583–1783)



In 1578, Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 granted a patent to Humphrey Gilbert
Humphrey Gilbert
Sir Humphrey Gilbert of Devon in England was a half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh. Adventurer, explorer, member of parliament, and soldier, he served during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and was a pioneer of English colonization in North America and the Plantations of Ireland.-Early life:Gilbert...

 for discovery and overseas exploration. That year, Gilbert sailed for the West Indies
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 with the intention of engaging in piracy and establishing a colony in North America, but the expedition was aborted before it had crossed the Atlantic. In 1583 he embarked on a second attempt, on this occasion to the island of Newfoundland whose harbour he formally claimed for England, although no settlers were left behind. Gilbert did not survive the return journey to England, and was succeeded by his half-brother, Walter Raleigh
Walter Raleigh
Sir Walter Raleigh was an English aristocrat, writer, poet, soldier, courtier, spy, and explorer. He is also well known for popularising tobacco in England....

, who was granted his own patent by Elizabeth in 1584. Later that year, Raleigh founded the colony of Roanoke
Roanoke Colony
The Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island in Dare County, present-day North Carolina, United States was a late 16th-century attempt to establish a permanent English settlement in what later became the Virginia Colony. The enterprise was financed and organized by Sir Walter Raleigh and carried out by...

 on the coast of present-day North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

, but lack of supplies caused the colony to fail.

In 1603, King James VI of Scotland
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 ascended to the English throne and in 1604 negotiated the Treaty of London, ending hostilities with Spain
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

. Now at peace with its main rival, English attention shifted from preying on other nations' colonial infrastructure to the business of establishing its own overseas colonies. The British Empire began to take shape during the early 17th century, with the English settlement
British colonization of the Americas
British colonization of the Americas began in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia and reached its peak when colonies had been established throughout the Americas...

 of North America and the smaller islands of the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, and the establishment of private companies
Privately held company
A privately held company or close corporation is a business company owned either by non-governmental organizations or by a relatively small number of shareholders or company members which does not offer or trade its company stock to the general public on the stock market exchanges, but rather the...

, most notably the English East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

, to administer colonies and overseas trade. This period, until the loss of the Thirteen Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 after the American War of Independence
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 towards the end of the 18th century, has subsequently been referred to as the "First British Empire".

Americas, Africa and the slave trade



The Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 initially provided England's most important and lucrative colonies, but not before several attempts at colonisation failed. An attempt to establish a colony in Guiana
British Guiana
British Guiana was the name of the British colony on the northern coast of South America, now the independent nation of Guyana.The area was originally settled by the Dutch at the start of the 17th century as the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice...

 in 1604 lasted only two years, and failed in its main objective to find gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 deposits. Colonies in St Lucia
Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia is an island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 620 km2 and has an...

 (1605) and Grenada
Grenada
Grenada is an island country and Commonwealth Realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea...

 (1609) also rapidly folded, but settlements were successfully established in St. Kitts
Saint Kitts
Saint Kitts Saint Kitts Saint Kitts (also known more formally as Saint Christopher Island (Saint-Christophe in French) is an island in the West Indies. The west side of the island borders the Caribbean Sea, and the eastern coast faces the Atlantic Ocean...

 (1624), Barbados
Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

 (1627) and Nevis
Nevis
Nevis is an island in the Caribbean Sea, located near the northern end of the Lesser Antilles archipelago, about 350 km east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 80 km west of Antigua. The 93 km² island is part of the inner arc of the Leeward Islands chain of the West Indies...

 (1628). The colonies soon adopted the system of sugar plantations
Plantation
A plantation is a long artificially established forest, farm or estate, where crops are grown for sale, often in distant markets rather than for local on-site consumption...

 successfully used by the Portuguese in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, which depended on slave labour
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

, and—at first—Dutch ships, to sell the slaves
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 and buy the sugar. To ensure that the increasingly healthy profits of this trade remained in English hands, Parliament decreed
Navigation Acts
The English Navigation Acts were a series of laws that restricted the use of foreign shipping for trade between England and its colonies, a process which had started in 1651. Their goal was to force colonial development into lines favorable to England, and stop direct colonial trade with the...

 in 1651 that only English ships would be able to ply their trade in English colonies. This led to hostilities with the United Dutch Provinces
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

—a series of Anglo-Dutch Wars
Anglo-Dutch Wars
The Anglo–Dutch Wars were a series of wars fought between the English and the Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries for control over the seas and trade routes. The first war took place during the English Interregnum, and was fought between the Commonwealth of England and the Dutch Republic...

—which would eventually strengthen England's position in the Americas at the expense of the Dutch. In 1655, England annexed the island of Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

 from the Spanish, and in 1666 succeeded in colonising the Bahamas
The Bahamas
The Bahamas , officially the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is a nation consisting of 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 islets . It is located in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba and Hispaniola , northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and southeast of the United States...

.


England's first permanent settlement in the Americas was founded in 1607 in Jamestown
Jamestown, Virginia
Jamestown was a settlement in the Colony of Virginia. Established by the Virginia Company of London as "James Fort" on May 14, 1607 , it was the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States, following several earlier failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke...

, led by Captain John Smith and managed by the Virginia Company
London Company
The London Company was an English joint stock company established by royal charter by James I of England on April 10, 1606 with the purpose of establishing colonial settlements in North America.The territory granted to the London Company included the coast of North America from the 34th parallel ...

.

Bermuda
Bermuda
Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about to the west-northwest. It is about south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and northeast of Miami, Florida...

 was settled and claimed by England as a result of the 1609 shipwreck there of the Viginia Company's flagship
Sea Venture
The Sea Venture was a 17th-century English sailing ship, the wrecking of which in Bermuda is widely thought to have been the inspiration for Shakespeare's The Tempest...

, and in 1615 was turned over to the newly-formed Somers Isles Company
Somers Isles Company
The Somers Isles Company was formed in 1615 to operate the English colony of the Somers Isles, also known as Bermuda, as a commercial venture. It held a royal charter for Bermuda until 1684, when it was dissolved, and the Crown assumed responsibility for the administration of Bermuda as a royal...

. The Virginia Company's charter was revoked in 1624 and direct control of Virginia was assumed by the crown
Crown colony
A Crown colony, also known in the 17th century as royal colony, was a type of colonial administration of the English and later British Empire....

, thereby founding the Colony of Virginia. When the charter of its spin-off
Spin-off
Spin-off may refer to:* Corporate spin-off, a type of corporate transaction forming a new company or entity* Government spin-off, civilian goods which are the result of military or governmental research...

, the Somers Isles Company, was similarly revoked in 1684, Bermuda turned entirely from a failed agricultural economy to the sea with profound results for the development of English America. The Newfoundland Company
London and Bristol Company
The London and Bristol Company came about in the early 17th century when English merchants had begun to express an interest in the Newfoundland fishery. Financed by a syndicate of investors John Guy, himself a Bristol merchant, visited Newfoundland in 1608 to locate a favourable site for a colony...

 was created in 1610 with the aim of creating a permanent settlement on Newfoundland, but was largely unsuccessful. In 1620, Plymouth
Plymouth Colony
Plymouth Colony was an English colonial venture in North America from 1620 to 1691. The first settlement of the Plymouth Colony was at New Plymouth, a location previously surveyed and named by Captain John Smith. The settlement, which served as the capital of the colony, is today the modern town...

 was founded as a haven for puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 religious separatists, later known as the Pilgrim
Pilgrim
A pilgrim is a traveler who is on a journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journeying to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system...

s. Fleeing from religious persecution
Religious persecution
Religious persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group of individuals as a response to their religious beliefs or affiliations or lack thereof....

 would become the motive of many English would-be colonists to risk the arduous trans-Atlantic voyage: Maryland
Province of Maryland
The Province of Maryland was an English and later British colony in North America that existed from 1632 until 1776, when it joined the other twelve of the Thirteen Colonies in rebellion against Great Britain and became the U.S...

 was founded as a haven for Roman Catholics (1634), Rhode Island
Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was one of the original English Thirteen Colonies established on the east coast of North America that, after the American Revolution, became the modern U.S...

 (1636) as a colony tolerant of all religions and Connecticut (1639) for Congregationalists
Congregational church
Congregational churches are Protestant Christian churches practicing Congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs....

. The Province of Carolina
Province of Carolina
The Province of Carolina, originally chartered in 1629, was an English and later British colony of North America. Because the original Heath charter was unrealized and was ruled invalid, a new charter was issued to a group of eight English noblemen, the Lords Proprietors, in 1663...

 was founded in 1663. With the surrender of Fort Amsterdam
Fort Amsterdam
For the historic fort on the island of Saint Martin, see Fort Amsterdam Fort Amsterdam was a fort on the southern tip of Manhattan that was the administrative headquarters for the Dutch and then British rule of New York from...

 in 1664, England gained control of the Dutch colony of New Netherland
New Netherland
New Netherland, or Nieuw-Nederland in Dutch, was the 17th-century colonial province of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands on the East Coast of North America. The claimed territories were the lands from the Delmarva Peninsula to extreme southwestern Cape Cod...

, renaming it New York. This was formalised in negotiations following the Second Anglo-Dutch War
Anglo-Dutch Wars
The Anglo–Dutch Wars were a series of wars fought between the English and the Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries for control over the seas and trade routes. The first war took place during the English Interregnum, and was fought between the Commonwealth of England and the Dutch Republic...

, in exchange for Suriname
Suriname
Suriname , officially the Republic of Suriname , is a country in northern South America. It borders French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was a former colony of the British and of the Dutch, and was previously known as...

. In 1681, the colony of Pennsylvania
Province of Pennsylvania
The Province of Pennsylvania, also known as Pennsylvania Colony, was founded in British America by William Penn on March 4, 1681 as dictated in a royal charter granted by King Charles II...

 was founded by William Penn
William Penn
William Penn was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was an early champion of democracy and religious freedom, notable for his good relations and successful...

. The American colonies were less financially successful than those of the Caribbean, but had large areas of good agricultural land and attracted far larger numbers of English emigrants who preferred their temperate climates.

In 1670, King Charles II
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

 granted a charter to the Hudson's Bay Company
Hudson's Bay Company
The Hudson's Bay Company , abbreviated HBC, or "The Bay" is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. A fur trading business for much of its existence, today Hudson's Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada...

, granting it a monopoly on the fur trade
Fur trade
The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of world market for in the early modern period furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued...

 in what was then known as Rupert's Land
Rupert's Land
Rupert's Land, or Prince Rupert's Land, was a territory in British North America, consisting of the Hudson Bay drainage basin that was nominally owned by the Hudson's Bay Company for 200 years from 1670 to 1870, although numerous aboriginal groups lived in the same territory and disputed the...

, a vast stretch of territory that would later make up a large proportion of Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. Forts and trading posts established by the Company were frequently the subject of attacks by the French, who had established their own fur trading colony in adjacent New France
New France
New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763...

.

Two years later, the Royal African Company
Royal African Company
The Royal African Company was a slaving company set up by the Stuart family and London merchants once the former retook the English throne in the English Restoration of 1660...

 was inaugurated, receiving from King Charles a monopoly of the trade to supply slaves to the British colonies of the Caribbean.
From the outset, slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 was the basis of the British Empire in the West Indies. Until the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, Britain was responsible for the transportation of 3.5 million African slaves to the Americas, a third of all slaves transported across the Atlantic
Atlantic slave trade
The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the trans-atlantic slave trade, refers to the trade in slaves that took place across the Atlantic ocean from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth centuries...

. To facilitate this trade, forts were established on the coast of West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

, such as James Island
James Island (The Gambia)
James Island is an island in the Gambia River, 30 km from the river mouth and near Juffureh in the country of The Gambia. On 6 February 2011 it was renamed Kunta Kinteh Island to give the Island a Gambian name. Fort James is located on the island...

, Accra
Jamestown, Ghana
Located directly east of the Korle Lagoon, Jamestown and Usshertown are the oldest districts in the city of Accra, Ghana and emerged as communities around the 17th century British James Fort and Ussher Fort on the Gulf of Guinea coast...

 and Bunce Island
Bunce Island
Bunce Island is the site of an 18th century British slave castle in the Republic of Sierra Leone in West Africa....

. In the British Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, the percentage of the population of African descent rose from 25 percent in 1650 to around 80 percent in 1780, and in the 13 Colonies from 10 percent to 40 percent over the same period (the majority in the southern colonies). For the slave traders, the trade was extremely profitable, and became a major economic mainstay for such western British cities
City status in the United Kingdom
City status in the United Kingdom is granted by the British monarch to a select group of communities. The holding of city status gives a settlement no special rights other than that of calling itself a "city". Nonetheless, this appellation carries its own prestige and, consequently, competitions...

 as Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 and Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

, which formed the third corner of the so-called triangular trade
Triangular trade
Triangular trade, or triangle trade, is a historical term indicating among three ports or regions. Triangular trade usually evolves when a region has export commodities that are not required in the region from which its major imports come...

 with Africa and the Americas. For the transported, harsh and unhygienic conditions on the slaving ships and poor diets meant that the average mortality rate
Mortality rate
Mortality rate is a measure of the number of deaths in a population, scaled to the size of that population, per unit time...

 during the middle passage
Middle Passage
The Middle Passage was the stage of the triangular trade in which millions of people from Africa were shipped to the New World, as part of the Atlantic slave trade...

 was one in seven.

In 1695, the Scottish parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

 granted a charter to the Company of Scotland
Company of Scotland
The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies, also called the Scottish Darien Company, was an overseas trading company created by an act of the Parliament of Scotland in 1695...

, which established a settlement in 1698 on the isthmus of Panama
Isthmus of Panama
The Isthmus of Panama, also historically known as the Isthmus of Darien, is the narrow strip of land that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, linking North and South America. It contains the country of Panama and the Panama Canal...

, with a view to building a canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

 there. Besieged by neighbouring Spanish colonists of New Granada
New Kingdom of Granada
The New Kingdom of Granada was the name given to a group of 16th century Spanish colonial provinces in northern South America governed by the president of the Audiencia of Bogotá, an area corresponding mainly to modern day Colombia and parts of Venezuela. Originally part of the Viceroyalty of...

, and afflicted by malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

, the colony was abandoned two years later. The Darien scheme
Darién scheme
The Darién scheme was an unsuccessful attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called "New Caledonia" on the Isthmus of Panama in the late 1690s...

 was a financial disaster for Scotland—a quarter of Scottish capital was lost in the enterprise—and ended Scottish hopes of establishing its own overseas empire. The episode also had major political consequences, persuading the governments of both England and Scotland of the merits of a union of countries, rather than just crowns. This occurred in 1707 with the Treaty of Union
Treaty of Union
The Treaty of Union is the name given to the agreement that led to the creation of the united kingdom of Great Britain, the political union of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland, which took effect on 1 May 1707...

, establishing the Kingdom of Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

.

Rivalry with the Netherlands in Asia



At the end of the 16th century, England and the Netherlands began to challenge Portugal's monopoly of trade with Asia, forming private joint-stock
Joint stock company
A joint-stock company is a type of corporation or partnership involving two or more individuals that own shares of stock in the company...

 companies to finance the voyages—the English, later British, East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 and the Dutch East India Company
Dutch East India Company
The Dutch East India Company was a chartered company established in 1602, when the States-General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia...

, chartered in 1600 and 1602 respectively. The primary aim of these companies was to tap into the lucrative spice trade
Spice trade
Civilizations of Asia were involved in spice trade from the ancient times, and the Greco-Roman world soon followed by trading along the Incense route and the Roman-India routes...

, an effort focused mainly on two regions; the East Indies
East Indies
East Indies is a term used by Europeans from the 16th century onwards to identify what is now known as Indian subcontinent or South Asia, Southeastern Asia, and the islands of Oceania, including the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines...

 archipelago
Archipelago
An archipelago , sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek ἄρχι- – arkhi- and πέλαγος – pélagos through the Italian arcipelago...

, and an important hub in the trade network, India. There, they competed for trade supremacy with Portugal and with each other. Although England would ultimately eclipse the Netherlands as a colonial power, in the short term the Netherlands' more advanced financial system and the three Anglo-Dutch Wars
Anglo-Dutch Wars
The Anglo–Dutch Wars were a series of wars fought between the English and the Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries for control over the seas and trade routes. The first war took place during the English Interregnum, and was fought between the Commonwealth of England and the Dutch Republic...

 of the 17th century left it with a stronger position in Asia. Hostilities ceased after the Glorious Revolution
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

 of 1688 when the Dutch William of Orange
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 ascended the English throne, bringing peace between the Netherlands and England. A deal between the two nations left the spice trade of the East Indies archipelago to the Netherlands and the textiles industry of India to England, but textiles soon overtook spices in terms of profitability, and by 1720, in terms of sales, the British company had overtaken the Dutch.

Global struggles with France


Peace between England and the Netherlands in 1688 meant that the two countries entered the Nine Years' War as allies, but the conflict—waged in Europe and overseas between France, Spain and the Anglo-Dutch alliance—left the English a stronger colonial power than the Dutch, who were forced to devote a larger proportion of their military budget
Military budget
A military budget of an entity, most often a nation or a state, is the budget and financial resources dedicated to raising and maintaining armed forces for that entity. Military budgets reflect how much an entity perceives the likelihood of threats against it, or the amount of aggression it wishes...

 on the costly land war in Europe. The 18th century would see England (after 1707, Britain) rise to be the world's dominant colonial power, and France becoming its main rival on the imperial stage.


The death of Charles II of Spain
Charles II of Spain
Charles II was the last Habsburg King of Spain and the ruler of large parts of Italy, the Spanish territories in the Southern Low Countries, and Spain's overseas Empire, stretching from the Americas to the Spanish East Indies...

 in 1700 and his bequeathal of Spain and its colonial empire to Philippe of Anjou
Philip V of Spain
Philip V was King of Spain from 15 November 1700 to 15 January 1724, when he abdicated in favor of his son Louis, and from 6 September 1724, when he assumed the throne again upon his son's death, to his death.Before his reign, Philip occupied an exalted place in the royal family of France as a...

, a grandson of the King of France, raised the prospect of the unification of France, Spain and their respective colonies, an unacceptable state of affairs for England and the other powers of Europe. In 1701, England, Portugal and the Netherlands sided with the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 against Spain and France in the War of the Spanish Succession
War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought among several European powers, including a divided Spain, over the possible unification of the Kingdoms of Spain and France under one Bourbon monarch. As France and Spain were among the most powerful states of Europe, such a unification would have...

, which lasted until 1714. At the concluding Treaty of Utrecht
Treaty of Utrecht
The Treaty of Utrecht, which established the Peace of Utrecht, comprises a series of individual peace treaties, rather than a single document, signed by the belligerents in the War of Spanish Succession, in the Dutch city of Utrecht in March and April 1713...

, Philip renounced his and his descendants' right to the French throne and Spain lost its empire in Europe. The British Empire was territorially enlarged: from France, Britain gained Newfoundland and Acadia
Acadia
Acadia was the name given to lands in a portion of the French colonial empire of New France, in northeastern North America that included parts of eastern Quebec, the Maritime provinces, and modern-day Maine. At the end of the 16th century, France claimed territory stretching as far south as...

, and from Spain, Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 and Minorca
Minorca
Min Orca or Menorca is one of the Balearic Islands located in the Mediterranean Sea belonging to Spain. It takes its name from being smaller than the nearby island of Majorca....

. Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

, which is still a British territory
British overseas territories
The British Overseas Territories are fourteen territories of the United Kingdom which, although they do not form part of the United Kingdom itself, fall under its jurisdiction. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not acquired independence or have voted to remain British territories...

 to this day, became a critical naval base and allowed Britain to control the Atlantic entry and exit point to the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

. Minorca was returned to Spain at the Treaty of Amiens
Treaty of Amiens
The Treaty of Amiens temporarily ended hostilities between the French Republic and the United Kingdom during the French Revolutionary Wars. It was signed in the city of Amiens on 25 March 1802 , by Joseph Bonaparte and the Marquess Cornwallis as a "Definitive Treaty of Peace"...

 in 1802, after changing hands twice. Spain also ceded the rights to the lucrative asiento (permission to sell slaves in Spanish America
Ibero-America
Ibero-America is a term used since the second half of the 19th century to refer collectively to the countries in the Americas that were formerly colonies of Spain or Portugal. Spain and Portugal are themselves included in some definitions, such as that of the Ibero-American Summit and the...

) to Britain.

The Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

, which began in 1756, was the first war waged on a global scale, fought in Europe, India, North America, the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 and coastal Africa. The signing of the Treaty of Paris (1763)
Treaty of Paris (1763)
The Treaty of Paris, often called the Peace of Paris, or the Treaty of 1763, was signed on 10 February 1763, by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement. It ended the French and Indian War/Seven Years' War...

 had important consequences for the future of the British Empire. In North America, France's future as a colonial power there was effectively ended with the recognition of British claims to Rupert's Land
Rupert's Land
Rupert's Land, or Prince Rupert's Land, was a territory in British North America, consisting of the Hudson Bay drainage basin that was nominally owned by the Hudson's Bay Company for 200 years from 1670 to 1870, although numerous aboriginal groups lived in the same territory and disputed the...

, the ceding of New France
New France
New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763...

 to Britain (leaving a sizeable French-speaking population
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

 under British control) and Louisiana
Louisiana (New France)
Louisiana or French Louisiana was an administrative district of New France. Under French control from 1682–1763 and 1800–03, the area was named in honor of Louis XIV, by French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle...

 to Spain. Spain ceded Florida to Britain. In India, the Carnatic War had left France still in control of its enclaves
French India
French India is a general name for the former French possessions in India These included Pondichéry , Karikal and Yanaon on the Coromandel Coast, Mahé on the Malabar Coast, and Chandannagar in Bengal...

 but with military restrictions and an obligation to support British client states, ending French hopes of controlling India. The British victory over France in the Seven Years' War therefore left Britain as the world's most powerful maritime power.

Rise of the Second British Empire (1783–1815)



Company rule in India



During its first century of operation, the English East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 focused on trade with the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

, as it was not in a position to challenge the powerful Mughal Empire
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

, which had granted it trading rights in 1617. This changed in the 18th century as the Mughals declined in power and the East India Company struggled with its French counterpart, the Compagnie française des Indes orientales
French East India Company
The French East India Company was a commercial enterprise, founded in 1664 to compete with the British and Dutch East India companies in colonial India....

, during the Carnatic Wars
Carnatic Wars
The Carnatic Wars were a series of military conflicts in the middle of the 18th century on the Indian subcontinent...

 in the 1740s and 1750s. The Battle of Plassey
Battle of Plassey
The Battle of Plassey , 23 June 1757, was a decisive British East India Company victory over the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies, establishing Company rule in South Asia which expanded over much of the Indies for the next hundred years...

 in 1757, which saw the British, led by Robert Clive
Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive
Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, KB , also known as Clive of India, was a British officer who established the military and political supremacy of the East India Company in Bengal. He is credited with securing India, and the wealth that followed, for the British crown...

, defeat the Nawab of Bengal
Nawab of Bengal
The Nawabs of Bengal were the hereditary nazims or subadars of the subah of Bengal during the Mughal rule and the de-facto rulers of the province.-History:...

 and his French
French East India Company
The French East India Company was a commercial enterprise, founded in 1664 to compete with the British and Dutch East India companies in colonial India....

 allies, left the Company in control of Bengal
Bengal
Bengal is a historical and geographical region in the northeast region of the Indian Subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal. Today, it is mainly divided between the sovereign land of People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, although some regions of the previous...

 and as the major military and political power
Political power
Political power is a type of power held by a group in a society which allows administration of some or all of public resources, including labour, and wealth. There are many ways to obtain possession of such power. At the nation-state level political legitimacy for political power is held by the...

 in India. In the following decades it gradually increased the size of the territories under its control, either ruling directly or via local rulers under the threat of force from the British Indian Army, the vast majority of which was composed of Indian sepoy
Sepoy
A sepoy was formerly the designation given to an Indian soldier in the service of a European power. In the modern Indian Army, Pakistan Army and Bangladesh Army it remains in use for the rank of private soldier.-Etymology and Historical usage:...

s. British India eventually grew into the empire's most valuable possession, "the Jewel in the Crown"; covering a territory greater than that of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, it was the most important source of Britain's strength, defining its status as the world's greatest power.

Loss of the Thirteen American Colonies



During the 1760s and 1770s, relations between the Thirteen Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 and Britain became increasingly strained, primarily because of resentment of the British Parliament's attempts to govern and tax American colonists without their consent, summarised at the time by the slogan "No taxation without representation
No taxation without representation
"No taxation without representation" is a slogan originating during the 1750s and 1760s that summarized a primary grievance of the British colonists in the Thirteen Colonies, which was one of the major causes of the American Revolution...

". Disagreement over the American colonists' guaranteed Rights as Englishmen
Rights of Englishmen
The rights of Englishmen are the perceived traditional rights of British subjects. The notion refers to various constitutional documents that were created throughout various stages of English history, such as Magna Carta, the Declaration of Right , and others...

 resulted in the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 and the outbreak of the American War of Independence
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 in 1775. The following year, the colonists declared the independence of the United States
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

. With assistance from France
France in the American Revolutionary War
France entered the American Revolutionary War in 1778, and assisted in the victory of the Americans seeking independence from Britain ....

, Spain
Spain in the American Revolutionary War
Spain actively supported the Thirteen Colonies throughout the American Revolutionary War, beginning in 1776 by jointly funding Roderigue Hortalez and Company, a trading company that provided critical military supplies, through financing the final Siege of Yorktown in 1781 with a collection of gold...

, and the Netherlands the United States would go on to win the war in 1783.


The loss of such a large portion of British America
British America
For American people of British descent, see British American.British America is the anachronistic term used to refer to the territories under the control of the Crown or Parliament in present day North America , Central America, the Caribbean, and Guyana...

, at the time Britain's most populous overseas possession, is seen by historians as the event defining the transition between the "first" and "second" empires, in which Britain shifted its attention away from the Americas to Asia, the Pacific and later Africa. Adam Smith
Adam Smith
Adam Smith was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations...

's Wealth of Nations
The Wealth of Nations
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, generally referred to by its shortened title The Wealth of Nations, is the magnum opus of the Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith...

, published in 1776, had argued that colonies were redundant, and that free trade
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

 should replace the old mercantilist
Mercantilism
Mercantilism is the economic doctrine in which government control of foreign trade is of paramount importance for ensuring the prosperity and security of the state. In particular, it demands a positive balance of trade. Mercantilism dominated Western European economic policy and discourse from...

 policies that had characterised the first period of colonial expansion, dating back to the protectionism
Protectionism
Protectionism is the economic policy of restraining trade between states through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, restrictive quotas, and a variety of other government regulations designed to allow "fair competition" between imports and goods and services produced domestically.This...

 of Spain and Portugal. The growth of trade between the newly independent United States and Britain after 1783 seemed to confirm Smith's view that political control was not necessary for economic success. Tensions between the two nations escalated during the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, as Britain tried to cut off American trade with France, and boarded American ships to impress
Impressment
Impressment, colloquially, "the Press", was the act of taking men into a navy by force and without notice. It was used by the Royal Navy, beginning in 1664 and during the 18th and early 19th centuries, in wartime, as a means of crewing warships, although legal sanction for the practice goes back to...

 into the Royal Navy men of British birth. The U.S. declared war, the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

, in which both sides tried to make major gains at the other's expense. Both failed and the Treaty of Ghent
Treaty of Ghent
The Treaty of Ghent , signed on 24 December 1814, in Ghent , was the peace treaty that ended the War of 1812 between the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

, ratified in 1815, kept the pre-war boundaries.

Events in America influenced British policy in Canada, where between 40,000 and 100,000 defeated Loyalists
Loyalist (American Revolution)
Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the Kingdom of Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War. At the time they were often called Tories, Royalists, or King's Men. They were opposed by the Patriots, those who supported the revolution...

 had migrated from America following independence. The 14,000 Loyalists who went to the Saint John and Saint Croix river valleys, then part of Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

, felt too far removed from the provincial government in Halifax, so London split off New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

 as a separate colony in 1784. The Constitutional Act of 1791
Constitutional Act of 1791
The Constitutional Act of 1791, formally The Clergy Endowments Act, 1791 , is an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain...

 created the provinces of Upper Canada
Upper Canada
The Province of Upper Canada was a political division in British Canada established in 1791 by the British Empire to govern the central third of the lands in British North America and to accommodate Loyalist refugees from the United States of America after the American Revolution...

 (mainly English-speaking) and Lower Canada
Lower Canada
The Province of Lower Canada was a British colony on the lower Saint Lawrence River and the shores of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence...

 (mainly French-speaking
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

) to defuse tensions between the French and British communities, and implemented governmental systems similar to those employed in Britain, with the intention of asserting imperial authority and not allowing the sort of popular control of government that was perceived to have led to the American Revolution.

Exploration of the Pacific



Since 1718, transportation
Penal transportation
Transportation or penal transportation is the deporting of convicted criminals to a penal colony. Examples include transportation by France to Devil's Island and by the UK to its colonies in the Americas, from the 1610s through the American Revolution in the 1770s, and then to Australia between...

 to the American colonies had been a penalty for various criminal offences in Britain, with approximately one thousand convicts transported per year across the Atlantic. Forced to find an alternative location after the loss of the 13 Colonies in 1783, the British government turned to the newly discovered lands of Australia. The western coast of Australia had been discovered for Europeans by the Dutch explorer Willem Jansz
Willem Janszoon
Willem Janszoon , Dutch navigator and colonial governor, is probably the first European known to have seen the coast of Australia. His name is sometimes abbreviated to Willem Jansz....

 in 1606 and was later named by the Dutch East India Company
Dutch East India Company
The Dutch East India Company was a chartered company established in 1602, when the States-General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia...

 New Holland
New Holland (Australia)
New Holland is a historic name for the island continent of Australia. The name was first applied to Australia in 1644 by the Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman as Nova Hollandia, naming it after the Dutch province of Holland, and remained in use for 180 years....

,Mulligan & Hill, pp. 20–23. but there was no attempt to colonise it. In 1770 James Cook
James Cook
Captain James Cook, FRS, RN was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer who ultimately rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Navy...

 discovered the eastern coast of Australia while on a scientific voyage
First voyage of James Cook
The first voyage of James Cook was a combined Royal Navy and Royal Society expedition to the south Pacific ocean aboard HMS Endeavour, from 1768 to 1771...

 to the South Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

, claimed the continent for Britain, and named it New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

. In 1778, Joseph Banks
Joseph Banks
Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet, GCB, PRS was an English naturalist, botanist and patron of the natural sciences. He took part in Captain James Cook's first great voyage . Banks is credited with the introduction to the Western world of eucalyptus, acacia, mimosa and the genus named after him,...

, Cook's botanist
Botany
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

 on the voyage, presented evidence to the government on the suitability of Botany Bay
Botany Bay
Botany Bay is a bay in Sydney, New South Wales, a few kilometres south of the Sydney central business district. The Cooks River and the Georges River are the two major tributaries that flow into the bay...

 for the establishment of a penal settlement
Penal colony
A penal colony is a settlement used to exile prisoners and separate them from the general populace by placing them in a remote location, often an island or distant colonial territory...

, and in 1787 the first shipment of convicts
Convicts in Australia
During the late 18th and 19th centuries, large numbers of convicts were transported to the various Australian penal colonies by the British government. One of the primary reasons for the British settlement of Australia was the establishment of a penal colony to alleviate pressure on their...

 set sail, arriving in 1788. Britain continued to transport convicts to New South Wales until 1840. The Australian colonies became profitable exporters of wool and gold, mainly due to gold rushes in the colony of Victoria, making its capital Melbourne
Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre is the hub of the greater metropolitan area and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater...

 the richest city in the world and the largest city after London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in the British Empire.

During his voyage, Cook also visited New Zealand, first discovered by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman
Abel Janszoon Tasman was a Dutch seafarer, explorer, and merchant, best known for his voyages of 1642 and 1644 in the service of the VOC . His was the first known European expedition to reach the islands of Van Diemen's Land and New Zealand and to sight the Fiji islands...

 in 1642, and claimed the North
North Island
The North Island is one of the two main islands of New Zealand, separated from the much less populous South Island by Cook Strait. The island is in area, making it the world's 14th-largest island...

 and South
South Island
The South Island is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand, the other being the more populous North Island. It is bordered to the north by Cook Strait, to the west by the Tasman Sea, to the south and east by the Pacific Ocean...

 islands for the British crown
Monarchy of the United Kingdom
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 in 1769 and 1770 respectively. Initially, interaction between the indigenous Maori population and Europeans was limited to the trading of goods. European settlement increased through the early decades of the 19th century, with numerous trading stations established, especially in the North. In 1839, the New Zealand Company
New Zealand Company
The New Zealand Company originated in London in 1837 as the New Zealand Association with the aim of promoting the "systematic" colonisation of New Zealand. The association, and later the company, intended to follow the colonising principles of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who envisaged the creation of...

 announced plans to buy large tracts of land and establish colonies in New Zealand. On 6 February 1840, Captain William Hobson
William Hobson
Captain William Hobson RN was the first Governor of New Zealand and co-author of the Treaty of Waitangi.-Early life:...

 and around 40 Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi
Treaty of Waitangi
The Treaty of Waitangi is a treaty first signed on 6 February 1840 by representatives of the British Crown and various Māori chiefs from the North Island of New Zealand....

. This treaty is considered by many to be New Zealand's founding document, but differing interpretations of the Maori and English versions of the text have meant that it continues to be a source of dispute.

War with Napoleonic France



Britain was challenged again by France under Napoleon
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

, in a struggle that, unlike previous wars, represented a contest of ideologies between the two nations. It was not only Britain's position on the world stage that was threatened: Napoleon threatened to invade Britain itself, just as his armies had overrun many countries of continental Europe
Continental Europe
Continental Europe, also referred to as mainland Europe or simply the Continent, is the continent of Europe, explicitly excluding European islands....

.


The Napoleonic Wars were therefore ones in which Britain invested large amounts of capital and resources to win. French ports were blockaded by the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, which won a decisive victory over a Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar
The Battle of Trafalgar was a sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars ....

 in 1805. Overseas colonies were attacked and occupied, including those of the Netherlands, which was annexed by Napoleon in 1810. France was finally defeated by a coalition of European armies in 1815. Britain was again the beneficiary of peace treaties: France ceded the Ionian Islands
United States of the Ionian Islands
The United States of the Ionian Islands was a state and amical protectorate of the United Kingdom between 1815 and 1864. It was the successor state of the Septinsular Republic...

, Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 (which it had occupied in 1797 and 1798 respectively), Mauritius
Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

, St Lucia
Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia is an island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 620 km2 and has an...

, and Tobago
Tobago
Tobago is the smaller of the two main islands that make up the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located in the southern Caribbean, northeast of the island of Trinidad and southeast of Grenada. The island lies outside the hurricane belt...

; Spain ceded Trinidad
Trinidad
Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the two major islands and numerous landforms which make up the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. It is the southernmost island in the Caribbean and lies just off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. With an area of it is also the fifth largest in...

; the Netherlands Guyana
British Guiana
British Guiana was the name of the British colony on the northern coast of South America, now the independent nation of Guyana.The area was originally settled by the Dutch at the start of the 17th century as the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice...

, and the Cape Colony
Cape Colony
The Cape Colony, part of modern South Africa, was established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, with the founding of Cape Town. It was subsequently occupied by the British in 1795 when the Netherlands were occupied by revolutionary France, so that the French revolutionaries could not take...

. Britain returned Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe is an archipelago located in the Leeward Islands, in the Lesser Antilles, with a land area of 1,628 square kilometres and a population of 400,000. It is the first overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. As with the other overseas departments, Guadeloupe...

, Martinique
Martinique
Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of . Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia, and to the southeast Barbados...

, French Guiana
French Guiana
French Guiana is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It has borders with two nations, Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west...

, and Réunion
Réunion
Réunion is a French island with a population of about 800,000 located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, about south west of Mauritius, the nearest island.Administratively, Réunion is one of the overseas departments of France...

 to France, and Java
Java
Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...

 and Suriname
Suriname
Suriname , officially the Republic of Suriname , is a country in northern South America. It borders French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was a former colony of the British and of the Dutch, and was previously known as...

 to the Netherlands, while gaining control of Ceylon (1795–1815).

Abolition of slavery


Under increasing pressure from the British abolitionist
Abolitionism
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

 movement, the British government enacted the Slave Trade Act in 1807 which abolished the slave trade
History of slavery
The history of slavery covers slave systems in historical perspective in which one human being is legally the property of another, can be bought or sold, is not allowed to escape and must work for the owner without any choice involved...

 in the empire. In 1808, Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone , officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of and has an estimated population between 5.4 and 6.4...

 was designated an official British colony for freed slaves. The Slavery Abolition Act passed in 1833 abolished slavery in the British Empire on 1 August 1834 (with the exception of St. Helena, Ceylon and the territories administered by the East India Company, though these exclusions were later repealed). Under the Act, slaves were granted full emancipation
Emancipation
Emancipation means the act of setting an individual or social group free or making equal to citizens in a political society.Emancipation may also refer to:* Emancipation , a champion Australian thoroughbred racehorse foaled in 1979...

 after a period of 4 to 6 years of "apprenticeship".

Britain's imperial century (1815–1914)




Between 1815 and 1914, a period referred to as Britain's "imperial century" by some historians, around 10000000 square miles (25,899,881.1 km²) of territory and roughly 400 million people were added to the British Empire. Victory over Napoleon left Britain without any serious international rival, other than Russia in central Asia
The Great Game
The Great Game or Tournament of Shadows in Russia, were terms for the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. The classic Great Game period is generally regarded as running approximately from the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1813...

. Unchallenged at sea, Britain adopted the role of global policeman, a state of affairs later known as the Pax Britannica
Pax Britannica
Pax Britannica was the period of relative peace in Europe when the British Empire controlled most of the key maritime trade routes and enjoyed unchallenged sea power...

, and a foreign policy of "splendid isolation
Splendid isolation
Splendid Isolation was the foreign policy pursued by Britain during the late 19th century, under the Conservative premierships of Benjamin Disraeli and the Marquess of Salisbury. The term was actually coined by a Canadian politician to praise Britain's lack of involvement in European affairs...

". Alongside the formal control it exerted over its own colonies, Britain's dominant position in world trade meant that it effectively controlled the economies of many countries, such as China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 and Siam
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, which has been characterised by some historians as "informal empire
Informal Empire
Informal Empire describes the spheres of influence which an empire may develop that translate into a degree of influence over a region or country, which is not a formal colony in the empire, as a result of the extension of commercial, strategic or military interests of the empire.In a 2010...

".

British imperial strength was underpinned by the steamship
Steamboat
A steamboat or steamship, sometimes called a steamer, is a ship in which the primary method of propulsion is steam power, typically driving propellers or paddlewheels...

 and the telegraph
Telegraphy
Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of messages via some form of signalling technology. Telegraphy requires messages to be converted to a code which is known to both sender and receiver...

, new technologies invented in the second half of the 19th century, allowing it to control and defend the empire. By 1902, the British Empire was linked together by a network of telegraph cables, the so-called All Red Line
All Red Line
The All Red Line was an informal name for the system of electrical telegraphs that linked much of the British Empire.It was inaugurated on 31 October 1902. It had this name because on many political maps, British Empire territory was coloured red ....

.

East India Company in Asia




The East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 drove the expansion of the British Empire in Asia. The Company's army had first joined forces with the Royal Navy during the Seven Years' War, and the two continued to cooperate in arenas outside India: the eviction of Napoleon from Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 (1799), the capture of Java
Java
Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...

 from the Netherlands (1811), the acquisition of Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 (1819) and Malacca
Malacca
Malacca , dubbed The Historic State or Negeri Bersejarah among locals) is the third smallest Malaysian state, after Perlis and Penang. It is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. It borders Negeri Sembilan to the north and the state of Johor to the south...

 (1824) and the defeat of Burma (1826).

From its base in India, the Company had also been engaged in an increasingly profitable opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

 export trade to China since the 1730s. This trade, illegal since it was outlawed by the Qing dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 in 1729, helped reverse the trade imbalances resulting from the British imports of tea
Tea
Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by adding cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant to hot water. The term also refers to the plant itself. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world...

, which saw large outflows of silver from Britain to China. In 1839, the confiscation by the Chinese authorities at Canton
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

 of 20,000 chests of opium led Britain to attack China in the First Opium War
First Opium War
The First Anglo-Chinese War , known popularly as the First Opium War or simply the Opium War, was fought between the United Kingdom and the Qing Dynasty of China over their conflicting viewpoints on diplomatic relations, trade, and the administration of justice...

, and resulted in the seizure by Britain of Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Island is an island in the southern part of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It has a population of 1,289,500 and its population density is 16,390/km², as of 2008...

, at that time a minor settlement.

The 1857 mutiny of sepoy
Sepoy
A sepoy was formerly the designation given to an Indian soldier in the service of a European power. In the modern Indian Army, Pakistan Army and Bangladesh Army it remains in use for the rank of private soldier.-Etymology and Historical usage:...

s, Indian troops under British officers and discipline, grew into a wider conflict which ended with the dissolution of the company and the assumption of direct control by the British government. The Indian Rebellion
Indian Rebellion of 1857
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 began as a mutiny of sepoys of the British East India Company's army on 10 May 1857, in the town of Meerut, and soon escalated into other mutinies and civilian rebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, with the major hostilities confined to...

 took six months to suppress, with heavy loss of life on both sides. Afterwards the British government assumed direct control over India, ushering in the period known as the British Raj
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

, where an appointed governor-general
Governor-General of India
The Governor-General of India was the head of the British administration in India, and later, after Indian independence, the representative of the monarch and de facto head of state. The office was created in 1773, with the title of Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William...

 administered India and Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

 was crowned the Empress of India. The East India Company was dissolved the following year.

India suffered a series of serious crop failures in the late 19th century, leading to widespread famines
Famine in India
Famine has been a recurrent feature of life in the Indian sub-continental countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and reached its numerically deadliest peak in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Historical and legendary evidence names some 90 famines in 2,500 years of history. There...

 in which it is estimated that over 15 million people died. The East India Company had failed to implement any coordinated policy to deal with the famines during its period of rule. This changed during the Raj, in which commissions were set up after each famine to investigate the causes and implement new policies, which took until the early 1900s to have an effect.

Rivalry with Russia



During the 19th century, Britain and Russia
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 vied to fill the power vacuums that had been left by the declining Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, Persian
Qajar dynasty
The Qajar dynasty was an Iranian royal family of Turkic descent who ruled Persia from 1785 to 1925....

 and Qing Chinese
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 empires. This rivalry in Eurasia came to be known as the "Great Game
The Great Game
The Great Game or Tournament of Shadows in Russia, were terms for the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. The classic Great Game period is generally regarded as running approximately from the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1813...

". As far as Britain was concerned, defeats inflicted by Russia on Persia and Turkey demonstrated its imperial ambitions and capabilities, and stoked fears in Britain of an overland invasion of India. In 1839, Britain moved to pre-empt this by invading Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, but the First Anglo-Afghan War
First Anglo-Afghan War
The First Anglo-Afghan War was fought between British India and Afghanistan from 1839 to 1842. It was one of the first major conflicts during the Great Game, the 19th century competition for power and influence in Central Asia between the United Kingdom and Russia, and also marked one of the worst...

 was a disaster for Britain. When Russia invaded the Turkish Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 in 1853, fears of Russian dominance in the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 and Middle East led Britain and France to invade the Crimean Peninsula
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 in order to destroy Russian naval capabilities. The ensuing Crimean War (1854–56)
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

, which involved new techniques of modern warfare
Modern warfare
Modern warfare, although present in every historical period of military history, is generally used to refer to the concepts, methods and technologies that have come into use during and after the Second World War and the Korean War...

, and was the only global war
World war
A world war is a war affecting the majority of the world's most powerful and populous nations. World wars span multiple countries on multiple continents, with battles fought in multiple theaters....

 fought between Britain and another imperial power
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

 during the Pax Britannica, was a resounding defeat for Russia. The situation remained unresolved in Central Asia for two more decades, with Britain annexing Baluchistan
Baluchistan (Chief Commissioners Province)
The Chief Commissioner's Province of Baluchistan was a province of British India located in the northern parts of the modern Balochistan province.- History :...

 in 1876 and Russia Kirghizia
Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan , officially the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the world's six independent Turkic states . Located in Central Asia, landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east...

, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

 and Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

. For a while it appeared that another war would be inevitable, but the two countries reached an agreement on their respective spheres of influence
Sphere of influence
In the field of international relations, a sphere of influence is a spatial region or conceptual division over which a state or organization has significant cultural, economic, military or political influence....

 in the region in 1878, and on all outstanding matters in 1907 with the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente
Anglo-Russian Entente
Signed on August 31, 1907, in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 brought shaky British-Russian relations to the forefront by solidifying boundaries that identified respective control in Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet...

. The destruction of the Russian Navy at the Battle of Port Arthur
Battle of Port Arthur
The Battle of Port Arthur was the starting battle of the Russo-Japanese War...

 during the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 of 1904–05 also limited its threat to the British.

Cape to Cairo



The Dutch East India Company had founded the Cape Colony
Cape Colony
The Cape Colony, part of modern South Africa, was established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, with the founding of Cape Town. It was subsequently occupied by the British in 1795 when the Netherlands were occupied by revolutionary France, so that the French revolutionaries could not take...

 on the southern tip of Africa in 1652 as a way station for its ships travelling to and from its colonies in the East Indies
Indies
The Indies is a term that has been used to describe the lands of South and Southeast Asia, occupying all of the present India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and also Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, the Philippines, East Timor, Malaysia and...

. Britain formally acquired the colony, and its large Afrikaner
Afrikaner
Afrikaners are an ethnic group in Southern Africa descended from almost equal numbers of Dutch, French and German settlers whose native tongue is Afrikaans: a Germanic language which derives primarily from 17th century Dutch, and a variety of other languages.-Related ethno-linguistic groups:The...

 (or Boer
Boer
Boer is the Dutch and Afrikaans word for farmer, which came to denote the descendants of the Dutch-speaking settlers of the eastern Cape frontier in Southern Africa during the 18th century, as well as those who left the Cape Colony during the 19th century to settle in the Orange Free State,...

) population in 1806, having occupied it in 1795 in order to prevent its falling into French hands, following the invasion of the Netherlands by France. British immigration began to rise after 1820, and pushed thousands of Boers, resentful of British rule, northwards to found their own—mostly short-lived—independent republics, during the Great Trek
Great Trek
The Great Trek was an eastward and north-eastward migration away from British control in the Cape Colony during the 1830s and 1840s by Boers . The migrants were descended from settlers from western mainland Europe, most notably from the Netherlands, northwest Germany and French Huguenots...

 of the late 1830s and early 1840s. In the process the Voortrekkers
Voortrekkers
The Voortrekkers were emigrants during the 1830s and 1840s who left the Cape Colony moving into the interior of what is now South Africa...

 clashed repeatedly with the British, who had their own agenda with regard to colonial expansion in South Africa and with several African polities, including those of the Sotho
Basotho
The ancestors of the Sotho people have lived in southern Africa since around the fifth century. The Sotho nation emerged from the accomplished diplomacy of Moshoeshoe I who gathered together disparate clans of Sotho–Tswana origin that had dispersed across southern Africa in the early 19th century...

 and the Zulu nations. Eventually the Boers established two republics which had a longer lifespan: the South African Republic
South African Republic
The South African Republic , often informally known as the Transvaal Republic, was an independent Boer-ruled country in Southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century. Not to be confused with the present-day Republic of South Africa, it occupied the area later known as the South African...

 or Transvaal Republic (1852–77; 1881–1902) and the Orange Free State
Orange Free State
The Orange Free State was an independent Boer republic in southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century, and later a British colony and a province of the Union of South Africa. It is the historical precursor to the present-day Free State province...

 (1854–1902). In 1902 Britain occupied both republics, concluding a treaty with the two Boer Republics
Boer Republics
The Boer Republics were independent self-governed republics created by the northeastern frontier branch of the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of the north eastern Cape Province and their descendants in mainly the northern and eastern parts of what is now the country of...

 following the Second Boer War
Second Boer War
The Second Boer War was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State...

 1899–1902.

In 1869 the Suez Canal was opened under Napoleon III
Napoleon III of France
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was the President of the French Second Republic and as Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, christened as Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte...

, linking the Mediterranean with the Indian Ocean. The Canal was at first opposed by the British, but once open its strategic value was quickly recognised. In 1875, the Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 government of Benjamin Disraeli bought the indebted Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian ruler Ismail Pasha
Isma'il Pasha
Isma'il Pasha , known as Ismail the Magnificent , was the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan from 1863 to 1879, when he was removed at the behest of the United Kingdom...

's 44 percent shareholding in the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 for £4 million (£ in ). Although this did not grant outright control of the strategic waterway, it did give Britain leverage. Joint Anglo-French financial control over Egypt ended in outright British occupation in 1882. The French were still majority shareholders and attempted to weaken the British position, but a compromise was reached with the 1888 Convention of Constantinople
Convention of Constantinople
The Convention of Constantinople was a treaty signed by the United Kingdom, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia and the Ottoman Empire on October 29, 1888. In the 1880s Britain had recently acquired physical control over the Suez Canal and Egypt...

, which made the Canal officially neutral territory.

As French, Belgian
Belgian colonial empire
The Belgian colonial empire consisted of three colonies possessed by Belgium between 1901 and 1962: Belgian Congo , Rwanda and Burundi...

 and Portuguese
Portuguese Empire
The Portuguese Empire , also known as the Portuguese Overseas Empire or the Portuguese Colonial Empire , was the first global empire in history...

 activity in the lower Congo River
Congo River
The Congo River is a river in Africa, and is the deepest river in the world, with measured depths in excess of . It is the second largest river in the world by volume of water discharged, though it has only one-fifth the volume of the world's largest river, the Amazon...

 region threatened to undermine orderly penetration of tropical Africa, the Berlin Conference of 1884–85 sought to regulate the competition between the European powers in what was called the "Scramble for Africa
Scramble for Africa
The Scramble for Africa, also known as the Race for Africa or Partition of Africa was a process of invasion, occupation, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers during the New Imperialism period, between 1881 and World War I in 1914...

" by defining "effective occupation" as the criterion for international recognition of territorial claims. The scramble continued into the 1890s, and caused Britain to reconsider its decision in 1885 to withdraw from Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

. A joint force of British and Egyptian troops defeated the Mahdist Army
Mahdist War
The Mahdist War was a colonial war of the late 19th century. It was fought between the Mahdist Sudanese and the Egyptian and later British forces. It has also been called the Anglo-Sudan War or the Sudanese Mahdist Revolt. The British have called their part in the conflict the Sudan Campaign...

 in 1896, and rebuffed a French attempted invasion at Fashoda
Fashoda Incident
The Fashoda Incident was the climax of imperial territorial disputes between Britain and France in Eastern Africa. A French expedition to Fashoda on the White Nile sought to gain control of the Nile River and thereby force Britain out of Egypt. The British held firm as Britain and France were on...

 in 1898. Sudan was nominally made an Anglo-Egyptian Condominium
Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
Anglo-Egyptian Sudan referred to the manner by which Sudan was administered between 1899 and 1956, when it was a condominium of Egypt and the United Kingdom.-Union with Egypt:...

, but a British colony in reality.

British gains in southern and East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

 prompted Cecil Rhodes, pioneer of British expansion in Africa, to urge a "Cape to Cairo" railway linking the strategically important Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 to the mineral-rich South. In 1888 Rhodes with his privately owned British South Africa Company
British South Africa Company
The British South Africa Company was established by Cecil Rhodes through the amalgamation of the Central Search Association and the Exploring Company Ltd., receiving a royal charter in 1889...

 occupied and annexed territories subsequently named after him, Rhodesia.

Changing status of the white colonies


From the 18th century, there had been a marked contrast between the status of the British Empire's white
White people
White people is a term which usually refers to human beings characterized, at least in part, by the light pigmentation of their skin...

 colonies and that of colonies peopled by non-whites. While the empire was characterised by autocratic
Autocracy
An autocracy is a form of government in which one person is the supreme power within the state. It is derived from the Greek : and , and may be translated as "one who rules by himself". It is distinct from oligarchy and democracy...

 rule—"enlightened" despotism
Enlightened absolutism
Enlightened absolutism is a form of absolute monarchy or despotism in which rulers were influenced by the Enlightenment. Enlightened monarchs embraced the principles of the Enlightenment, especially its emphasis upon rationality, and applied them to their territories...

—and military imperialism
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

 in the latter, it became a champion of free thought and evolving self-government in the white colonies.

The path to independence for the white colonies of the British Empire began with the 1839 Durham Report, which proposed unification and self-government for the two Upper
Upper Canada
The Province of Upper Canada was a political division in British Canada established in 1791 by the British Empire to govern the central third of the lands in British North America and to accommodate Loyalist refugees from the United States of America after the American Revolution...

 and Lower Canada
Lower Canada
The Province of Lower Canada was a British colony on the lower Saint Lawrence River and the shores of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence...

, as a solution to political unrest there. This began with the passing of the Act of Union
Act of Union 1840
The Act of Union, formally the The British North America Act, 1840 , was enacted in July 1840 and proclaimed 10 February 1841. It abolished the legislatures of Lower Canada and Upper Canada and established a new political entity, the Province of Canada to replace them...

 in 1840, which created the Province of Canada
Province of Canada
The Province of Canada, United Province of Canada, or the United Canadas was a British colony in North America from 1841 to 1867. Its formation reflected recommendations made by John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham in the Report on the Affairs of British North America following the Rebellions of...

. Responsible government
Responsible government
Responsible government is a conception of a system of government that embodies the principle of parliamentary accountability which is the foundation of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy...

 was first granted to Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

 in 1848, and was soon extended to the other British North American colonies. With the passage of the British North America Act, 1867 by the British Parliament, Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were formed into the Dominion of Canada, a confederation enjoying full self government with the exception of international relations
International relations
International relations is the study of relationships between countries, including the roles of states, inter-governmental organizations , international nongovernmental organizations , non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations...

. Australia and New Zealand achieved similar levels of self-government after 1900, with the Australian colonies federating in 1901
Federation of Australia
The Federation of Australia was the process by which the six separate British self-governing colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia formed one nation...

. The term "dominion status" was officially introduced at the Colonial Conference of 1907.

The last decades of the 19th century saw concerted political campaign
Political campaign
A political campaign is an organized effort which seeks to influence the decision making process within a specific group. In democracies, political campaigns often refer to electoral campaigns, wherein representatives are chosen or referendums are decided...

s for Irish home rule
Home rule
Home rule is the power of a constituent part of a state to exercise such of the state's powers of governance within its own administrative area that have been devolved to it by the central government....

. Ireland had been united with Britain into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with the Act of Union 1800
Act of Union 1800
The Acts of Union 1800 describe two complementary Acts, namely:* the Union with Ireland Act 1800 , an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, and...

 after the Irish Rebellion of 1798
Irish Rebellion of 1798
The Irish Rebellion of 1798 , also known as the United Irishmen Rebellion , was an uprising in 1798, lasting several months, against British rule in Ireland...

, and had suffered a severe famine between 1845 and 1852. Home rule was supported by the British Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

, William Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

, who hoped that Ireland might follow in Canada's footsteps as a Dominion within the empire, but his 1886 Home Rule bill was defeated in Parliament. Although the bill, if passed, would have granted Ireland less autonomy within the UK than the Canadian provinces had within their own federation, many MPs feared that a partially independent Ireland might pose a security threat to Great Britain or mark the beginning of the break-up of the empire. A second Home Rule bill
Irish Government Bill 1893
The Government of Ireland Bill 1893 was the second attempt made by William Ewart Gladstone, as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, to enact a system of home rule for Ireland...

 was also defeated for similar reasons. A third bill
Home Rule Act 1914
The Government of Ireland Act 1914 , also known as the Third Home Rule Bill, was an Act passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom intended to provide self-government for Ireland within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.The Act was the first law ever passed by the Parliament of...

 was passed by Parliament in 1914, but not implemented due to the outbreak of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 leading to the 1916 Easter Rising
Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War...

.

World wars (1914–1945)


By the turn of the 20th century, fears had begun to grow in Britain that it would no longer be able to defend the metropole and the entirety of the empire while at the same time maintaining the policy of "splendid isolation
Splendid isolation
Splendid Isolation was the foreign policy pursued by Britain during the late 19th century, under the Conservative premierships of Benjamin Disraeli and the Marquess of Salisbury. The term was actually coined by a Canadian politician to praise Britain's lack of involvement in European affairs...

". Germany was rising rapidly as a military and industrial power and was now seen as the most likely opponent in any future war. Recognising that it was overstretched in the Pacific and threatened at home by the German navy
Kaiserliche Marine
The Imperial German Navy was the German Navy created at the time of the formation of the German Empire. It existed between 1871 and 1919, growing out of the small Prussian Navy and Norddeutsche Bundesmarine, which primarily had the mission of coastal defense. Kaiser Wilhelm II greatly expanded...

, Britain formed an alliance with Japan
Anglo-Japanese Alliance
The first was signed in London at what is now the Lansdowne Club, on January 30, 1902, by Lord Lansdowne and Hayashi Tadasu . A diplomatic milestone for its ending of Britain's splendid isolation, the alliance was renewed and extended in scope twice, in 1905 and 1911, before its demise in 1921...

 in 1902, and its old enemies France
Entente Cordiale
The Entente Cordiale was a series of agreements signed on 8 April 1904 between the United Kingdom and the French Republic. Beyond the immediate concerns of colonial expansion addressed by the agreement, the signing of the Entente Cordiale marked the end of almost a millennium of intermittent...

 and Russia
Anglo-Russian Entente
Signed on August 31, 1907, in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 brought shaky British-Russian relations to the forefront by solidifying boundaries that identified respective control in Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet...

 in 1904 and 1907, respectively.

First World War




Britain's fears of war with Germany were realised in 1914 with the outbreak of the First World War. The British declaration of war on Germany and its allies also committed the colonies and Dominions, which provided invaluable military, financial and material support. Over 2.5 million men served in the armies of the Dominions, as well as many thousands of volunteers from the Crown colonies
Crown colony
A Crown colony, also known in the 17th century as royal colony, was a type of colonial administration of the English and later British Empire....

. Most of Germany's overseas colonies in Africa were quickly invaded and occupied, and in the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand occupied German New Guinea
German New Guinea
German New Guinea was the first part of the German colonial empire. It was a protectorate from 1884 until 1914 when it fell to Australia following the outbreak of the First World War. It consisted of the northeastern part of New Guinea and several nearby island groups...

 and Samoa
Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

 respectively. The contributions of Australian, Newfoundland and New Zealand troops during the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign against the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 had a great impact on the national consciousness at home, and marked a watershed in the transition of Australia and New Zealand from colonies to nations in their own right. The countries continue to commemorate this occasion on ANZAC Day
ANZAC Day
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all...

. Canadians viewed the Battle of Vimy Ridge
Battle of Vimy Ridge
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a military engagement fought primarily as part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, during the First World War. The main combatants were the Canadian Corps, of four divisions, against three divisions of the German Sixth Army...

 in a similar light. The important contribution of the Dominions to the war effort
War effort
In politics and military planning, a war effort refers to a coordinated mobilization of society's resources—both industrial and human—towards the support of a military force...

 was recognised in 1917 by the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

 when he invited each of the Dominion Prime Ministers to join an Imperial War Cabinet
Imperial War Cabinet
The Imperial War Cabinet was created by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George in the spring of 1917 as a means of co-ordinating the British Empire's military policy during the First World War...

 to coordinate imperial policy.

Under the terms of the concluding Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

 signed in 1919, the empire reached its greatest extent with the addition of 1800000 square miles (4,661,978.6 km²) and 13 million new subjects. The colonies of Germany and the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 were distributed to the Allied powers as League of Nations Mandates
League of Nations mandate
A League of Nations mandate was a legal status for certain territories transferred from the control of one country to another following World War I, or the legal instruments that contained the internationally agreed-upon terms for administering the territory on behalf of the League...

. Britain gained control of Palestine, Transjordan, Iraq, parts of Cameroon
Cameroons
British Cameroons was a British Mandate territory in West Africa, now divided between Nigeria and Cameroon.The area of present-day Cameroon was claimed by Germany as a protectorate during the "Scramble for Africa" at the end of the 19th century...

 and Togo
Togo
Togo, officially the Togolese Republic , is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, on which the capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately with a population of approximately...

, and Tanganyika
Tanganyika
Tanganyika , later formally the Republic of Tanganyika, was a sovereign state in East Africa from 1961 to 1964. It was situated between the Indian Ocean and the African Great Lakes of Lake Victoria, Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika...

. The Dominions themselves also acquired mandates of their own: South-West Africa
South West Africa
South-West Africa was the name that was used for the modern day Republic of Namibia during the earlier eras when the territory was controlled by the German Empire and later by South Africa....

 (modern-day Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

) was given to the Union of South Africa
Union of South Africa
The Union of South Africa is the historic predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa. It came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the previously separate colonies of the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State...

, Australia gained German New Guinea
German New Guinea
German New Guinea was the first part of the German colonial empire. It was a protectorate from 1884 until 1914 when it fell to Australia following the outbreak of the First World War. It consisted of the northeastern part of New Guinea and several nearby island groups...

, and New Zealand Western Samoa
Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

. Nauru
Nauru
Nauru , officially the Republic of Nauru and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia in the South Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, to the east. Nauru is the world's smallest republic, covering just...

 was made a combined mandate of Britain and the two Pacific Dominions.

Inter-war period & Irish War of Independence


The changing world order that the war had brought about, in particular the growth of the United States and Japan as naval powers, and the rise of independence movements in India and Ireland, caused a major reassessment of British imperial policy. Forced to choose between alignment with the United States or Japan, Britain opted not to renew its Japanese alliance and instead signed the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty
Washington Naval Treaty
The Washington Naval Treaty, also known as the Five-Power Treaty, was an attempt to cap and limit, and "prevent 'further' costly escalation" of the naval arms race that had begun after World War I between various International powers, each of which had significant naval fleets. The treaty was...

, where Britain accepted naval parity with the United States. This decision was the source of much debate in Britain during the 1930s as militaristic governments took hold in Japan and Germany helped in part by the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, for it was feared that the empire could not survive a simultaneous attack by both nations. Although the issue of the empire's security was a serious concern in Britain, at the same time the empire was vital to the British economy.

In 1919, the frustrations caused by delays to Irish home rule
Irish Home Rule Movement
The Irish Home Rule Movement articulated a longstanding Irish desire for the repeal of the Act of Union of 1800 by a demand for self-government within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The movement drew upon a legacy of patriotic thought that dated back at least to the late 17th...

 led members of Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

, a pro-independence party that had won a majority of the Irish seats at Westminster in the 1918 British general election, to establish an Irish assembly in Dublin, at which Irish independence was declared. The Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army
The Irish Republican Army was an Irish republican revolutionary military organisation. It was descended from the Irish Volunteers, an organisation established on 25 November 1913 that staged the Easter Rising in April 1916...

 simultaneously began a guerrilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 war against the British administration. The Anglo-Irish War
Irish War of Independence
The Irish War of Independence , Anglo-Irish War, Black and Tan War, or Tan War was a guerrilla war mounted by the Irish Republican Army against the British government and its forces in Ireland. It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence. Both sides agreed...

 ended in 1921 with a stalemate and the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty
Anglo-Irish Treaty
The Anglo-Irish Treaty , officially called the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was a treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and representatives of the secessionist Irish Republic that concluded the Irish War of...

, creating the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

, a Dominion within the British Empire, with effective internal independence but still constitutionally linked with the British Crown. Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, consisting of six of the 32 Irish counties
Counties of Ireland
The counties of Ireland are sub-national divisions used for the purposes of geographic demarcation and local government. Closely related to the county is the County corporate which covered towns or cities which were deemed to be important enough to be independent from their counties. A county...

 which had been established as a devolved region under the 1920 Government of Ireland Act
Government of Ireland Act 1920
The Government of Ireland Act 1920 was the Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which partitioned Ireland. The Act's long title was "An Act to provide for the better government of Ireland"; it is also known as the Fourth Home Rule Bill or as the Fourth Home Rule Act.The Act was intended...

, immediately exercised its option under the treaty to retain its existing status within the United Kingdom.


A similar struggle began in India when the Government of India Act 1919
Government of India Act 1919
-See also:*British India*British Raj*History of Bangladesh*History of India*History of Pakistan*Governor-General of India*Government of India Act*India Office*Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms*Secretary of State for India...

 failed to satisfy demand for independence. Concerns over communist and foreign plots following the Ghadar Conspiracy
Ghadar Conspiracy
The Ghadar Conspiracy was a conspiracy for a pan-Indian mutiny in the British Indian Army in February 1915 formulated by the Ghadar Party...

 ensured that war-time strictures were renewed by the Rowlatt Act
Rowlatt Act
The Rowlatt Act was a law passed by the British in colonial India in March 1919, indefinitely extending "emergency measures" enacted during the First World War in order to control public unrest and root out conspiracy...

s. The led to tension, particularly in the Punjab, where repressive measures culminated in the Amritsar Massacre
Jallianwala Bagh massacre
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre , also known as the Amritsar massacre, took place in the Jallianwala Bagh public garden in the northern Indian city of Amritsar, and was ordered by Brigadier-General Reginald E.H. Dyer...

. In Britain public opinion was divided over the morality of the event, between those who saw it as having saved India from anarchy, and those who viewed it with revulsion. The subsequent non-cooperation movement
Non-cooperation movement
The non-cooperation movement was a significant phase of the Indian struggle for freedom from British rule which lasted for years. This movement, which lasted from September 1920 to February 1922 and was led by Mohandas Gandhi, and supported by the Indian National Congress. It aimed to resist...

 was called off in March 1922 following the Chauri Chaura
Chauri Chaura
Chauri Chaura is a town near Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. The town is known most for an event in February 1922 during the British Raj when a police chowki was set on fire by a mob of angry citizens, killing 23 policemen inside.-Background:In the early 1920s, Indians, led by Mahatma Gandhi,...

 incident, and discontent continued to simmer for the next 25 years.
In 1922, Egypt, which had been declared a British protectorate
Protectorate
In history, the term protectorate has two different meanings. In its earliest inception, which has been adopted by modern international law, it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger state or entity...

 at the outbreak of the First World War, was granted formal independence
Unilateral Declaration of Egyptian Independence
The Unilateral Declaration of Egyptian Independence was issued by the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 28 February 1922...

, though it continued to be a British client state
Client state
Client state is one of several terms used to describe the economic, political and/or military subordination of one state to a more powerful state in international affairs...

 until 1954. British troops
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 remained stationed in Egypt until the signing of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty
Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936
The Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 was a treaty signed between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Egypt; it is officially known as The Treaty of Alliance Between His Majesty, in Respect of the United Kingdom, and His Majesty, the King of Egypt...

 in 1936, under which it was agreed that the troops would withdraw but continue to occupy and defend the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 zone. In return, Egypt was assisted to join the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

. Iraq, a British mandate
League of Nations mandate
A League of Nations mandate was a legal status for certain territories transferred from the control of one country to another following World War I, or the legal instruments that contained the internationally agreed-upon terms for administering the territory on behalf of the League...

 since 1920, also gained membership of the League in its own right after achieving independence from Britain in 1932.

The ability of the Dominions to set their own foreign policy, independent of Britain, was recognised at the 1923 Imperial Conference. Britain's request for military assistance from the Dominions at the outbreak of the Chanak crisis
Chanak Crisis
The Chanak Crisis, also called Chanak Affair in September 1922 was the threatened attack by Turkish troops on British and French troops stationed near Çanakkale to guard the Dardanelles neutral zone. The Turkish troops had recently defeated Greek forces and recaptured İzmir...

 the previous year had been turned down by Canada and South Africa, and Canada had refused to be bound by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne
Treaty of Lausanne
The Treaty of Lausanne was a peace treaty signed in Lausanne, Switzerland on 24 July 1923, that settled the Anatolian and East Thracian parts of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The treaty of Lausanne was ratified by the Greek government on 11 February 1924, by the Turkish government on 31...

. After pressure from Ireland and South Africa, the 1926 Imperial Conference
1926 Imperial Conference
The 1926 Imperial Conference was the sixth Imperial Conference held amongst the Prime Ministers of the dominions of the British Empire. It was held in London from 19 October to 22 November 1926...

 issued the Balfour Declaration, declaring the Dominions to be "autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another" within a "British Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

". This declaration was given legal substance under the 1931 Statute of Westminster
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

. The parliaments of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, the Irish Free State and Newfoundland
Dominion of Newfoundland
The Dominion of Newfoundland was a British Dominion from 1907 to 1949 . The Dominion of Newfoundland was situated in northeastern North America along the Atlantic coast and comprised the island of Newfoundland and Labrador on the continental mainland...

 were now independent of British legislative control, they could nullify British laws
Law of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has three legal systems. English law, which applies in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland law, which applies in Northern Ireland, are based on common-law principles. Scots law, which applies in Scotland, is a pluralistic system based on civil-law principles, with common law...

 and Britain could no longer pass laws for them without their consent. Newfoundland reverted to colonial status in 1933, suffering from financial difficulties during the Great Depression. Ireland distanced itself further from Britain with the introduction of a new constitution
Constitution of Ireland
The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Irish state. The constitution falls broadly within the liberal democratic tradition. It establishes an independent state based on a system of representative democracy and guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected...

 in 1937, making it a republic in all but name.

Second World War




Britain's declaration of war against Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 in September 1939 included the Crown colonies
Crown colony
A Crown colony, also known in the 17th century as royal colony, was a type of colonial administration of the English and later British Empire....

 and India but did not automatically commit the Dominions. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa all soon declared war on Germany, but the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

 chose to remain legally neutral
Irish neutrality
Ireland has a "traditional policy of military neutrality". In particular, Ireland remained neutral during World War II, and has never been a member of NATO or the Non-Aligned Movement. The formulation and justification of the neutrality policy has varied over time...

 throughout the war. After the German occupation of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

 in 1940, Britain and the empire stood alone against Germany, until the entry of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 to the war in 1941. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 successfully lobbied President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 for military aid
Military aid
Military aid is aid which is used to assist an ally in its defense efforts, or to assist a poor country in maintaining control over its own territory. Many countries receive military aid to help with counter-insurgency efforts...

 from the United States, but Roosevelt was not yet ready to ask Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 to commit the country to war. In August 1941, Churchill and Roosevelt met and signed the Atlantic Charter
Atlantic Charter
The Atlantic Charter was a pivotal policy statement first issued in August 1941 that early in World War II defined the Allied goals for the post-war world. It was drafted by Britain and the United States, and later agreed to by all the Allies...

, which included the statement that "the rights of all peoples to choose the form of government
Form of government
A form of government, or form of state governance, refers to the set of political institutions by which a government of a state is organized. Synonyms include "regime type" and "system of government".-Empirical and conceptual problems:...

 under which they live" should be respected. This wording was ambiguous as to whether it referred to European countries invaded by Germany, or the peoples colonised by European nations, and would later be interpreted differently by the British, Americans, and nationalist movements.

In December 1941, Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

 launched, in quick succession, attacks on British Malaya
Battle of Malaya
The Malayan Campaign was a campaign fought by Allied and Japanese forces in Malaya, from 8 December 1941 – 31 January 1942 during the Second World War. The campaign was dominated by land battles between British Commonwealth army units, and the Imperial Japanese Army...

, the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

, and Hong Kong
Battle of Hong Kong
The Battle of Hong Kong took place during the Pacific campaign of World War II. It began on 8 December 1941 and ended on 25 December 1941 with Hong Kong, then a Crown colony, surrendering to the Empire of Japan.-Background:...

. Churchill's reaction to the entry of the United States into the war was that Britain was now assured of victory and the future of the empire was safe, but the manner in which the British rapidly surrendered irreversibly altered Britain's standing and prestige as an imperial power. Most damaging of all was the fall of Singapore
Battle of Singapore
The Battle of Singapore was fought in the South-East Asian theatre of the Second World War when the Empire of Japan invaded the Allied stronghold of Singapore. Singapore was the major British military base in Southeast Asia and nicknamed the "Gibraltar of the East"...

, which had previously been hailed as an impregnable fortress and the eastern equivalent of Gibraltar. The realisation that Britain could not defend the entire empire pushed Australia and New Zealand, which now appeared threatened by Japanese forces, into closer ties with the United States, which after the war eventually resulted in the 1951 ANZUS Pact
ANZUS
The Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty is the military alliance which binds Australia and New Zealand and, separately, Australia and the United States to cooperate on defence matters in the Pacific Ocean area, though today the treaty is understood to relate to attacks...

 between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America.

Decolonisation and decline (1945–1997)


Though Britain and the empire emerged victorious from the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the effects of the conflict were profound, both at home and abroad. Much of Europe, a continent that had dominated the world for several centuries, was in ruins, and host to the armies of the United States and the Soviet Union, to whom the balance of global power had now shifted. Britain was left virtually bankrupt
Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a legal status of an insolvent person or an organisation, that is, one that cannot repay the debts owed to creditors. In most jurisdictions bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor....

, with insolvency only averted in 1946 after the negotiation of a $3.5 billion loan
Anglo-American loan
The Anglo-American Loan Agreement was a post World War II loan made to the United Kingdom by the United States on 15 July 1946, and paid off 29 December 2006...

 from the United States, the last installment of which was repaid in 2006.

At the same time, anti-colonial movements were on the rise in the colonies of European nations. The situation was complicated further by the increasing Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 rivalry of the United States and the Soviet Union. In principle, both nations were opposed to European colonialism. In practice, however, American anti-Communism
Anti-communism
Anti-communism is opposition to communism. Organized anti-communism developed in reaction to the rise of communism, especially after the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and the beginning of the Cold War in 1947.-Objections to communist theory:...

 prevailed over anti-imperialism
Anti-imperialism
Anti-imperialism, strictly speaking, is a term that may be applied to a movement opposed to any form of colonialism or imperialism. Anti-imperialism includes opposition to wars of conquest, particularly of non-contiguous territory or people with a different language or culture; it also includes...

, and therefore the United States supported the continued existence of the British Empire where it kept Communist expansion in check.

The "wind of change
Wind of Change
"Wind of Change" is a 1990 power ballad written by Klaus Meine, vocalist of the German heavy metal band Scorpions. It appeared on their 1990 album Crazy World, but did not become a worldwide hit single until 1991, when it topped the charts in Germany and across Europe, and hit #4 in the United...

" ultimately meant that the British Empire's days were numbered, and on the whole, Britain adopted a policy of peaceful disengagement from its colonies once stable, non-Communist governments were available to transfer power to. This was in contrast to other European powers such as France and Portugal, which waged costly and ultimately unsuccessful wars to keep their empires intact. Between 1945 and 1965, the number of people under British rule outside the UK itself fell from 700 million to five million, three million of whom were in Hong Kong.

Initial disengagement



The pro-decolonisation Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 government elected at the 1945 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1945
The United Kingdom general election of 1945 was a general election held on 5 July 1945, with polls in some constituencies delayed until 12 July and in Nelson and Colne until 19 July, due to local wakes weeks. The results were counted and declared on 26 July, due in part to the time it took to...

 and led by Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

, moved quickly to tackle the most pressing issue facing the empire, that of Indian independence
Indian independence movement
The term Indian independence movement encompasses a wide area of political organisations, philosophies, and movements which had the common aim of ending first British East India Company rule, and then British imperial authority, in parts of South Asia...

. India's two independence movements—the Indian National Congress
Indian National Congress
The Indian National Congress is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is the largest and one of the oldest democratic political parties in the world. The party's modern liberal platform is largely considered center-left in the Indian...

 and the Muslim League—had been campaigning for independence for decades, but disagreed as to how it should be implemented. Congress favoured a unified secular Indian state, whereas the League, fearing domination by the Hindu majority, desired a separate Islamic state
Islamic State
An Islamic state is a type of government, in which the primary basis for government is Islamic religious law...

 for Muslim-majority regions. Increasing civil unrest
Civil disorder
Civil disorder, also known as civil unrest or civil strife, is a broad term that is typically used by law enforcement to describe one or more forms of disturbance caused by a group of people. Civil disturbance is typically a symptom of, and a form of protest against, major socio-political problems;...

 and the mutiny of the Royal Indian Navy
History of the Indian Navy
-Early history:India has a rich maritime history dating back 5,000 years. The world's first tidal dock is believed to have been built at Lothal around 2300 BCE during the Indus Valley Civilization, near the present day Mangrol harbour on the Gujarat coast....

 during 1946 led Attlee to promise independence no later than 1948. When the urgency of the situation and risk of civil war became apparent, the newly appointed (and last) Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten
Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma
Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas George Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, KG, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, DSO, PC, FRS , was a British statesman and naval officer, and an uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh...

, hastily brought forward the date to 15 August 1947. The borders drawn by the British to broadly partition India
Partition of India
The Partition of India was the partition of British India on the basis of religious demographics that led to the creation of the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan and the Union of India on 14 and 15...

 into Hindu and Muslim areas left tens of millions as minorities in the newly independent states of India and Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Millions of Muslims subsequently crossed from India to Pakistan and Hindus in the reverse direction, and violence between the two communities cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Burma, which had been administered as part of the British Raj
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

, and Ceylon
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 gained their independence the following year in 1948. India, Pakistan and Ceylon became members of the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, though Burma chose not to join.

The British Mandate of Palestine, where an Arab majority lived alongside a Jewish minority, presented the British with a similar problem to that of India. The matter was complicated by large numbers of Jewish refugees
Jewish refugees
In the course of history, Jewish populations have been expelled or ostracised by various local authorities and have sought asylum from antisemitism numerous times...

 seeking to be admitted to Palestine following Nazi
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 oppression and genocide in the Second World War. Rather than deal with the issue, and under pressure from the United States, Britain announced in 1947 that it would withdraw in 1948 and leave the matter to the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 to solve, which it did by voting for the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state.

Following the defeat of Japan in the Second World War, anti-Japanese resistance movement
Resistance movement
A resistance movement is a group or collection of individual groups, dedicated to opposing an invader in an occupied country or the government of a sovereign state. It may seek to achieve its objects through either the use of nonviolent resistance or the use of armed force...

s in Malaya turned their attention towards the British, who had moved to quickly retake control of the colony, valuing it as a source of rubber and tin. The fact that the guerrillas were primarily Malayan-Chinese Communists meant that the British attempt to quell the uprising was supported by the Muslim Malay majority, on the understanding that once the insurgency had been quelled, independence would be granted. The Malayan Emergency
Malayan Emergency
The Malayan Emergency was a guerrilla war fought between Commonwealth armed forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army , the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party, from 1948 to 1960....

, as it was known, began in 1948 and lasted until 1960, but by 1957, Britain felt confident enough to grant independence to the Federation of Malaya
Federation of Malaya
The Federation of Malaya is the name given to a federation of 11 states that existed from 31 January 1948 until 16 September 1963. The Federation became independent on 31 August 1957...

 within the Commonwealth. In 1963, the 11 states of the federation together with Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, Sarawak
Sarawak
Sarawak is one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. Known as Bumi Kenyalang , Sarawak is situated on the north-west of the island. It is the largest state in Malaysia followed by Sabah, the second largest state located to the North- East.The administrative capital is Kuching, which...

 and British North Borneo
North Borneo
North Borneo was a British protectorate under the sovereign North Borneo Chartered Company from 1882 to 1946. After the war it became a crown colony of Great Britain from 1946 to 1963, known in this time as British North Borneo. It is located on the northeastern end of the island of Borneo. It is...

 joined to form Malaysia, but in 1965 Chinese-dominated Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 was expelled from the union following tensions between the Malay and Chinese populations. Brunei
Brunei
Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

, which had been a British protectorate since 1888, declined to join the union and maintained its status until independence in 1984.

Suez and its aftermath




In 1951, the Conservative Party
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 was returned to power in Britain, under the leadership of Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

. Churchill and the Conservatives believed that Britain's position as a world power relied on the continued existence of the empire, with the base at the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 allowing Britain to maintain its pre-eminent position in the Middle East in spite of the loss of India. However, Churchill could not ignore Gamal Abdul Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein was the second President of Egypt from 1956 until his death. A colonel in the Egyptian army, Nasser led the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 along with Muhammad Naguib, the first president, which overthrew the monarchy of Egypt and Sudan, and heralded a new period of...

's new revolutionary government of Egypt
Politics of Egypt
The government of Egypt, as of February 27, 2011, is a republic currently under military rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces after the President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak stepped down following several days of mass protests. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the...

 that had taken power in 1952, and the following year it was agreed that British troops would withdraw from the Suez Canal zone and that Sudan
Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
Anglo-Egyptian Sudan referred to the manner by which Sudan was administered between 1899 and 1956, when it was a condominium of Egypt and the United Kingdom.-Union with Egypt:...

 would be granted self-determination by 1955, with independence to follow. Sudan was granted independence on 1 January 1956.

In July 1956, Nasser unilaterally nationalised the Suez Canal. The response of Anthony Eden
Anthony Eden
Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, KG, MC, PC was a British Conservative politician, who was Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957...

, who had succeeded Churchill as Prime Minister, was to collude with France to engineer an Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i attack on Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 that would give Britain and France an excuse to intervene militarily and retake the canal. Eden infuriated his US counterpart, President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

, by his lack of consultation, and Eisenhower refused to back the invasion. Another of Eisenhower's concerns was the possibility of a wider war with the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 after it threatened to intervene on the Egyptian side. Eisenhower applied financial leverage by threatening to sell US reserves of the British pound
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

 and thereby precipitate a collapse of the British currency. Though the invasion force was militarily successful in its objectives, UN intervention and US pressure forced Britain into a humiliating withdrawal of its forces, and Eden resigned.

The Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

 very publicly exposed Britain's limitations to the world and confirmed Britain's decline on the world stage, demonstrating that henceforth it could no longer act without at least the acquiescence, if not the full support, of the United States. The events at Suez wounded British national pride
Patriotism
Patriotism is a devotion to one's country, excluding differences caused by the dependencies of the term's meaning upon context, geography and philosophy...

, leading one MP
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 to describe it as "Britain's Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

" and another to suggest that the country had become an "American satellite
Satellite state
A satellite state is a political term that refers to a country that is formally independent, but under heavy political and economic influence or control by another country...

". Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 later described the mindset she believed had befallen the British political establishment as "Suez syndrome", from which Britain did not recover until the successful recapture of the Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago consists of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland...

 from Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 in 1982.

While the Suez Crisis caused British power in the Middle East to weaken, it did not collapse. Britain again soon deployed its armed forces to the region, intervening in Oman
Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

 (1957), Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 (1958) and Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

 (1961), though on these occasions with American approval, as the new Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Harold Macmillan
Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963....

's foreign policy was to remain firmly aligned with the United States. Britain maintained a presence in the Middle East for another decade, withdrawing from Aden
Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

 in 1967, and Bahrain
Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

 in 1971.

Wind of change



Macmillan gave a speech
Wind of Change
"Wind of Change" is a 1990 power ballad written by Klaus Meine, vocalist of the German heavy metal band Scorpions. It appeared on their 1990 album Crazy World, but did not become a worldwide hit single until 1991, when it topped the charts in Germany and across Europe, and hit #4 in the United...

 in Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

, South Africa in February 1960 where he spoke of "the wind of change blowing through this continent." Macmillan wished to avoid the same kind of colonial war
Colonial war
Colonial war is a blanket term relating to the various conflicts that arose as the result of overseas territories being settled by foreignpowers creating a colony...

 that France was fighting in Algeria, and under his premiership decolonisation proceeded rapidly. To the three colonies that had been granted independence in the 1950s—Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

, the Gold Coast
Gold Coast (British colony)
The Gold Coast was a British colony on the Gulf of Guinea in west Africa that became the independent nation of Ghana in 1957.-Overview:The first Europeans to arrive at the coast were the Portuguese in 1471. They encountered a variety of African kingdoms, some of which controlled substantial...

 and Malaya
Federation of Malaya
The Federation of Malaya is the name given to a federation of 11 states that existed from 31 January 1948 until 16 September 1963. The Federation became independent on 31 August 1957...

—were added nearly ten times that number during the 1960s.


Britain's remaining colonies in Africa, except for Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesia was the name of the British colony situated north of the Limpopo River and the Union of South Africa. From its independence in 1965 until its extinction in 1980, it was known as Rhodesia...

, were all granted independence by 1968 (see map). British withdrawal from the southern and eastern parts of Africa was complicated by the region's white settler populations, particularly in Rhodesia
Rhodesia
Rhodesia , officially the Republic of Rhodesia from 1970, was an unrecognised state located in southern Africa that existed between 1965 and 1979 following its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965...

, where racial tensions had led Ian Smith
Ian Smith
Ian Douglas Smith GCLM ID was a politician active in the government of Southern Rhodesia, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Rhodesia, Zimbabwe Rhodesia and Zimbabwe from 1948 to 1987, most notably serving as Prime Minister of Rhodesia from 13 April 1964 to 1 June 1979...

, the Prime Minister, to a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the British Empire in 1965. Rhodesia remained in a state of civil war between its black and white population until the Lancaster House Agreement
Lancaster House Agreement
The negotiations which led to the Lancaster House Agreement brought independence to Rhodesia following Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965. The Agreement covered the Independence Constitution, pre-independence arrangements, and a ceasefire...

 of 1979. This agreement temporarily returned Rhodesia to British colonial rule until elections could be held under British supervision. The elections were held the following year and won by Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe
Robert Gabriel Mugabe is the President of Zimbabwe. As one of the leaders of the liberation movement against white-minority rule, he was elected into power in 1980...

, who became the Prime Minister of the newly independent state of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

.

In the Mediterranean, a guerrilla war waged by Greek Cypriots
EOKA
EOKA was an anticolonial, antiimperialist nationalist organisation with the ultimate goal of "The liberation of Cyprus from the British yoke". Although not stated in its initial declaration of existence which was printed and distributed on the 1st of April 1955, EOKA also had a target of achieving...

 ended (1960) in an independent Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, with the UK retaining the military base
Military base
A military base is a facility directly owned and operated by or for the military or one of its branches that shelters military equipment and personnel, and facilitates training and operations. In general, a military base provides accommodations for one or more units, but it may also be used as a...

s of Akrotiri and Dhekelia
Akrotiri and Dhekelia
The Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia are two British-administered areas comprising a British Overseas Territory on the island of Cyprus administered as Sovereign Base Areas of the United Kingdom...

. The Mediterranean islands of Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 and Gozo
Gozo
Gozo is a small island of the Maltese archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. The island is part of the Southern European country of Malta; after the island of Malta itself, it is the second-largest island in the archipelago...

 were amicably granted independence from the UK in 1964, though the idea had been raised in 1955 of integration with Britain.

Most of the UK's West Indies
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 territories achieved independence after the departure in 1961 and 1962 of Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

 and Trinidad
Trinidad
Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the two major islands and numerous landforms which make up the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. It is the southernmost island in the Caribbean and lies just off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. With an area of it is also the fifth largest in...

 from the West Indies Federation
West Indies Federation
The West Indies Federation, also known as the Federation of the West Indies, was a short-lived Caribbean federation that existed from January 3, 1958, to May 31, 1962. It consisted of several Caribbean colonies of the United Kingdom...

, established in 1958 in an attempt to unite the British Caribbean colonies under one government, but which collapsed following the loss of its two by far largest members. Barbados
Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

 achieved independence in 1966 and the remainder of the eastern Caribbean islands in the 1970s and 1980s, but Anguilla
Anguilla
Anguilla is a British overseas territory and overseas territory of the European Union in the Caribbean. It is one of the most northerly of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, lying east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and directly north of Saint Martin...

 and the Turks and Caicos Islands
Turks and Caicos Islands
The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory and overseas territory of the European Union consisting of two groups of tropical islands in the Caribbean, the larger Caicos Islands and the smaller Turks Islands, known for tourism and as an offshore financial centre.The Turks and...

 opted to revert to British rule after they had already started on the path to independence. The British Virgin Islands
British Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands, often called the British Virgin Islands , is a British overseas territory and overseas territory of the European Union, located in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico. The islands make up part of the Virgin Islands archipelago, the remaining islands constituting the U.S...

, Cayman Islands
Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory and overseas territory of the European Union located in the western Caribbean Sea. The territory comprises the three islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman, located south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica...

 and Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat is a British overseas territory located in the Leeward Islands, part of the chain of islands called the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies. This island measures approximately long and wide, giving of coastline...

 opted to retain ties with Britain. Guyana
Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

 achieved independence from the UK in 1966. Britain's last colony on the American mainland, British Honduras
British Honduras
British Honduras was a British colony that is now the independent nation of Belize.First colonised by Spaniards in the 17th century, the territory on the east coast of Central America, south of Mexico, became a British crown colony from 1862 until 1964, when it became self-governing. Belize became...

, became a self-governing
Self-governance
Self-governance is an abstract concept that refers to several scales of organization.It may refer to personal conduct or family units but more commonly refers to larger scale activities, i.e., professions, industry bodies, religions and political units , up to and including autonomous regions and...

 colony in 1964 and was renamed Belize
Belize
Belize is a constitutional monarchy and the northernmost country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages. Even though Kriol and Spanish are spoken among the population, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official...

 in 1973, achieving full independence in 1981. A dispute with Guatemala
Guatemalan claim to Belizean territory
The Belizean-Guatemalan territorial dispute is an unresolved binational territorial dispute between the states of Belize and Guatemala, neighbours in Central America...

 over claims to Belize was left unresolved.

British territories in the Pacific acquired independence between 1970 (Fiji
Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

) and 1980 (Vanuatu
Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

), the latter's independence having been delayed due to political conflict between English and French-speaking communities, as the islands had been jointly administered as a condominium
Condominium (international law)
In international law, a condominium is a political territory in or over which two or more sovereign powers formally agree to share equally dominium and exercise their rights jointly, without dividing it up into 'national' zones.Although a condominium has always been...

 with France. Fiji, Tuvalu
Tuvalu
Tuvalu , formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls...

, the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

 and Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

 chose to become Commonwealth realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s.

End of empire


The granting of independence to Rhodesia (as Zimbabwe), the New Hebrides (as Vanuatu) in 1980, and Belize in 1981 meant that, aside from a scattering of islands and outposts (and the acquisition in 1955 of an uninhabited rock in the Atlantic Ocean, Rockall
Rockall
Rockall is an extremely small, uninhabited, remote rocky islet in the North Atlantic Ocean. It gives its name to one of the sea areas named in the shipping forecast provided by the British Meteorological Office....

), the process of decolonisation that had begun after the Second World War was largely complete. In 1982, Britain's resolve to defend its remaining overseas territories was tested when Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 invaded
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

 the Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago consists of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland...

, acting on a long-standing claim that dated back to the Spanish Empire
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

. Britain's ultimately successful military response to retake the islands during the ensuing Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

 was viewed by many to have contributed to reversing the downward trend in the UK's status as a world power. The same year, the Canadian government severed its last legal link with Britain by patriating
Patriation
Patriation is a non-legal term used in Canada to describe a process of constitutional change also known as "homecoming" of the constitution. Up until 1982, Canada was governed by a constitution that was a British law and could be changed only by an Act of the British Parliament...

 the Canadian constitution from Britain. The 1982 Canada Act
Canada Act 1982
The Canada Act 1982 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that was passed at the request of the Canadian federal government to "patriate" Canada's constitution, ending the necessity for the country to request certain types of amendment to the Constitution of Canada to be made by the...

 passed by the British parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 ended the need for British involvement in changes to the Canadian constitution. Equivalent acts were passed for Australia
Australia Act 1986
The Australia Act 1986 is the name given to a pair of separate but related pieces of legislation: one an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, the other an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

 and New Zealand in 1986.

In September 1982, Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 travelled to Beijing to negotiate with the Chinese government on the future of Britain's last major and most populous overseas territory, Hong Kong. Under the terms of the 1842 Treaty of Nanking
Treaty of Nanking
The Treaty of Nanking was signed on 29 August 1842 to mark the end of the First Opium War between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Qing Dynasty of China...

, Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Island is an island in the southern part of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It has a population of 1,289,500 and its population density is 16,390/km², as of 2008...

 itself had been ceded to Britain "in perpetuity", but the vast majority of the colony was constituted by the New Territories
New Territories
New Territories is one of the three main regions of Hong Kong, alongside Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula. It makes up 86.2% of Hong Kong's territory. Historically, it is the region described in The Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory...

, which had been acquired under a 99-year lease in 1898
Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory
The Convention Between Great Britain and China Respecting an Extension of Hong Kong Territory or the Second Convention of Peking was a lease signed between Qing Dynasty and the United Kingdom in 1898.-Background:...

, due to expire in 1997. Thatcher, seeing parallels with the Falkland Islands, initially wished to hold Hong Kong and proposed British administration with Chinese sovereignty, though this was rejected by China. A deal was reached in 1984—under the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration
Sino-British Joint Declaration
The Sino-British Joint Declaration, formally known as the Joint Declaration of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Question of Hong Kong, was signed by the Prime Ministers, Zhao Ziyang and Margaret...

, Hong Kong would become a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China, maintaining its way of life for at least 50 years. The handover ceremony in 1997 marked for many, including Charles, Prince of Wales
Charles, Prince of Wales
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales is the heir apparent and eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Since 1958 his major title has been His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. In Scotland he is additionally known as The Duke of Rothesay...

, who was in attendance, "the end of Empire".

Legacy


Britain retains sovereignty over 14 territories outside the British Isles, which were renamed the British Overseas Territories
British overseas territories
The British Overseas Territories are fourteen territories of the United Kingdom which, although they do not form part of the United Kingdom itself, fall under its jurisdiction. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not acquired independence or have voted to remain British territories...

 in 2002. Some are uninhabited except for transient military or scientific personnel; the remainder are self-governing to varying degrees and are reliant on the UK for foreign relations
Diplomacy
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states...

 and defence. The British government has stated its willingness to assist any Overseas Territory that wishes to proceed to independence, where that is an option. British sovereignty of several of the overseas territories is disputed by their geographical neighbours: Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 is claimed by Spain, the Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago consists of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland...

 and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is a British overseas territory and overseas territory of the European Union in the southern Atlantic Ocean. It is a remote and inhospitable collection of islands, consisting of South Georgia and a chain of smaller islands, known as the South Sandwich...

 are claimed by Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, and the British Indian Ocean Territory
British Indian Ocean Territory
The British Indian Ocean Territory or Chagos Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean, halfway between Africa and Indonesia...

 is claimed by Mauritius
Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

 and Seychelles
Seychelles
Seychelles , officially the Republic of Seychelles , is an island country spanning an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, some east of mainland Africa, northeast of the island of Madagascar....

. The British Antarctic Territory
British Antarctic Territory
The British Antarctic Territory is a sector of Antarctica claimed by the United Kingdom as one of its 14 British Overseas Territories. It comprises the region south of 60°S latitude and between longitudes and , forming a wedge shape that extends to the South Pole...

 is subject to overlapping claims by Argentina and Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, while many countries do not recognise any territorial claims to Antarctica.
Most former British colonies are members of the Commonwealth, a non-political, voluntary association
Voluntary association
A voluntary association or union is a group of individuals who enter into an agreement as volunteers to form a body to accomplish a purpose.Strictly speaking, in many jurisdictions no formalities are necessary to start an association...

 of equal members. Fifteen members of the Commonwealth continue to share their head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 with the UK, the Commonwealth realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s.

Decades, and in some cases centuries, of British rule and emigration have left their mark on the independent nations that arose from the British Empire. The empire established the use of English in regions around the world. Today it is the primary language of up to 400 million people and is spoken by about one and a half billion as a first, second or foreign language. The spread of English from the latter half of the 20th century has been helped in part by the cultural influence of the United States, itself originally formed from British colonies. The English parliamentary system
Parliamentary system
A parliamentary system is a system of government in which the ministers of the executive branch get their democratic legitimacy from the legislature and are accountable to that body, such that the executive and legislative branches are intertwined....

 served as the template for the governments for many former colonies, and English common law
English law
English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States except Louisiana...

 for legal systems. The British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is one of the highest courts in the United Kingdom. Established by the Judicial Committee Act 1833 to hear appeals formerly heard by the King in Council The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) is one of the highest courts in the United...

 still serves as the highest court of appeal for several former colonies in the Caribbean and Pacific. British Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 missionaries
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 who fanned out across the globe often in advance of soldiers and civil servants
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

 spread the Anglican Communion
Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England and specifically with its principal primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury...

 to all continents. British colonial architecture, such as in churches, railway stations and government buildings, continues to stand in many cities that were once part of the British Empire. Individual and team sports developed in Britain—particularly football, cricket
Cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

, lawn tennis and golf
Golf
Golf is a precision club and ball sport, in which competing players use many types of clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a golf course using the fewest number of strokes....

—were exported. The British choice of system of measurement, the imperial system, continues to be used in some countries in various ways. The convention of driving on the left hand side of the road has been retained in much of the former empire.

Political boundaries drawn by the British did not always reflect homogeneous ethnicities or religions, contributing to conflicts in formerly colonised areas. The British Empire was also responsible for large migrations of peoples. Millions left the British Isles, with the founding settler populations of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand coming mainly from Britain and Ireland. Tensions remain between the white settler populations of these countries and their indigenous minorities, and between settler minorities and indigenous majorities in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Settlers in Ireland from Great Britain have left their mark in the form of divided nationalist
Irish nationalism
Irish nationalism manifests itself in political and social movements and in sentiment inspired by a love for Irish culture, language and history, and as a sense of pride in Ireland and in the Irish people...

 and unionist
Unionism in Ireland
Unionism in Ireland is an ideology that favours the continuation of some form of political union between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain...

 communities in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. Millions of people moved to and from British colonies, with large numbers of Indians
Non-resident Indian and Person of Indian Origin
A Non-Resident Indian is an Indian citizen who has migrated to another country, a person of Indian origin who is born outside India, or a person of Indian origin who resides permanently outside India. Other terms with the same meaning are overseas Indian and expatriate Indian...

 emigrating to other parts of the empire, such as Malaysia and Fiji
Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

. Chinese emigration, primarily from Southern China, led to the creation of Chinese-majority Singapore and small Chinese minorities in the Caribbean. The demographics of Britain itself was changed after the Second World War owing to immigration to Britain from its former colonies.

See also


  • All-Red Route
    All-Red Route
    An All-Red Route was, originally, a steamship route used by Royal Mail Steamers during the heyday of the British Empire.Initially the term was used to apply only to steamship routes , particularly to India via the Suez Canal - a route sometimes referred to as the British...

  • British Empire and Commonwealth Museum
    British Empire and Commonwealth Museum
    The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum was a museum in Bristol, United Kingdom exploring the history of the British Empire and the effect of British colonial rule on the rest of the world....

  • British Empire Exhibition
    British Empire Exhibition
    The British Empire Exhibition was a colonial exhibition held at Wembley, Middlesex in 1924 and 1925.-History:It was opened by King George V on St George's Day, 23 April 1924. The British Empire contained 58 countries at that time, and only Gambia and Gibraltar did not take part...

  • British Empire in fiction
  • Colonial Office
    Colonial Office
    Colonial Office is the government agency which serves to oversee and supervise their colony* Colonial Office - The British Government department* Office of Insular Affairs - the American government agency* Reichskolonialamt - the German Colonial Office...

  • Flags of the British Empire
    Flags of the British Empire
    During the time of the British Empire the dominions, many of the colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories carried their own flags, mostly under the blue ensign although some territories and colonies did also use red ensigns for their flags....

  • Foreign relations of the United Kingdom
    Foreign relations of the United Kingdom
    The diplomatic foreign relations of the United Kingdom are implemented by the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The UK was the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Throughout history it has wielded significant influence upon other nations via the British...

  • Government Houses of the British Empire and Commonwealth
    Government Houses of the British Empire and Commonwealth
    Government House is the name given to some of the residences of Governors-General, Governors and Lieutenant-Governors in the Commonwealth and the British Empire. It serves as the venue for the Governor's official business, as well as the many receptions and functions hosted by the occupant...

  • Historiography of the British Empire
    Historiography of the British Empire
    The historiography of the British Empire refers to the studies, sources, critical methods and interpretations used by scholars to study the history of the British Empire. Scholars have long studied the Empire, looking at the causes for its formation, its relations to the French and other empires,...

  • History of capitalism
    History of capitalism
    The history of capitalism can be traced back to early forms of merchant capitalism practiced in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, though many economic historians consider the Netherlands as the first thoroughly capitalist country. In Early modern Europe it featured the wealthiest trading city ...

  • History of the United Kingdom
    History of the United Kingdom
    The history of the United Kingdom as a unified sovereign state began with the political union of the kingdoms of England, which included Wales, and Scotland on 1 May 1707 in accordance with the Treaty of Union, as ratified by the Acts of Union 1707...

  • Indirect rule
    Indirect rule
    Indirect rule was a system of government that was developed in certain British colonial dependencies...

  • List of largest empires
  • Order of the British Empire
    Order of the British Empire
    The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...


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