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Portal:British Empire

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British Empire

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British Empire, 1897

The British Empire was the largest empire in history, and for a substantial time was the foremost global power. It was a product of the European age of discovery, which began with the maritime explorations of the 15th century, that sparked the era of the European colonial empires.

By 1921, the British Empire held sway over a population of about 458 million people, approximately one-quarter of the world's population. It covered about 36.6 million km² (14.2 million square miles), about a quarter of Earth's total land area. As a result, its legacy is widespread: in legal and governmental systems, economic practice, militarily, educational systems, sports (such as cricket, rugby, golf and football), traffic practices (such as driving on the left), and in the global spread of the English language. At the peak of its power, it was often said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire" because its span across the globe ensured that the sun was always shining on at least one of its numerous colonies or subject nations.

During the five decades following World War II, most of the territories of the Empire became independent. Many went on to join the Commonwealth of Nations, a free association of independent states.

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British overseas territories

The British Overseas Territories are fourteen territories which the United Kingdom considers to be under its sovereignty, but not as part of the United Kingdom itself.

The name "British Overseas Territory" was introduced by the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, and replaced the name British dependent territory which was introduced by the British Nationality Act 1981. Before that, the territories were known as colonies or Crown colonies. The British Overseas Territories are also referred to as overseas territories of the United Kingdom, UK overseas territories, or when the context is clear, simply the Overseas Territories.

The territories of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, though also under the sovereignty of the British Crown, have a slightly different constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom, and are consequently classed as Crown dependencies rather than Overseas Territories.

Territories and dependencies are distinct from the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary association of former British colonies and latterly other nations such as Mozambique that have joined because of the benefits it offers. (more...)

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Falkland Islands topographic map-en.svg
Credit: Eric Gaba

A topographic map of the Falkland Islands, an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, which Ernesto Sabato called: "the last trace of colonialism."

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SingaporeStone-drawings-detail.jpg

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Edward Prince of Wales during his visit to Canada in 1919.jpg

Edward VIII (23 June 1894 – 28 May 1972) was King of Great Britain, Ireland, the British Dominions beyond the Seas, and Emperor of India from the death of his father, George V (1910–36), on 20 January 1936, until his abdication on 11 December 1936. He was the second monarch of the House of Windsor, his father having changed the name of the royal house from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1917.

Only months into his reign, Edward forced a constitutional crisis by proposing marriage to the American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Although legally Edward could have married Mrs. Simpson and remained king, his various prime ministers opposed the marriage, arguing that the people would never accept her as queen. Edward knew that the ministry of British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin would resign if the marriage went ahead; this could have dragged the King into a general election thus ruining irreparably his status as a politically neutral constitutional monarch. Rather than give up Mrs. Simpson, Edward chose to abdicate. He is one of the shortest-reigning monarchs in British history, and was never crowned. (more...)

Evolution of the British Empire

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British Empire evolution3.gif

This Map of the world animates the Empire's rise and fall.

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British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations

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Legend

Current territory  ·   Former territory

* now a Commonwealth realm  ·   now a member of the Commonwealth of Nations

18th century
1708–1757  Menorca
since 1713  Gibraltar
1782–1802  Menorca

19th century
1800–1964  Malta
1807–1890  Heligoland
1809–1864  Ionian Islands
1878–1960  Cyprus

20th century
since 1960  Akrotiri and Dhekelia

16th century
1583–1907  Newfoundland

17th century
1607–1776  Thirteen Colonies
since 1619  Bermuda
1670–1870  Rupert's Land

18th century
Canada (British Imperial)
   1763–1791  Quebec
   1791–1841  Lower Canada
   1791–1841  Upper Canada

19th century
Canada (British Imperial)
   1841–1867  Province of Canada
   1849–1866  Vancouver Island
   1858–1871  British Columbia
   1859–1870  North-Western Territory
   1862–1863  Stikine Territory
*Canada (post-Confederation)
   1867–1931  Dominion of Canada1

20th century
*Canada (post-Confederation)
   1907–1934  Dominion of Newfoundland2

1 In 1931, Canada and other British dominions obtained self-government through the Statute of Westminster. "Dominion" remains Canada's legal title; see Canada's name.
2 Remained a de jure dominion until 1949 (when it became a Canadian province); from 1934 to 1949, Newfoundland was governed by the Commission of Government.

17th century
1605–1979  *Saint Lucia
1623–1883  Saint Kitts (*Saint Kitts & Nevis)
1624–1966  *Barbados
1625–1650  Saint Croix
1627–1979  *St. Vincent and the Grenadines
1628–1883  Nevis (*Saint Kitts & Nevis)
1629–1641  St. Andrew and Providence Islands3
since 1632  Montserrat
1632–1860  Antigua (*Antigua & Barbuda)
1643–1860  Bay Islands
since 1650  Anguilla
1651–1667  Willoughbyland (Suriname)
1655–1850  Mosquito Coast (protectorate)
1655–1962  *Jamaica
since 1666  British Virgin Islands
since 1670  Cayman Islands
1670–1973  *Bahamas
1670–1688  St. Andrew and Providence Islands3
1671–1816  Leeward Islands

18th century
1762–1974  *Grenada
1763–1978  Dominica
since 1799  Turks and Caicos Islands

19th century
1831–1966  British Guiana (Guyana)
1833–1960  Windward Islands
1833–1960  Leeward Islands
1860–1981  *Antigua and Barbuda
1871–1964  British Honduras (*Belize)
1882–1983  *St. Kitts and Nevis
1889–1962  Trinidad and Tobago

20th century
1958–1962  West Indies Federation

3 Now the San Andrés y Providencia Department of Colombia

18th century
1792–1961  Sierra Leone
1795–1803  Cape Colony

19th century
1806–1910  Cape Colony
1816–1965  Gambia
1856–1910  Natal
1868–1966  Basutoland (Lesotho)
1874–1957  Gold Coast (Ghana)
1882–1922  Egypt
1884–1966  Bechuanaland (Botswana)
1884–1960  British Somaliland
1887–1897  Zululand
1888–1894  Matabeleland
1890–1980  Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)
1890–1962  Uganda
1890–1963  Zanzibar (Tanzania)
1891–1964  Nyasaland (Malawi)
1891–1907  British Central Africa
1893–1968  Swaziland
1895–1920  British East Africa
1899–1956  Anglo-Egyptian Sudan

20th century
1900–1914  Northern Nigeria
1900–1914  Southern Nigeria
1900–1910  Orange River Colony
1906–1954  Nigeria Colony
1910–1931  South Africa
1911–1964  Northern Rhodesia (Zambia)
1914–1954  Nigeria Protectorate
1915–1931  South West Africa (Namibia)
1919–1960  Cameroons (Cameroon) 4
1920–1963  Kenya
1922–1961  Tanganyika (Tanzania) 4
1954–1960  Nigeria
since 1965  British Indian Ocean Territory

4 League of Nations mandate

18th century
1757–1947  Bengal (West Bengal (India) and Bangladesh)
1762–1764  Philippines
1786-1826  Penang
1795–1948  Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
1796–1965  Maldives

19th century
1819–1826  Singapore
1826–1946  Straits Settlements
1839–1967  Colony of Aden
1841–1997  Hong Kong
1841–1941  Kingdom of Sarawak
1848–1946  Labuan
1858–1947  British India (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Burma)
1882–1946  British North Borneo
1885–1946  Unfederated Malay States
1891–1971  Muscat and Oman protectorate
1892–1971  Trucial States protectorate
1895–1946  Federated Malay States
1898–1930  Weihai Garrison

20th century
1918–1961  Kuwait protectorate
1920–1932  Iraq4
1921–1946  Transjordan4
1923–1948  Palestine4
1946–1948  Malayan Union
1946–1963  Sarawak (Malaysia)
1946–1963  North Borneo (Malaysia)
1948–1957  Federation of Malaya (Malaysia)

4 League of Nations mandate

18th century
1788–1901  New South Wales
1794–1843  Sandwich Islands (Hawaii)

19th century
1803–1901  Van Diemen's Land / Tasmania
1807–1863  Auckland Islands6
1824–1980  New Hebrides (Vanuatu)
1824–1901  Queensland
1829–1901  Swan River Colony / Western Australia
1836–1901  South Australia
since 1838  Pitcairn Islands
1840–1907  *Colony of New Zealand
1850–1901  Victoria (Australia)
1874–1970  Fiji5
1877–1976  British Western Pacific Territories
1884–1949  Territory of Papua
1888–1965  Cook Islands6
1888–1984  Sultanate of Brunei
1889–1948  Union Islands (Tokelau)6
1892–1979  Gilbert and Ellice Islands7
1893–1978  British Solomon Islands8

20th century
1900–1970  Tonga (protected state)
1900–1974  Niue6
1901–1942  *Commonwealth of Australia
1907–1953  *Dominion of New Zealand
1919–1949  Territory of New Guinea
1949–1975  Territory of Papua and New Guinea9

5 Suspended member
6 Now part of the *Realm of New Zealand
7 Now Kiribati and *Tuvalu
8 Now the *Solomon Islands
9 Now *Papua New Guinea

17th century
since 1659  St. Helena

19th century
since 1815  Ascension Island9
since 1816  Tristan da Cunha9
since 1833  Falkland Islands11

20th century
since 1908  British Antarctic Territory10
since 1908  South Georgia and
                    the South Sandwich Islands
10, 11

9 Dependencies of St. Helena since 1922 (Ascension Island) and 1938 (Tristan da Cunha)
10 Both claimed in 1908; territories formed in 1962 (British Antarctic Territory) and 1985 (South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands)
11 Occupied by Argentina during the Falklands War of April–June 1982

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