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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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Coat of Arms of the Pitcairn Islands.

The Pitcairn Islands (Pitkern: Pitkern Ailen), officially named the Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno Islands, are a group of four islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. The islands are a British Overseas Territory (formerly British colony), the last remaining in the Pacific. Only Pitcairn Island — the second largest — is inhabited.

The islands are best known for being the home of the descendants of the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians who accompanied them, an event retold in numerous books and films. This story is still apparent in the surnames of many of the islanders. With only 50 inhabitants (from nine families), Pitcairn is also notable for being the least populated jurisdiction in the world (although it is not a sovereign nation). The United Nations Committee on Decolonisation includes the Pitcairn Islands on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

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Elizabeth II greets NASA GSFC employees, May 8, 2007 edit.jpg
Credit: Bill Ingalls, NASA

Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states. All but two of these countries were formerly part of the British Empire.

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SingaporeStone-drawings-detail.jpg

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Mountbatten.jpg

Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas George Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, KG, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, DSO, PC (25 June 1900–27 August 1979) was a British admiral and statesman and an uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He was the last Viceroy and first Governor-General of independent India, and First Sea Lord, as was his father, Prince Louis of Battenberg. Mountbatten was assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), who planted a bomb in his boat at Mullaghmore, County Sligo in the Republic of Ireland. (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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* now a Commonwealth realm  ·   now a member of the Commonwealth of Nations
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