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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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The Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth of Nations, usually known as the Commonwealth and formerly as the British Commonwealth, is a voluntary association of 53 independent sovereign states, all of which are former British colonies (except for the United Kingdom itself and Mozambique).

The Commonwealth is an international organisation through which countries with diverse social, political, and economic backgrounds cooperate within a framework of common values and goals, outlined in the Singapore Declaration. These include the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism, and world peace!

Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth, recognised by each state, and as such is the symbol of the free association of the organisation's members. This position, however, does not imply political power over Commonwealth member states. In practice, the Queen heads the Commonwealth in a symbolic capacity, and it is the Commonwealth Secretary-General who is the chief executive of the organisation. The Commonwealth is not a political union, and does not allow the United Kingdom to exercise any power over the affairs of the organisation's other members. (more...)

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Punch Rhodes Colossus.png
Credit: Edward Linley Sambourne

The Rhodes Colossus, an iconic editorial cartoon of the Scramble for Africa period, depicting British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes as a giant standing over the continent.

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Queen Victoria 1887.jpg

Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837, and the first Empress of India from 1 May 1876, until her death on 22 January 1901. Her reign lasted 63 years and seven months, which made her the second longest reigning British monarch (after Elizabeth II).British monarch. In general, the period centred on her reign is known as the Victorian era.

The Victorian era was at the height of the Industrial Revolution, a period of significant social, economic, and technological progress in the United Kingdom. Victoria's reign was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire; during this period it reached its zenith, becoming the foremost Global Power of the time. (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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