The British Empire was, undoubtedly, the greatest empire the world had ever seen.
Britain was the topmost global power for more than a century.
In the 15th and 16th century English and Scottish people started establishing colonies overseas – one of the the main reasons were for trade and financial benefit. Starting with North America and the Caribbean the colonialization spread east to Africa and Asia.
Over the years the control of some countries within the Empire changed hands with their European neighbours including France and the Netherlands.
The years 1815 to 1914 are referred to as Britain’s imperial century, and at this time, the Empire included over 14 million square miles of territory and 450 million people.
Queen Victoria, one of the longest reigning British monarchs, was 63 years on her throne. This is the reason why from 1837 to 1901, the period is known as the Victorian Era.
At the time the Empire included more than a quarter of the world’s population and it was said that the sun never set on the British Empire, a phrase attributed to a Scottish writer, John Wilson.
With supremacy at sea, Britain took on the role of global policeman, sometimes called the Pax Britannica. As well as having formal control over its own colonies, with a dominant position in world trade Britain could effectively control the economies of many other countries.
The empire was vital for trade and during the reign of Queen Victoria, at the height of the British Empire, British ports were full with ships arriving from far and wide carrying the goods that were processed and sold making Britain a wealthy nation.
The Great Exhibition of 1851, the very first “World’s Fair”, was a celebration of the diversity and richness of the Empire.
The Decline of the Empire
The decline of the British Empire started in the early part of the twentieth century. There are many reasons behind it, but one of the primary reasons was that Britain had lost their military supremacy.
After debts built up from fighting in two World Wars Britain was no longer in a financial position to spread her army and navy all over the globe.
There are many other reasons that the Empire broke down and many people debate whether or not the legacy of the Empire was positive or negative.
Countries in the British Empire
|Country||Pre-independence name||Year of independence or first stage|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Antigua, Leeward Islands||1981|
|Cameroon||took in Southern Cameroons||1961|
|Dominica||Dominica, Windward Islands||1978|
|Ghana||Gold Coast, Togoland (Togoland got absorbed into the Gold Coast in 1957)||1957|
|Grenada||Grenada, Windward Islands||1974|
|Kiribati||Gilbert and Ellice Islands||1979|
|Malaysia||Four parts: Malaya, North Borneo, Singapore and Sarawak||1957|
|Nigeria||took in Northern Cameroons||1960|
|Oman||Sultanate of Muscat and Oman||1951|
|Qatar||British Qatari Protectorate||1971|
|Saint Lucia||St Lucia, Windward Islands||1979|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||St Kitts–Nevis and Anguilla, Leeward Islands||1983|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||St Vincent, Windward Islands||1979|
|Solomon Islands||British Solomon Islands||1978|
|Somaliland||British Somaliland Protectorate||1960|
|Tanzania||took in Tanganyika||1961|
|Trinidad and Tobago||1962|
|Tuvalu||Gilbert and Ellice Islands||1978|
|United Arab Emirates||Trucial States||1971|
|United States||Thirteen American Colonies||1776|
|Yemen||Protectorate of South Arabia|
Federation of South Arabia