Crown colony

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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.[1][2]

Crown, or royal, colonies were ruled by a governor appointed by the monarch. By the middle of the 19th century, the sovereign appointed royal governors on the advice of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.[3] Under the name of "royal colony", the first of what would later become known as Crown colonies was the English Colony of Virginia in the present-day United States, after the Crown, in 1624, revoked the royal charter it had granted to the Virginia Company, taking over direct administration.[4]

Until the mid-19th century, the term "Crown colony" was primarily used to refer to those colonies that had been acquired through wars, such as Trinidad and Tobago[5] and British Guiana, but after that time it was more broadly applied to any colony other than the Presidencies and provinces of British India and the colonies of settlement, such as The Canadas, Newfoundland, British Columbia, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and New Zealand, later to become the Dominions.[6]

The term continued to be used up until 1981, when the British Nationality Act 1981 reclassified the remaining British colonies as "British Dependent Territories". By this time, the term "Crown colony" referred specifically to those colonies ruled directly by a Governor appointed by the Monarch (as was the case in Hong Kong before the 1997 handover to the Peoples' Republic of China), with or without the assistance of some form of council appointed by the Governor. The term was not used to apply to those colonies which were substantially autonomous, usually described as "self-governed colonies" (at that time, primarily Bermuda, which had become a Crown Colony, according to an older definition of the term, when the Crown revoked the Royal Charter it had given to the Somers Isles Company, successor to the Virginia Company, in 1684. this meant that the Crown, from then onwards, appointed the Governor of Bermuda, previously appointed by the Company. Bermuda had already been internally self-governed for sixty-four years, however, and by the Twentieth Century the definition of "Crown Colony" had narrowed to include only those territories without internal self-government. The Parliament of Bermuda having existed continuously since its first session in 1620, including through The Protectorate, when the Mother Country herself had no parliament).

From 2002, all remaining British colonies, whether Crown Colonies or self-governed, have been known as British Overseas Territories.[7] The British Government has also encouraged most of the territories to emulate Bermuda and become increasingly self-governing and self-reliant, or, where the poorer colonies are concerned, to pool their resources and rely on each other, freeing the British Government of much of its remaining obligations in the territories, if not of its Sovereignty.

The current Crown dependencies were never considered Crown colonies; the form of government is constitutional monarchy, and the islands voluntarily cooperate with the government of the United Kingdom in certain areas. Sovereignty of the Isle of Man was purchased, and the Channel Islands are the remnants of the Duchy of Normandy.

Types[edit]

There were three types of Crown colony as of 1918, with differing degrees of autonomy:

Crown colonies with representative councils such as Bermuda, Jamaica, Ceylon, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Fiji contained one or two legislative chambers, consisting of Crown appointed or locally elected members.

Crown colonies with nominated councils such as British Honduras, Sierra Leone, Grenada and Hong Kong were staffed entirely by Crown appointed members, with some appointed representation from the local population. It should be noted that Hong Kong had a representative council following the introduction of election for the Hong Kong Legislative Council in 1995.

Crown colonies ruled directly by a Governor such as Hong Kong, Basutoland,[8] Gibraltar, Saint Helena and Singapore were fewest in number and had the least autonomy.

List[edit]

The following list includes territories belonging by settlement, conquest or annexation to the British Crown or to an independent Commonwealth country.a

Name of colony from to Reason for change of status
Colony of Aden Aden 1937 1967 Became part of the Federation of South Arabia.
Lesotho Basutoland 1884 1964 Became British protectorate in 1964; then became independent as Lesotho in 1966.
 Bermuda 1684 1981 Became British Dependent Territory in 1981
British rule in Burma British Burma 1824 1948 Separated from British India in 1937 and became a Crown Colony.
United Kingdom British Bechuanaland 1885 1895 Became part of British Cape Colony in 1895
British Guiana British Guiana 1831 1966 Became independent as Guyana in 1966.
British Honduras British Honduras (renamed Belize in 1964) 1884 1981 Became independent (as Belize) in 1981.
Mauritius British Mauritius 1903 1968 Became independent as Seychelles in 1968.
United Kingdom United Province of Canada 1841 1867 Became part of the Dominion of Canada in 1867.
Cape Colony flag.png Cape Colony 1806 1910 Became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.
 Cayman Islands 1962 1981 Became British Dependent Territory in 1981
Dominion of Ceylon Ceylon 1815 1948 Became independent as Ceylon in 1948.
Nigeria Colonial Nigeria 1914 1960 Became independent as Nigeria in 1963.
British Columbia British Columbia 1866 1871 Became part of the Dominion of Canada in 1871.
Kingdom of Great Britain Connecticut 1636 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Cyprus Cyprus 1914 1960 Became independent as Cyprus in 1960.
Kingdom of Great Britain Delaware 1664 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Kingdom of Great Britain East Florida 1763 1783 Ceded to Spain. Later became part of the United States.
 Falkland Islands 1841 1981 Became a British Dependent Territory in 1981.
Gambia Colony and Protectorate 1888 1965 Became independent as The Gambia in 1965.
Kingdom of Great Britain Georgia 1732 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
 Gibraltar 1713 1981 Became British Dependent Territory in 1981
Gold Coast (British colony) Gold Coast (British Colony) 1821 1957 Became independent in 1957 as Ghana.
Hong Kong Hong Kong 1841 1981 Became British Dependent Territory in 1981. Became a self-governing special administrative region when sovereignty transferred to China in 1997 .[9]
Jamaica Jamaica 1865 1962 Became independent in 1962 as Jamaica.
Kenya Kenya 1920 1963 United with the Kenya Protectorate in 1963 to form the independent country of Kenya
Labuan 1846 1890 Administered by British North Borneo Company from 1890-1904
1906 1946 Incorporated in the Straits Settlements on 30 October 1906
1946 1963 Incorporated in North Borneo on 15 July 1946. Became part of Malaysia in 1963[10]
United Kingdom Lower Canada 1791 1841 Became part of Province of Canada in 1841.
Malta Malta 1813 1964 Became independent in 1964 as the State of Malta.
Kingdom of Great Britain Maryland 1632 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Kingdom of Great Britain Massachusetts Bay 1692 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776 as the state of Massachusetts.
BlueEnsignNatal.png Natal 1843 1910 Became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.
Dominion of Newfoundland Blue Ensign, 1870–1904.svg Newfoundland 1583 1907 Became the Dominion of Newfoundland in 1907, and later joined the Dominion of Canada in 1949.
Kingdom of Great Britain New Hampshire 1692 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Kingdom of Great Britain New Jersey 1702 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
New South Wales New South Wales 1788 1901 Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
Kingdom of Great Britain New York 1691 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
New Zealand New Zealand 1841 1907 Became a Dominion in 1907.
United Kingdom Norfolk Island 1788 1914 Placed under administration of Australia in 1914 as a non-self governing territory. Became self-governing in 1979.
North Borneo 1946 1963 Became part of Malaysia in 1963 as Sabah. Labuan separated from Sabah in 1984 to became a Federal Territory.[10]
Kingdom of Great Britain North Carolina 1729 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Kingdom of Great Britain Pennsylvania 1681 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Kingdom of Great Britain Quebec 1763 1791 Divided between Upper and Lower Canada and the Northwest Territory.
Queensland Queensland 1824 1901 Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
Kingdom of Great Britain Rhode Island and Providence Plantations 1706 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776 as the state of Rhode Island.
Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla 1980 1981 Became British Dependent Territory in 1981
Sarawak 1946 1963 Became part of Malaysia in 1963[10]
Flag of Sierra Leone 1916-1961.gif Sierra Leone 1808 1961 Became independent as Sierra Leone in 1961.
South Australia South Australia 1834 1901 Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
Kingdom of Great Britain South Carolina 1729 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Southern Rhodesia Southern Rhodesia 1923 1980 Became independent in 1980 as Zimbabwe.
Straits Settlements Straits Settlements 1786 1946 Penang became part of the Malayan Union in 1946, which was re-organised as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and became independent in 1957;[11] later became part of Malaysia in 1963[10]
1826 1963 Singapore became part of Malaysia in 1963;[10] then became independent as the Republic of Singapore in 1965.[12]
1826 1946 Malacca became part of Malayan Union in 1946, which reorganised as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and became independent in 1957;[11] later became part of Malaysia in 1963[10]
1857 1955 Cocos (Keeling) Islands was transferred to Australia in 1955.[13]
1874 1937 Dinding became part of the Federated Malay States in 1937, which later became part of the Malayan Union in 1946; the Malayan Union became the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and became independent in 1957
1888 1957 Christmas Island was transferred to Australia in 1957.[14]
1906 1946 Labuan was incorporated into North Borneo on 15 July 1946, which became part of Malaysia in 1963[10]
Tasmania Tasmania 1803 1901 Van Diemen's Land from 1803 to 1856; Formerly part of New South Wales from 1803 to 1825, when made an independent colony. Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
United Kingdom Upper Canada 1791 1841 Became part of Province of Canada in 1841.
Flag of Vancouver Island.svg Vancouver Island 1848 1866 Merged with the Colony of British Columbia in 1866
Victoria (Australia) Victoria 1851 1901 Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
Kingdom of Great Britain Virginia 1624 1776 Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Western Australia Western Australia 1829 1901 Swan River Colony from 1829 to 1832. Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
Kingdom of Great Britain West Florida 1763 1783 Ceded to Spain. Later became part of the United States.

^a Source: This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Great Britain Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Chronological table of the statutes. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London part of the Office of Public Sector Information. 

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Jenks, Edward (1918). The Government of the British Empire. Little, Brown, and Company. 
  • Olson, James (1996). Historical Dictionary of the British Empire. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-29366-X. 
  • Porter, Andrew (1998). The Nineteenth Century, The Oxford History of the British Empire Volume III. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924678-5. 
  • Wrong, Hume (1923). "The Old Representative System: The Change To Crown Colony Government". Government of the West Indies. England: Oxford University Press. p. 71. ISBN 1-113-74149-X. Retrieved 2010-03-30. The phrase 'Crown Colony Government' is used with various meanings. In the broadest, and perhaps most correct, sense it is applied to all the colonies in which the Crown retains the real control of the executive (i.e. to all the West Indian colonies). By both official and common usage, however, it is often narrowed as to exclude colonies with elected Assemblies, though without a responsible executive.