Territorial evolution of the British Empire

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Animated map showing growth and decline of the British Empire

The territorial evolution of the British Empire is considered to have begun with the foundation of the English colonial empire in the late 16th century. Since then, many territories around the world have been under the control of the United Kingdom or its predecessor states.

When the Kingdom of Great Britain was formed in 1707 by the union of the Kingdom of Scotland with the Kingdom of England, the latter country's colonial possessions passed to the new state. Similarly, when Great Britain was united with the Kingdom of Ireland in 1801 to form the United Kingdom, control over its colonial possessions passed to the latter state. Collectively, these territories are referred to as the British Empire. Upon much of Ireland gaining independence in 1922 as the Irish Free State, the other territories of the Empire remained under the control of the United Kingdom.

From 1714 to 1837 the British throne was held by a series of kings who were also the rulers of the German state of Hanover. However, this was purely a personal union, with Hanover maintaining its political independence otherwise, and so it is not considered to have formed part of the British Empire.

The nature of the territories (and peoples) ruled as part of the British Empire varied enormously. In legal terms the territories included those formally under the sovereignty of the British monarch (who held the additional title of Empress (or Emperor) of India from 1876 to 1947); various "foreign" territories controlled as protectorates; territories transferred to British administration under the authority of the League of Nations or the United Nations; and miscellaneous other territories, such as Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. No uniform system of government was ever applied to any of these.

A number of countries ("dominions") within the British Empire gained independence in stages during the earlier part of the 20th century. Much of the rest of the Empire was dismantled in the twenty years following the end of the Second World War, starting with the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947. The last significant territory to pass from under British control was Hong Kong, which was handed over to China in 1997.

Many of the former territories of the British Empire are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Fifteen of these (known, with the United Kingdom, as the 16 "Commonwealth realms") retain the British monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) as Head of State. The British monarch is also "Head of the Commonwealth", but this is a purely symbolic and personal title; members of the Commonwealth (including the Commonwealth realms) are fully sovereign states.

Types of control[edit]

An anachronous map of British and, prior to the Acts of Union 1707, English imperial possessions
The British Empire in 1897, marked in traditional pink.

The natures of the administration of the Empire changed both by time and place, but its various territories as they existed in the 1920s (the time of its greatest territorial extent) can be fairly easily grouped into the following categories:

  • The United Kingdom itself, made up of England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland (Northern Ireland only from 1922 onwards after six of the nine northern most counties seceded thus creating the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland).
  • The "crown dependencies" of the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey (the last two are collectively referred to as the "Channel Islands"). These islands, while often considered to be part of the British Isles, have never formed part of the United Kingdom itself, or its predecessor states. At the same time, they have never been considered to be colonies; while the British Government is generally responsible for their defense and foreign relations, each of the territories has its own laws and political institutions. Strictly speaking their relationship is with the British Sovereign alone, rather than the British Government.
  • Colonies were territories that were intended to be places of permanent settlement, providing land for their settlers. The Crown claimed absolute sovereignty over them, although they were not formally part of the United Kingdom itself. Generally their law was the common law of England together with whatever British Acts of Parliament were also applied to them. Royal authority would usually be represented in the person of a Governor, appointed by the British Government. Over time, a number of colonies were granted "responsible government", making them largely self-governing. Colonies were typically of one of the following types:
    • A number of colonies in the 16th and 17th centuries were granted to a particular individual; these are known as proprietary colonies.
    • In a similar fashion, a number of colonies were controlled by companies. The most notable examples of this were the possessions of the East India Company (especially India), and of various companies in Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
    • Colonies controlled by the Crown directly were known as "Crown colonies"; this became the main method of creating and governing a colony.
  • Protected states were foreign territories that were nominally governed by a local ruler who had entered into a treaty relationship with the British Government that excluded them from dealing directly with other foreign powers, and which gave the British a right of involvement in their territory's internal affairs. British interest in these territories was mainly strategic. An example was the Trucial States, now the United Arab Emirates.
  • Protectorates were similar to protected states in that they were considered to be foreign territories over which the British Government had political authority (but not sovereignty), but which lacked a local infrastructure that the British were prepared to deal with as equals; therefore, a more direct involvement in the territory's internal affairs was taken. Protectorates were often established as a means of controlling British subjects in a territory (rather than the native population), or to exclude the influence of a rival European power. Examples include Bechuanaland, now Botswana.
  • Dominions appeared in the late nineteenth century. These were former colonies (or federations of colonies) that had achieved independence and were nominally co-equals with the United Kingdom, rather than subordinate to it. Formal acknowledgement of this status was finally given legal force by the Statute of Westminster of 1931. An example was the Irish Free State, formed as a Dominion in 1922 from the territory of Ireland, renamed Ireland in 1937, and which retained the Crown as head of state until it declared itself a republic in 1949. Similar examples included the dominions of Canada (1867); Newfoundland (1907); India (1947); Pakistan (1947); Ceylon and Kenya.
  • Mandates were forms of territory created after the end of the First World War. A number of German colonies and protectorates were held as mandates by the United Kingdom, and its dominions of Australia, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa. In theory these territories were governed on behalf of the League of Nations for the benefit of their inhabitants. Most became converted to United Nations Trust Territories in 1946.

Remaining territories[edit]

The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, graph starting in 1861

Within twenty years of the partition and independence in 1947 of British India (considered to be the most important colonial possession), most of the Empire's territories had achieved full independence. Today only 14 former colonies (since 2002 known as "British Overseas Territories") remain under British rule; the term "colonies" is no longer used to describe these.

Almost all of the British Overseas Territories are islands (or groups of islands) with a small population; some are in very remote areas of the world. Of the territories with a permanent population, all have at least some degree of internal self-government, with the United Kingdom retaining responsibility for defence and external relations.

The fourteen British Overseas Territories are:

List[edit]

Legend[edit]

!±! Crown dependency Turks and Caicos Flag Part of United Kingdom
:±: Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, and Commonwealth realm Turks and Caicos Flag Overseas territories
£IMP Currency pegged to the GBP CYP Pound sterling derived currency
!T! Common law legal system to various extent [X] Westminster style parliamentary system
abc English as a dominant or an official language /\\/ Rule of road drive on the left

Colour-coding[edit]

Colour Description
present-day members of the Commonwealth
present-day British Overseas Territories (Remains of the British Empire)
crown dependencies


Africa[edit]

Name of territory Dates Status Comments
Basutoland 1868 protectorate
1871 annexed to Cape Colony
1884 colony
1965 self-governing colony
1966 independent as Lesotho
Bechuanaland Protectorate 1884–1965 protectorate
1965–1966 self-governing protectorate
1966 independent as Botswana
Bight of Benin 1852–1861 protectorate
1861 united with Bight of Biafra
Bight of Biafra 1849–1861 protectorate
1861 united with Bight of Benin
Bights of Biafra and Benin 1861–1891 protectorate
British Bechuanaland
(see also under "Bechuanaland")
1885–1895 crown colony
1895 incorporated into Cape Colony Now a part of the Northern Cape and North West provinces of South Africa
British Cameroons 1916–1919 occupation
1919–1946 League of Nations mandated territory
1946–1961 United Nations Trust Territory
1961 northern part merged into Nigeria, southern part into the Republic of Cameroon
British East Africa 1888–1895 territory leased to the Imperial British East Africa Company by the Sultan of Zanzibar
1895–1920 protectorate territory included ex BEAC territory and the strip of Sultan of Zanizbar's dominions on the coast of Kenya which fell within the sphere of British influence
1920 became the Colony & Protectorate of Kenya lands of Sultan of Zanzibar on coast administered with the Colony as one unit
British Somaliland 1884–1960 protectorate forcibly merged with Somalia then became independent in 1991 as Somaliland (unrecognized)
Cape Colony 1806–1910 colony became a province of the Union of South Africa as the "Cape of Good Hope"
Egypt 1801–1803 occupation
1882–1914 occupation
1914–1922 protectorate
1922 independent
Bioko 1827–1855 leased territory Island leased from Spain so that Royal Navy could undertake anti-slavery operations on West Coast of Africa. Main settlement was Port Clarence now known as Malabo
Gambia Colony and Protectorate 1816–1965 colony Protectorate declared over hinterland of Gambia River 1894
1965 Independent
Gold Coast 1874–1957 colony
1957 independent as Ghana
Kenya, Colony & Protectorate of 1920–1963 colony Previously part of British East Africa
1963 independent
Lagos Protectorate 1887–1906 protectorate, governed from the Lagos Colony
1906 incorporated into the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria
Southern Nigeria Protectorate 1900–1906 protectorate, created from Niger Coast Protectorate and territories of the Royal Niger Company
1906 incorporated the Colony & Protectorate of Lagos to be the Colony & Protectorate of Southern Nigeria
Libya, regions of Cyrenicia & Tripolitania only 1942–1946 UK Military administration in Cyrenicia & Tripolitania
1946–1951 Italian forces expelled, UN trusteeship of Cyrenicia & Tripolitania, administered by UK Fezzan region administered by France under trusteeship
1951 Independent as the Kingdom of Libya
Natal 1856–1910 colony
1910 became a province of the Union of South Africa Now part of the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Niger Districts 1885–1899 protectorate under the Royal Niger Company
1900 became part of Northern Nigeria
Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria 1914–1954 Created from the Colony & Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria
1954 Became the self-governing Federation of Nigeria
Federation of Nigeria 1954–1960 autonomous federation formed from the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria
1960 independent
Northern Nigeria 1900–1914 protectorate governed by the Colony of Southern Nigeria
1914 merged with Protectorate of Southern Nigeria to form the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria
Nyasaland
known as the Nyassaland Districts until 1893, and then British Central Africa until 1907
1891–1964 protectorate
1964 independent as Malawi
Orange River Colony 1900–1910 colony
1907 granted responsible government
1910 became a province of the Union of South Africa as the "Orange Free State"
Rhodesia now divided between Zambia and Zimbabwe
- Matabeleland 1888–1894 protectorate under British South Africa Company
1894 united with Mashonaland as South Zambesia in 1894
- Mashonaland 1889–1894 protectorate under BSAC
1894 united with Matabeleland as South Zambesia in 1894
- South Zambesia 1894–1895 protectorate under BSAC
1895 united with North Zambesia as Rhodesia
- Rhodesia 1895–1901 protectorate under BSAC
1901 Mashonaland and Matabeleland united as Southern Rhodesia
- Northern Rhodesia 1911–1924 protectorate under BSAC amalgamation of North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia
1924–1953 protectorate
1953–1963 part of Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
1964 independent as Zambia
- Southern Rhodesia 1901–1923 protectorate under BSAC
1923–1953 self-governing colony
1953–1963 part of Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
1964–1965 self-governing colony
Rhodesia 1965–1970 unilaterally declared independent, with Elizabeth II as head of state not internationally recognised
1970–1979 republic not internationally recognised
-Zimbabwe-Rhodesia 1979 interim state
1979–1980 colony
1980 independent as Zimbabwe
Sierra Leone 1787–1808 Freed slave colony organised by Sierra Leone Company
1808–1821 crown colony
1821–1850 part of British West Africa
1850–1866 crown colony
1866–1888 part of British West Africa
1888–1895 colony
1896–1961 colony and protectorate
1961 independent
South Africa 1910–1961 dominion formed by the federation of the Cape, Orange River, Natal, and Transvaal colonies
1961- republic Not a member of the Commonwealth between 1961 and 1994
Sudan
("Anglo-Egyptian Sudan")
1899–1952 condominium with Egypt
1952–1956 self-rule
1956 independent
Swaziland 1893–1902 protectorate under Transvaal
1902–1967 protectorate
1967–1968 autonomous
1968 independent
Tangier 1661 ceded to England by Portugal
1684 abandoned by England
German East Africa 1916–1922 occupation
Tanganyika Territory 1922–1946 mandate
1946–1961 United Nations Trust Territory under Britain
1961 independent Merged with Zanzibar in 1964 to form Tanzania
Tati Concessions Land 1872–1893 concession
1893 detached from Matabeleland
1893–1911 under protectorate of Bechuanaland
1911 annexed to Bechuanaland
Transvaal 1877–1884 colony
1884–1900 independent as South African Republic
1900–1906 colony
1906–1910 self-governing colony
1910 part of Union of South Africa now divided between the provinces of Gauteng/Limpopo/North West/Mpumalanga, South Africa
Uganda 1890–1893 occupied by British East Africa Company
1893–1894 provisional protectorate
1894–1905 protectorate
1905–1962 colony
1962 self-government
1962 independent
Walvis Bay 1795–1878 occupation
1878–1884 protectorate
1884 part of Cape Colony now part of Namibia
Zanzibar 1890–1963 protectorate
1963 independent merged with Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania
Zululand 1887–1897 crown colony
1897 incorporation into Natal now part of the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

North America[edit]

Name of territory Dates Status Comments
Assiniboia 1812–1836 colony
1836 reverted to control of the Hudson's Bay Company Now part of the province of Manitoba, Canada
Avalon 1623–1637 palatinate
1637 incorporated into Newfoundland
Bristol's Hope 1618–1631 colony
1631 abandoned and later as Newfoundland
British Columbia 1858–1871 colony
1871- province of Canada
Canada, Dominion of dominion (1867-1931) formed by the federation of the provinces of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia :±: [X] abc
  • Queen Elizabeth II first monarch to be titled Queen of Canada (Ascended to the Throne of Canada in 1952)
  • 1982 - New Constitution updating Canada's relationship with the United Kingdom
  • Several Provinces and Territories have joined since Confederation.
Canada, Province of 1841–1867 colony Formed by the amalgamation of the provinces of Lower and Upper Canada
1867 joined the Dominion of Canada and divided into the provinces of Ontario and Quebec Now the southern halves of Ontario and Quebec, Canada
Cape Breton Island 1763 incorporated into Nova Scotia Previously under French sovereignty
1784 colony separated from Nova Scotia
1820 re-incorporated into Nova Scotia
Carolina 1663 proprietary colony
1729 formally divided into Crown colonies of North & South Carolina
North Carolina 1729 Crown colony
1776 declared independent as the State of North Carolina
1783 sovereignty formally relinquished by Great Britain
South Carolina 1729 Crown colony
1776 declared independent as the State of South Carolina
1783 sovereignty formally relinquished by Great Britain
Cuper's Cove 1610–1621 colony
1621 abandoned and later as Newfoundland
East Florida 1763–1783 colony
1783 returned to Spanish sovereignty Now part of the state of Florida, United States
Georgia 1732 proprietary colony
1755 crown colony
1776 declared independent as the state of Georgia
1783 sovereignty formally relinquished by Great Britain
Massachusetts Bay 1629 colony
1691 United with Plymouth Colony
Lower Canada 1791–1841 province (colony) Now the southern half of the province of Quebec, Canada
1841 merged with Upper Canada to form the Province of Canada Re-established within the Dominion of Canada as the province of Quebec in 1867
New Brunswick 1784 colony Separated from Nova Scotia
1867 became a province of Canada
New Hampshire 1641 became part of Massachusetts Bay Colony
1679 Separate colony
1686 became a province of Dominion of New England
1691 Separate colony
1776 Independent
Newfoundland 1497–1583 claimed by England
1583–1818 colony
1818–1907 crown colony
1907–1934 dominion
1934–1949 Commission of Government Self-rule suspended, "Dominion" in name only
1949 became a province of Canada Now known as "Newfoundland and Labrador"
North-Western Territory 1859–1870
1870 incorporated into the Northwest Territories of Canada Now divided between the Canadian provinces and territories of Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia
Nova Scotia 1621–1632 Scottish colony
1654–1670 English occupation
1713 colony
1848 granted responsible government
1867 became a province of Canada
Prince Edward Island
known as New Ireland until 1769, and as St. John's Island until 1799
1744–1748 occupation
1758–1763 occupation
1763–1769 part of Nova Scotia
1769–1873 colony
1873 became a province of Canada
Quebec 1763–1791 province (colony) Quebec and Ontario, in Canada, and (until 1783) the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, in the United States
1791 divided into the provinces of Lower Canada and Upper Canada
Renews 1610–1623 colony abandoned and later became part of Newfoundland
Rupert's Land 1670–1870 possession of Hudson's Bay Company Nominally included territory that is now part of the Canadian territories and provinces of Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon (until 1858), British Columbia (until 1858), Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and (until 1818) parts of the U.S. states of North Dakota and Minnesota
1870 incorporated into Canada
St. Pierre and Miquelon 1713–1763 part of Nova Scotia
1763 restored to French sovereignty
1778–1783 occupation
1793–1802 occupation
1803–1816 occupation
South Falkland 1623–1626 colony abandoned and later became part of Newfoundland
Stikine Territory 1862–1863 Now divided between British Columbia and Yukon, Canada
Upper Canada 1791–1841 province (colony) Ontario, Canada
1841 merged with Lower Canada to form the Province of Canada Re-established within the Dominion of Canada as the province of Ontario in 1867
Vancouver Island 1849–1866 crown colony
1866 merged into the colony of British Columbia Now part of the province of British Columbia, Canada
Virginia 1607 Proprietary colony
1624 crown colony
1776 declared independent as the State of Virginia
1783 Sovereignty formally relinquished by Great Britain
West Florida 1763–1783 colony
1783 Southern part returned to Spanish sovereignty; sovereignty of northern part formally relinquished by Great Britain Now part of the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, United States

Central America and the Caribbean[edit]

-

Name of territory Dates Status Comments
Anguilla 1650–1696 colony under St. Christopher
1696–1816 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1816–1832 part of colony of St. Christopher, Nevis, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands
1832–1871 part of colony of Leeward Islands as colony of St. Christopher, Nevis, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands
1871–1882 part of the presidency of Saint Christopher (within the Leeward Islands)
1882–1956 part of the presidency of Saint Christopher and Nevis (within the Leeward Islands)
1956–1967 part of Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla
1967–1969 unilaterally declared independence as Republic of Anguilla
1969–1980 part of Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla
1980–1982 self-governing colony
1983–2002 dependent territory
2002- British Overseas Territory !T! [X] abc /\\/
Antigua
(incl. Barbuda from 1860)
1632–1671 colony
1671–1672 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1672–1816 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1816–1832 part of colony of Antigua-Barbuda-Montserrat
1832–1833 colony
1833–1871 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1871–1956 presidency within the Leeward Islands
1956–1958 colony
1958–1962 province of West Indies Federation
1962–1967 colony
1967–1981 associated state
1981 independent as Antigua and Barbuda :±: !T! [X] abc /\\/
Antigua-Barbuda-Montserrat 1816–1832 colony
1832 dissolved
Aruba 1799–1802 occupation
1805–1816 occupation
1940–1942 protectorate
Bahamas 1670–1684 proprietary colony
1684 occupied by Spain
1718–1964 crown colony
1964–1969 self-government
1969–1973 commonwealth
1973 independent :±: !T! [X] abc /\\/
Barbados 1624–1627 claimed by England
1627–1652 proprietary colony
1652–1663 colony
1663–1833 crown colony
1833–1885 part of colony of Windward Islands
1885–1958 colony
1958–1962 province of West Indies Federation
1962–1966 colony
1966 independent :±: !T! [X] abc /\\/
Barbuda 1628–1832 colony
1632–1671 dependency of Antigua
1671–1816 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1816–1832 part of colony of Antigua-Barbuda-Montserrat
1832–1833 colony
1833–1860 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1860 annexed to Antigua
1976–1980 autonomous
1980 unilateral declaration of independence
1981 independent as part of Antigua and Barbuda
Bay Islands 1643–1780 crown colony
1780 occupied by Spain for a month
1780–1860 crown colony subordinated to Jamaica
1860 ceded to Honduras
Belize - see under "British Honduras"
Bonaire 1807–1815 occupation
British Honduras 1665–1742 settlement
1742–1840 settlement subordinated to Jamaica
1840–1862 colony subordinated to Jamaica
1862–1884 crown colony subordinated to Jamaica
1884–1954 crown colony
1954–1964 autonomy
1964–1981 self-governing colony
1973 renamed "Belize"
1981 independent :±: !T! [X] abc
British Virgin Islands 1666–1672 occupation
1672–1713 part of colony of Leeward Islands as part of Antigua
1713–1816 crown colony part of colony of Leeward Islands
1816–1832 part of colony of St. Christopher, Nevis, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands
1832–1871 part of colony of Leeward Islands as colony of St. Christopher, Nevis, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands
1871–1956 presidency within the Leeward Islands
1956–1960 part of territory of Leeward Islands
1960–1967 colony
1967–1982 self-governing colony
1983–2002 dependent territory
2002- British Overseas Territory !T! [X] abc /\\/
Cayman Islands 1670–1958 colony part of Jamaica
1958–1962 province of West Indies Federation
1962–1982 crown colony
1983–2002 dependent territory
2002- British Overseas Territory !T! [X] abc /\\/
Cuba 1762–1763 occupation
Curaçao 1800–1803 occupation
1807–1816 occupation
Dominica 1763–1778 occupation
1778 ceded to France
1784–1871 colony
1871–1939 presidency within the Leeward Islands
1940–1958 colony within the Windward Islands
1958–1962 province of West Indies Federation
1962–1967 colony
1967–1978 associated state
1978 independent !T! [X] abc /\\/
Grenada 1762–1763 occupation
1763–1779 part of colony of South Caribbean Islands
1779 occupied by France
1783–1802 part of colony of South Caribbean Islands
1802–1833 colony
1833–1958 part of Windward Islands
1958–1962 province of West Indies Federation
1962–1967 colony
1967–1974 associated state
1974 independent :±: !T! [X] abc /\\/
Guadeloupe 1759–1763 occupation
1794 occupation
1810–1814 occupation
1815–1816 occupation
Île de la Tortue and Saint-Domingue 1655–1659 occupation
1793–1798 occupation
Jamaica 1655–1670 occupation
1670–1953 colony
1953–1958 self-governing colony
1958–1962 province of West Indies Federation
1962 independent :±: !T! [X] abc /\\/
Leeward Islands 1671–1816 colony
1833–1871 colony
1871–1956 federal colony Comprised the presidencies of Antigua (incl. Barbuda), Dominica (to 1939), Montserrat, Nevis, Saint Kitts (incl. Anguilla, and combined with Nevis in 1883), and the Virgin Islands
1956–1960 territory
1960 dissolved
Martinique 1762–1763 occupation
1794–1802 occupation
1809–1814 occupation
Montserrat 1632–1667 colony part of Antigua
1667 occupied by France
1668–1782 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1784–1816 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1816–1832 part of colony of Antigua-Barbuda-Montserrat
1832–1833 colony part of Antigua
1833–1871 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1871–1956 presidency within the Leeward Islands
1956–1958 colony
1958–1962 province of West Indies Federation
1962–1982 colony
1983–2002 dependent territory
2002- British Overseas Territory !T! [X] abc /\\/
Mosquito Coast 1668–1786 protectorate
1787–1861 protectorate
1861 incorporated into Nicaragua
Nevis 1628–1671 colony subordinated to Barbados
1671–1701 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1701–1704 part of colony of Leeward Islands under Antigua
1704–1816 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1816–1833 part of colony of St. Christopher, Nevis, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands
1833–1871 part of Leeward Islands as colony of St. Christopher, Nevis, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands
1871–1883 presidency within the Leeward Islands
1883 amalgamated with Saint Kitts to form the presidency of Saint Christopher and Nevis (within the Leeward Islands)
Redonda 1872–1981 part of Antigua
1981- dependency
Saba 1665 occupation
1672–1679 occupation
1781 occupation
1801–1803 occupation
1810–1816 occupation
St. Christopher
(Saint Kitts)
1623–1666 colony
1666 occupied by France
1671–1701 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1701–1704 part of colony of Leeward Islands under Antigua
1704–1782 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1782 occupied by France
1783–1816 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1816–1833 part of colony of St. Christopher, Nevis, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands
1833–1871 part of Leeward Islands as colony of St. Christopher, Nevis, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands
1871–1882 part of colony of Leeward Islands
1882 amalgamated with Nevis to form the presidency of Saint Christopher-Nevis (within the Leeward Islands)
St. Christopher and Nevis 1882–1958 presidency within the Leeward Islands
1958–1962 part of province of Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla of West Indies Federation
1962–1967 part of colony of Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla
1967–1980 part of associated state of Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla
1980–1983 associated state
1983 independent :±: !T! [X] abc /\\/
St. Eustatius 1665–1666 occupation
1672–1682 occupation
1690–1693 occupation
1781 occupation
1801–1802 occupation
1810–1816 occupation
St. John 1801–1802 occupation
1807–1815 occupation Now part of the United States Virgin Islands
St. Lucia 1605–1640 settlement
1640 abandoned
1664–1667 occupation
1762–1763 occupation
1781–1783 occupation
1794–1795 occupation
1796–1802 occupation
1803–1838 colony
1838–1958 crown colony part of colony of Windward Islands
1958–1962 province of West Indies Federation
1962–1967 crown colony
1967–1979 associated state
1979 independent :±: !T! [X] abc /\\/
Saint Martin 1690–1699 occupation
1801–1802 occupation
St. Thomas 1801–1802 occupation
1807–1815 occupation Now part of the United States Virgin Islands
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 1627–1636 claimed
1672 claimed
1762–1763 occupation
1763–1776 colony
1776–1779 crown colony
1779 occupied by France
1783–1833 crown colony
1833–1958 part of colony of Windward Islands
1958–1962 province of West Indies Federation
1962–1969 colony
1969–1979 associated state
1979 independent :±: !T! [X] abc /\\/
South Caribbean Islands 1763–1802 colony
1802 dissolved Included the present-day countries of Dominica, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the island of Tobago
Tobago 1762–1764 part of colony of Windward Islands
1764–1781 colony
1781 colony of France
1793–1802 occupation
1802 colony of France
1803–1833 crown colony
1833–1888 part of colony of Windward Islands
1889 amalgamated with Trinidad
Tortuga 1631–1635 colony
1635 French possession Now part of Haiti
Trinidad 1802–1888 colony
1889 amalgamated with Tobago as "Trinidad and Tobago"
Trinidad and Tobago 1889–1958 colony
1958–1962 province of West Indies Federation
1962 independent !T! [X] abc /\\/
Turks and Caicos Islands 1799–1848 colony part of Bahamas
1848–1874 colony
1874–1959 colony part of Jamaica
1959–1962 province of West Indies Federation
1962–1982 colony
1983–2002 dependent territory
2002- British Overseas Territory !T! [X] abc /\\/
Virgin Islands - see under "British Virgin Islands"
West Indies Federation 1958–1962 federation of colonies
1962 dissolution Included the present-day countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados; Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago, and the British Overseas Territories of Anguilla, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands
Windward Islands 1833–1956 colony
1956–1960 territory
1960 dissolution Included the present-day countries of Barbados (to 1885), Grenada, Dominica (from 1940), St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and (until 1889) the island of Tobago

South America[edit]

Name of territory Dates Status Comments
Berbice 1781–1782 subordinated to Barbados
1782 occupied by France
1796–1802 occupied
1802 restored to the Netherlands
1803–1814 occupied
1814–1831 colony
1831 united with Demerara-Essequibo to form British Guiana Now part of Guyana
British Guiana 1831–1961 colony Formed by the merger of the colonies of Berbice and Demerara-Essequibo
1961–1966 self-rule
1966 independent as Guyana
Demerara 1781–1782 subordinated to Barbados
1782 French occupation
1796–1802 occupied
1802 restored to Netherlands
1803–1814 occupied
1814 merged with Essequibo to form Demerara-Essequibo
Demerara-Essequibo 1814–1831 colony Formed by the merger of the separate colonies of Demerara and Essequibo
1831 united with Berbice to form British Guiana
Essequibo 1781–1782 subordinated to Barbados
1782 French occupation
1796–1802 occupied
1802 restored to the Netherlands
1803–1814 occupied
1814 merged with Demerara to form Demerara-Essequibo
Oyapoc 1620 settlement Now in Guyana
Pomeroon 1666–1667 occupied
1689 occupation
1689 incorporated into Essequibo Now in Guyana
Willoughby 1652–1688 settlement
1688 Dutch occupation Now Paramaribo, in Suriname

Asia[edit]

Name of territory Dates Status Comments
Aden 1839 colony subordinate to Bombay Presidency British India
1932 separate province of British India
1937 separate crown colony
1963 part of Federation of South Arabia
Afghanistan 1839–1842 protectorate
1879 protectorate
1919 independent
Assam 1874–1905 province of British India
1905–1912 incorporated into the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam
1912–1947 province of British India Now a state of the Republic of India
Bahrain 1880 protectorate
1961–1971 autonomous
1971 independent
Baluchistan 1877–1896 province
1896–1947 province of British India
1947 part of Pakistan Now part of Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, in Pakistan
Bantam 1603–1609 station
1609–1617 factory
1617–1621 presidency
1621 expelled by the Dutch
1630–1634 subordinated to Surat
1634–1652 presidency
1652–1682 subordinated to Surat
1682 expelled by the Dutch Now in Indonesia
Bencoolen
(Fort York)
1685–1760 fort subordinated to Madras
1760–1785 presidency
1785–1825 subordinated to Bengal Presidency
1825 part of Netherlands East Indies Now Bengkulu, in Indonesia
Bengal
("Fort William")
1634–1658 factories
1658–1681 subordinated to Madras
1681–1682 agency
1682–1694 presidency of Coromandel and Bengal Settlements
1694–1698 subordinated to Madras
1698–1700 presidency of Coromandel and Bengal Settlements
1700–1774 presidency
1774–1905 presidency of British India
1905–1912 partitioned between [West] Bengal and Eastern Bengal and Assam
1912–1937 presidency of British India
1937–1947 province of British India
1947 divided between India (West Bengal) and Pakistan (East Bengal) Now Bangladesh, and part of West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, and Jharkhand, in India
Brunei 1888 protectorate
1967 protected state
1984 Independent
Burma 1824–1852 Arakan, Tenasserim
1852–1886 Lower Burma
1885-1886 Upper Burma
1886 Lower & Upper Burma United as province of British India
1937 Separate Crown Colony
1948 independent
Eastern Bengal and Assam 1905–1912 province of British India Established upon the partition of Bengal (1905)
1912 partition reversed Split between the re-established province of Assam and the re-constituted presidency of Bengal
Ceylon 1795 Ceded by the Dutch and subordinated to the Madras presidency
1798 Separate Crown colony
1948 independent Now the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Hong Kong 1841 Hong Kong Island occupied
1843 Crown colony
1860 Kowloon & Stonecutters Island ceded by China
1898 New Territories leased from China for 99 years
1997 Returned to China as a
special administrative region
Kuwait 1899 Protectorate
1961 Independent
Indian Empire (British Raj) 1613 Company rule in India
1858 Crown rule over the Indian Princely states, the Presidencies and provinces of British India
1947 Independent as India & Pakistan after partition
Mandatory Iraq 1920–1932 League of Nations Mandate never passed, replaced by Anglo-Iraqi treaty with the Kingdom of Iraq
Java 1811–1816 territory of the East India Company restored to the Netherlands
Malaya 1824 transferred following Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824
1824–1867 territory of British East India Company
1867–1946 Straits Settlements, crown colony
1895–1946 Federated Malay States, protectorate
1885–1946 Johor, protectorate (part of Unfederated Malay States)
1909–1946 Kedah, protectorate (part of Unfederated Malay States)
1909–1946 Kelantan, protectorate (part of Unfederated Malay States)
1909–1946 Perlis, protectorate (part of Unfederated Malay States)
1909–1946 Terengganu, protectorate (part of Unfederated Malay States)
1942–1945 Japanese occupation
1946–1948 Malayan Union
1948–1957 Federation of Malaya
1957–1963 independent state
1963- Joined with North Borneo and Sarawak to form independent state of Malaysia !T! abc /\\/ [X]
North Borneo and Labuan 1882–1946 protectorate
1946 crown colony Labuan to British N. Borneo in 15 July 1946
1963 Joined Malaysia
Palestine 1920 mandate Now known as Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip
1948 independence Now known as Israel
Pulo Condore Island/Côn Đảo 1702 possession of British East India Company
1705 abandoned Now Côn Đảo, in Vietnam
Sarawak 1888 protectorate
1946 Crown Colony
1963 Joined Malaysia
Straits Settlements 1826–1858 possession under British East India Company Now divided between Malacca and Penang, in Malaysia, and Singapore
1858–1867 subordinated to British India
1867–1942 crown colony
1942 occupied by Japan
Qatar 1916–1971 Protectorate
1971 Independent
Surat 1612–1658 factory
1658–1668 presidency
1668–1685 possession under British East India Company
1685–1703 subordinated to Bombay
1703 incorporated into Bombay Now in India
Singapore 1824 purchased
1824 Part of Straits Settlements (as residency of the Presidency of Bengal
1867 Part of Straits Settlements (crown colony)
1946 crown colony
1963 Part of Malaysia
1965- Independence !T! abc /\\/
Transjordan 1920 part of Palestine Mandate Now known as Jordan
1923 formally separated from Palestine
1928 emirate independent, except military and finance control
1946 formal independence
Trucial States 1892 protectorate
1971 formation of Federation of Arab Emirates Now part of the United Arab Emirates
Weihaiwei 1898–1930 leased from China
1930 returned to China Now part of the People's Republic of China
West Bengal
("Bengal")
1905–1912 province of British India Established by the partition of Bengal. Abolished with the reversal of the partition and the creation of the new province of Bihar and Orissa.

Europe[edit]

Name of territory Dates Status Comments
Akrotiri and Dhekelia 1960 - to present Sovereign Base Areas
Alderney 1198–1204 lordship
1204 fiefdom
1205 fiefdom
1206–1279 fiefdom
1279 briefly occupied by France
1279-1660 part of bailiwick of Guernsey
1660–1825 seigneurie
1825 subordinated to Guernsey
Cyprus 1878 administration while nominally remaining part of the Ottoman Empire
1914 annexation
1925 crown colony
1960 independent
Dunkirk 1658–1662 town and surrounding hinterland
1662 incorporated into France
England 927 kingdom formed
1282 Conquest of principality of Gwynedd (last remaining independent Welsh principality)
1536 incorporation of Principality of Wales and Marcher Lordships into England
1603 personal union with Scotland
1649 republic as the Commonwealth of England. Scotland and Ireland united with England
1660 End of Republic. Scotland independent again but in personal union with England
1707 political union with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain Treaty of Union 1706 and Acts of Union 1707
Gibraltar 1704 Captured by Britain
1713 colony Ceded by Spain Treaty of Utrecht 1713
1983 dependent territory
2002- British Overseas Territory Gibraltar :±: £GIP !T! abc [X] Sovereignty claimed by Spain
Great Britain, Kingdom of 1707 formed by union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland
1801 union of Great Britain with Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Guernsey
(incl. islands of Brechou, Herm, Jethou, and Sark)
1198–1204 lordship
1204–1205 fiefdom
1206–1279 fiefdom
1279-1940 bailiwick
1940–1945 occupied by Germany
1945- bailiwick
Heligoland 1807–1814 occupied
1814–1890 colony
1890 incorporated into Germany
1945–1952 occupied
Ionian Islands 1809–1815 occupied
1815–1864 United States of Ionian Islands, under British protection
1864 incorporated into Greece
Ireland 1172 lordship Papal Bull Laudabiliter 1155
1541 kingdom subordinated to the English (later British) Crown
1801 merged with Great Britain to form the United Kingdom Act of Union 1800
Irish Free State 1922 Independence from the United Kingdom Anglo-Irish Treaty 1921
1949 Declared a Republic
Isle of Man 1266–1290 fiefdom under Scotland
1313–1317 fiefdom under Scotland
1328–1333 fiefdom under Scotland
1333–1504 fiefdom
1504–1594 lordship
1594–1610 direct crown rule
1610–1649 lordship
1649–1660 commonwealth and protectorate
1660–1765 lordship
1765–1827 possession
1827- crown dependency
Jersey 1204 fiefdom subordinated to Guernsey
1204–1205 fiefdom subordinated to Guernsey
1206–1279 fiefdom subordinated to Guernsey
1279–1380 bailiwick subordinated to Guernsey
1382–1461 bailiwick subordinated to Guernsey
1468–1487 bailiwick subordinated to Guernsey
1487-1940 bailiwick
1940–1945 occupied by Germany
1945- bailiwick
Malta 1800-1813 protectorate
1813–1921 crown colony
1921–1933 self-governing colony
1933–1947 crown colony
1947–1958 self-governing colony
1958–1961 crown colony
1961–1964 self-governing colony
1964 independent
Minorca 1708–1713 occupied
1713 ceded to Britain
1714–1756 colony
1756 occupied by France
1798–1802 colony
1802 restored to Spain
United Kingdom 1801 formed by the union of the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland
1922 secession of the Irish Free State
1927 formal name changed from "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland" to "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland"

Antarctic Region[edit]

(territories south of 60° S)

Name of territory Dates Status Comments
British Antarctic Territory 1962–1982 colony
1983–2002 dependent territory
2002- overseas territory BAT Flag  :±: !T! £GBP abc
Enderby Land 1930–1933 claimed
1933 transferred to Australia Now part of the Australian Antarctic Territory
Graham Land 1832 annexed
1908–1962 dependency of Falkland Islands
1962- part of the British Antarctic Territory
South Orkney 1821–1908 claimed
1908–1962 dependency of the Falkland Islands
1962- part of the British Antarctic Territory
South Shetland 1819–1908 claimed
1908–1962 dependency of the Falkland Islands
1962- part of the British Antarctic Territory
Victoria Land 1841–1933 claimed
1933 transferred to Australia Now part of the Australian Antarctic Territory

Atlantic[edit]

(islands in the Atlantic Ocean)

Name of territory Dates Status Comments
Ascension Island 1815–1922 possession
1922–2009 dependency of St. Helena
2009- part of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
Bermuda 1612–1684 colony
1684–1968 crown colony
1968–1982 self-governing colony
1983–2002 dependent territory
2002- overseas territory Bermuda Flag  :±: !T! abc /\\/
Falkland Islands 1766 West Falkland settled
1774 settlement withdrawn
1774–1833 claimed
1833 settlement re-established
1841–1892 crown colony
1892–1908 colony
1908–1962 colony
1962 The Falkland Islands Dependencies of South Shetland, South Orkney, and Graham Land are established as the separate colony of British Antarctic Territory
1962–1982 colony
1983–2002 dependent territory
2002- overseas territory Falkland Islands Flag  :±: !T! £FKK abc /\\/
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
(formerly known as "St. Helena and its Dependencies")
1588–1673 St Helena claimed
1673–1815 possession of the East India Company
1815–1821 crown colony
1821–1834 possession of British East India Company
1834–1982 crown colony
1983–2002 dependent territory
2002- overseas territory St. Helena Flag  :±: !T! £SHP abc /\\/
South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands 1775–1908 claimed
1908–1985 dependency of the Falkland Islands
1985–2002 dependent territory
2002- overseas territory South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands  :±: !T! £GBP abc
Tristan da Cunha (1816–1938) dependency of the Cape Colony
1938–2009 dependency of St. Helena
2009- part of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

Indian Ocean[edit]

(islands in the Indian Ocean)

Name of territory Dates Status Comments
Andaman and Nicobar Islands 1789 British take possession of the Andaman Islands
1848 British take possession of the Nicobar Islands
1942–1945 Japanese occupation
1947 became part of India upon its independence Now a union territory of India
Ashmore Island 1878 annexed
1931 transferred to Australia Now administered as part of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands
Cartier Island 1909–1931) annexed
1931 transferred to Australia Now administered as part of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands
British Indian Ocean Territory 1810–1814 occupied
1814 ceded to the United Kingdom by the Treaty of Paris
1814–1903 part of the colony of Seychelles
1903–1965 part of colony of Mauritius
1965–1982 colony
1976 the Aldabra Group, the Des Roches islands, and the Farquhar Group/Des Roches are restored to the Seychelles
1983–2002 dependent territory
2002- overseas territory British Indian Ocean Territory flag  :±: !T! £GBP abc
Christmas Island 1888 annexed
1889–1890 leased
1900–1942 dependency of the colony of Straits Settlement
1942–1945 Japanese occupation
1945–1946 military administration
1946–1958 dependency of the colony of Singapore
1958 crown colony
1958 transferred to Australia
Cocos Islands 1825;
1826–1831
settlement
1831–1857 fiefdom
1857–1878 crown colony
1878–1886 part of Ceylon
1886–1942 part of the colony of the Straits Settlements
1942–1946 part of Ceylon
1946–1955 dependency of the colony of Singapore
1955 transferred to Australia Now the Australian territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Dansborg 1801–1802 occupied
1808–1815 occupied
1845 purchased and incorporated into British India Now in Tamil Nadu state, India
Frederiksnagore 1801–1802 occupied
1808–1815 occupied
1845 purchased and incorporated into British India Now in West Bengal state, India
Heard Island and McDonald Islands 1833–1947 claimed
1947 transferred to Australia Now the Australian territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands
Madagascar 1942–1946 occupied
Maldives 1796–1953 protectorate
1953–1954 republic
1954–1965 protectorate See also the United Suvadive Republic (1959–1963)
1965 independence  !T! /\\/
Mauritius 1809 occupation of Rodrigues
1810–1968 colony
1814 formal cession by the Treaty of Paris
1965 the Chagos Archipelago is transferred to the British Indian Ocean Territory
1968 independence  !T! abc /\\/
Réunion 1810–1815 occupied
1942–1946 occupied
Seychelles 1794–1810 occupied
1810–1814 colony subordinated to Mauritius
1814 formal cession by the Treaty of Paris
1814–1903 colony
1903–1970 crown colony
1970–1975 self-governing colony
1975–1976 self-rule
1976 independence  !T! abc /\\/

Australasia and the Pacific[edit]

Name of territory Dates Status Comments
Australia 1901–1942 dominion
1942 adopted the Statute of Westminster into domestic law :±: !T! abc [X] /\\/
Baker Island 1886–1934 claimed Now a territory of the United States
Bonin Islands 1827–1876 claimed
1876 annexed by Japan
British New Guinea 1884–1886 protectorate
1886–1906 colony
1906 transferred to Australia Now part of Papua New Guinea
Cook Islands 1888–1891 protectorate
1891–1900 federation
1900 annexed by New Zealand
Coral Sea Islands 1879– part of Queensland
Fiji 1874–1877 colony
1877–1952 colony administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1952–1970 colony
1970 independent !T! abc /\\/
Friendly Islands
(Tonga)
1889–1900 tripartite protectorate
1900–1952 protectorate administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1952–1970 protectorate
1970 independent !T! abc /\\/
Gilbert and Ellice Islands 1892–1916 protectorate
1916–1975 crown colony administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1975 the Gilbert and Ellice Islands are split into the two separate colonies of the Gilbert Islands and Tuvalu
Gilbert Islands 1975–1976 crown colony administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1976–1979 colony
1979 independent as "Kiribati" !T! abc /\\/
Howland Island 1886–1935 claimed Now a territory of the United States
Jarvis Island 1889–1935 annexed Now a territory of the United States
Lord Howe Island 1788–1834 claimed
1834–1855 settlement Now part of New South Wales
Macquarie Island 1810–1890 part of the colony of New South Wales
1890– part of Tasmania
Nauru 1914–1920 administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1920–1921 League of Nations mandate administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1921–1942 League of Nations mandate
1942–1945 Japanese occupation
1945–1947 League of Nations mandate
1947–1968 United Nations Trust Territory
1968 independent !T! abc /\\/
New Hebrides 1824–1878 protectorate
1878–1887 neutral territory
1887–1906 joint naval commission
1906–1976 condominium with France, administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1976–1980 condominium
1980 independent as "Vanuatu" !T! abc
New South Wales 1788–1900 colony
1901- state of Australia
New Zealand 1769–1788 claimed
1792–1835 part of New South Wales
1835 declared independence
1835–1840 protectorate
1840–1841 part of New South Wales
1841–1907 colony
1907–1947 Dominion of New Zealand
1947 adopted the Statute of Westminster into domestic law :±: !T! abc [X] /\\/
Niue 1889–1900 tripartite protectorate
1900–1901 protectorate administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1901 annexed to New Zealand (as part of the Cook Islands)
Norfolk Island 1788–1844 part of New South Wales
1844–1856 part of Van Diemen's Land (later Tasmania)
1856–1897 subordinated to New South Wales
1897 dependency of New South Wales
Palmyra Atoll 1889 annexed
1898 annexed by the United States
Pitcairn Islands 1838–1887 protectorate
1887–1898 colony
1898–1970 colony administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1970–1982 colony
1983–2002 dependent territory
2002- overseas territory Pitcairn Islands Flag :±:  !T! abc /\\/
Queensland 1824–1859 part of the colony of New South Wales
1859–1900 colony
1901- state of Australia
Samoan Islands 1889–1900 tripartite protectorate
Sandwich Islands 1794 - 10 February 1843 protectorate
10 February 1843 - 31 July 1843 ceded to Britain
Solomon Islands 1889–1893 tripartite protectorate
1893–1942 protectorate administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1942–1943 Japanese occupation
1943–1971 protectorate administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1971–1973 protectorate
1973–1976 autonomy
1975 renamed from "British Solomon Islands" to "Solomon Islands"
1976–1978 self-government
1978 independent :±:  !T! abc [X] /\\/
South Australia 1788–1836 part of the colony of New South Wales
1836–1900 province (colony)
1901- state of Australia
Tasmania
(Van Diemen's Land)
1803–1825 part of New South Wales
1825–1900 colony
1856 renamed as "Tasmania"
Tokelau
(Union Islands)
1889–1898 protectorate
1898–1916 protectorate administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1916–1949 part of colony of Gilbert and Ellice Islands transferred to New Zealand
1949 transferred to New Zealand
Torres Strait Islands 1879- part of Queensland
Tuvalu 1975–1976 colony administered as part of the British Western Pacific Territories
1976–1978 colony
1978 independent :±: !T! abc [X] /\\/
Victoria 1839–1851 part of colony of New South Wales
1851–1900 colony
1901- state of Australia
Western Australia 1791–1829 King George Sound settled
1829–1832 Swan River Colony
1832–1900 colony
1901- state of Australia

Treaties and Acts of Parliament, etc.[edit]

This is a listing of the more important treaties, Acts of Parliament, and other legal instruments and events affecting the nature and territorial extent of the British Empire.


Effective date Name of treaty, etc. Territorial effect
1536/1542 Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542 Wales annexed to the Kingdom of England
1707 Acts of Union 1707 Scotland and England unite as the Kingdom of Great Britain
1713 Treaty of Utrecht Spain cedes Gibraltar to Britain. France cedes Newfoundland, Hudson Bay and Acadie to Britain.
1763 Treaty of Paris France cedes all its territories in America to Britain except Saint Pierre and Miquelon Islands.
1776 Declaration of Independence of the United States The Thirteen Colonies (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia) assert independence
1783 Second Treaty of Paris Great Britain formally recognises the independence of the United States. End of the American Revolution.
1788 New South Wales is established by settlement as a penal colony
1791 Constitution Act The Province of Quebec is divided in two sections Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada (now Quebec).
1801 Act of Union 1800 Ireland unites with Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
1814 Third Treaty of Paris France cedes the Seychelles to Britain and Malta officially becomes a colony
1840 Treaty of Waitangi New Zealand becomes a British colony
1867 British North America Act 1867 (known in Canada as the Constitution Act, 1867) The Province of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia federate as the Dominion of Canada
1870 Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory are annexed to Canada
1871 British Columbia becomes a province of Canada
1876 proclamation under the Royal Titles Act 1876 Queen Victoria adopts the title "Empress of India"
1899 Joint British-Egyptian condominium established over Sudan
1901 proclamation under the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (1900) The Commonwealth of Australia is formed by the federation of the colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania
1910 proclamation under the South Africa Act 1909 Union of South Africa formed by the federation of the colonies of the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, Transvaal, and the Orange River Colony
1914 Cyprus (Annexation) Order in Council 1914 Cyprus formally annexed
1920 Kenya (Annexation) Order in Council 1920 Most of the East Africa Protectorate is annexed as the Colony of Kenya
1922 Anglo-Irish Treaty The Irish Free State is separated from the United Kingdom
Unilateral Declaration of Egyptian Independence Egypt becomes independent
1931 Statute of Westminster Canada, the Irish Free State, and the Union of South Africa obtain effective sovereignty
1934 Financial difficulties result in Newfoundland losing its status as a dominion
1942 Australia adopts the Statute of Westminster, backdated to 1939
1947 New Zealand adopts the Statute of Westminster
Indian Independence Act 1947 British India is partitioned into the independent dominions of India and Pakistan
1948 King George VI relinquishes the title "Emperor of India"
1949 Newfoundland becomes a province of Canada
1960 Nigeria Independence Act 1960 The colony and protectorate of Nigeria become independent
1962 Jamaica Independence Act 1962 Jamaica becomes independent
1983 The status of "colony" is renamed "dependent territory"
1997 Sino-British Joint Declaration (1984) and the Hong Kong Act 1985 Hong Kong is transferred to the People's Republic of China
2002 The status of "dependent territory" is renamed "British Overseas Territory"

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]