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, 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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The British Empire.png
An anachronous map of British and, prior to the Union of the Crowns, English imperial possessions
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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 animates the Empire's rise and fall.

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British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations

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Legend

Current territory  ·   Former territory

* now a Commonwealth realm  ·   now a member of the Commonwealth of Nations
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