Portal:British Empire

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British Empire


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.

Selected article


Publication of an early version in The Gentleman's Magazine, 15 October 1745.

"God Save the Queen", or "God Save the King", is an anthem used as the national anthem of the United Kingdom, one of the two national anthems of New Zealand, and the royal anthem of Canada and of Australia. The title of the song varies with the gender of the reigning monarch, and so it now uses "Queen", though "King" has been historically more common. In countries not previously part of the British Empire the tune of "God Save the Queen" has also been used as the basis for different patriotic songs, though still generally connected with royal ceremony.

The authorship of the song is unknown, and beyond its first verse, which is consistent, it has many historic and extant versions: Since its first publication, different verses have been added and taken away and, even today, different publications include various selections of verses in various orders. In general only one, or sometimes two verses are sung, but on rare occasions three. One or two bars may also form a part of the Vice Regal Salute in Commonwealth realms outside the United Kingdom.

Selected picture


Rajpoots 2.png
Credit: The Illustrated London News

An 1876 engraving of Khokar Rajputs of Punjab, from the Illustrated London News. The British colonial officials in general were impressed by the military qualities of the Rajputs.

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Selected biography


Sir Alexander Ball

Sir Alexander John Ball (July 22, 1756—October 20, 1809), was a British admiral and governor of Malta. He was a member of a Gloucestershire family. He was born in Ebworth Park, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire. He was the fourth son of Robert and Mary (Dickinson) Ball. Alexander Ball is considered to be a very important player in the diplomatic and military events which were to bring Malta under British rule. Universally loved by the Maltese, Ball visited the islands for the first time on October 12, 1798. Whenever Ball appeared in public, the passers-by in the streets stood uncovered until he had passed; the clamours of the market-place were hushed at his entrance and then exchanged for shouts of joy and welcome. His mission was to sustain and continue the siege and blockade of the French forces in Malta, aided by certain Portuguese naval forces. (more...)

Evolution of the British Empire


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



Current territory  ·   Former territory

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