British Empire, The. Britain, or rather Britannica, was the name which was given by the Romans to modern England and Scotland. The name Great Britain was applied to England and Scotland after James I. ascended the English throne in 1603.
Extent of Empire.--The European dominions of the British Empire comprise -- in addition to Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands -- the rocky promontory of Gibraltar, captured from Spain in 1704; and Malta, Gozo, and adjacent islets, ceded to Great Britain in 1800.
The most important of the Asiatic possessions of Great Britain is India, acquired gradually since the incorporation of the East India Company in 1600, and especially during the great struggle with France in the 18th century. Great Britain also possesses Ceylon, acquired by conquest from the Dutch and from native rulers in 1796-1815; the Straits Settlements of Singapore (ceded in 1824), Penang (1786), Wellesley Province (1800), and Malacca (1824), on which are dependent various native States of the Malay Peninsula; the island of Hong-Kong (taken in 1841) and territory on the adjacent mainland; portions of the islands of Borneo, namely British North Borneo (company chartered in 1881), to which is attached the island of Labuan (ceded 1846), the sultanate of Brunei, and Sarawak (practically British since 1842); Aden (1839), the island of Perim, the Kooria Mooria islands, and the Bahrein Islands. Cyprus, though belonging to Turkey, as since 1878 been administered by Great Britain.
In Africa Great Britain owns Cape Colony, gradually developed since its final acquirement in 1806, and including Walfisch Bay; Basutoland (British since 1868), the Bechuanaland Protectorate (acquired in 1884), Natal (proclaimed British in 1843), to which are now annexed Zululand, and Tongaland (acquired in 1887), Rhodesia, including Matabeland, Mashonaland, Barotseland, etc., recently begun to be developed by the British South Africa Company; the Central Africa Protectorate (acquired in 1889-1890, and proclaimed a protectorate in 1891); the West African colonies; namely Gambia (recognized as British in 1783), the Gold Coast (partly acquired in the 17th century), Sierra Leone (ceded 1787), and Lagos, with dependencies (occupied in 1861); Nigeria, including the Niger Coast Protectorate (1884) and the territories formerly administered by the Royal Niger Company (chartered in 1886); the East Africa Protectorate, proclaimed in 1895 over territories previously under the Imperial British East Africa Company (chartered 1888); the Uganda Protectorate, now including also Unyoro, Usoga, etc. (proclaimed in 1894); the Zanzibar protectorate, consisting of the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba (under the protection of Great Britain since 1890); the Somali Coast Protectorate (acquired in 1884); the islands of Mauritius (taken from France in 1810), with its dependencies the Seychelles, etc.; the island of Socotra (1886); and the Atlantic islands, St. Helena (1651), Ascension (1815), and Tristan d'Acunha (1816). Besides Great Britain virtually rules Egypt and the reconquered Egyptian Sudan (1898), though the former is nominally part of the Ottoman Empire; and, since the South African War, the former territories of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.
Her possession in the New World comprise the Dominion of Canada, most of which was obtained from France by conquest and treaty between 1713 and 1763; the island of Newfoundland, the oldest English colony (discovered by John Cabot in 1497), with its dependency Labrador; British Honduras (1783); the Bermudas Islands (1609); the West Indian Islands, namely, Jamaica (1655), the Bahamas (1629), several of the Leeward Islands (Antigua, St. Christopher, Dominica, etc.), the Windward Islands (Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, the Grenadines, Tobago, etc.), and Trinidad (1797); British Guiana (1814); and the Falkland Islands (organized 1833) and South Georgia.
The British Empire in Australasia includes Australia (explored and settled from the latter part of the 18th century onward); Tasmania (settled by Englishmen in 1803), New Zealand (begun to be colonized in 1839), a portion of New Guinea (1884); the Fiji Islands (1874); and many small islands in the Pacific. The British Empire rules or controls nearly one-fifth of the land surface of the globe, and more than one-fourth of the world's population. Its territories cover 11,000,000 square miles, and its people number 400,000,000.
Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912. (Note: The second through sixth paragraphs were originally one long paragraph. It has been broken into smaller paragraphs for readability.)