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.)

Network of colonies owned by the United Kingdom of Great Britain through much of the Industrial Revolution. These colonies came to be under the control of Britain mainly through trade or conquest, and the empire helped give Britain enormous economic growth, facilitating the export of British technology all around the world. Other upshots of this include the spread of the English language and, in the present day, much strife in former colonies.

Originally, the British implemented colonies in North America and the Caribbean, and also Australia: the colonies in America were later lost during the American War of Independence. The empire as we know it was brought about through the introduction of free trade throughout Britain, which ended with the repealing of many trade laws. The British East India Company, through an elaborate trade network, essentially controlled a large stretch of the East Indies, most notably India and Ceylon. Eventually, control of these areas was transferred to the British Crown, leading to the establishment of these areas as colonies. Oddly, despite the Empires formation through free trade, Britain wished to have a large protectionist empire to ward off potential rivals.

During the 1880s, Britain and many other European countries took part in the Scramble for Africa in which many African countries, notably Zimbabwe and South Africa, became colonies of the Empire.

After the First World War, Britain continued its expansion into the Middle East, with Palestine, Iraq and Kuwait added to the Empire. However, after the Second World War, many colonies began to cry for independence. Britain's idiotic policy on seperating countries before giving them their independence has led to much of the turmoil in the Middle East and India we have today:

  • On gaining independence in 1947, the Indian subcontinent was split into a secular state (India) and a smaller Muslim state (Pakistan), with some autonomous regions such as Kashmir-dispute over the ownership of Kashmir has led to the political problems we have today in the region. Burma and Ceylon seceded from the Empire soon after this occurred.
  • The Palestinian state was a British colony, and the Holocaust and Zionist beliefs of some Jews led to mass emigration to what many saw as their spiritual homeland. The proportion of Jews in Palestine rose dramatically from 11% to 30%. After some violent terrorist atrocities in the area, the British pulled out in 1947, leaving the UN to split the area into the two states of Palestine and Israel we have today. The Israeli army immediately annexed 26% of Palestinian land, leading to today's struggle.
  • Despite proclaiming independence in 1965, Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) remained a colony until the 80s, when the dictator Robert Mugabe was installed, contributing to severe economic decline.


The last of the British Empire was divested to China in the form of Hong Kong in 1997. Certain colonies still exist, such as the Pitcairn Island, but most of these are either held under international treaty or so small nobody really cares.

Influence on Modern Culture
The actions of the empire led to a mass influx of immigrants, mostly from Asia. This, combined with the Crown's willingness to justify their invasion of random countries by saying that they were civilising savages, created a large amount of racism in the United Kingdom and helped precipitate some of the immigration problems we see today, both directly and indirectly through poor handling of the Middle East.

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