History of British Empire : this a most searched topic at Google now days. Every one wants to know about British Empire, how this empire rise, their achievements and fall of British Empire. Today we will discuss all about this Greatest Empire. 

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Content Titles

  • The History of the British Empire and the Countries It Ruled
  • Origins of the British Empire
  • Top of the British Empire
  • Conflict and Arguments
  • World Wars and the Fall of the British Empire
  • The British Empire Today

The British Empire was the largest empire in world history . And there's a reason this empire is called "The Empire Where the Sun Never Sets".

Dominating 23% of the world's population and 24% of all existing lands, this empire covered almost a quarter of the world . This may seem a bit too much for a small island in the corner of Europe.

But during the history lesson , it's time to learn what the notorious British Empire is, how it came to be, how it fell, and how it changed the world we live in. If you want to learn more about British history and get to know the British Empire better, you are in the right place!

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The History of the British Empire and the Countries It Ruled :

Historians generally divide the British Empire into two: the First British Empire and the Second British Empire.

The first covers the history from the first colonies in the "New World" in the early 16th century to the loss of a colonial territory by the United States in 1783. In the second we see Britain focusing more on the Pacific and gaining territory in India, Australia and New Zealand. During this period, Britain also owned large lands in Africa.

But it all ended in the 20th century. Some historians say it was caused by the Second World War, which led to the independence movements in the empire . Others think that the empire ended in 1997 with the return of Hong Kong to China.

Origins of the British Empire :

Government activities in Britain began in the late 16th century, when the Spaniards and Portuguese began explorations in the New World and gained prestige and wealth from these discoveries. Other important powers in Europe—including France, the Netherlands, and England—wanted to take part in these expeditions.

For example, Elizabeth in England made explorations in the Americas and continued naval wars with the Spaniards. Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake got into the piracy business, plundering the spoils of Spanish expeditions and trying to establish their own colonies.

In the last years of Elizabeth's reign, in 1601, Britain conquered Ireland after many attempts. This started the process of relocating Protestant English and Scots to the Catholic island.

Early in the reign of James I, the Kingdom of England signed a treaty with Spain. Thus, Britain would not attack its Iberian rivals and would establish colonies in North America and the Caribbean. 

After the colonies were established, the British banned the entry and exit of all ships other than their own. With this policy of isolation, the British Kingdom wanted all profits from the land to be kept to itself. However, of course, his opponents were not satisfied with this situation. The British then lost the naval wars with the Netherlands, and thus their absolute dominance began to come to an end. The English captured part of Dutch territory, including New York, in their war with the Netherlands in 1665 . However, in the Great Revolution of 1688, the two countries signed an armistice.

In 1757, Britain  took control of their most valuable territory, India.

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Top of the British Empire :

The British Empire reached its peak between 1815 and 1914. This century is called the "British Century". The British Empire saw the widest borders. This was the period after America's independence. But Britain still had more land than ever before. Because this independence led to the British advance into the Pacific and East Asia.

As we have seen in the Mongol and Roman Empires, the Pax Britannica, or British Peace, came into existence due to the dominant domination of the British. This, in turn, characterized peace between Britain's lands. Trade flourished as the empire gained territory.

Navy :

Unlike other great empires such as the Russian Empire, the Mongol Empire, and the Qing Dynasty , the oceans made the British Empire's job easier . The British Navy was the largest ever, and with its conquests, it gave the empire plenty of land. This is where the famous song "Britannia Rules the Waves" comes from.

Trade :

The vast majority of the colonies were of great importance to England in terms of their resources, industries and manpower. Some colonies were also established to facilitate global trade routes . In fact, most commercial establishments were at the forefront of the driving forces of imperialism.

For example, the Cape Company fought the Dutch in South Africa, while the East India Company established a colony in India with the aid of the navy. Because the "Cape" served as a stop on the way from the Pacific to the Atlantic. A prime example of the intersection of private trade and government power was Cecil Rhodes, a businessman, miner, and diamond merchant, who became the prime minister of South Africa and after whom Rhodes was named.

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Industrial Revolution :

With industrial developments throughout the 19th century, England became the "workshop of the world". Its trade dominated the whole world, and its products spread everywhere. Because the cost of these products was fast and cheap. Distribution was also easy thanks to the British Navy and the industrial revolution in the country.

The wealth and resources that made this development possible came mainly from the colonies, such as the Indian textile industry . 

Conflict and Arguments :

The form of government of the British Empire was not well received by both the indigenous people living in these lands and the colonialists within its borders . Slavery was perhaps the most controversial issue.

American Revolutionary War :

The American War of Independence (1775-1783) was an indication that the discontent of the colonies was a major problem for the empire . At the end of this war, the Thirteen Colonies, which were last named USA, managed to become independent from England. During the war, these colonies allied with France, who wanted to protect their possessions in the region and disrupt British rule.

It was taxes that triggered the revolution. Colonies were supposed to pay taxes to England but were not represented in parliament. At this point, the problem was democracy.

Slavery and Racism :

Where the native population was not destroyed by the colonists, as in India, the British Kingdom used the upper classes to maintain control.

But the biggest display of the empire's racism was the Royal African Company. This company was founded in 1672 to transport slaves from Africa to the Caribbean. The company transported about 3.5 million slaves across the Atlantic by 1807, mainly to work in the fields .

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World Wars and the Fall of the British Empire :

World Wars :

Eventually, like all empires, the British Empire began to decline in the 20th century. Britain, which won both world wars, was greatly weakened and ran into financial troubles. With the rise of Germany and the Ottoman Empire's war with the Russian Empire, World War I had become an imperialist war.

World War II was a real world war. Imperialist countries expected support from the colonies. II. During World War II, Japan occupied British territory in the far east and showed that its dominance over the British Empire was not absolute . The Japanese also spread anti-British sentiments in British-controlled territory.

Independence Movements and Colonialism :

With the weakening of the British government after the two wars and the spread of nationalism around the world , troubles began to arise both at home and abroad in the 20th century.

After a major and peaceful rebellion led by the nationalist Mahatma Gandhi, in 1947 the government of Clement Attlee signed the independence of India. The loss of Britain's largest territory also led to independence movements that would last for 20 years.

The British withdrew from Palestine in 1948, following Jewish demands for independence, and the state of Israel was established shortly thereafter. Later in 1956, when the United States refused to help, it was seen that Britain was no longer in power in the Suez crisis, which ended in embarrassment .

Britain did not want to experience what the French went through in African Algeria, that is, to engage in a long and brutal war of independence. Britain put an end to colonialism peacefully and in the 60's gave independence to nearly zero African regions. Only Rhodes (until the 80s) remained part of the empire on the condition of self-government.

The end of the British Empire is considered the year 1997, when Britain gave Hong Kong back to China.

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The British Empire Today :

A Controversial Legacy :

Britain's government history is somewhat controversial these days. Some proudly commemorate the past, while others identify it with issues of racism and the dominance of different ethnic and political identities.

In colonialism, racism was used as an excuse to justify the plundering and control of resources. Critics point out that Britain made its fortune by impoverishing other countries .

If we look at the fact that many people speak English today, we can see the importance of the British Empire in the world. The Commonwealth of Nations is another legacy of this empire. This community consists of 53 states that were formerly British colonies.

Read our other articles to learn more about the great empires in history . In this way, you can improve your knowledge of history and connect with current events.