History of the British Empire
The British Empire arose from the property and commercial centers established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries, so the British Empire consists of colonies, protectorates, states and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom.
Is the largest empire in history. For more than a century, it represented global power. By 1922, the British Empire had taken over 458 million people (one-fifth of the world’s population at that time), with an area of more than 336.7 million km2 (Quarter of total area of land).
As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural heritage has become widespread, and it was named the “sunless empire” and this name is often used to describe the British Empire because of its openness throughout the world.
During the age of discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal and Spain were the pioneers of European exploration in the world and established great empires abroad.
These empires built a great fortune, so England, France, and the Netherlands began to establish colonies and trade networks on their own in the Americas and Asia, but a series of wars of the 17th and 18th centuries took place with the Netherlands and France, England separated, then was united with Scotland in 1707, forming Great Britain, and became the dominant colonial power over North America and India.
The 13 colonies gained independence in North America in 1783 after the American War of Independence, which caused Britain to lose some of its oldest and most densely populated colonies. British interest soon shifted to Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. Britain emerged as a major naval and imperial power in the 19th century, and the British hegemony was later described as Pax Britannica’s “British Peace”, a period of relative peace in Europe and the world between 1815-1914, in which the British Empire became the global hegemony.
In the early 19th century, the Industrial Revolution began in Britain, and during the Great Exposition in 1851, the country was described as the World Workshop.
The British Empire was expanded to include India, large parts of Africa and many other regions around the world, along with the control of its own colonies and the predominance of a large part of world trade, meaning that it effectively controlled the economies of many regions like Asia and Latin America.
During the 20th century, its population increased dramatically, accompanied by rapid urbanization, causing great social and economic pressures, to acquire goods and sources of new raw materials, so the Conservative Party launched a campaign of imperialist expansion in Egypt, South Africa, and others, while Canada, Australia, and New Zealand becoming self-governing.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Germany and the United States were challenging some of Britain’s economic progress, and the subsequent military and economic tensions between Britain and Germany were the main causes of World War I, during which Britain relied heavily on its empire.
This conflict caused enormous pressure on Britain’s military, financial and manpower resources, although the empire acquired the largest amount of land after the First World War, it was no longer the world’s leading industrial or military power.
In World War II, Britain occupied colonies in Southeast Asia from Japan, and despite the final victory of Britain and its allies, but the damage to Britain affected its prestige and accelerated the collapse of its empire in India.
Hong Kong’s independence from the British Empire in 1997 represents for many the end of the British Empire. While 14 of the territories remain under British sovereignty after independence, and many of the former British colonies joined the League of Nations and have the freedom to form independent societies.
The United Kingdom is now one of the 16 Commonwealth countries, and all of them belong to the British Crown.
How big was the British Empire?
The expansion of the British Empire was carried out indiscriminately over the years and has become much more widespread after the domination of the American colonies after the defeat of the French in the Seven Years’ War, but they lost those colonies by the American Revolution.
The victory in the Napoleonic Wars allowed Britain to access the important naval bases, which helped them to conquer the worldwide, and the tremendous expansion in the Victorian era, which also helped to advance the medical, transportation and communications systems.
After World War I, many colonies were added to the British Empire in the form of states, although the empire’s economy began to decline during the interwar years, still could cover between a quarter and a third of the world, covering an area more than one hundred and fifty times Great Britain itself.
During World War II, much of the Empire’s territory was temporarily lost, although Britain was on the winning side, but the Empire did not recover from the geopolitical transformations of World War II and entered a period of decline. India was the first and largest region to be separated, then the various Caribbean and Pacific properties that remained a little longer, while Hong Kong was the last major colony to be lost in 1997.
Christianity, Trade, and Civilization:
Due to the rise of the British Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Protestant side was seen by many within the British Empire as part of a larger battle with the Catholic states of Europe, since the Reformation, religion has not only represented the spiritual difference between the Catholic Church and Protestant churches, But it was part of the cultural and political race, which was far greater than its European rivals.
Portugal, Spain, France and the Catholic states that founded successful business empires before the English and Dutch were also able to do so. Religion became a pretext for commercial, military and political competition, but the success of the British Empire led to the success of Protestant states in challenging Catholic hegemony in the New World and the East Indies.