British Empire/Addendum

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This addendum is a continuation of the article British Empire.

Constitutional terminology

Early colonies

Many of the early colonies were first claimed by privately-financed explorers and "merchant venturers" but their claims were always made in the name of the British Crown, and some were granted royal charters, awarding them exclusive rights of exploitation. Some, such as the East India Company created their own systems of governance and maintained their own armies, but responsibility for their governance was eventually taken over by the Crown.

Crown Colonies

Crown Colonies were colonies that were controlled by the British Crown, represented by a Governor who was usually supported by an advisory or legislative council which was legally subordinate to the Crown. They were renamed British Dependent Territories in the British Nationality Act 1981 and Overseas Territories in the British Overseas Territories Act 2002.

Protected States and Protectorates

Protected States were places which had a properly organised internal government and Britain controlled only the state's external affairs, and Protectorates were places which had no properly organised internal government and Britain controlled their external affairs and established an internal administration. Protectorates have included Bechuanaland, Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Northern Rhodesia, Northern Territories of the Gold Coast, Nyasaland, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.


The Dominions were self-governing colonies. The term "Dominion status" was applied first to Canada and subsequently to Australia , New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland. In 1926, the 6th Imperial Conference[1] established the Dominions as equal communities within the British Commonwealth, with a common allegiance to the Crown. That definition was incorporated into British law in 1931 as the Statute of Westminster[2].

Mandated and Trust Territories

A mandated territory was a territory administered on behalf of the League of Nations by Britain or one of the Dominions under the terms of a League of Nations mandate, and a trust territory was territory administered on behalf of the League of Nations by Britain or one of the Dominions under the terms of a League of Nations trust.[3]. Mandated territories have included Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq. Trust territories have included Tanganyika, Camaroons and Togoland.

Countries of the Empire

Dates of independence are shown thus [1963]
Protectorates are shown thus (P)
The lists on this page are not necessarily exhaustive.



In 1155 the Pope granted Henry II of England, authority over Ireland. Sporadic armed conflict between the two countries thereafter culminated in the 1601 defeat and surrender of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, after which the Irish were deemed to owe formal allegiance to the English Crown. The ensuing civil conflict was aggravated by the unwelcome settlement of Scottish Protestants in the northern part of what was a predominantly Catholic country. During the following two centuries, opposition to British rule was violently suppressed, but there was no abatement of the Irish struggle for independence, and in the 19th century serious parliamentary consideration came to be given to what was termed "Irish Home Rule". After the bloody suppression of the 1916 Easter Rising, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was concluded in 1921, followed by the creation of the Irish Free State as a British Dominion. The constitutional link with Britain was finally severed in 1949 at the time of the London Declaration with the creation of the independent Republic of Ireland.

The Mediterranean islands

Gibraltar was seized by Sir George Rooke in 1703, became a British colony in 1707 as confirmed by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Malta [1964] was acquired from France by Nelson in 1799, and colonial rule was established there in 1836. Cyprus [1960] was taken from the Ottoman Empire in 1878.


The Thirteen Colonies

Britain's North American colonies were founded in the name of the Crown. and had Governors appointed by the Crown; but they were the product of initiatives by private companies and individuals, not the Crown; and the motives for their establishment were economic and religious, not imperialist. They were subject in principle to British law and to British parliamentary legislation, but each had its own legislature and each was free to levy its own taxes. For over 150 years, the only significant interventions in their affairs by British governments were the imposition of mercantilist restrictions on their overseas trade, and the engagement of the British Army in conflicts with their French and native American neighbours. In the latter half of the 18th century, however, the British Parliament passed and repealed a number of Bills intended to raise revenue from the colonies, culminating in the imposition - in the face of furious opposition - of a tax on legal transactions. Violent opposition to British taxation resulted finally in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the defeat of the British army in the American War of Independence, and effective British recognition of an independent United States of America by the Treaty of Paris.


A British colony was established in Newfoundland towards the end of the 16th century and much of the remainder of what is now Canada was settled by British and French immigrants in the course of the 17th century. The Treaty of Paris of 1763 ceded the French colonies to Britain, with the exception of the small islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. In 1867 the British North American Act conferred Dominion status on Canada as part of the British Commonwealth.

The West Indies

Britain's Caribbean colonies had a major influence upon the British economy for over a century. During that period their exports and imports accounted for an important part of Britain's international trade, and the profits from their enterprises made their British owners rich, and helped pay for the investments that powered Britain's industrial revolution. About thirty Caribbean island colonies were acquired by conquest from their French and Spanish occupiers, including Barbados[1966] in 1627, Anguila in 1650 and Jamaica[1962] in 1655. Early British settlers were mainly subsistence farmers, but that activity gave way to the intensive farming and refinement of sugar. The sugar plantations came to be manned by imported African slaves and managed for their owners by hired overseers. Other Caribbean acquisitions included Antigua[1981] and Barbuda [1981] in 1632, The Bahamas[1973] in 1629, British Virgin Islands in 1666, Cayman Islands in 1670, Dominica [1978]in 1805 , Grenada [1974] in 1763, Montserrat in 1783, Saint Kitts and Nevis in 1783, Saint Lucia [1979] in 1763, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines [1979] in 1783, Trinidad and Tobago [1962] in 1797, and the Turks and Caicos Islands [1973] in 1766.

Central and South America

British Honduras[1981] (now Belize) was settled from Jamaica in 1640 and claimed by Britain in 1821. British Guiana[1966] was captured from the Dutch in 1814, The Falkland Islands (OT) were claimed for Britain in 1690, were occupied by British settlers in 1766 and were formally made a British colony in 1843.



In the 17th century, England's East India Company maintained trading posts in India's immensely prosperous Mughal empire with the permission of its Emperor. In the 18th century, when the Mughal empire was in decline, the Company's army fought and won battles for the control of the Indian market, and it subsequently gained effective control of most of India. Following the Rebellion of 1857-58, the British government abolished both the Mughal Dynasty and the East India Company and control of India became the responsibility of a government-appointed Governor-General. Reforms were instituted, Indians were recruited to the colony's civil service, and peaceful rule was largely maintained until the granting of independence in 1947.

Pakistan and Bangladesh

Pakistan was founded amidst considerable violence and bloodshed in 1947 with the partition of India on independence as a separate state for the Muslim minority. War between its eastern and western sectors in 1971 led to the foundation in East Pakistan of Bangladesh as an independent state. Bangladesh became a member of the Commonwealth in 1972.

Other Asian countries

The British colony of Singapore [1965] was established on behalf of the British East India Company by Stamford Raffles in 1819 in a region previously dominated by the Dutch East India Company. In 1824 The Anglo-Dutch Treaty withdrew Dutch objections to British occupation of Singapore, and assigned Malacca and its dependencies to Britain, and in 1896 The Federated Malay States [1957] the states of Perak, Selangor and Sungei Ujong were taken under British Protection under the terms of treaties with their rulers[4]. Burma[1948] (now Myanmar) was annexed as a province of India in 1886. Hong Kong was ceded to Britain as a result of the Opium Wars by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842. Fiji was ceded to Britain at the request of its King in 1874. Papua New Guinea[1975] was annexed by Queensland in 1883 and became a British protectorate called British New Guinea. It passed to Australia in 1905 as the Territory of Papua.

The Antipodes


Australia was claimed for the British crown by Captain James Cook in 1770. One penal colony was established at what was then Port Jackson (and is now Sydney) in 1788, and another was established in what as then Van Diemen's Land (and is now Tasmania) in 1803. Free settlers began to arrive in the colony from the 1790s, and wheat and merino sheep were also introduced in the late 18th century. Self-government was largely granted in 1850 by the passage of the Australian Colonies Government Act, which enabled the Australian colonies to amend their constitutions, determine electoral franchise and fix tariffs. The six British colonies on the continent federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, which was then granted Dominion status.

New Zealand

New Zealand was claimed for the British Crown by James Cook in 1769. By 1840 a small British establishment had been established there, and the the Chiefs of the majority Maori population signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 as a partnership with the British Crown,establishing New Zealand as a Crown Colony. New Zealand became a Dominion in 1907.


South Africa

For most of the 17th and 18th centuries, South Africa's settlements were a Dutch possession, but Britain seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1797 and the Cape Colony in 1805. In 1826, some thousands of Dutch ("Afrikaner"} settlers undertook a mass migration ("Great Trek") from the Cape Colony to the coastal strip of land to its East, where they established the "Natalia Republic". Britain annexed it as the Colony of Natal, however, and the Afrikaners moved on into the Cape's interior hinterland where they established the South African Republic (also known as the Transvaal), and the Orange Free State. After the defeat of the Afrikaners in frontier conflicts that came to be known as the "Boer War", sovereignty over all of the South African republics was ceded to Britain by the provisions of the Treaty of Vereeniging. The four provinces were united in 1910 to form the British Dominion of the Union of South Africa, and the country’s independence was formally recognised under the Statute of Westminster in 1931. Racial strife between the white minority and the black majority played a large part in the country's history and politics, culminating in apartheid, an official policy of 'separate development', which was instituted in 1948, and because of which South Africa was forced to withdraw from the Commonwealth. In 1994 the country's first multiracial election resulted in the formation of a government of national unity under the Presidency of Nelson Mandela, the ending of Apartheid and South Africa's readmittance to the Commonwealth.

Other African countries

Egypt, although nominally part of the Ottoman Empire, came under de facto British control in 1882 after the British army had been used to crush an armed rebellion against its ruler. When the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War on the German side in 1914, Britain declared Eqypt to be its protectorate. After a rebellion in 1919, the protectorate was ended and Egypt became an independent monarchy. The British army remained in Egypt until 1936, after which its presence was confined to a base in the Suez canal zone. After serving as a base for its North African campaign in World War II, British troops were withdrawn from the canal zone in 1954. Egypt's nationalisation of the Suez Canal in the following year was followed by a brief and abortive British invasion in 1956. Sudan became an Anglo-Egyptian condominion in 1899 and remained under de facto British control until 1956.

Until the 19th century, Britain's interests elsewhere in Africa were confined to the maintenance of trading posts in West Africa, at which its exports could be exchanged for slaves, but in the course of the European "scramble for Africa"[5] during the last quarter of the 19th century, Britain occupied or annexed Kenya [1963] (P), Uganda [1973] (P), British Somaliland, Southern and Northern Rhodesia [1964] (P) (now Zimbabwe and Zambia), Bechuanaland (P)(now Botswana), Orange Free State and the Transvaal , Gambia [1965] (P), Sierra Leone [1961] (P), Nigeria (P), British Gold Coast [1957] (P) (nowGhana) and Nyasaland (P)(now Malawi). Tanganyika [1961] (now Tanzania), which had been part of German East Africa, was assigned to Britain by the peace treaty that followed WW1. The Cameroons[1961] were mandated to the UK in 1920.

Other British Overseas Territories

Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, St Helena and St Helena Dependencies (Ascension and Tristan da Cunha), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia.



  1. The 6th Imperial Conference,
  2. [Statute of Westminster
  3. Mandated and Trust Territories, UK Home Office 2011
  4. Straits Settlements, The Map Room
  5. Africa and Europe, BBC World Service
  6. Robinson (1922) p 49
  7. Robinson (1922) p 89
  8. Robinson (1922) p 129
  9. Robinson (1922) p 195
  10. Robinson (1922) p 265
  11. Robinson (1922) p 292
  12. Robinson (1922) p 325
  13. Robinson (1922) p 345