British Empire

British Empire

The British Empire was the collective name for the land, countries, kingdoms, dominions, colonies and dependencies controlled by the British Government. At its height, it was the largest official realm in the world comprising approximately one quarter of the earth's surface, with territories in every continent and a population of between 400 and 500 million people.

Britain's overseas Empire took shape in the 17th century as a result of the country's great commercial, financial and maritime power. More territories were added throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Empire reached its largest size around 1920. It was made up of the Dominions, the self-governing 'white' nations - Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa, and the colonies ruled directly from London. These included Ireland (until 1922) Kenya, Nigeria and other African states, India, Burma, Singapore, British Guyana and the West Indies. Egypt and Sudan were ruled as 'protectorates' (although Egypt got nominal independence in 1922 the British militarily presence was maintained because of the strategic importance to Britain of the Suez Canal.)

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