An Overview of the British Empire

MatthewA By MatthewA, 26th Nov 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

The British Empire was the empire in which the sun never set. An empire established over centuries which was gradually expanded into the world's largest by the 19th, eclipsing the other European empires such as France, Germany, Italy etc. The British Empire remained as such some way into the 20th century until the postwar period.

An Overview of the British Empire

Among the most foremost colonies of the early British Empire was much of the United States. The United States remained a part of the of the British Empire until the late 18th century. However, other British colonies in North America such as Canada and parts of the Caribbean also remained with the empire some way into the 20th Century.
Britain's other most notable colony was probably that of India. This large colony was a vital trading link in Asia. In the postwar period this was also one of the first colonies that Britain withdrew from during the late 1940s.

The British Empire also had notable interests in the Middle East. Although, it was not until the First World War that Britain gained a foothold in the Middle East. The victories of the British Empire in the Middle East ensured the defeat and subsequent collapse of the Ottoman Empire. As such, after this war the Ottoman Empire was dissolved and Britain gained new oil rich colonies. Admittedly, in the early 20th century Persian Gulf oil had not been fully discovered, but nevertheless the Middle East was still a key part of Indian Ocean trade triangle.

Directly adjacent to the Middle East was Egypt. Egypt was a British protectorate that included the Suez Canal which was a vital sea route for British merchant shipping, and later oil supplies. As such, Egypt was strategically vital during the world wars as Ottoman Turkey and then Rommel's Afrika Corps targeted the Suez Canal in North Africa.

During the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th and early 20th century Britain also gained further colonies in Africa. By the early 20th century the British dominated much of East Africa. Along with France, Britain had the largest African empire.

In the Napoleonic and world wars the British Empire ensured that Britain could conscript troops not just from Britain, but also other colonies of the empire to bolster and re-enforce the British army. During the world wars the Canadian, Indian and Australian armies also provided notable military support for Britain in battles with the Ottoman Empire, Germany and the Japanese Empire. As such, Britain won these wars not just with their own military, but with other armies of the empire that were merged with Britain's military command.

However, despite Britain's victory in the WW2 the decline of the empire could not be halted. The above mentioned colonies and territories gradually left the British Empire, alongside other colonies of the remaining European empires. Today, many of the former colonies of the British Empire are a part of the Commonwealth of Nations.


Britain, British Empire, Commonwealth

Meet the author

author avatar MatthewA
Matthew is the author of the book Battles of the Pacific War 1941 - 1945. You can find further details at

Share this page

moderator Steve Kinsman moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


Add a comment
Can't login?