Former Colonies of the British Empire

MatthewA By MatthewA, 10th Nov 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

The British Empire was the largest of empires, which remained as such until the postwar decolonisation in the 1940s. The empire was prevalent in most continents, bar South America where Britain never really established any territories. However, elsewhere Britain established a number of colonies in Africa, the Pacific, Asia and North America. These are a few of the most notable colonies of the British Empire.


America, today the USA, was a former territory of Britain's empire. More specifically, this applied to the 13 eastern states of the USA. Britain established colonies in America during the 17th century. It remained an imperial presence in the USA into the 18th century until the Americans declared independence after winning the American War of Independence.


Canada emerged as a colony of Britain's empire during the 17th century. As such, it was among the first of Britain's colonies to emerge and Canada would remain a part of the British Empire until the postwar era in the 1940s.


The jewel in the crown of Britain's empire, India provided rich pickings for the British colonialists as a vital trading link in Asia. India remained a British colony into the 20th century until independence movements by the likes of Gandhi emerged. As such, in 1947 India broke from the British Empire.


Australia was a large colony of the empire, and supported Britain in defensive matters during conflicts in the 20th century. Most notably at Gallipoli and in the Pacific War. Australia remained a part of the empire longer than most up until 1988. However, the Queen remains head of state.

East Africa

In eastern Africa Britain's colonies included Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Somaliland. Of these, Somaliland was the largest colony and became independent in 1956.

West Africa

The largest colonies in West Africa included Nigeria and Cameroon. The Gold Coast, now modern-day Ghana, was also a notable trading territory.


In the Near East, Iraq was a part of Britain's empire that was a link with India. Britain established air-bases in Iraq during the 20th century. Only as India gained independence would Iraq follow in the 1950s, although the discovery of oil fields made Britain reluctant to withdraw.

Other Colonies

Aside from these colonies, Britain had a number of further colonies such as Aden, Oman, Cyprus, Kuwait, New Guinea, New Zealand, Jamaica and the Bahamas in the Caribbean. Hong Kong was one of the more recent colonies to emerge independent in the 1990s.

The empire was at its peak in 1919 after Britain gained a number of additional territories as League of Nations mandates such as Palestine. Today, only 14 small colonies of the former empire remain as British overseas territories such as the Falklands.


Britain, British Empire, Colony

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

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