The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom, that had originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It is the largest empire in history and, for over a century, is still the foremost global power.
The British Empire includes over 2.229 billion people, which is almost a third of the world's population.
The British Empire is composed of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Dominions, the Indian Empire (British Raj), Crown Colonies, and Protectorates. All have different governing arrangements and different relationships with the United Kingdom. They are all however under the soverignty of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Empress of India. The British Cabinet has four posts directly related to the day-to-day administration of the Empire:
- Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (certain protectorates)
- Secretary of State for India
- Secretary of State for the Colonies
- Secretary of State for the Dominions
see main article Government of the UK
The UK is governed by its Parliament (consisting of the Queen, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons). Its laws are carried out by the civil service.
The Dominions are "autonomous Communities within the British Empire," and essentially equal to the United Kingdom in most matters. The Dominions have a separate crown with the same Queen (i.e. Elizabeth II is separately the Queen of the United Kingdom, and the Queen of Australia). A colony (or federation of colonies) can become a dominion if it achieves 'responsible government'. They must be peaceful, have a parliamentary government (of their own creation), financially independent of the UK, capable of defending themselves. For this reason, only Eire and the former-settler colonies of Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand have achieved dominion status.
The Indian Empire, consisting of 8 provinces, and 5 minor provinces is the largest and most prosperous part of the British Empire. Within those provinces, there are approximately 565 Princly States. The Indian Empire is under the control of the Secretary of State for India, and the India Council (which advises the India Secretary). Ordinarily the Secretary must consult the Council, but in emergencies, he can rule unilaterally. The Council is composed of twenty people, five British and fifteen Indians (currently). The Viceroy and Governor-General of India is both the Queen's representative to the princly states and the head of the administration in India. He governs through the Executive Council of India, and the Imperial Legislative Assembly. These bodies advise the Viceroy in executive and legislative matters respectively.
Crown colonies are ruled by a governor appointed by the Queen. They have varying degrees of autonomy ranging from direct administration by the governor to full self-government in which the role of the Governor is largely ceremonial.
Protectorates have indigenous governments, and wide autonomy in internal affairs. All protectorates differ in the treaties that establish them. In all cases, foreign affairs are under British control, and defence forces, while often locally raised, are under British command.
The British Empire, in economic terms, is the world's largest free trading bloc. Within the Empire, there has been essentially free trade for over ten years. The British Empire is the world's largest economy (to the extent that it can be called a single economy). Within the Empire can be found virutally every commodity used in the world today. Most of the British Empire operates in a single currency zone of the Pound Sterling, and currencies pegged to it (i.e. the British Indian Rupee is pegged to the Pound Sterling at the rate of 15 rupees to the pound.
The British Empire's defence rests primarily on the Royal Navy. Its forces of super carriers, battleships and nuclear missile armed submarines are the sword and shield of the Empire. The Empire's military forces consist of the British Armed Forces, the Armed Forces of the Dominions, the Imperial Indian Armed Forces, the locally-raised forces of the colonies. British forces are deployed throughout the Empire.
The commander in chief of all the British Empire's armed forces is Her Majesty the Queen. Day to day control is vested in the Prime Minister, and the Defence Secretary. The colonial forces are controlled by the Colonial Secretary. Indian forces are controlled by the India Secretary. Dominion forces are controlled by their own Ministers of Defence. In time of war, Dominion forces usually fall under the command of Britain under an Imperial War Cabinet.
Equipment between the armed forces of the Empire is common across all of the Empire. There is rarely local difference. Occasionally, the equipment in question might not even be British. The Indian HAL Dhruv is being adopted by the British Army and Royal Marines as a utility/scout helicopter.
The defence of most colonies rests of local forces and some permanent British forces. This is backed up by reinforcements from the UK. It is believed that in the development of a crisis, the opportunity will exist to introduce British and Dominion forces to a theatre.
The most common ethnicity in the British Empire is Indian. Approximately 85 million of the Empire's inhabitants are Europeans, mostly Anglo-Celtic. European minorities include Afrikaners, Greeks, and Italians. The second most common demographic group are Black Africans. Europeans and Indians are spread throughout the African part of the Empire, and Indians are increasingly common in the Dominions and the UK. Few of the Empire's subjects are Arabs (though the protectorates do contain a high proportion of Arab people).
The British Empire includes virtually every religion practiced on Earth. The most common include Hinduism, Islam, and Protestant Christianity. Anglicanism is particularly common in the Pacific islands. Hinduism and Islam are the most common religions in India.
The British Empire has a large number of languages, however the Empire's commerce and administration are in English, and larger numbers of the Empire's subjects are English speaking. English proficiency (outside the UK and the Dominions) is highest among Indian Hindus. African colonies and protectorates are becoming increasingly English-speaking as they become more urbanised and industrialised.
The Union Flag is not only the flag of the United Kingdom, it is the flag of the Empire. As such, it has precedence over all Colonial and Protectorate flags, but is equal to Dominion flags (but together the Union Flag has precedence). It is incorporated into most British Empire flag designs. It is normally in the canton, however South Africa has a Union Flag in the middle of its flag. Eire and Gibraltar do not use the Union Jack.
Commonwealth of Australia
Irish Free State
Dominion of New Zealand
Union of South Africa
Indian Empire FlagEdit
Flag of the Indian Empire
Crown Colony FlagsEdit
Colony of Aden
British Antarctic Territory
Colony of Barbados
Gillbert and Ellice Islands
Colony of Gold Coast
British Indian Ocean Territory
Colony of Kenya
Colony of Nigeria
Crown Colony of Singapore
Colony of the Solomon Islands
Suez Canal Zone
Turks and Caicos Islands
Colony of Tuvalu
British Windward Islands
Protectorate of Brunei Darussalam
Federated Malay States
Muscat and Oman