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Referat: The British Empire and the Commonwealth

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The British Empire and the Commonwealth

  • Spain, England, portugal, France, Holland struggeled in the 16th century. England was the last that join the colonial powers but became the most important.
  • The British Empire was the largest colonial empire in history it´s peak (at the beginning of the 20th century) comprised 1/5 og the land surface and 1/4 of the world´s population.
  • British colonialism from the 16th to the 19th century basically pursued economic interests
  • Its aim was economy independence
  • The Empire proceeded in it´s making 3 stages: dicovery -> trading posts -> settlements.
  • The most important trading companies: East India Company, 1600; Lodon (Virginia) Company, 1606.
  • Emigration from Britain was because of religious struggle -> "refuge in the New World” e.g. May Flower, 1620

  • The First British Empire (1607-1776)

    · In the West Indies -> Jamaica, the Bahamas, the Bermudas, Canada -> Newfoundland, the Hudson Bay territory, Nova Scotia, India -> Bengal, Europe -> Gibraltar

    · Britain conquered Colonies in wars with France (Canada and India) and Spain (the West Indies and Gibraltar).

    · The most importants were the North American colonies along the east coast.
    1. The New England Colonies -> territory around Boston, populated by english Protestants
    2. The Middle Colonies -> centred around New York, attracted all kinds of European immigrants with religious and political freedom
    3. The Southern Colonies -> settled my merchants who profited from tobcco and cotton. Agriculture was supported by the introduction of salves. During the English Civil War (1642-46)lots of noblemend fled toVirginia–strong impact on the Southern way to think

    · France lost its Canadian possessions to England during Seven Years´ War, but England was stongly indebted. England wanted to levied taxes e.g. on tea, but the Americans wanted to be represented in Parliament -> The Boston Thea Party against the tax 1773.

    · The War of Independence from 1776 ended 1783 with the Independence with the United States acknowledged by the Treaty of Versailles.

    · After loosing the American Colonies, Britain planed to establish a new Empire (Victorian Empire) to secure the sea route to the existing colonies and India.

    The Second British Empire (the Victorian Empire)

    · In the 19th century the British colonialist policy changed into a policy of imperialism.

    · The important colonies were of the India Singapore 1819, Hong Kong 1841, Malta (1800), Australia (1813), New Zealand (1839), Africa (Nigeria 1873, Suez Canal 1875, Rhodisia 1890, Union of South Africa 1902 )

    · Canada, Australia and New Zealand became Britain´s main colonies of settlement with a European civilisation.

    · In Africa and Asia merchants, administrators and Christian missionaries tried to bring radically civilisation, Western values and the english language to the "backward natives” .

    From Empire to Commonwealth:

    · The decline of the British Empire was a result of a long internal evolution in the colonial territorries

    · The step from being a colony to independent status was in most cases peacefully but in colonies with lots of natives was it often a painful process with conflicts and rebellions.

    · The remains of the British Empire are now called "dependencies”. Many of them are self-governed but Britain is still responsible for defense and foreign affairs. Since 1981 the inhabitants have a "British Dependent Territories Citizenship” (British citizens).

    · 15 dependencies, e.g. Bermudas, British Antarctic Territory, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, St. Helena. Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997.

    · Development of independence in 3 stages:
    1. crown colony (governed by the Colonial Office in London, internal, external)
    2. self-governing co lony ( internal souve r e i gnity, defence /fo rei gn affair s contolled by Britain )
    3. dominion (free nations autonomous, crown often remains Head of State as a symbol)

    · 1. dominions: 1867 Canada, 1900 Australia, 1907 New Zealand, 1910 South Africa , 1922 Ireland

    · Problems of colonisation: dissatisfaction with British rules, growing nationalism, racial tentions. The development towards souvereignity in colonies with a coloured population lagged behind.

    · Large decolonization started only after World War II. Since that time almost all colonies from the British Empire have become independent.

    The Commonwealth:

    · 1914 Britain declared war on Germany for itself and the British Empire
    1919 the dominions signed the peace of Versailles.

    · After Worl War I the Statue of Westminster become the charter of the dominions. It replaced the "Empire” by "the Commonwealth of Nations” -> the complete autonomy of the dominions and the crown as a symbol of the Commonwealth.

    · The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independend colonies which was officially founded with the State of Westminster ( at this time Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand were already self-governing colonies)

    · Important members are: Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, UK and Zimbabwe

    · The principles of the Commonwealth (the Harare Commonwealth Declaration 1991):
    Democracy based on the British parliament system, common language, culture and traditions, economic and sporting links, human rights and social justice
    - the First British Empire (1607-1776)
    - the Second British Empire (the Victorian Empire)
    - from Empire to Commonwealth
    - the Commonwealth (784 Wörter)
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