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British Empire (Cherry, Plum, and Chrysanthemum)

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Flag of the United Kingdom

Union Jack, the symbol of the British Empire

The British Empire was a colonial empire that comprised by the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its peak at the beginning of the 20th century, the British Empire covered about a quarter of the world's land mass and ruled over a quarter of its people, making it the largest empire in history and, for over a century, the foremost global power. As a result, British influence can be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse across the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

History

Its empire-building began during the late 16th century, inspired by the Age of Discovery, when Portugal and Spain conquered vast amounts of land in the Americas. Envious of the great wealth these empires generated, England, France, and the Netherlands, began to establish colonies and trade networks of their own in the Americas and Asia. During a series of wars with the Netherlands and France during the 17th and 18th centuries, Britain gained vast amounts of land in the Americas and India.

The independence of the Thirteen Colonies in North America in 1783 after the American Revolutionary War that created the United States of America caused the British imperial ambition then turned towards Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, particularly to India, created the second British Empire. Following the defeat of French Empire in 1815, Britain enjoyed a century of almost unchallenged dominance and expanded its imperial holdings across the globe. Increasing degrees of autonomy were granted to its white settler colonies, some of which were reclassified as dominions.

With French, Belgian and Portuguese activity in the lower Congo River region undermining orderly incursion of Africa, the Berlin Conference of 1884–85 was held to regulate the competition between the European powers in what was called the "Scramble for Africa" that saw the transition from European imperial hegemony by military influence and economic dominance, to the direct rule of colonies. British gains in southern and East Africa prompted Cecil Rhodes, pioneer of British expansion in Africa, to urge a "Cape to Cairo" railway linking the strategically important Suez Canal to the mineral-rich southern portion of the continent.

By the end of the 19th century, the German Empire and the United States had eroded Britain's economic lead. Subsequent military and economic tensions between the British and the Germans were major causes of World War I, during which Britain relied heavily upon its empire. The conflict placed enormous financial and population strain on Britain, and although the empire achieved its largest territorial extent immediately after the war, it was no longer a peerless industrial or military power. Despite the eventual victory of Britain and its allies in World War II, the British prestige was already damaged and accelerated the decline of the empire. British India, Britain's most valuable and populous possession, achieved independence two years after the end of the war.

After the end of World War II, communal violence on the British colonies in South Asia and a bloody colonial war in Burma catalyzed a large decolonization movement. Britain then granted independence to most of the territories of the Empire. This process ended with the political transfer of Hong Kong to China in 1997. The 14 British Overseas Territories remain under British sovereignty. After independence, many former British colonies joined the Commonwealth Confederation, a free association of independent states. Sixteen Commonwealth nations share their head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, as Commonwealth realms.

Imperial dominions, protectorates and possessions

Europe

  • Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors) Minorca (1708-57; 1763-82, 1798-1802) → ceded to the Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931) Kingdom of Spain (1757, 1782, 1802)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom Malta Protectorate (1800-13) → Flag of Malta (1943-1964) Crown Colony of Malta (1813-1964) → gained independence as the Commonwealth realm of Flag of Malta Malta (1964)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom Ireland within the Union (1801-1921) → gained independence as Flag of Ireland Irish Free State (1921-37) → southern Ireland became the Flag of Ireland Republic of Ireland (1937) & Flag of the United Kingdom Northern Ireland remained on the Union (1922)
  • Flag of British Heligoland Heligoland (1807-90) → ceded to the Flag of the German Empire German Empire (1890)
  • Flag of the United States of the Ionian Islands United States of the Ionian Islands (1809-64) → united into the Flag of Greece (1822-1978) Kingdom of Greece (1864)
  • Flag of Corsica Second Corsican Republic (1815-48) → relinquished its protectorate status from the British (1848)
  • Blue Ensign of Cyprus (1922) Crown Colony of Cyprus (1878-1960) → gained independence as the Flag of Cyprus Republic of Cyprus (1960)

Northern America

Southern America

  • Flag of England Saint Andrew and Providence Islands (1670-88) → ceded to the Flag of Cross of Burgundy Spanish Empire (1688)
  • Flag of British Guiana British Guiana (1814-1966) → gained independence as the Commonwealth realm of Flag of Guyana Guyana (1966)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom British South America (1821-1920) → gained self-governing right as the Flag of the Falkland Islands Dominion of Patagonia (1920-41) → gained independence as the Commonwealth realm of Flag of the Falkland Islands Patagonia (1941)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (1908-1981) → became one of the British Dependent Territories (1981)

Africa

  • Flag of the United Kingdom Saint Helena (1658-1981) → became one of the British Dependent Territories (1981)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom British West Africa (1792-1965) → two colonies and two mandates gained independence as the Flag of Ghana Union of West Africa (1957) → Flag of Sierra Leone Sierra Leone gained independence as the Commonwealth realm (1961) → Flag of The Gambia the Gambia gained independence as the Commonwealth realm (1965)
  • Cape Colony flag British Cape Colony (1795-1803; 1814-1910) → handed to the Flag of the Batavian Republic Batavian Republic (1803-14) → united into the South Africa Flag 1910-1912 Union of South Africa (1910)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom Ascension Island (1815-1981) → became one of the British Dependent Territories (1981)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom Tristan Da Cunha (1816-1981) → became one of the British Dependent Territories (1981)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom Colony of Madeira (1807-08) → ceded back to the Flag Portugal (1707) Kingdom of Portugal (1808)
  • Flag of Mauritius 1923 British Mauritius (1810-1968) → gained independence as the Commonwealth realm of Flag of Mauritius Mauritius (1968)
  • BlueEnsignNatal Colony of Natal (1856-1910) → united into the South Africa Flag 1910-1912 Union of South Africa (1910)
  • Unofficial Basutoland Ensign Territory of Basutoland (1868-1966) → gained independence as the Flag of Lesotho Kingdom of Lesotho (1966)
  • Flag of Transvaal South African Republic (1877-1881) → gained independence (1881-1902) → annexed by the British as the Transvaal Colony Flag Transvaal Colony (1902-1910) → united into the South Africa Flag 1910-1912 Union of South Africa (1910)
  • Flag of Egypt (1882-1922) Sultanate of Egypt (1882-1922) → gained independence as the Flag of Egypt (1922–1958) Kingdom of Egypt (1922)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom Bechuanaland Protectorate (1885-1966) → gained independence as the Flag of Botswana Republic of Botswana (1966)
  • Somaliland Brit British Somaliland (1884-1960) → gained independence as the Flag of Somalia State of Somaliland (1960)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom Zulu Kingdom (1887-1897) → absorbed into the BlueEnsignNatal Colony of Natal (1897)
  • Flag of the Uganda Protectorate Uganda Protectorate (1894-1962) → gained independence as the Flag of Uganda 1962 Republic of Uganda (1962)
  • Flag of the Sultanate of Zanzibar (1963) Sultanate of Zanzibar (1890-1963) → relinquished its protectorate status from the British (1963)
  • Flag of British Central Africa Protectorate British Central Africa Protectorate (1893-1907) → renamed as the Flag of Nyasaland (1919-1964) Nyasaland Protectorate (1907-1953) → incorporated into the Flag of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (1953-1963) → Flag of Nyasaland (1919-1964) seceded from the Federation (1963) → gained independence as the Flag of Malawi Republic of Malawi (1964)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom Swaziland Protectorate (1893-1968) → gained independence as the Flag of Swaziland Kingdom of Swaziland (1968)
  • Flag of British East Africa East Africa Protectorate (1895-1920) → became the Flag of British East Africa Colony and Protectorate of Kenya (1920-1963) → gained independence as the Commonwealth realm of Flag of Kenya Kenya (1963)
  • Flag of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan Anglo Egyptian Sudan (1899-1956) → gained independence as the Flag of Sudan (1956-1970) Republic of Sudan (1956)
  • Flag of Orange River Colony Orange River Colony (1902-1910) → united into the South Africa Flag 1910-1912 Union of South Africa (1910)
  • South Africa Flag 1910-1912 Union of South Africa (1910-1931) → Flag of South Africa 1928-1994 South Africa gained independence as the Commonwealth realm (1931)
  • Flag of South Africa 1928-1994 South-West Africa (1915-1931) → the authority was transferred to South Africa (1931)

Asia

  • Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors) British Bencoolen (1685-1824) → handed to the Flag of the Netherlands Netherlands (1824)
  • Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors) Côn Đảo (1702-1705)
  • British Raj Flag British India (1757-1947) → the authority of Flag of the United Kingdom Singapore was transferred to Flag of the United Kingdom British Malaya (1867) → Somaliland Brit British Somaliland was made as separate colonies (1898) → Flag of the Colony of Aden Aden Settlement and Flag of British Burma (1937-1948) British Burma were made as separate colonies (1937) → gained independence as the Flag of India Dominion of India and the Flag of Pakistan Dominion of Pakistan (1947)
  • Flag of the British East India Company (1707) Manila and Cavite (1762-1764) → ceded back to the Flag of Cross of Burgundy Spanish Empire (1764)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom British Malaya (1786-1950) → gained self-governing right as the Flag of Malaya (Myomi Republic) Federation of Malaya (1950-1965) → gained independence (1965)
  • British Ceylon flag British Ceylon (1795-1948) → gained independence as the Flag of Ceylon South Ceylon and the Flag of Tamil Eelam (Myomi Republic) North Ceylon (1948)
  • Flag of the Maldives 1953 Maldive Islands Protectorate (1796-1965) → gained independence as the Flag of Maldives Kingdom of the Maldives (1965)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom Banka and Biliton Islands (1812-1824) → handed to the Flag of the Netherlands Netherlands (1824)
  • Flag of the United Kingdom British occupation of Afghanistan (1839-1842) → successfully ousted by the Afghans (1842) → British imposed a protectorate status over Flag of Afghanistan (1901–1919).svg Afghanistan (1879-1919) → relinquished its protectorate status from the British (1919)
  • Flag of Hong Kong 1959 British Hong Kong (1841-1997) → handed over to Flag of China (Myomi Republic) China as a Hong Kong Independence Movement Flag Special Administrative Region (1997)
  • Flag of the Kingdom of Sarawak (1870) Kingdom of Sarawak (1841-1955) → relinquished its protectorate status from the British (1955)
  • Flag of North Borneo British North Borneo (1885-1950) → gained self-governing right as Flag of Sabah (1963-1982) North Borneo (1950-1975) → gained independence (1975)
  • Flag of Brunei Sultanate of Brunei (1888-1984) → relinquished its protectorate status from the British (1984)
  • Flag of Muscat Muscat and Oman (1891-1971) → relinquished its protectorate status from the British and became the Flag of Oman Sultanate of Oman (1984)
  • Flag of the Trucial States Trucial States (1892-1971) → gained independence as the Flag of the United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates (1971)

Antarctica and South Atlantic

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