|Empire of Greater Britannia|
Timeline: Emancipation (Map Game)
Impireacht na Britannia Móire
Ìmpireachd Britannia Mhòir
बृहत्तर ब्रिटानिया के साम्राज्य
Empire de Grande-Britannia
Ryk van Groter Britannia
OTL equivalent: British Empire
Dieu et mon droit (French)
God and my right
God Save the Queen
Map of the Empire in 1862.
|Official languages||English • French (in Quebec, Canada) • Hindustani (in India) • Afrikaans (in South Africa)|
|Religion||Anglicanism (official) • Catholicism • Islam • Buddhism • Hinduism • Judaism|
|Government||Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy|
|-||Prime Minister of the United Kingdom||Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston|
|-||Prime Minister of Canada||Vacant|
|-||Prime Minister of Australia||Vacant|
|-||Prime Minister of South Africa||Vacant|
|-||Upper house||House of Lords|
|-||Lower house||House of Commons|
|-||Acts of Union||1 January 1801|
|-||Imperial Reform Act||3 July 1862|
|-||1861|| 12,672,832 km2
4,893,008 sq mi
Britannia, officially the Empire of Greater Britannia was a colonial federation of one Kingdom (the United Kingdom), five Realms (Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and Westralia) and a vast number of smaller colonies. Britannia was constituted as a federalist replacement for the highly centralised British Empire, and was proclaimed by Queen Victoria following the passage of the Imperial Reform Act on 4 July 1862. The Act was designed to grant more autonomy to the colonies in order to, in the words of then-Prime Minister Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, "soothe nationalistic feelings in the colonies, and strengthen Imperial unity at home and British dominance in world affairs." However, this ultimately led to the opposite effect, making independence far easier and more desirable, as all the machinery of government was already present in many Realms at the time of their secession.
Britannia at its peak was the most populous nation on Earth (although it was technically a superstate), with an impressive 176.3 million people living within Imperial borders. Many British subjects resided in India, which was one of the richest Realms in the Empire. Another wealthy Imperial possession included Westralia, which held a great amount of valuable natural resources such as gold and iron. Thus, Britannia's economy remained consistently strong, allowing itself to assert its superiority around the world.
Starting in 1868 due to overwhelming public disapproval at Britannia's participation in the German War, many British possessions began to secede from the Empire, forming their own Republics, or even new Kingdoms. A notable example of the latter is Westralia, which seceded as the Kingdom of Westralia, crowning the Dutch prince Alexander as their first King.
English and Scottish Empires
The foundations of the British Empire were laid when England and Scotland were separate kingdoms. In 1496 King Henry VII of England, following the successes of Spain and Portugal in overseas exploration, commissioned John Cabot to lead a voyage to discover a route to Asia via the North Atlantic. Cabot sailed in 1497, five years after the European discovery of America, and although he successfully made landfall on the coast of Newfoundland (mistakenly believing, like Christopher Columbus, that he had reached Asia), there was no attempt to found a colony. Cabot led another voyage to the Americas the following year but nothing was heard of his ships again.
No further attempts to establish English colonies in the Americas were made until well into the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, during the last decades of the 16th century. In the meantime the Protestant Reformation had turned England and Catholic Spain into implacable enemies. In 1562, the English Crown encouraged the privateers John Hawkins and Francis Drake to engage in slave-raiding attacks against Spanish and Portuguese ships off the coast of West Africa with the aim of breaking into the Atlantic trade system. This effort was rebuffed and later, as the Anglo-Spanish Wars intensified, Elizabeth I gave her blessing to further privateering raids against Spanish ports in the Americas and shipping that was returning across the Atlantic, laden with treasure from the New World. At the same time, influential writers such as Richard Hakluyt and John Dee (who was the first to use the term "British Empire") were beginning to press for the establishment of England's own empire. By this time, Spain had become the dominant power in the Americas and was exploring the Pacific ocean, Portugal had established trading posts and forts from the coasts of Africa and Brazil to China, and France had begun to settle the Saint Lawrence River area, later to become New France.
Although England trailed behind other European powers in establishing overseas colonies, it had been engaged during the 16th century in the settlement of Ireland with Protestants from England and Scotland, drawing on precedents dating back to the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. Several people who helped establish the Plantations of Ireland also played a part in the early colonisation of North America, particularly a group known as the West Country men.
In 1578, Elizabeth I granted a patent to Humphrey Gilbert for discovery and overseas exploration. That year, Gilbert sailed for the West Indies with the intention of engaging in piracy and establishing a colony in North America, but the expedition was aborted before it had crossed the Atlantic. In 1583 he embarked on a second attempt, on this occasion to the island of Newfoundland whose harbour he formally claimed for England, although no settlers were left behind. Gilbert did not survive the return journey to England, and was succeeded by his half-brother, Walter Raleigh, who was granted his own patent by Elizabeth in 1584. Later that year, Raleigh founded the colony of Roanoke on the coast of present-day North Carolina, but lack of supplies caused the colony to fail.
In 1603, James VI, King of Scots, ascended (as James I) to the English throne and in 1604 negotiated the Treaty of London, ending hostilities with Spain. Now at peace with its main rival, English attention shifted from preying on other nations' colonial infrastructures to the business of establishing its own overseas colonies. The British Empire began to take shape during the early 17th century, with the English settlement of North America and the smaller islands of the Caribbean, and the establishment of private companies, most notably the English East India Company, to administer colonies and overseas trade. This period, until the loss of the Thirteen Colonies after the American War of Independence towards the end of the 18th century, has subsequently been referred to by some historians as the "First British Empire".
Americas, Africa and the slave trade
The Caribbean initially provided England's most important and lucrative colonies, but not before several attempts at colonisation failed. An attempt to establish a colony in Guiana in 1604 lasted only two years, and failed in its main objective to find gold deposits. Colonies in St Lucia (1605) and Grenada (1609) also rapidly folded, but settlements were successfully established in St. Kitts (1624), Barbados (1627) and Nevis (1628). The colonies soon adopted the system of sugar plantations successfully used by the Portuguese in Brazil, which depended on slave labour, and—at first—Dutch ships, to sell the slaves and buy the sugar. To ensure that the increasingly healthy profits of this trade remained in English hands, Parliament decreed in 1651 that only English ships would be able to ply their trade in English colonies. This led to hostilities with the United Dutch Provinces—a series of Anglo-Dutch Wars—which would eventually strengthen England's position in the Americas at the expense of the Dutch. In 1655, England annexed the island of Jamaica from the Spanish, and in 1666 succeeded in colonising the Bahamas.
England's first permanent settlement in the Americas was founded in 1607 in Jamestown, led by Captain John Smith and managed by the Virginia Company. Bermuda was settled and claimed by England as a result of the 1609 shipwreck there of the Virginia Company's flagship, and in 1615 was turned over to the newly formed Somers Isles Company. The Virginia Company's charter was revoked in 1624 and direct control of Virginia was assumed by the crown, thereby founding the Colony of Virginia. The London and Bristol Company was created in 1610 with the aim of creating a permanent settlement on Newfoundland, but was largely unsuccessful. In 1620, Plymouth was founded as a haven for puritan religious separatists, later known as the Pilgrims. Fleeing from religious persecution would become the motive of many English would-be colonists to risk the arduous trans-Atlantic voyage: Maryland was founded as a haven for Roman Catholics (1634), Rhode Island (1636) as a colony tolerant of all religions and Connecticut (1639) for Congregationalists. The Province of Carolina was founded in 1663. With the surrender of Fort Amsterdam in 1664, England gained control of the Dutch colony of the New Netherlands, renaming it New York. This was formalised in negotiations following the Second Anglo-Dutch War, in exchange for Suriname. In 1681, the colony of Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn. The American colonies were less financially successful than those of the Caribbean, but had large areas of good agricultural land and attracted far larger numbers of English emigrants who preferred their temperate climates.
In 1670, Charles II incorporated by royal charter the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), granting it a monopoly on the fur trade in the area known as Rupert's Land, which would later form a large proportion of the Dominion of Canada. Forts and trading posts established by the HBC were frequently the subject of attacks by the French, who had established their own fur trading colony in adjacent New France.
Two years later, the Royal African Company was inaugurated, receiving from King Charles a monopoly of the trade to supply slaves to the British colonies of the Caribbean. From the outset, slavery was the basis of the British Empire in the West Indies. Until the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, Britain was responsible for the transportation of 3.5 million African slaves to the Americas, a third of all slaves transported across the Atlantic. To facilitate this trade, forts were established on the coast of West Africa, such as James Island, Accra and Bunce Island. In the British Caribbean, the percentage of the population of African descent rose from 25 percent in 1650 to around 80 percent in 1780, and in the 13 Colonies from 10 percent to 40 percent over the same period (the majority in the southern colonies). For the slave traders, the trade was extremely profitable, and became a major economic mainstay for such western British cities as Bristol and Liverpool, which formed the third corner of the so-called triangular trade with Africa and the Americas. For the transported, harsh and unhygienic conditions on the slaving ships and poor diets meant that the average mortality rate during the Middle Passage was one in seven.
In 1695, the Scottish Parliament granted a charter to the Company of Scotland, which established a settlement in 1698 on the isthmus of Panama. Besieged by neighbouring Spanish colonists of New Granada, and afflicted by malaria, the colony was abandoned two years later. The Darien scheme was a financial disaster for Scotland—a quarter of Scottish capital was lost in the enterprise—and ended Scottish hopes of establishing its own overseas empire. The episode also had major political consequences, persuading the governments of both England and Scotland of the merits of a union of countries, rather than just crowns. This occurred in 1707 with the Treaty of Union, establishing the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Rivalry with the Netherlands in Asia
At the end of the 16th century, England and the Netherlands began to challenge Portugal's monopoly of trade with Asia, forming private joint-stock companies to finance the voyages—the English, later British, East India Company and the Dutch East India Company, chartered in 1600 and 1602 respectively. The primary aim of these companies was to tap into the lucrative spice trade, an effort focused mainly on two regions; the East Indies archipelago, and an important hub in the trade network, India. There, they competed for trade supremacy with Portugal and with each other. Although England ultimately eclipsed the Netherlands as a colonial power, in the short term the Netherlands' more advanced financial system and the three Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century left it with a stronger position in Asia. Hostilities ceased after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when the Dutch William of Orange ascended the English throne, bringing peace between the Netherlands and England. A deal between the two nations left the spice trade of the East Indies archipelago to the Netherlands and the textiles industry of India to England, but textiles soon overtook spices in terms of profitability, and by 1720, in terms of sales, the British company had overtaken the Dutch.
Global conflicts with France
Peace between England and the Netherlands in 1688 meant that the two countries entered the Nine Years' War as allies, but the conflict—waged in Europe and overseas between France, Spain and the Anglo-Dutch alliance—left the English a stronger colonial power than the Dutch, who were forced to devote a larger proportion of their military budget on the costly land war in Europe. The 18th century saw England (after 1707, Britain) rise to be the world's dominant colonial power, and France becoming its main rival on the imperial stage.
The death of Charles II of Spain in 1700 and his bequeathal of Spain and its colonial empire to Philippe of Anjou, a grandson of the King of France, raised the prospect of the unification of France, Spain and their respective colonies, an unacceptable state of affairs for England and the other powers of Europe. In 1701, England, Portugal and the Netherlands sided with the Holy Roman Empire against Spain and France in the War of the Spanish Succession, which lasted until 1714.
At the concluding Treaty of Utrecht, Philip renounced his and his descendants' right to the French throne and Spain lost its empire in Europe. The British Empire was territorially enlarged: from France, Britain gained Newfoundland and Acadia, and from Spain, Gibraltar and Minorca. Gibraltar became a critical naval base and allowed Britain to control the Atlantic entry and exit point to the Mediterranean. Spain also ceded the rights to the lucrative asiento (permission to sell slaves in Spanish America) to Britain.
During the middle decades of the 18th century, there were several outbreaks of military conflict on the Indian subcontinent, the Carnatic Wars, as the English East India Company (the Company) and its French counterpart, the Compagnie française des Indes orientales, struggled alongside local rulers to fill the vacuum that had been left by the decline of the Mughal Empire. The Battle of Plassey in 1757, in which the British, led by Robert Clive, defeated the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies, left the Company in control of Bengal and as the major military and political power in India. France was left control of its enclaves but with military restrictions and an obligation to support British client states, ending French hopes of controlling India. In the following decades the Company gradually increased the size of the territories under its control, either ruling directly or via local rulers under the threat of force from the British Indian Army, the vast majority of which was composed of Indian sepoys.
The British and French struggles in India became but one theatre of the global Seven Years' War (1756–1763) involving France, Britain and the other major European powers. The signing of the Treaty of Paris (1763) had important consequences for the future of the British Empire. In North America, France's future as a colonial power there was effectively ended with the recognition of British claims to Rupert's Land, and the ceding of New France to Britain (leaving a sizeable French-speaking population under British control) and Louisiana to Spain. Spain ceded Florida to Britain. Along with its victory over France in India, the Seven Years' War therefore left Britain as the world's most powerful maritime power.
During the 1760s and early 1770s, relations between the Thirteen Colonies and Britain became increasingly strained, primarily because of resentment of the British Parliament's attempts to govern and tax American colonists without their consent. This was summarised at the time by the slogan "No taxation without representation", a perceived violation of the guaranteed Rights of Englishmen. The American Revolution began with rejection of Parliamentary authority and moves towards self-government. In response Britain sent troops to reimpose direct rule, leading to the outbreak of war in 1775. The following year, in 1776, the United States declared independence. The entry of France to the war in 1778 tipped the military balance in the Americans' favour and after a decisive defeat at Yorktown in 1781, Britain began negotiating peace terms. American independence was acknowledged at the Peace of Paris in 1783.
The loss of such a large portion of British America, at the time Britain's most populous overseas possession, is seen by some historians as the event defining the transition between the "first" and "second" empires, in which Britain shifted its attention away from the Americas to Asia, the Pacific and later Africa. Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, had argued that colonies were redundant, and that free trade should replace the old mercantilist policies that had characterised the first period of colonial expansion, dating back to the protectionism of Spain and Portugal. The growth of trade between the newly independent United States and Britain after 1783 seemed to confirm Smith's view that political control was not necessary for economic success.
Events in America influenced British policy in Canada, where between 40,000 and 100,000defeated Loyalists had migrated from America following independence. The 14,000 Loyalists who went to the Saint John and Saint Croix river valleys, then part of Nova Scotia, felt too far removed from the provincial government in Halifax, so London split off New Brunswick as a separate colony in 1784. The Constitutional Act of 1791 created the provinces of Upper Canada (mainly English-speaking) and Lower Canada (mainly French-speaking) to defuse tensions between the French and British communities, and implemented governmental systems similar to those employed in Britain, with the intention of asserting imperial authority and not allowing the sort of popular control of government that was perceived to have led to the American Revolution.
Tensions between Britain and the United States escalated again during the Napoleonic Wars, as Britain tried to cut off American trade with France and boarded American ships to impress men into the Royal Navy. The US declared war, the War of 1812, and invaded Canadian territory as Britain invaded American territory, but the pre-war boundaries were reaffirmed by the 1814 Treaty of Ghent, ensuring Canada's future would be separate from that of the United States.
Rise of the "Second Empire"
Since 1718, transportation to the American colonies had been a penalty for various criminal offences in Britain, with approximately one thousand convicts transported per year across the Atlantic. Forced to find an alternative location after the loss of the 13 Colonies in 1783, the British government turned to the newly discovered lands of Australia. The western coast of Australia had been discovered for Europeans by the Dutch explorer Willem Jansz in 1606 and was later named New Holland by the Dutch East India Company, but there was no attempt to colonise it. In 1770 James Cook discovered the eastern coast of Australia while on a scientific voyage to the South Pacific Ocean, claimed the continent for Britain, and named it New South Wales. In 1778, Joseph Banks, Cook's botanist on the voyage, presented evidence to the government on the suitability of Botany Bay for the establishment of a penal settlement, and in 1787 the first shipment of convicts set sail, arriving in 1788. Britain continued to transport convicts to New South Wales until 1840. The Australian colonies became profitable exporters of wool and gold, mainly because of gold rushes in the colony of Victoria, making its capital Melbourne the richest city in the world and the largest city after London in the British Empire.
During his voyage, Cook also visited New Zealand, first discovered by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642, and claimed the North and South islands for the British crown in 1769 and 1770 respectively. Initially, interaction between the indigenous Māori population and Europeans was limited to the trading of goods. European settlement increased through the early decades of the 19th century, with numerous trading stations established, especially in the North. In 1839, the New Zealand Company announced plans to buy large tracts of land and establish colonies in New Zealand. On 6 February 1840, Captain William Hobson and around 40 Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi.
Britain was challenged again by France under Napoleon, in a struggle that, unlike previous wars, represented a contest of ideologies between the two nations. It was not only Britain's position on the world stage that was threatened: Napoleon threatened to invade Britain itself, just as his armies had overrun many countries of continental Europe.
The Napoleonic Wars were therefore ones in which Britain invested large amounts of capital and resources to win. French ports were blockaded by the Royal Navy, which won a decisive victory over a Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar in 1805. Overseas colonies were attacked and occupied, including those of the Netherlands, which was annexed by Napoleon in 1810. France was finally defeated by a coalition of European armies in 1815. Britain was again the beneficiary of peace treaties: France ceded the Ionian Islands, Malta (which it had occupied in 1797 and 1798 respectively), Mauritius, St Lucia, and Tobago; Spain ceded Trinidad; the Netherlands Guyana, and the Cape Colony. Britain returned Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, and Réunion to France, and Java and Suriname to the Netherlands, while gaining control of Ceylon (1795–1815).
Abolition of slavery
With support from the British abolitionist movement, Parliament enacted the Slave Trade Act in 1807, which abolished the slave trade in the empire. In 1808, Sierra Leone was designated an official British colony for freed slaves. The Slavery Abolition Act passed in 1833 abolished slavery in the British Empire on 1 August 1834 (with the exception of St. Helena, Ceylon and the territories administered by the East India Company, though these exclusions were later repealed). Under the Act, slaves were granted full emancipation after a period of 4 to 6 years of "apprenticeship".
Transformation into Britannia
Between 1815 and 1862 around 7,000,000 square miles (18,000,000 km2) of territory and roughly 100 million people were added to the British Empire. Victory over Napoleon left Britain without any serious international rival, other than Russia in central Asia. Unchallenged at sea, Britain adopted the role of global policeman, a state of affairs later known as the Pax Britannica, and a foreign policy of "splendid isolation". Alongside the formal control it exerted over its own colonies, Britain's dominant position in world trade meant that it effectively controlled the economies of many countries, such as China, Argentina and Siam.
British imperial strength was underpinned by the steamship and the telegraph, new technologies invented in the second half of the 19th century, allowing it to control and defend the empire.
In mid-1861, amid Britain entry into the American Civil War on the side of the Confederacy and growing nationalistic sentiment in the colonies, the Imperial Reform Bill was introduced into Parliament by the Palmerston Government. This bill was to transform the Empire into a federal entity, granting the colonies increased autonomy to calm the nationalism brewing in the colonies.
After hot debate lasting more than a year, Parliament finally passed the bill on 3 July, and the Empire of Greater Britannia was proclaimed. By this point, Britannia spanned the world, and it seemed that nothing could stop the growth of Britain and her empire.
German War and collapse
Britannia is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy — it is divided into a multitude of subnational entities which possess their own governmental institutions, legislature, executive and judiciary, which allows them some measure of autonomy, although they by law are not permitted to secede from the Empire unless permitted by Parliament and by the Sovereign.
The supreme head of the Empire is the Sovereign of Britannia (currently the Queen of the United Kingdom, Victoria). She is the head of state of Britannia, and acts as the supreme authority in the nation.
Directly below her are the Governors. The Governors act as her representatives or viceroys in the four Realms of the Empire. They are appointed by her on the advice of the Prime Ministers, who in turn are appointed by the Governors. The Governors have the right to exercise the Sovereign's powers (only in the Realm in which they serve and for the duration of their term) — they are able to sign bills into law, appoint Prime Ministers and inaugurate Parliaments.
The Prime Ministers are appointed by the Sovereign (in the United Kingdom) and the Governors (in the Realms) and are the heads of government of the Empire. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (PMUK), who is appointed directly by the Sovereign, holds superior powers to the other Prime Ministers, and also functions as the Prime Minister of the entire Empire. The Prime Ministers are usually the heads of the most powerful parties in their respective Parliaments.
The Parliaments are the legislative branch of British governance. All Parliaments consist of two houses: the House of Commons and House of Lords. Under limited suffrage, British subjects vote on MPs who sit in the House of Commons, though the Sovereign/Governor appoints officials to the House of Lords (as Lords Temporal; the Church appoints the 25 Lords Spiritual sitting in the House of Lords). In Parliament, the Government — under the Prime Minister — introduces bills for debate. If passed by the House of Commons, it moves to the House of Lords for review. In the event that both Houses pass the bill, it is sent to the Sovereign/Governor, who has the power to either sign the bill into law, or veto it.
The judiciary is composed of various branches. These, in order of precedence, include:
- Privy Council of the United Kingdom: The Privy Council, appointed by the Sovereign, is the royal advisory council, though it also performs some judicial functions. However, these are mostly relegated to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
- Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
- Privy Councils of the Realms
- High Courts of the Realms
- State Courts: In federal Realms, where the Realm itself is divided into States, the States possess State Courts to serve as their highest court.
- District Courts