The End of the Empire: The Commonwealth of Nations.

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The End of the Empire: The Commonwealth of Nations

By: Pereira

By the end of the 19th century Britain controlled the oceans and her empire covered one-fifth of the earth’s land surface and contained over 370 million people.

In 1876, the title “Empress of India” was conferred by Act of Parliament on Queen Victoria and most British strongly believed in their right to an empire, and were willing to defend it against the least threat.

They had developed a sense of superiority over other peoples of the world, seeing themselves as a “governing race”.

However, this arrogant racialism was accompanied by a sense of obligation towards the native peoples. Joseph Chamberlain, colonial secretary from 1896 to 1903, believed that British colonial rule could only be justified “if we can show that it adds to the happiness and prosperity of the people”. Thus, long before the First World War, Britain was already attempting to rule in the interest of the native peoples. After 1885, when Lord Salisbury became minister for the first time, Britain tended to avoid annexing further territory and instead merely extended protection over those areas where her influenced developed.

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Politically backward areas were known as Protectorates and were ruled as if they were colonies, and politically advanced areas were known as Protected States and were governed by the native rulers, advised by British officials.

Moreover, the empire had already been described in 1884 (a year before) by a British politician as the “British Commonwealth of Nations”.

It was, however, at the first colonial conference held in London in 1887, when the Prime Ministers of all self-governing colonies gathered for the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee – the fiftieth anniversary of her accession to the throne – that the ...

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