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British Empire: how big was it and why did it collapse?

British Empire: how big was it and why did it collapse? thumbnail

At its peak, the British Empire was the largest the world has ever seen, and its legacy can still be felt keenly today, for better or worse.

The territories it controlled ranged from tiny islands to vast segments of the world’s major continents.

As the National Archives writes, the history of the British Empire is “both a British story and a world story”. But how did this vast empire rise and fall?

How did the empire come about?

The British began to establish overseas colonies in the Americas in the 16th century, writes the BBC, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that its expansion really accelerated.

British expansion, particularly in Asia, was facilitated by the construction of trading posts set up by the East India Company, a London based trade business.

In the face of increased competition from the French East India Company, the organisation expanded its territorial claims in India with the use of a private army of more than 260,000 men, until the Indian Rebellion of 1857 saw the British Crown assume direct control of the Indian subcontinent – the epicentre of the Empire.

How big was the Empire?

From India, further expansion was undertaken through Asia, and by 1913 the British Empire was the largest to have ever existed.

It covered around 25% of the world’s land surface, including large swathes of North America, Australia, Africa and Asia, while other areas – especially in South America – were closely linked to the empire by trade, according to the National Archives.

As a result of its size, it became known as “the empire on which the sun never sets”.

It also oversaw around 412 million inhabitants, or around 23% of the world’s population at the time, writes the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The map below shows the British Empire at its territorial peak in the early 20th century.

While proponents say it brought various economic developments to the parts of the world it controlled, critics note the massacres, famines and the use of concentration camps by the British Empire, The Independent writes. For good or ill, it brought new language, sport and religion to different parts of the globe.

Why did it fall?

Although there is no single answer to this question, the collapse of British imperial power can be traced “directly to the impact of World War Two”, the BBC says.

The campaigns it waged in Europe, Asia and Africa virtually bankrupted the UK and the subsequent debt it acquired severely comprised its economic independence; the foundation of the imperial system.

The Empire was overstretched and – combined with growing unrest in various colonies – this led to the swift and decisive fall of many of Britain’s key assets, some diplomatically, some violently.

In 1947 India became independent following a nonviolent civil-disobedience campaign spearheaded by Mahatma Gandhi. Britain had lost the jewel in its crown, and this kickstarted a domino effect across the Empire.

“Less than a year later, communist guerrillas launched a violent campaign aimed at forcing Britain from Malaya,” the Imperial War Museum writes.

“In the Middle East, Britain hurriedly abandoned Palestine in 1948. Ghana became Britain’s first African colony to reach independence in 1957. By 1967 more than 20 British territories were independent.”

Little remains of British rule today across the globe, and it is mostly restricted to small island territories such as Bermuda and the Falkland Islands. However, a number of countries still have Queen Elizabeth as their head of state including New Zealand, Australia and Canada – a hangover of the Empire.

the week

82 Comments on "British Empire: how big was it and why did it collapse?"

  1. MASTERMIND on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 11:28 am 

    Belief in a cruel god, makes a cruel man..

    -Thomas Paine

  2. Boat on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 11:33 am 


    You forgot entertainment/sports wether watching or participating. Gotta get those rewards as you go.

  3. MASTERMIND on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 11:37 am 

    The best thing about this new Italian coalition is that it is unlikely to survive long enough to do anything.

  4. Cloggie on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 11:37 am 

    And here is a beauty ftom your tribe from you, atheist and all:

    Germany is prudently moving towards France and its farreaching proposals for further European integration, which includes a new EU-stabilization fund, to preempt tuture crises a la Greece.

    China threatens to break off trade talks with US:

    Trump: “US can’t lose trade war”

    Altmaier/Germany: “G7 countermeasures will hit US hard”

  5. Davy on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 11:59 am 

    “Hey if you want to die from starvation or conflict go right ahead..But those are very painful ways to die..I would prefer not to suffer..”


  6. MASTERMIND on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 12:01 pm 


    I am not a jew..I am an atheist..And I am not a part of any tribe besides the human race..I am not an uneducated slob like you..who needs to identity with others because I am a loser..

  7. Davy on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 12:05 pm 

    “God/afterlife is for weak cowards.”
    Acting like you have a friggen clue what comes next just shows the depth of you hubris.

    “Paganism is acceptance of life without a fake belief in a reward afterwards.”
    Maybe you need to research paganism further because obviously pagans are all over the map on what they believe

    “Real values are family, tribe
    Well, you got that part right.

    “nation, science, skills, technology, land.”
    This is precisely what has destroyed our species viability and the planetary ecosystem and its web of life. You are glorifying this? I am surprised you didn’t include Nazis in your WordPress rendition.

  8. MASTERMIND on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 12:27 pm 


    Science and technology hasn’t destroyed our species..You sound like the Unabomber..

  9. MASTERMIND on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 12:27 pm 

    Anytime humanity tries to extend itself beyond the bounds of the net energy available to it, it undergoes a “correction”. The same goes for every other organism on the earth.

    Eventually, it will experience a collapse when the energy “in reserve” is not enough to sustain it.

  10. Cloggie on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 12:35 pm 

    I am not a jew..I am an atheist..And I am not a part of any tribe besides the human race..I am not an uneducated slob like you..who needs to identity with others because I am a loser..

    That reminds me of that statement made by Churchill:

    There is no need to exaggerate the part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the actual bringing about of the Russian Revolution by these international and for the most part atheistical Jews. It is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others. With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of the leading figures are Jews.

    Your statement “I am not a Jew… because I am an atheist” doesn’t fly. I am a secular Protestant because my ancestors of 400 years were Protestant. It’s in my bones but I have left the church when I was 14, never to return.

    And I am not a part of any tribe besides the human race

    Yep, the communist creed pur sang. Good luck with Leroy, Ahmed and Ping-Pong. If you like I have a link to a discussion forum about peak-oil in Saudi-Arabia for ya. Perhaps you can unload your George Soros statements

    I can merely apply the “swim-quack-duck” principle to you, as well as circumstantial indicators like the exchange with apneaman when he left, your posting patterns/time zones not in line with Michigan, your fanatical posting intensity, the similarities in the repertoires of links. I could be wrong, I think I’m not. And after all this is not the Gestapo

    At the time I already accused apneaman that he couldn’t care less about climate change. Likewise, you could not care less about peak oil. You have your standard repertoire of out-dated, obsolete links, you have posted tens of times ad nausea. But you are using them as a cover and justification to post subliminal messages. What you really are interested in is calling for war against Russia, humiliating white America (constant referrals to raping white icon Taylor Swift or that white people deserve to go under “because they can’t dance” and promoting mass immigration).

  11. Davy on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 12:45 pm 

    “Science and technology hasn’t destroyed our species..You sound like the Unabomber..”

    If that is so why are you here? PO is a product of science and technology and that is your religion.

  12. MASTERMIND on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 12:49 pm 


    My ancestors are from Scotland and England and Germany..The most educated liberal countries..Just look at the most right wing country in Europe..Poland..And we all know how smart Polish people

  13. MASTERMIND on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 12:56 pm 

    I wonder if you licked cloggs girlfriend if you would trip balls?

  14. Cloggie on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 2:49 pm 

    The populist revolution continuous in Europe. Orban clone wins election in Slovenia:

    Program: zero immigrants.

  15. Cloggie on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 3:24 pm 

    Talking about Slovenia, Melanie now missing for 23 days. Kidney treatment was 3 weeks ago.

    Time-out? Recovery in Aspen? Marriage crisis? Fled the WH?

    A few years ago Putin went missing for almost 2 weeks. Then he showed up again, offering no explanation:

  16. Cloggie on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 3:32 pm 

    US ambassador to Germany wants to “empower” European populists:

  17. MASTERMIND on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 3:37 pm 


    Too bad the populist won’t have enough time to change anything before Europe collapses!

    George Soros warns the European Union is on the brink of collapse — and Trump is partly to blame

  18. Cloggie on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 5:13 pm 

    Escobar: Syria to be rebuilt by China, Russia and Iran:

  19. MASTERMIND on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 5:36 pm 


    Well see about that..Syria has that big oil discovery in the golden heights region..And Israel and the Neo Cons have already false flagged them three times..I am sure one or two more will be enough..Then they take the last major oil producer Russia! The grand daddy of them all!

  20. MASTERMIND on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 5:38 pm 


    Your sources are always garbage..Russia insider, daily mail, breitbart, alex jones…

  21. MASTERMIND on Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 5:57 pm 

    Clogg I found you your dream woman..

    I bet if you lick her you will trip balls!


  22. Cloggie on Mon, 4th Jun 2018 5:56 am 

    Britain and France looking for trouble in South China Sea:

    The fools.

  23. Davy on Mon, 4th Jun 2018 5:59 am 

    But But, PBM and Eurasian Empire and all. Funny how fantasies melt from the warmth of reality

  24. MASTERMIND on Mon, 4th Jun 2018 6:15 am 

    Military contractor predicts a 90 percent die off in the US by 2025

  25. Davy on Mon, 4th Jun 2018 7:23 am 

    Clown, Deagel dot com has been discussed over and over here. Where were you? Do you believe that shit? The site has an agenda and is a fraud. I thought you only post peer reviewed circle jerk shit anyway.

  26. Free Speech Forum on Mon, 4th Jun 2018 8:50 am 

    Your taxes pay for illegal immigrants, welfare, debt, war, curfews, gun bans, NSA wiretapping, checkpoints, forfeiture, the end to the right to silence, free speech bans, torture, kill lists, no fly lists, searches without warrants, private prisons, mandatory minimums, 3 strikes laws, DNA databases, CISPA, SOPA, NDAA, IMBRA, FBAR, FATCA, TSA groping, secret FISA courts, and Jade Helm.

  27. Dredd on Mon, 4th Jun 2018 9:08 am 

    British Empire: how big was it and why did it collapse?

    Don’t ask the king (Follow The Immunity – 6).

  28. Cloggie on Mon, 4th Jun 2018 3:06 pm 

    Do I have a treat for boat! He wanted this morning to know why Germany attacked the USSR in 1941. I gave him the answer, via Soviet spy and defector Suvorov, who spilled the beans about Stalin’s intentions. Today Ron Unz himself discusses this revolutionary new view that will put everything upside down. Next target: holotale.

  29. Boat on Mon, 4th Jun 2018 7:14 pm 


    Reads like a great movie. It would be perfect timing as Putin is trying to be a player on the world stage.

  30. GregT on Mon, 4th Jun 2018 11:09 pm 

    “It would be perfect timing as Putin is trying to be a player on the world stage.”

    If Putin wasn’t already a major player on the world stage Boat, you wouldn’t even know his name. And Boat, I doubt very much that very many people have ever heard of a guy named Kevin from Houston, and I’m sure that they really don’t care.

  31. Cloggie on Tue, 5th Jun 2018 1:01 am 

    Nah, boat does have some global notoriety via this board. 🙂

  32. MASTERMIND on Tue, 5th Jun 2018 4:41 am 

    Saudi Arabia May Become Oil Importer by 2030, Citigroup Says

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