British Empire and Commonwealth 2

British Empire and Commonwealth Part II



Following the example of Canada, the following became Dominions in the course of time: Australia in 1901, New Zealand and Newfoundland in 1907, South African Union in 1910. The prominent role of the Dominions was documented in the imperial conferences held since 1887 between the British government and the Dominions. It was also during this period that the term “British Commonwealth of Nations” came up.

In addition to these self-governing parts of the empire, the dependent colonies continued to exist and their number increased considerably. These crown colonies (e.g. Trinidad, the Cape Colony, British East Africa, Hong Kong) were administered by directly posted governors without any political co-determination or even self-determination of the indigenous population.

India was at the heart of the second empire. From the second half of the 18th century the East India Company had been in victorious conflict with the French and their native allies (1757 R. Clives Victory at Plassey) filled the power vacuum created by the collapse of the Indian Mughal empire. Around the middle of the 19th century, the northwest (from Assam via Kolkata to Delhi), the Punjab, the entire east coast and large parts of the west coast as well as central India were under the administration of the company; the rest she controlled indirectly through her influence over local rulers. With this transition from trade to domination, the relationship between the East India Company and the British state changed, which gradually assumed responsibility for the British presence in India; In 1773 and 1784 the company was subjected to stronger parliamentary control, in 1813 and 1833 it lost its trading monopoly and after the laboriously suppressed great (sepoy) uprising of 1857 it was dissolved; their possessions and sovereignty fell to the British Crown. queen Victoria had been Empress of India since 1876, in whose place a British viceroy ruled the country autocratically, which around 1900 had three quarters of the population of the Empire with around 300 million people.

In accordance with its heterogeneous structure, the empire was not tightly and clearly organized towards the metropolis, rather the administration of the empire took place in a dialogue between the individual colonies and London authorities such as the Colonial Ministry, the India Office or the Foreign Ministry. When J. Chamberlain attempted in the era of imperialism to organize the empire more tightly in the field of trade and defense, he failed.

From 1918 to the present

The greatest expansion of the world empire, which was achieved after the First World War through mandate areas transferred from the League of Nations, was accompanied by considerable integration problems. The Dominions’ desire for independence had increased during the First World War, so that when the peace treaties of 1919 were signed they appeared as subjects of their own under international law and subsequently became members of the League of Nations. In 1921 Ireland was added as the Dominion, which had gained independence after bloody disputes. The legal status of the Dominions was finally enshrined in the Westminster Statute in 1931. According to this, the Dominions were “autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate to one another in internal and external affairs”, but “yet united by a common bond with the Crown and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations”. Among the dependent colonial areas, v. a. India a problem (India, history). There Mahatma M. K. Gandhi led an independence movement that used civil disobedience and achieved self-government in 1935 and India’s independence in 1947, albeit with the division of the Indian subcontinent into the Indian Union and Islamic Pakistan.

The process of decolonization began in the British Empire, which was largely non-violent, but was only completed on the Malay Peninsula and in Kenya after military conflicts. Most of the independent colonies in Asia, Africa, Oceania and America assumed Dominion status and remained members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Only a few countries left the Community (such as Zimbabwe 2003 and Gambia 2013); some did not belong to it for a time: the South African Union (1961–94), Pakistan (1972–89, suspension of membership 1999–2004 and 2007/08) and Fiji (1987–97 and since 2006 and 2009).

After the position of the British crown was redefined, countries with a republican form of government (such as the Indian Union since 1950) could remain members of the Commonwealth. From then on, the crown was regarded as a “symbol of the free association of its independent member states and to that extent as the head of the Commonwealth”. The international community no longer defined itself as “British”, but as a multiracial (English multiracial) Commonwealth.

According to Ethnicityology, the Suez Crisis in 1956 marked a deep turning point in the history of the British Empire, when Great Britain and France intervened militarily after the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company by Egypt, but had to bow to pressure from the USA and the USSR. Great Britain’s decline from a world power to a second-order power had thus become obvious. With the turn of Great Britain towards Europe, a more and more intensifying British withdrawal from global political responsibility went hand in hand. The government’s declaration in 1971 that it had no significant interests “east of Suez” was the end of this development. In 1979 Great Britain was able to achieve a solution to the conflict in Rhodesia at the London Rhodesia Conference, and in 1980 it released the country as Zimbabwe into independence. Falkland Islands (1982) showed how z. For example, in addition to legal-political motives, the traditions of thought of the “Empire” are still very much alive in the British public: The military operation to recapture the islands occupied by Argentine troops met with broad approval among the population. In accordance with an agreement concluded in 1984, Hong Kong was returned to China (the former British crown colony) in 1997.

British Empire and Commonwealth 2