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Table of Contents
The British Empire was composed of the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled over a span of three centuries under the sovereignty of the crown of Great Britain.
See the fact file below for more information on the British Empire or alternatively, you can download our 28-page British Empire worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
ORIGINS OF BRITISH EMPIRE
- The British Empire did not exist in the Middle Ages as it was part of other empires.
- However, when William of Normandy conquered England in 1066, it began to flourish and medieval kings began to accumulate power and wealth.
- They tried to take over ever-wider lands which could be achieved through marriage and other times, through war. King Edward I fought numerous battles for territorial expansion.
- Great Britain began to establish its overseas settlements through overseas possessions and trading posts. Queen Elizabeth I granted Humphrey Gilbert and Walter Raleigh discovery and overseas exploration, who later founded the harbours of the island of Newfoundland and Roanoke Colony respectively.
- 1600 – The East India Company established trading posts in India and the Straits Settlements (Penang, Singapore, Malacca, and Labuan).
- 1607 – The Virginia Company founded a permanent colony at Jamestown in Virginia.
- 1623 – Colonisation of St. Kitts began then expanded to islands including Barbados and Antigua.
- 1620 to 1663 – Colonies of Virginia, Plymouth, Maryland, Rhode Island, and New Netherland (New York) were founded.
- 1661 – The first permanent British settlement on the African continent was at James Island in the Gambia River.
- 1670 – Charles II incorporated by royal charter the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), granting it a monopoly on the fur trade in Rupert’s Land (Canada).
- 1681 – The colony of Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn.
RIVALRY WITH OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
- The British Crown granted laws to enable companies to settle and administer British interests on the West Coast of Africa and to supply slaves to the American colonies.
- This challenged another powerful colonizer, France. Britain fought a number of wars against France, taking over colonies established by the French:
- Portugal and Netherlands were also threatened by Britain’s rising power and territorial expansion. To avoid war, the Netherlands took over the spice trade and the textiles industry of India went to England.
- By 1783, the British Empire established naval bases in the Mediterranean – Gibraltar and Minorca and trading posts in India were strengthened as ever.
- However, during the 1760s relations between the 13 Colonies and Britain became strained, due to its attempt to tax American colonists without their consent.
- This resulted in Britain’s losing war against the united colonies of now the United States.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF BRITISH EMPIRE
- The loss of U.S. colonies did not deter the British empire as it set its sight on the faraway country of Australia from 1788.
- In 1802, the Treaty of Amiens made Trinidad and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) officially under British Empire and in the 1848 Treaty of Paris, France ceded Tobago, Mauritius, Saint Lucia, and Malta.
- Malacca became part of the empire in 1795, and it soon acquired Singapore in 1819.
- New Zealand became officially under the British empire in 1840, which soon extended to Fiji, Tonga, Papua, and other islands.
- It later took over Burma in 1886.
- Hong Kong island became British in 1841 as well as the African countries Nigeria and the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and The Gambia in the later years.
- Britain’s victory in the South African War (1899–1902) further expanded its control in the continent.
- From 1815 to 1914, ten million square miles of territory and 400 million people were added to the British Empire, controlling fifth of the land in the world.
- Later, British groups began to question the empire’s conquest, accusing the crown of denying the colonies cultures.
INDEPENDENCE AND DECOLONIZATION
- Wars of independence broke out here and there during the rule of the British Empire. While it initially outpowered the colonized countries, modernity, the wars and treaties eventually loosened the empire’s grip over its vast territory.
- When World War I broke out, Britain took part on behalf of all its colonies. However, it lost control of most of the countries after the dominions independently signed the peace treaties and joined League of Nations as states equal to Britain.
- In 1931 the Statute of Westminster recognized them as independent countries “within the British Empire, equal in status.”
- A strong independence movement in India also broke out, as well as the struggle for decolonization in Africa.
- When World War II broke out, the dominions made their own declarations of war and some even fought independently.
- Slowly losing its grasp of its colonies, the great empire eventually decided on the following:
- 1926 – The Balfour Declaration states that Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa were completely independent countries, “freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.”
- 1947 – India and Pakistan were granted independence.
- 1960s – Most of Britain’s African and Caribbean colonies achieved independence.
- 1984 – Brunei, Britain’s last remaining Asian protectorate, was granted independence.
- 1997 – Britain formally handed Hong Kong back to China.
British Empire Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the British Empire across 28 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use British Empire worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the British Empire which was composed of the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled over a span of three centuries under the sovereignty of the crown of Great Britain.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- UK British Empire Facts
- The Empire
- The Map of Power
- The Mystery of Roanoke
- Bon Voyage!
- The 13 Colonies
- Overseas Territories
- British Slave Trade
- Where the Sun Never Sets
- A Reflection
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Link will appear as British Empire Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, March 1, 2021
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.