The history of the British Empire.



Despite reaching its peak of at the beginning of the 20th , the British Empire's origins reach back to the end of the 1400s. Hi, I’m Rebecca Brayton and welcome to Watchmojo.com and today we’ll be exploring the rise, dominance and fall of this one time world empire.

Following Portugal and Spain’s lead in overseas , King Henry VII of England began to commission across the Atlantic. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to create colonies along the North American coast under Queen Elizabeth I. It was in the early century that, under the rule of King James I of England, the British Empire truly took a leap forward.

The first permanent settlement in the Americas under English rule was Jamestown, founded in 1607. In the decades that followed, progressively more popped up along the and throughout the Caribbean. A series of wars with France and the Netherlands throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries eventually left Britain as the dominant power.

This was tested, however, late in the eighteenth century. Thirteen of its North American colonies broke free from Britain through the American War of Independence, creating the States of America. Despite this seemingly crushing blow, the British Empire pushed forward and shifted its focus towards , the Pacific and , growing larger than ever.

After being challenged by and eventually defeating Napoleon’s France in 1815, Britain was left with no major . From this point until 1914, Britain would add 400 million people to their empire, along with 17 per cent of the world's total area, during what was referred to as their "imperial century."

The growth of Germany as a military and economic power forced Britain to form with old enemies such as France and in the lead-up to the First World War. In the short term, Britain benefited by receiving even more territory through the Treaty of Versailles. However, the economic implications of the war spelled trouble for the empire in the long term.

1922 marked the height of the British Empire, when they held sway over one-quarter of the world’s population. However, World II would leave Britain virtually bankrupt. With anti-colonization sentiments high, the dismantling of this once-dominant world empire began. While many colonies declared their in the decades that followed, many consider the hand-over of Hong Kong to in 1997 as the end of the empire for Britain.

Despite this, the British influence is still felt the world over. In addition to the 14 territories over which the United Kingdom still retains sovereignty, the empire also caused large of people.

Across the world, many ex-colonies still use the British parliamentary system as the basis for their now independent . The British Empire was also responsible for creating some of the world’s most popular sports, including soccer, and golf. However, arguably the British Empire’s largest mark on the world was the English language. The of the language increased with the spread of their rule, and today it is the mother tongue of roughly 400 people worldwide.


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