The British Empire was the most diverse and expansive empire that the world has ever seen. During the height of British Imperialism it was often remarked that ‘the sun never sets on the British Empire’. This quip was, in fact, true. At the zenith of its power, the British Empire ruled more than twenty-five percent of the Earth’s land area and held more than 450,000,000 people in subjection. However, the rise of nationalism and the economic woes wrought by the second World War began the dissolution of the great empire. In the words of Dr. John Darwin, “The collapse of British imperial power—all but complete by the mid 1960’s—can be traced directly to the impact of World War Two” (Darwin). The apex of British decolonization began with India in 1948 and the empire was further weakened by subsequent rebellions including the Suez Canal crisis in 1956 and with the loss of its worldwide empire, Britain was forced to turn its attention to domestic and intra-European affairs.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Indian subcontinent was Great Britain’s wealthiest holding. The Indian subcontinent was valuable for trade, natural resources, and labor. However, after World War II nationalistic feelings began to arise among the Indian populace. In 1930 the Indian National Congress passed the following resolution:
The British Government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally, and spiritually. We believe, therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swarah, or complete independence. (National Archives)
Although the nationalist movement was strong and was hig...
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... by 1975, the weak support for European integration continues to condition British attitudes to European integration to this day. (Wellings 1)
In recent years, Great Britain has actually become less associated with other European states as it seeks to strengthen its ties with other other Anglophone countries, especially the former dominions of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. (Wellings)
The political power and attitude of Great Britain has changed drastically over the course of the past century. At the dawn of the 19th century, Great Britain possessed the most expansive empire that the world had ever seen. However because of the economic and political impacts which led directly to Indian independence and other political conflicts such as the Suez Canal Crisis, Great Britain receded to its current place as a second rate power on the global stage.
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