Essay on The Fall of the British Empire - A Very Brief Summary

Essay on The Fall of the British Empire - A Very Brief Summary

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The British Empire entered the 20th century as the first hyperpower since perhaps the pinnacle of the Mongols. After 2 global conflicts, the once mighty empire seemed on the verge of being relegated to the British Isles. It is true that in terms of relative power, the Empire was greatly diminished over the first half of the 20th century. However, Britons still saw tremendous progress occur over the half century. Politically, the monarchy was preserved while national policy lurched leftwards in response to economic trends. Technology fueled a cultural renaissance of sorts that had enormous impacts on daily life. Finally, the new post-WWII international order led to the British Empire losing many of its prized possessions.

In 1936, King Edward VIII took reign of the British Empire after the death of his father, George V. A dashing naval officer who eschewed tradition, Edward angered bureaucrats by making politically charged statements, particularly regarding the unemployment problem caused by the global depression. His political commentary would not prove to be his downfall, that role was fulfilled by a women named Wallis Simpson. Although a married women, Simpson and Edward fell in love and Edward planned to marry her after she received a divorce. Of course, this was a morally untenable position at the time and Edward had little choice but to abdicate in 1936 itself. The very continuity of the century-old monarchy was under threat as both the public and the political elite held negative sentiments towards the institutions. King George VI replaced Edward and he understood the governing was best left to the government. When Britain became embroiled in WWII, George simply made strong pleas for support of the cause rather than attem...


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...rly 90 years. (Today Sinn Fein is a non-violent political party, but in Orwell’s time it was also a violent terrorist group). Abroad, the British lost “the Jewel in the Crown” of the empire, India, in 1947. During WWII, in order to receive crucial Indian support and prevent insurrection that would drain resources from the fight to save the British homeland, the British promised independence for India to the Indian National Congress. The INC was the political party of Gandhi and Nehru and could have hampered British efforts to utilize India in the war effort if they were not appeased. Additionally, as the US established itself as a superpower in its own right, the British were stymied in international affairs. For example, the US used debt leverage head over Britain to prevent a conflict over the Suez Canal by restraining the lesser half of the special relationship.

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