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venerdì 22 novembre 2013


During the 19th and early 20th centuries the British Empire was the largest empire in history and covered about a quarter of the world’s land surface with territories on every continent.
Trade ties with nations reinforced its global power. In the 20th century the empire disintegrated as nations were granted independence. These nations formed the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of sovereign states.

Britain made its initial attempts for overseas settlements in the 16th century with the earliest settlements formed under the enterprise of companies. These areas of influence were scattered in the East Indies and Hudson Bay. 
L'impero britannico nel 1725
Shipping and trade were the main ways Britain exercised control in the 17th century. Colonies were regarded as a source of raw materials and the Navigation Act of 1651 set up closed economic agreements between Britain and its dependencies.
During this century sugar and tobacco plantations were developed in the Caribbean and North America. The African slave trade provided cheap labour for those plantations. 
In the 18th century British military and naval power was the engine driving colonial expansion.
L'impero britannico nel 1763
Although Britain lost its 13 American colonies following the War of Independence, from 1788 it developed large Australian settlements.
In the 19th century Britain developed a unified system of colonial governance. 
The first half of the 19th century marked the abolition of the slave trade (1807) and, in 1833, of slavery itself. It also saw Britain gain territory from France in the treaties of Amiens (1802) and Paris (1814).
In the second half of the century Britain colonised New Zealand, extended control over more of the Pacific region and in 1857 assumed control of the East India Company’s governmental authority.
In the last half of the 19th century a number of colonies were also granted a position of ‘responsible self-government’.
L'Impero nel 1914 - Prima della I Guerra Mondiale
The 20th century was characterised by the disintegration of the British Empire. 
In 1907 self-governing colonies including Canada, Australia and South Africa were granted the status of dominions. After the First World War these dominions signed individual peace treaties and became individual members of the League of Nations. 
In 1931 they were recognised as independent countries and they declared war on their own behalf when the Second World War broke out.
Le nazioni del Commonwealth oggi
After the Second World War there was an upsurge in nationalist sentiment in Britain’s colonies and starting with India in 1947, independence was gradually granted to them all.  
The last British colony, Hong Kong, was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

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