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The Transformation of the British Empire into the Modern Common Wealth
S to 1920's the British Empire was at its peak
The British Empire covered over almost a quarter of the Earth's total land area, with population of over 458 million (20% of the world's population of the time). It was often said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire" because its span across the globe ensured that the Sun was always shining on at least one of its numerous territories.
As a result, its legacy is widespread in legal and governmental systems economic practice militarily system educational system sports he global spread of the English language.
After World War I Britain was exhausted, and the empire was overextended. As a result, during the 1920s and 1930s Britain searched for policies that would both reduce the cost of the empire and the risk of its falling apart.
1931 – the Statute of Westminster passed by the British Parliament was the official collapse of the BE
- each Dominion was henceforth to be equal in status to the United Kingdom itself
- - Statute of Westminsterabwe) ry, Minorca- was returned to Spain in 1802 at the Treaty of Amienes) of the king of France. eliminated all control by the British Parliament over dominion government, free of British legislative interference and autonomous in international relations.
The United Kingdom's empire had already begun its transformation into the modern Commonwealth with the extension of Dominion status to the already self-governing colonies of Canada (1867), Australia (1901), New Zealand (1907), Newfoundland (1907), and the newly-created Union of South Africa (1910).
In 1884, while visiting Australia, Lord Rosebery described the changing British Empire, as some of its colonies became more independent, as a "Commonwealth of Nations”. Conferences of British and colonial prime ministers were held periodically from the first one in 1887, leading to the creation of the Imperial Conferences in 1911. The Commonwealth developed from the Imperial Conferences. A specific proposal was presented by Jan Christiaan Smuts in 1917 when he coined the term "the British Commonwealth of Nations," and proposed the "future constitutional relations and readjustments in essence" at the all-important Versailles Conference of 1919 by delegates from the dominions as well as Britain. The term first received imperial statutory recognition in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. In the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, Britain and its dominions agreed they were "equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations". These aspects to the relationship were formalized by the Statute of Westminster in 1931. The Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom.
After World War II ended, the British Empire was gradually dismantled to the 14 British overseas territories still held by the United Kingdom. The Dominions entered the war alongside Britain in 1939, but afterwards showed their determination to judge the nature and limits of their participation. In the colonies still directly under British authority, especially those in Africa and the Caribbean, the British government sought to develop a more progressive image in keeping with a war supposedly being fought on behalf of freedom.