The Fall of the Empire

Topics: British Empire, Colonialism, World War II Pages: 6 (2101 words) Published: December 7, 2012
Why did Britain retreat from empire after the Second World War? Quite a number of Hong Kong people have missed the colonial rule since 1997. Do you think that their views are justified?

The Britain Empire had been dominating the world power beginning in the 18th century, lasting over a century, until the First World War. She was massively covering vast areas of the glow, ruling a quarter of the earth’s surface and people by the year of 1922. Avaricious industrial interests drove the Empire to war, hungry to gain control of newly discovered mineral wealth, gold and diamonds. After splendid victories around the world, they were given the phase “ the British Empire never sets the sun” to describe the dominions and the colonies of itself. However, it was a delightful scene but not for long, the Empire falls is a story of growing weakness of tiredness, a physical failure to stay strong.

Ireland, the oldest British colony, was the first step in the fall of the Empire sending a message to the world that Britain was not contempt to rule an island driven by violence and unrest. It is because it involves far more human and material resources that she could afford. Unlike other imperial powers, the British will result “not to stay where they were not wanted”. – BBC History Channel[1]

Historian believes that the First World War was a nightmare, an absolutely devastating event in human history, for Britain. Although they were the victorious nation, but the fight did cost men and money too, far more than the empire could ever imagine and ever could afford. “ The British lost a generation – half a million men under the age of thirty. One quarter of the Oxford and Cambridge students under the age of twenty-five who served in the British army in 1914 were killed. (Hobsbawn P.26)[2]

The war had also caused an economy depression for the entire world. “It was an absurd and self- defeating aim which ruined both victors and vanquished. It drove the defeated into revolution and the victors into bankruptcy and physical exhaustion. Britain was never the same again after 1918 because the country had ruined its economy by waging a war substantially beyond its resources.” (Hobsbawn, P.30) [3]

“Although she had survived and recovered the territory lost during the war. But its wealth, prestige and authority had been severely reduced.” – Dr. John Darwin.[4] Word War Two again further weakened the British Empire, and it’s ability to rule the empire was severely handicapped. The Empire was proven that she was “a fox in a lion’s hide” and began to melt when she realized she was overshadowed by the two new superpowers, the Soviet Union and America. They again did not defeat Germany by their manpower. It was, in contrast, mainly the work of the two superpowers. In Asia, the defeat of Japan was again belonged to the American power, because of the bombs that lead to a disaster in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The instability finance appeared after the war and was the major cause of Great Slump, Britain’s great depression, after the war leading a 3.5 million unemployment and the loss of foreign exchange earnings left the British economy more dependent upon exports, and more vulnerable to any downturn in world markets.

The Empire soon realized it was impossible to mange the numerous overseas colonies as well as growing as the third superpower. On one hand, the two world wars implied the fact that the British Empire had to withdraw their cost back from colonies due to advancing industrial arsenal of Soviet Union, realizing their military and financial weakness as well as stagnant economy. For instance, many British’ colonies in Asia, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, were readily snatched away by the Japanese during the war. The weakness of military was seen by the world and withdraw was probably the best way to conceal such decayed.

Meanwhile, the pressure of free trade and anti-imperialism from Roosevelt was highly increasing. “The President's...
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