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Decline Of The British Empire

By Janice-Turla Mar 12, 2015 1266 Words
Decline of the British Empire
1945- 1970’s

1945: End of World War II
The catastrophic British defeats in Europe and Asia between 1940 and 1942 destroyed its financial and economic independence, the real foundation of the imperial system. It also erased the old balance of power on which British security - at home and abroad - had largely depended. “Britain had survived the war, but its wealth, prestige and authority had been severely reduced.” The British found themselves locked into an imperial endgame from which every exit was blocked except the trapdoor to oblivion.

1947: Partition of India
During World War Two, the British had mobilised India's resources for their imperial war effort. They crushed the attempt of Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress to force them to 'quit India' in 1942. Within months of the end of the war, it was glaringly obvious that Britain lacked the means to defeat a renewed mass campaign by the Congress. Its officials were exhausted and troops were lacking. By the time that the last viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten, arrived in India, Congress and its leader Jawaharlal Nehru had begun to accept that unless they agreed to partition, they risked a descent into chaos and communal war before power could be transferred from British into Indian hands. It was left to Mountbatten to stage a rapid handover to two successor governments (India and Pakistan) before the ink was dry on their post-imperial frontiers.

Help from the Commonwealth
Attlee and Bevan believed Britain's economic recovery and the survival of sterling as a great trading currency required closer integration with the old 'white' dominions, especially Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The British were also determined to exploit the tropical colonies more effectively due to the fact that their cocoa, rubber and tin could be sold for much-needed dollars. Across the whole spectrum of party opinion, British leaders had no doubt that Britain must uphold its status as the third great power, and that it could only do so by maintaining its empire and the Commonwealth link. Europe, by contrast, they saw as a zone of economic and political weakness. It was Britain's overseas assets that would help to defend it.

1950s: Suez Crisis
They accepted the need to grant increasing self-government and then independence to some of their most valuable colonies - including Ghana and Malaya in 1957 - on the understanding that they remained in Britain's sphere of financial and strategic influence. The British governments took up the challenge of anti-colonial revolts in Malaya, Kenya and Cyprus. They invested heavily in up-to-date weaponry and fretted over the slowness of the British economy to resume its old role as the great lender of capital. The 1956 Suez Crisis was a savage revelation of Britain's financial and military weakness and destroyed much of what remained of Britain's influence in the Middle East. It was becoming much harder for Britain to control the rate of political change, especially where the presence of settlers (as in Kenya and the Rhodesia's) sharpened conflicts over land. Britain's position as the third great power and 'deputy leader' of the Western Alliance was threatened by the resurgence of France and West Germany, who jointly presided over the new European Economic Community (EEC). Britain's claim on American support, the indispensable prop of imperial survival, could no longer be taken for granted. And Britain's own economy, far from accelerating, was stuck in a rut.

1960s: Loss of the Colonies
As late as 1959, it had publicly scheduled a degree of self-government for Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika. All became independent between 1961 and 1963. Britain's failure to stop the white settler revolt in Southern Rhodesia in 1965 was a huge embarrassment and drew fierce condemnation from many new Commonwealth states. Meanwhile the British economy staggered from crisis to crisis and the burden became unsustainable. Devaluation of the pound in November 1967 was followed within weeks by the decision to withdraw Britain's military presence east of Suez.

1970s to the Present: End of Empire
When Britain finally entered the European Community in 1973, the line had been drawn under Britain's imperial age. The Rhodesian rebellion was to last until the late 1970s, Britain fought a war to retain the Falkland Islands in 1982 and Hong Kong continued, with tacit Chinese agreement, as a British dependency until 1997. In the 21st century, old imperial links still survive, particularly those based on language and law, which may assume growing importance in a globalised world. Even the Commonwealth, bruised and battered in the 1960s and 1970s, has retained a surprising utility as a dense global network of informal connections, valued by its numerous small states. In September 1982, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher travelled to Beijing to negotiate with the Chinese government on the future of Britain's last major and most populous overseas territory, Hong Kong U. Under the terms of the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, Hong Kong Island itself had been ceded to Britain in perpetuity, but the vast majority of the colony was constituted by the New Territories, which had been acquired under a 99-year lease in 1898, due to expire in 1997. Thatcher, seeing parallels with the Falkland Islands, initially wished to hold Hong Kong and proposed British administration with Chinese sovereignty, though this was rejected by China. A deal was reached in 1984—under the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kong would become a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China, maintaining its way of life for at least 50 years. The handover ceremony in 1997 marked for many including Charles, Prince of Wales, who was in attendance, "the end of Empire".

Legacy of the British Empire
It cause large immigration to people across the world
Many ex colonies still use the British parliamentary system as the basis for there now independent government It was also responsible for creating some the world’s most popular sports including soccer, football, cricket, rugby, lawn tennis and gulf. The British empire’s largest mark on the world was the English language , the proliferation of the language increased with the spread of their rule and today it is a mother tongue of 400 million people worldwide. British colonial architecture, such as in churches, railway stations and government buildings, can be seen in many cities that were once part of the British Empire. The convention of driving on the left hand side of the road has been retained in much of the former empire

Common law (also known as case law or precedent) was developed in England and used throughout the British Empire. It is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals (as opposed to legislative statutes or executive branch action).  The British Empire brought products which we use today into general use including sugar, coffee, tobacco, cocoa and chocolate (from the Americas), tea, rice (from India) and rubber (from Malaya). The development of rubber created today's useful products such as tyres and Wellington boots. Hindi words from India including "bungalow", "veranda" and "pyjamas" also entered the English language due to India's place in the British Empire. All countries which are former British colonies used this system until recently. It consisted of pounds, ounces, feet, inches, gallons, miles, pints, etc. In Africa, for example, this system was used in former British colonies such as South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya, while the metric system was used in former French colonies such as Algeria and Ivory Coast. The fact that the United States of America still uses this system is part of its British heritage.

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