The British Empire hasn’t really existed since the late ’60s, however, the empire didn’t disappear without leaving a long-lasting legacy on the geopolitical landscape of today. A legacy that led to the creation of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth of Nations is an association of 54 independent and sovereign states, most of which are former territories of the British Empire.
With a conjoined land area of 11.5 million square miles [29.9 million sq km] and 2.4 billion people, the Commonwealth contains approximately 20% of the world’s land and 32% of the world’s inhabitants. This massive association is unique on the world stage, with its roots in British imperialism. At its height, the largest empire that the world had ever seen, the decline of the British Empire led to political turmoil and unrest throughout its formerly colonized regions, particularly outside of its mostly white colonies like Canada and Australia. These colonies were the first to see change, being promoted to Dominion status (The word Dominion was used from 1907 to 1948 to refer to one of several self-governing colonies of the British Empire) throughout the late 19th century and early 20th century. This meant they had more independence over their own affairs while still ultimately being under the authority of the Crown.
Canada was the first to become a Dominion in 1867, followed by Australia in 1901, New Zealand and Newfoundland in 1907, South Africa in 1910, and Ireland in 1922 — the leaders of which would attend the 1926 Imperial Conference. At this Conference, Britain and its Dominions agreed that they would all be equal members of the British Empire, meaning, despite all owing allegiance to the Crown, they would not be ruled by the United Kingdom. The powers at this Conference decided on the name ‘British Commonwealth of Nations’ to describe their newly formed organization, the first form of what we now call the Commonwealth of Nations today. For more exciting stuff please subscribe to our Facebook Page
This agreement formalized in the Statute of Westminster in 1931, allowing the Commonwealth to take shape. It is notable to point out that, at the time of the Imperial Conference, the British Empire included vast areas of land in Africa, much of the Middle East, the entirety of Pakistan and India, as well as several other regions across the world, while the only territories represented at the Imperial Conference were the predominantly white members of the British empire, leading many to refer to this early form of the Commonwealth as the ‘White Commonwealth’.
The newly formed ‘British Commonwealth of Nations’ existed in this form for a relatively brief period, however. Britain’s colonies not included in the early commonwealth began to seek further separation and even independence from the British, beginning with Pakistan and India in 1947. India becomes part of the Commonwealth initially, however, upon announcing intentions to severe ties with the Crown and become a republic in 1949, it no longer meets the requirements for Commonwealth membership. It was because of India’s switch to a republican form of government that, at a meeting of Commonwealth leaders in 1949, it was decided that member-states may be in the Commonwealth if they accepted the British Crown as a ‘symbol of free-association between member-nations, meaning India could remain in the Commonwealth. Along with this change, it was decided that the ‘British Commonwealth of Nations’ would drop the ‘British’ in its title, becoming the Commonwealth of Nations we know today. See my article on British Royal Family Money Sources.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka became Commonwealth members in 1949. The Irish Free State, one of the founding members of the original British Commonwealth, withdraw from the Commonwealth at this time as well, meaning this is what the new Commonwealth of Nations looked like as of 1949: The number of Commonwealth nations increase greatly throughout the next several decades, however, it did not come without its issues. 2 other member-stares, on top of Ireland, left the Commonwealth—firstly the founding member South Africa in 1961, and later Pakistan in 1972. Both of these, however, both countries later rejoined, the first being Pakistain, rejoining after 17 years in 1989, and second South Africa, rejoining after 33 years in 1994.
Mozambique, joining in 1995, was the first nation to join the Commonwealth of Nations that was not at some point under British control, but rather Portuguese control as a colony. Today, the Commonwealth of Nations has 54 member states across the world. This is what the Commonwealth looks like today: While, since 1949, Commonwealth members have been allowed to choose their head of state freely, many Commonwealth nations continue to observe the Queen as a reigning constitutional monarch. These 16 nations are all members of the Commonwealth of Nations and are collectively known as the Commonwealth Realm. These nations include, among others, Canada, Jamaica, the U.K., Australia, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand. The Commonwealth of Nations is one of the largest associations of countries in the world today and exists to serve the economic, social, and political needs of its member states, from some of the world’s largest economies to countless developing nations, and is an interesting result of British imperialism. For more exciting stuff please subscribe to our Facebook Page