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The British Empire comprised the territories, colonies, protectorates, mandates, dominions and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom during the 18th to 20th century.

The English Empire

Overlook of Kingston

The English Empire's origins began with the discovery of North and South America during the Age of Discovery. Several European countries, including England, began to establish colonies and protectorates overseas in an attempt to increase their power globally.[1]

By the 18th century, England held significant possessions in North America. Among the largest of these was a collection of colonies known as the Thirteen Colonies. Alongside this, England controlled much of coastal Canada, including Nova Scotia.[2] In the Caribbean, the Kingdom of England held a number of significant portly cities including Kingston and Nassau. The English also ruled over Belize,[1] the Cayman Islands, and Barbados, where Stede Bonnet lived as a moderately wealthy land-owner.[3] Trinidad, the birthplace of future pirate and Assassin Adéwalé, was also an English procession.[4]

The First British Empire

The Golden Age of Piracy and the War of Spanish Succession

The "British" Empire was formed in 1707, with the unification of the kingdoms of Scotland and England, who became the Kingdom of Great Britain. At this time, the British Empire was at war with the Spanish and French Empires over the disputed Spanish throne. The British used this as a way of further expanding their empire through territorial disputes across the Americas.[3]

British soldiers landing in Nassau

During the war most countries involved, including Great Britain, made extensive use of privateers to harass enemy shipping routes. With the coming of peace in 1715, many privateers were left without gainful employment, and so resorted to piracy in order to survive. It is due to this that the period became known as the "Golden Age of Piracy". The Empire faced intense pirate attacks and the establishment of a pirate republic in Nassau in 1713.[3]

The increasing power of the Pirate Republic prompted the British to begin its war on piracy in 1718, by re-establishing control in Nassau and appointing Woodes Rogers the Governor of the Bahamas. Prior to coming to the West Indies, Woodes went to Madagascar, which was a part of the British Empire at the time, where he offered the pirates in the region a Royal Pardon where they could return to England in dispute or be hanged. In the Nassau, he was given the task of offering the pirates a pardon in exchange for them to stop their criminal activities. By 1722, Rogers and several pirate hunters, such as Benjamin Hornigold, were able to effectively put a stop to piracy in the Caribbean.[3]

The Seven Years' War

Overlook of Halifax

Prior to the war, the cities of Albany, New York, and Halifax, were controlled by the British along with minor settlements including Greystone, Lock Cliff and St. Nicolas. Following the war, the Empire expanded its holdings by taking possession of the River Valley and North Atlantic, resulting in towns and cities including St. John's, Percé and St. Anthony, as well as Le Bras-du-Seigneur and Coeur-de-l'hiver falling into British hands. The British also assumed control of Florida, a number of islands in the Caribbean, and territories in India.[2]

During the Seven Years' War, the British Empire, alongside its allies, who included Portugal, a number of Germanic states, and the Iroquois, faced a large coalition of powers, including France, Austria, Russia, and Spain. The war occurred due to a number of factors, the primary reason being British attempts to expand further into Canada, which was primarily controlled by France at the time, and the Caribbean which was divided between Europe's major powers, with Spain possessing the most holdings there.[2]

The British fought against the French across the northern border of the American colonies, primarily in the River Valley and the North Atlantic. Amongst those fighting for or alongside the British were Shay Cormac, General Edward Braddock, George Washington and John Pitcairn as well as William Johnson, Colonel George Monro and Captain James Cook.[2]

The Royal Navy's strength resulted in the French being cut off from their colonies, and ultimately led to a swift takeover of France's North American territories, resulting in the transfer of sovereignty of all French possessions in the North Atlantic and the River Valley to the British. The Templar Order was also active in New York, systematically disposing of Assassin-affiliated gangs.[2]

Striving for control and order, King George II of Great Britain's goals were in line with the aims of the Templar Order. As a result, the British received the backing of the Order and ultimately won the war. Despite this, the victory had led to increased disparity in the Thirteen Colonies, as a result of high taxation levied by King George in order to pay for the war.[1]

Thirteen Colonies

Overlook of Boston's docks

During the mid 18th century, the British Empire faced a rebellion of its colonies in North America, the Thirteen Colonies following the French and Indian War. The Thirteen Colonies were taxed heavily and forced to provide soldiers for the war.[1]

As a result, British Americans grew dissatisfied with the rights they were given by their sovereign state. This intensified with the Boston Tea Party, Boston Massacre and the Battles of Lexington and Concord which started the American Revolutionary War between the Thirteen Colonies and the British Empire.[1]

While the British maintained the upper hand during most of the conflict, she faced opposition from a number of European colonial powers such as Spain, France and the Netherlands who supported the Thirteen Colonies so to weaken Britain's position in Europe. Britain came under fear of the loss of other colonies and protectorates in Canada, Europe and India.[1]

The Continental Army under leadership of Commander George Washington eventually emerged victorious, and the colonies achieved their independence after the Treaty of Paris, resulting in the foundation of the United States. The loss of the Thirteen Colonies marked the end of the First British Empire.[1]

The Second British Empire

War against the French Empire

In 1803, the French Empire, started to take possession of the neighboring areas in Europe. However, the British Empire began to form a military resistance alongside their allies in order to stop the French Army advance.

A remarkable battle that took place during this conflict, was the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when Admiral Horatio Nelson led the Royal Navy to defend the United Kingdom from Napoleon Bonaparte's French Navy.

Company rule in India

During the early 19th century, the British Empire started expand into India and were present during Ranjit Singh's reign as Maharaja of the newly founded Sikh Empire, maintaining a good relationship with the Sikhs for several years.[5]

Victorian Era

Main article: Victorian era

By the Victorian era, marked by the reign of Queen Victoria, the British Empire reached its apex - standing as the largest empire in human history. During this period the United Kingdom faced the Industrial Revolution, in which a series of technological advances across the British Empire resulted in the United Kingdom becoming the foremost industrialized state in the world, with significant technological developments taking place across various fields including medicine and communication. [6]


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