Culture Question:

Why is Britain no longer an imperial country?

(posted: Oct 2009)

Wikipedia provides a nice short explanation on this in the “Aftermath” section of its World War II page:

Following the end of the war, a rapid period of decolonization also took place within the holdings of the various European colonial powers. These primarily occurred due to shifts in ideology, the economic exhaustion from the war and increased demand by indigenous people for self-determination. For the most part, these transitions happened relatively peacefully.1

In other words, going through WWII had changed the ideas (ideology) of the people in Britain. They were more likely to favour giving the same rights of self-government to the colonies as they themselves had.

The technology of war was also more readily available to any group looking to fight for their independence. The cost of empire continued to rise. The war had left Britain with no money to finance any more wars to keep colonies that wanted independence. It was cheaper to let colonies go.

And WWII had left many of the remaining British colonies with a greater desire to be independent. They wanted to make their own decisions about their futures.

These forces together led Britain from having an Empire, to being part of a Commonwealth.

Source:

  1. Wikipedia. “World War II”, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II) 31-Oct-2009

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Map of British Commonwealth

Commonwealth of Nations

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Further Reading:

The British Empire 1922: Scroll down almost halfway to “How did the British Empire End?”

British Empire: on Wikipedia. Scroll down halfway to “Decolonisation and decline (1945–1997)”