Published Date

January 1, 1946

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 16: What Makes the British Commonwealth Hold Together? (1946)


The Early Years

The beginnings of the British Empire took place in the 16th century when efforts to discover new routes to the Far East resulted in many voyages for discovery and trade. The next two centuries saw the establishment of colonies in North America and trade established with India and the Far East. Such men as Cabot, Frobisher, Drake, Hudson, and Cook carried the English flag to far corners of the earth.

Colonial Expansion, 1780–1880

After the American Revolution the Canadian colonies were extended westward, settlements were made in Australia, New Zealand, and Africa; India came under British rule; and other new British colonies were established. London became the center of world commerce.

The Empire Comes of Age, 1850–1914

Progress in trade and communication after the 1850’s caused many British emigrants to seek new homes in the colonies where discoveries of valuable minerals and rich land brought great expansion. Development of the steamship and locomotive, opening the Suez Canal, new colonial policies giving dominion status and self-government to many colonies, all contributed to strengthening the Empire.

Next section: Why Haven’t Other Colonies Followed Our Example?