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Great Britain

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Great Britain; Britain; England;
British Empire
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Historical establishment

19th century

Fate

Reformed into British Commonwealth

Government

Constitutional Monarchy

Last Head of state

King

Capital

London; shifted to Ottawa following declaration of Commonwealth

Official language(s)

English

National anthem

"God Save the King"

Great Britain, also known as the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, used to be one of the world's most extensive modern land empires. Following a disastrous defeat in the Great War against German, Austro-Hungary and Turkey, it subsequently fell into decline as economic crises and its inability to support its highly divided and extensive empire sapped its strength away. Further social chaos in the wake of epidemics and economic collapse would eventually force the Royal family to take up residence in the Dominion of Canada, and announce substantial reforms, ending the Empire and replacing it with the Commonwealth.

Rise of the British EmpireEdit

Despite the turmoil of the early 19th century and the extensive loss of holdings in North America to the American Revolutoin, Britain only grew stronger and at age 18 Queen Victoria (1837--1901) came to the throne. England was at the height of its overseas power, and Queen Victoria's long reign would see it reach its greatest expanse. The two other prominent figures of this period were Gladstone and Disraeli who both served as Prime Ministers during Victoria's reign. Gladstone was a liberal and a humanitarian while Disraeli was an imperialist and nationalistic. These two opposing figures fought on opposite sides of the issues but it was Disraeli and his policies that got the Queen's favor. He was not only charming but a personal friend of the Queen, so it was no surprise how English policy towards the rest of the world was carried out. India was at this time administered by the East India Company, but after a mutiny of Indian troops, the country became fully under control of the British government. In fact Queen Victoria was declared Empress of India in 1876. A trade dispute with China would also result in the Opium War, which saw Britain, make further colonial gains in Asia. In Africa, Rhodes was carrying out ambitions to see British influence stretch from the North in Egypt all the way to South Africa. Including her colonies in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, British influence was felt literally around the world. Although by the end of the 19th century all three would gain its independence they would remain staunch allies of Britain and part of the commonwealth. However, Ireland was again trying to reassert its independence and resorted to terrorism in order to make its point, the fruits of which are still a problem to this day.

The Great War and the Great DepressionEdit

In the 20th century, continuing social problems with industrialisation and urbanisation, as well as the Irish problem made it clear that maintaining a British Empire was no longer tenable. The British Monarchy would also gradually step away from being a political entity or rulers and ease itself into a role as a symbolic head of state. Britain would also make a diametric change in European foreign policy. Events in Southern Africa and German military build up made it clear that they would be a greater threat to Britain than its traditional enemies the French. Subsequent British policy did nothing to help Germany feel at ease and when the Great War erupted, England allied with France and Russia against Germany.

The Great War (1914--1919) was an extremely bloody struggle for all sides. It saw the advent of airplane and tank as well as chemical weapons in war, but it was characterised by an almost stalemated situation of years of trench warfare where each side made little advances for months, finally culminating in the capitulation of France. With France out of the war, Britain was the only sole active combatant on the Western front (the only other ally was the Kingdom of Italy, but Italy was having problems trying to contain the Austrian threat, and Russia was not doing well). The Isle of Wight Treaty, called the "Treaty of Shame", put an end to British involvement in the Great War and was the first step towards the decline of the Empire.

This of course did not spell the end of the Empire per se, but only marked the beginning of the end or so for the Empire. While the war only did just make a substantial dent in the British economy, what happened after the war was what caused the troubles to begin.

Collapse of the British banking systemEdit

Although peace was declared in 1919, the German Empire's inability to restore order and rebuild the shattered European nations (especially France) caused chronic social unrest, making it impossible for trade between Britain and the rest of Europe to resume like it did. Coupled with a new infectious pandemic from Africa, known as Wafa's disease, intra-Europe trade had collapsed completely.

The economic collapse of Europe had substantial knock-on effects for the British economy. In 1918, the London European Trust (ET) was declared bankrupt. What had happened was that previously it had invested heavily in Italian and French bonds, losing all its money. Following an internal inquest into the sudden losses it was making, investigating accountants then declared that substantial funds had been embezzled from its coffers throughout the war, mauling its stock price in the City. By late 1919 it was clear that ET was insolvent and Westminster was subsequently compelled to put it into receivership, but this was not enough. A run on the markets decimated further banks, including Barings, Halifax and Barclays. by February 1920, these three banks were on the verge of collapse, and the insurer Lloyd's was also suffering the effects of a financial meltdown too.

Although Britain escaped unscathed from the social chaos that gripped Europe and the Fourth Great Northern War, this sudden collapse of the British financial system, along with the national humiliation of the Isle of Wight treaty eventually would set the scene for political instability and eventually the downfall of the monarchy itself.

Ottawa AccordsEdit

The next crisis to hit was the transmission of Wafa's disease to the far-flung reaches of the Empire. While some areas as Canada and Australia would remain relatively unscathed, Britain herself and India bore the brunt of the epidemic, with an estimated 200 deaths a day on average, until an antidote was discovered for the pandemic in Africa. This naturally compounded Britain's problems. While the outbreak in England would be contained successfully, in India, it caused chaos. In attempts to stop the spread of the disease, cities in India were placed under quarantine, preventing people from moving about and apprehending violators of the quarantine and even shootings too place. Conditions in India were far more severe than those in England. The Muslim rulers of India, seeing their chance, declared a jihad, overthrowing their British colonial overlords over a period of six weeks. After much blood had been shed in the streets of Delhi and Calcutta, the sultans subsequently met in Agra and declared the creation of the Confederated States of India, marking an end to almost two centuries of British rule in India.

End of the EmpireEdit

The loss of India hurt British confidence in their government further. By 1922, it was clear that the British isles were no longer politically stable. Nationalist movements like Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Party began to demand more autonomy, while in Ireland, there was further chaos. Dublin and Belfast became war zones as Irish separatists clashed with each other and British military police trying to restore order. On 1921, several members of the British royal family in cooperation with top military officials took over the House of Commons after all ministers therein resigned, and declared the formation of the British Commonwealth, consisting of the remnants of the British Empire and its Dominions. Fearing the backlash, the British royal family was escorted across the sea to Ottawa, eventually to become the heads of state of the new Commonwealth.

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