Below is a 81.9K animated GIF file. It may take a while to load, though individual frames should display during loading; and then, as the file runs, it may slow down the response of your computer for scrolling and other functions, even when the browser is minimized and other programs are used. The animation can be stopped at any time by hitting the "STOP" key (in Netscape), though I have noticed that this may not work for the Microsoft Internet Explorer. Animation may be restarted by reloading the page or by leaving and returning to the page. Note that Los Angeles, the home of The Proceedings of the Friesian School, is in the same time zone as Vancouver (GMT -8).
Not all British possessions are listed in the image, only representative ones for each of the 24 time zones of the Earth. (All British possessions are listed below.) The time zones themselves may be said to be artifacts of the British Empire, since they are based on the Meridian of Greenwich (at the original Royal Observatory, 1675-1953, in London), which since 1884 is the internationally accepted prime meridian for the calculation of longitude. The animation may also be used to inspect the operation of the International Dateline, which divides the -12h/+12h time zone. It is interesting to note that although several places in the Pacific might fall into the -12h time zone, the Dateline itself and the boundaries of the -11h zone are today drawn in such a way that no jurisdiction uses the -12h zone (Tonga, formerly British, uses +12h; Midway Island & the Aleutians use -11h). Some time zone boundaries have been changed since 1937. Gambia no longer seems to be in the -1h time zone. Also, there have been several time zones that are at a half hour rather than a whole hour interval from Greenwich, including today India (+5h30m), Burma (+6h30m), and central Australia (+9h30m). My source for the 1937 zones (in the Atlas of the British Empire, edited by Christopher Bayly, Facts on File, 1989, p.246) does not clearly indicate these variations, so no attempt is made to represent them.
The "British Empire" was not a de jure entity (like the German Empire, Austrian Empire, Russian Empire, or Japanese Empire), since Britain itself was a kingdom (the "United Kingdom" of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). One British possession, however, was an empire, namely India. Queen Victoria became "Empress of India" in 1876. Subsequently, the term "imperial" worked its way into various official terminology about British possessions, e.g. the "Imperial General Staff" and the "Imperial War Museum." When India and Pakistan became independent in 1947, the Indian Empire ceased to exist and both countries became, for a time, Dominions -- the category for previous British self-governing territories, starting with Canada (1867) and later coming to include the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, and, for a time (1926-1934), little Newfoundland (which did not join Canada until 1949). As the "Empire" faded, the British Commonwealth took over, though that organization seemed to offer less and less as time went on in terms of real economic, military, or political advantages.
Today Queen Elizabeth II is still the official Head of State of scattered former possessions, like the Solomon Islands; but the British connection for the remaining Dominions (Canada, Australia, & New Zealand) has been increasingly compromised and questioned. Canada has come up with its own flag (losing the Union Jack canton), its own national anthem ("Oh Canada!"), its own constitution, and its own perhaps fatal political division between francophone Quebec and all the other, sometimes bitterly resentful (for the cost of bilingualism -- mandated everywhere except Quebec), anglophone provinces. Why Canada should then continue with a "Queen's Government," or even as a single country, is increasingly an open question. When I visited British Columbia as a child in 1959, there were Union Jacks as well as Canadian Ensigns on sale everywhere for tourists. On my last visit to Canada, in 1995, there were no Union Jacks to be seen at all. Meanwhile, Australia, always resentful of much of what happened in World War I (at Gallipoli) and in World War II (at Singapore and in Burma), contains a powerful movement to become a Republic. Recently, however (November 6, 1999), this was put to stand-up vote and lost; so Australia will remain a Dominion for a while yet. The British Empire, in one sense long gone, confirmed with the return of Hong Kong to Communist China in 1997, thus continues a slow fade everywhere. At the same time, British sovereignty in Britain itself becomes increasingly compromised by participation in the ill designed, ill considered, corrupt, and heavy handed Euro-government of the European Community, and by separatist movements in Scotland, Wales, and, as always, Ireland.
In 1909 the British Empire encompassed 20% of the land area of the Earth and 23% of its population. Although the first industrial power, by 1900 Britain had been surpassed by both United States and by Germany; but Britain was still the financial center of the world and the premier merchant carrier.
millions of £
millions of £
millions of £
Empire, p. 423
Empire, p. 258
Indeed, Britain in this period is running a large trade deficit. This is usually taken as a sign of British decline. However, as David Hume noted as early as 1752, this really just means that enough money is exported to make up the difference. This would cause a deflation, unless enough money is created or brought in (for investment) to make up the difference. Since Britain did not experience any deflation after the 1890's, it is fairly clear that the money flows were correcting the balance. This kind of thing was later thought to be indicative of American decline when the United States began to run large trade deficits and in the 1980's became a net debtor from foreign investment in United States securities. However, the dire predictions at the time gave no hint of the relative strength of the United States economy, with good growth, low unemployment, and negligible inflation in the 1990's, with the American advantage over Europe and Japan increasing in the course of the decade. By 1999, the United States economy was all but carrying, Atlas-like, the stagnant or shrinking economies of the rest of the world.
The British balance of trade and balance of payments situation in 1900 thus need not have been an indicator of any real ill health. British decline ultimately had to be from other causes, like an absolute decline in innovation and investment at home. Indeed, when Americans in the 1980's worried about the Japanese buying up the United States, the largest foreign investors were actually British -- which for the future meant American growth rather than British growth.
Another lesson to be read off the trade figures is that a relatively small fraction of British trade involved colonies that would later constitute the "Third World." Indeed, the only trade surpluses in the table are with India, Africa, the West Indies, and the Far East, which might give some heart to Marxist claims that British colonies, especially India, were the outlet for Capitalist "excess production." However, the trade surpluses are small, and overall British trade with India and the other colonies is hardly larger than with the much, much smaller populations of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. No serious argument can be made that the likes of Australia and New Zealand, with their own autonomous governments and protective tariffs, were being "exploited" by Great Britain. Instead the largest British export market is simply with the rest of Europe. Indeed, Europe, the United States, Australia, Canada, etc. are the places where more people would have enough money to buy British goods.
The figures for investment reveal the truth about the thesis first advanced by J.A. Hobson in 1902 (Imperialism), and later taken up by Lenin, that British conquest followed British investment. Hobson wished to explain the recent Boer War as the effect of £400 million of investment in the South African gold and diamond minds. Lenin saw British colonies as the necessary outlet for British capital, as well as for British capitalist "overproduction." Unfortunately, if this thesis were true, then the British should have been conquering the United States, not South Africa, since the largest single destination of British investment was the Americas, but Canada was the only large scale British possession.
In the following list of present and former British possessions,
current British possessions and dependencies are in boldface red, current
members of the British Commonwealth are in plain red, and independent states in
the Commonwealth that retain Queen Elizabeth as their Head of State are followed
by a crown, .
The list of Princely States in India is incomplete but is certainly enough to
convey the complexity of the place under British rule.
The animated GIF file on this page was originally 226.2K in size. Sven Mitsdörffer sent me a 43.8K version, which, however, did not seem entirely compatible with my assembler [the Alchemy Mind Works GIF Construction Set (32-Bit) 1.0Q, 1995]. The present 81.9K image is one that is redone using some of the techniques I found in Sven's version.
British Battleships, "Warrior" 1860 to "Vanguard" 1950, A History of Design, Construction and Armament, by Oscar Parkes, Seeley Service & Co., London, 1957
The Horizon History of the British Empire, edited by Stephen W. Sears, American Heritage Publishing/BBC/Time-Life Books/McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1973
The Pax Britannica Trilogy, by James Morris, Harvest/HBJ/Helen Kurt Wolff Book
The Black Battlefleet, by Admiral G.A. Ballard, Naval Institute Press, 1980
The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, edited by Kenneth O. Morgan, Oxford, 1984
End of Empire, by Brian Lapping, St. Martin's Press, 1985
Jutland, An analysis of the fighting, by NJM Campbell, Naval Institute Press, 1986
Atlas of the British Empire, edited by Christopher Bayly, Facts on File, 1989
The British Conquest and Dominion of India, Sir Penderel Moon, Duckworth/Indiana University Press, 1989
Dreadnought -- Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War, by Robert K. Massie, Random House, 1991
Great Battles of the Royal Navy, as Commemorated in the Gunroom, Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, editor-in-chief Eric Grove, Naval Institute Press, 1994
The Royal Navy, An Illustrated History, by Anthony J. Watts, Naval Institute Press, 1994
The British Empire, 1558-1995, by T.O. Lloyd, The Short Oxford History of the Modern World, general editor J.M. Roberts, Oxford, 1996
The Oxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy, general editor J.R. Hill, Oxford, 1995
The Oxford History of the British Empire
Crucible of War, The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, Fred Anderson, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000
Prime Ministers of the Dominions
British Emperors of India
The Kings of England and Scotland
British Coins before the Florin, Compared to French Coins of the Ancien Régime
Philosophy of History
|Prime Ministers of Canada|
|Sir Robert Borden||1911-1920|
|William Lyon MacKenzie King||1921-1926,|
|Louis Saint Laurent||1948-1957|
Newfoundland did not join Canada until 1949, and for a brief period it was even a Dominion in its own right (1926-1934).
Almost from the beginning Canada had to contend with comparison to, and influence from, the Great Republic to the south. Indeed, one of the first acts of the Dominion was to adopt a Dollar coin equal in value (in gold) to the United States Dollar. Canadian silver and bronze coinage, however, for many years was proportional in size to British coinage. Thus, Canadian silver dollars were smaller than American ones, but nearly equal in size to the British 4 shilling (double florin) coin, which was worth 97 US cents. Until after World War I, Canadian cents were equal in size to the British half-penny, which was worth about one US cent. Briefly, there were Canadian half-cents equal in size to the British farthing.
Expanding an identity for Canada separate from Britain (no one, indeed, ever
would have confused them) became a goal in the 1960's. A
new flag was adopted in 1965, eliminating the Union Jack canton. And a new
National Anthem, "Oh Canada!" is now heard. Since the constitution of Canada was
actually the British North American Act, Pierre Trudeau cut the last legal ties
to Britain by writing a complete, new Constitution. Since that document,
however, makes many special provisions for French-speaking Quebec, it introduced
a source of irritation and binationalism that occasionally threatens to break
Canada apart. One curious result of this was the election of 1993, when the
"Progressive Conservative" Party, despite a woman Prime Minister (Kim Campell),
was all but annihilated, with new power going to regional parties.
|Prime Ministers of New Zealand|
When I lived in Hawai'i in the early 1970's, I was struck by a photo one morning on the front page of the Honolulu Advertiser. A volcano in New Zealand, Mt. Ngauruhoe, was erupting. It was some years before I found an atlas detailed enough to show that particular mountain, one of several active volcanoes on the North Island. At the time, I was interested in Polynesian languages and ended up ordering Bruce Biggs's Let's Learn Maori, book and records, [A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, 1969, 1973] through Basil Blackwell at Oxford. It took many months for them to make their way from New Zealand to Oxford and then out to Hawai'i. I rather liked the idea of them around almost entirely around the world to get to me.
After I moved to Texas in 1975, one of my new neighbors, Donna, ordered
something from New Zealand herself, a spinning wheel. It needed to be assembled
and stained, and I helped her out. I even learned from her how to use it. I
thought it was enough fun that I considered buying one myself; but the price,
$50 back then, was far beyond my budget (and the price subsequently went up). I
don't know what I would have done with the thread anyway, since I never got into
weaving the way Donna did. Now, however, the question has arisen again. Donna
bought other spinning wheels, and last year (2000) decided that the original one
was maybe more than she needed. So she offered it to me. It arrived at our house
in January (2001), and I got to put it back together all over again. After 25
some years, I had forgotten how to spin, but Donna had retained, and sent, all
the original documentation, including instructions on use, and the story of how
these particular spinning wheels had been developed in New Zealand, a country
with more sheep than people, during World War II so that women could make
homespun clothing for the boys off in the War. Donna also sent a selection of
materials to spin, including hair from the Angora rabbits that she keeps. As for
what to do with the thread, she says that she even sells some of hers on eBay.
|Prime Ministers of Australia|
Foreigners know that Australians are called "Aussies." Americans, however (like me), tended to think of the "ss" as pronounced voicelessly, like, indeed, an "s." But it appears that Australians actually pronounce it as a "z": "Auzzie." The Crocodile Dundee movies were largely instrumental in correcting this misperception. The right pronunciation produces several happy puns, like calling Australia itself the "Land of Oz."
Australia may now be the Dominion most tempted by Republicanism. The relationship with Britain has been of a love-hate variety ever since the first shipload of prisoners arrived at Botany Bay. Real strain began in World War I. Britain declared War against Germany in the name of all the Dominions without actually asking them, or even telling them, first. This was an irritation that could be perhaps forgiven, once. Australians enthusiastically volunteered for the Army, and the ANZAC, "Australia-New Zealand Army Corps," entered combat. Unfortunately, the combat ended up being at Gallipoli, where Winston Churchill had gotten the idea of seizing the Dardanelles and putting Turkey out of the War. This was a good idea, but amphibious landings were a new idea, and the campaign ended up poorly conducted, and a failure. There was great slaughter on both sides, but many of the Allied dead were specifically Australians and New Zealanders. Were the British really this careless? Or were they just careless with the ANZAC's? Well, that was World War I, but the Australians can certainly be forgiven for some resentment about dying in a campaign that owned nothing to their direction or consent.
The postwar era got off to a bad start with the Washington Naval Treaty (1921), whereby Britain accepted naval parity with the United States and agree with Japan to limit its military presence in the Pacific. This gravely compromised Britain's defense responsibilities to Australia and New Zealand; and, again, it looked like Britain was making its own decisions without concern or consultation about the Pacific Dominions. Meanwhile, in the 20's and 30's, the Dominions were recognized as independent in all but name. In the Statute of Westminster of 1931, the British Parliament renounced all legislative, even constiutional, authority over the Dominions. This could not mean that they were simply on their own, however. Australia and New Zealand did not have the means to defend themselves against Japan and had no desire to do so alone.
When Japan entered World War II, Britain was already stretched thin. And the ANZAC force was in North Africa. The whole British position in the Pacific depended on the base at Singapore, with obsolete aircraft and few ships. The Japanese landed in Malaya, drove against Singapore and, in part by bluff against a larger force, compelled a British surrender. Many Australians ended up dying in Japanese prison camps, or suffering to build the infamous Japanese railroad from Thailand to Burma (as seen in The Bridge on the River Kwai ). Britain had little left to offer for the defense of the South Pacific. Only America could help, and the war effort in New Guinea and the Solomons came to be a cooperative ANZAC-American effort. Henceforth, while Constitutional ties were retained with Britain, Australia would always be as much a partner of the United States as of the "Mother" country. Republican advocates, like the art critic and historian Robert Hughes, seem to spend as much time in the United States as Down Under. And the British ("bloody pommies") would never understand surfing.
|Prime Ministers of South Africa|
|Jan Christiaan Smuts||1919-1924,|
becomes a Republic,
|B. J. Vorster||1978-1979|
|J. Christian Heunis||acting, 1989|
|Frederik W. de Klerk||1989-1994|
|Prime Ministers of Ireland|
|Eamon De Valera||1919-1922|
|Eamon De Valera||1932-1948,|
|Ireland becomes a|
|Sean O'Kelly||1945-1959||John Costello||1948-1951,|
|Eamon De Valera||1959-1973||Sean Lemass||1959-1966|
|Carroll Daly||1974-1976||Liam Cosgrave||1973-1977|
|Mary McAleese||1997-||Bertie Ahern||1997-|
|Prime Ministers of India|
|India becomes a|
|Zakir Husain||1967-1969||Indira Gandhi||1966-1977,|
|acting, 1977||Morarji Desai||1977-1979|
|N. Sanjiva Reddy||1977-1982||Charan Singh||1979-1980|
|Zail Singh||1982-1987||Rajiv Gandhi||1984-1989|
Looming large in recent Indian history is not just Jawaharlal Nehru but his
family. Nehru's daughter Indira dominated the country for nearly twenty years.
When she arrested the opposition, India briefly lost its democracy. When she
figured on a vote of confidence from the people in 1977, she was voted out of
power instead. The opposition, however, was no more popular; and Indira returned
to office in 1980. Ordering a military suppression of the Sikhs, she was assassinated
by a Sikh guard in 1984. Her son Rajiv was also assassinated.
|Prime Ministers of Pakistan|
|Liaquat Ali Khan||1947-1951|
|Muhammad Ali Bogra||1953-1955|
|Hussein Shahid Suhrawardi||1956-1957|
a Republic, 1956;
out of Commonwealth,
Some periods of outright dictatorship, under Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, and Zia-ul-Haq, are evident from the absence of a Prime Minister. The secession of East Pakistan and the disastrous defeat by India over it led to the tenure of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was later executed, supposedly for corruption under his rule. Benazir was his daughter and set out to vindicate him.
The red, white, and blue of the flags of Britain, Canada, Australia, and New
Zealand contrast with the oranges and greens that turn up in the flags of South
Africa, Ireland, India, and Pakistan. The orange of South Africa and Ireland is
actually of the same origin, the Dutch House of Orange, following the Dutch
settlers of South Africa and the cause of the Protestants of Ireland, delivered
from James II by William of Orange. The Republican tricolor of Ireland hopefully
lays the white of peace between Protestant orange and Irish green. The green of
India and Pakistan is also of the same origin, for Islâm, which India hopes to
reconcile with Hinduism as Ireland hopes for the Protestants and Catholics.
Pakistan, however, was founded to be a purely Islâmic state.
British Emperors of India
The Kings of England and Scotland
British Coins before the Florin, Compared to French Coins of the Ancien Régime
Philosophy of History