|A guide to|
|God Save the Queen?|
The British Empire was a global empire acquired and ruled by the Kingdom of Great Britain (or, from 1801 the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland), called "Great Britain" or "Britain" in historical studies. It was initiated with voyages sponsored by the Tudors in North America, rebranded itself as the Commonwealth and ended with the formal transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to the Chinese in 1997.
The height of the empire came in the early twentieth century, when many parts of the German empire fell under League of Nations control - areas such as Tanganyika became completely Anglicised in their administration.
As a general rule, most historians prefer to state that the motives for the Tudor ruling elite to found new colonies were concerns arising from military conflict with Continental nations and commercial competition with the Spanish (who were on the way to founding New Spain and conquering the western half of present-day South America) and the Portuguese (who would found colonies in Brazil, Southeast Asia and Africa).
Those who have visited the UK before would beg to differ, and would rather believe that the ordinary people of England felt a need for colonies with balmier climates simply because they were getting fed up with incessant drizzling and a diet that basically consisted of little more than beef, beer and turnips. The popularity of wine and curry in the 1990s and (later on) sushi and vodka in contemporary British society today correlates with this viewpoint.
 The theory in brief
‘European culture,’ argues Edward Said, ‘gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self.’ Those living at the centre of the British Empire were encouraged to define themselves in contrast with those on the periphery; ‘the Victorians,’ writes Niall Ferguson, ‘aspired to bring light to what they called the Dark Continent’ as they believed it their duty to, among other objectives, ‘convert the heathen to Christianity’ . Those native to the British Isles born in the mid to late nineteenth century were brought up as members of an enlightened race that was both privileged and burdened with the task of civilizing otherwise savage societies abroad . Whilst the majority that were born and raised in Britain did not come into direct contact with the distant lands under the Crown’s dominion , the territories ‘became a more tangible presence in the lives of British people towards the end of the [nineteenth century,] made possible in part by,’ as Dane Kennedy puts it, ‘the increased attention [that they] received from the press and other shapers of public opinion.’
 Deceiving the proles
‘Various forces combined to cause the British to rethink who they were and where they stood in the world’ argues Kennedy. Many cultural theorists cite the change in public opinion over the military, and more specifically the army, as an example of how nationality became the lowest common denominator amongst the indigenous population (as opposed to class) after 1870. It was common in earlier decades for the army to engage in quelling ‘civil unrest’ and act as ‘shield for the upper classes against lower-class discontents’ on the domestic scene. The general population was filled with dreadful thoughts rather than patriotic imaginings at the sight of soldiers marching into town. Yet, certainly by the late nineteenth century, ‘the British public received varied images of empire, and probably the most vivid and emotive were those of war’.
 Religious indoctrination
Media publications such as the Boy’s Own Paper (1879–1967) ‘sought to be both “sound and healthy in tone” and respectably patriotic” It taught generations of schoolboys about the Empire from the British Imperialist’s perspective as overlords of lesser races; featuring contributors such as Kipling ‘with his celebrations of tough and two-fisted Tommy Atkins and of noble young subalterns, of faithful Indian troops and gallant Afghan foes’ . Between 1870 and 1914 the British public was saturated in imperialist propaganda that was backed in part by an abuse of Darwin’s theory of evolution, commonly referred to by contemporary academics as ‘social Darwinism’ . If pseudo-science didn’t appeal the Church offered justification for, and actively promoted imperialism as an ideology favored by God; rallying its ‘wards into quasi-military units that instilled discipline and a sense of duty, the prototype was the Boys’ Brigade (1883), followed by the Church Lads’ Brigade (1891) and various others’ . Much like the Hitler Youth that was established in Nazi Germany some forty to thirty years after their creation, these Brigades for young boys taught its members allegiance to the State ; above all else, they were Britons.
 The Irish Aren't Black, Jack...
Paradoxically, as the empire grew in land mass and, therefore according to conventional wisdom during Victoria’s reign, ‘strength’, it also developed a number of insecurities. It was within the might of its military that the British national identity placed its trust. It was no longer enough, as had been the case in the previous century, to let private enterprise (Robinson Crusoe ~ D. Defoe) stake out power in foreign lands on behalf of the Crown. ‘The fierce resistance to home rule… was driven by the conviction that Ireland was the crucial test case for drawing other peoples into an imperial-cum-national identity’ writes Kennedy. With the potential loss of Ireland as an overseas colony the imperialists at the centre would have faced great difficulty in effectively defining Britain’s self-appointed role in the world as the master race, ‘the Irish never reconciled themselves to their place in the United Kingdom… nor did the English show any sign of reconciling themselves to the Irish, at least if widespread representations of the latter as simian-like beasts are accurate measures of popular attitudes.’ As ‘simian-like beasts’, the Teutonic pure blooded British imperialists, under social-Darwinian law, simply had to exert control over the lesser Irish race. Failure to do so would render the imperialists at a loss to justify dominion over other foreign lands and peoples.
 Relics of Empire
- The place name Victoria (after she-who-was-not amused) is found on every continent.
- Cricket (except in America, where they play made-up-sports and have a "World Series" that only American teams play in. Oh, and those two times a Canadian team won instead.)
- Rugby - like American Football but without the wussy crash helmets and late-1980s padded shoulders
played by big girls blouses.
- Hockey[wp] - originally an
Indian Mongolian IrishGreek game.
- Scones, with jam and cream , and cucumber sandwiches
- Words entering the English language from diverse sources (but mostly India): Boomerang, bungalow, pukka, mogul, doolally, jodhpurs, gymkhana, curry, gnu (but not GNU), wildebeest, budgerigar, tobacco, anorak/parka, demerara sugar, and loads more.
 Legacy of the British Empire
One of the most important legacies of the British Empire is parliamentary democracy. Some of the strongest democracies in the world were British possessions - India, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.