Colonialism is a fundamental part of British history – especially as pertains to Black or Multicultural Britain, yet we rarely talk about it. At its height the British Empire extended across countries in several continents from Canada, the Caribbean and the East Coast of America, Australia, Asia, New Zealand to Africa, accounting for one third of the planet. As a result, people often said that the sun never set on the British Empire.
The British Empire came about as a result of the British conquest and colonisation of places across the world. In addition to British colonies were a number of British provinces and territories. With Britain’s dominion over a significant part of the world, it’s no surprise that people often talk about Britain’s influence across the world. Britain’s colonisation of so many places across the world gave Britain not just influence but control over the territories, resources, and people. Many British people will speak of the development and progress that was made in these countries under British rule as a justification of Britain’s presence in these countries. During the Colonial era, Britain implemented British systems (sometimes along with the traditional systems). As such, most former British Colonies still have modified versions of the British Legal system in place. English became the national language across the Empire. It wasn’t just that Britain was seen as the motherland to countries in the Colonies such as Jamaica, Barbados, Nigeria, Ghana, India and all the other countries that formed part of the British Empire, the citizens of these country were British citizens with every right to live and work in Britain, that is until legislation was put in place to change this in the 1970s.
Over time, the British colonies fought for independence from Britain, preferring to be independent and responsible for their own destinies rather than being under British control. There is much debate as to whether or not colonialism was good for the colonies. Some will justify it by speaking of the systems that were put in place by Britain; the development that took place during the era and will further argue that development since colonialism has been limited since then. Others will argue that amongst other things, it was exploitative; Britain had no right to take control over other countries; that Britain disrupted the traditional systems and setup with long lasting negative implications; and the countries were and would have developed naturally without outside interventions.
Regardless, as independent countries, most British colonies have maintained a close relationship with Britain as members of the Commonwealth of Nations, which has been headed by the Queen since it’s setup. In addition to her official title of The Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth is also the monarch and head of state for 15 other states outside of the United Kingdom i.e. Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; Bahamas, Barbados, Belize; Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea; Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines; the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
This all means that while a number of Black British Citizens are very much active and dedicated British citizens, they also have a strong connection and allegiance to countries within the Commonwealth. A Commonwealth which will probably be of increased significance to Britain in a post-EU membership era. I believe that has the potential to make British Citizens with a connection to the Commonwealth of special value to Britain.
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