This marked the end of any hope that the empire might retain a fully coherent and binding set of external policies. The first minority Labour government was formed in Two years later the General Strike, though in the end a failure, awoke fears of socialist revolution and endemic class warfare. The s are indelibly associated with the failed policy of appeasement. Interwar cuts in defence spending meant that Britain needed time to rearm if it was to seriously challenge Nazi aggression.
In addition, the horrific losses of the First World War, in which over a million British and empire troops died, were fresh in the memory, and many hoped to avoid a similar second conflict with Germany. Nonetheless, the Munich Agreement of , with its shameful betrayal of the integrity of Czechoslovakia, was a cynical piece of diplomacy. It also led to the resignation of the foreign secretary Anthony Eden in Indian nationalism also forced the government to introduce the Government of India Act, which in effect gave India home rule and Dominion status.
Although the Great Depression was lessening by the mids, the chaos it caused had encouraged the formation of the National Government a coalition of the three main parties in The abdication crisis of also indicated that times had changed, when the playboy king Edward VIII chose to renounce the throne for the sake of a twice-divorced American woman with a dubious past. As if in confirmation, in Ceylon and Burma became independent and Palestine was abandoned. In the Irish Free State became a republic and left the Commonwealth; India also became a republic, but stayed in the organisation.
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The Labour government pushed through a raft of radical domestic reforms. A collective pat on the back, the festival was different in many ways to the Great Exhibition of a century before. There was the Dome of Discovery, the Royal Festival Hall and the slender, eye-catching Skylon, one of the best-remembered displays. A large fun fair was set up in Battersea Park, and in Poplar in east London the new Lansbury Estate was designed to show off all the latest ideas about urban architecture, town planning and community living.
A Trinidadian steel band came to play — a first in the capital, and a hint of future population changes, with the beginning of Caribbean immigration a few years later. Throughout the summer of the festival permeated much of British life. By September over eight million people had visited the South Bank exhibition.
Let's end the myths of Britain's imperial past
Many of the displays looked to the future, and the focus was kept firmly on the liberating power of science and technology. The USA refused to support the invasion; Commonwealth countries like India disapproved; there was a near catastrophic run on the pound; and mass demonstrations in Britain showed how much opposition there was to the attempted coup. Whereas only a few years before Britain would have been able to cow a country like Egypt with ease, it now had to slink out of the Suez Canal zone, humiliated and widely reviled.
The decline and fall of the British empire When the Great Exhibition opened in , Britain was the greatest imperial power in history. July 20, at pm. Downstairs in Downton: a guide to the life of an Edwardian servant. Try our range of BBC bestselling history magazines today!
Subscribe Now. Book now. More on: United Kingdom. You may like. The Library The first British Empire. Ancient Greece.
Second World War. Part 2 is devoted to the principal areas of imperial activity overseas, including both white settler and tropical colonies.
Denial about empire
Chapters examine how British interests and imperial rule shaped individual regions' nineteenth century political and socio-economic history. Themes dealt with include the economics of empire, imperial institutions, defence, technology, imperial and colonial cultures, science and exploration. Keywords: British Empire , American independence , World War One , British colonial expansion , imperial rule , science , imperial institutions , colonial defence , colonial cultures , exploration.
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The British Empire
Sign up. Publications Pages Publications Pages. Search my Subject Specializations: Select Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. More The Oxford History of the British Empire is an assessment of the Empire in the light of recent scholarship and the progressive opening of historical records.