Nigeria the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal republic in West Africa, bordering Niger in the north, Chad in the northeast, Cameroon in the east, Benin in the west. Its coast in the south is located on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean; the federation comprises 36 states and 1 Federal Capital Territory, where the capital, Abuja, is located. The constitution defines Nigeria as a democratic secular country. Nigeria has been home to states over the millennia; the modern state originated from British colonial rule beginning in the 19th century, took its present territorial shape with the merging of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate in 1914. The British set up administrative and legal structures while practising indirect rule through traditional chiefdoms. Nigeria became a formally independent federation in 1960, it experienced a civil war from 1967 to 1970. It thereafter alternated between democratically elected civilian governments and military dictatorships until it achieved a stable democracy in 1999, with the 2011 presidential election considered the first to be reasonably free and fair.
Nigeria is referred to as the "Giant of Africa", owing to its large population and economy. With 186 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. Nigeria has the third-largest youth population in the world, after India and China, with more than 90 million of its population under age 18; the country is viewed as a multinational state as it is inhabited by 250 ethnic groups, of which the three largest are the Hausa and Yoruba. The official language is English. Nigeria is divided in half between Christians, who live in the southern part of the country, Muslims, who live in the north. A minority of the population practice religions indigenous to Nigeria, such as those native to the Igbo and Yoruba ethnicities; as of 2015, Nigeria is the world's 20th largest economy, worth more than $500 billion and $1 trillion in terms of nominal GDP and purchasing power parity respectively. It overtook South Africa to become Africa's largest economy in 2014.
The 2013 debt-to-GDP ratio was 11 percent. Nigeria is considered to be an emerging market by the World Bank. However, it has a "low" Human Development Index, ranking 152nd in the world. Nigeria is a member of the MINT group of countries, which are seen as the globe's next "BRIC-like" economies, it is listed among the "Next Eleven" economies set to become among the biggest in the world. Nigeria is a founding member of the African Union and a member of many other international organizations, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations and OPEC; the name Nigeria was taken from the Niger River running through the country. This name was coined in the late 19th century by British journalist Flora Shaw, who married Lord Lugard, a British colonial administrator; the origin of the name Niger, which applied only to the middle reaches of the Niger River, is uncertain. The word is an alteration of the Tuareg name egerew n-igerewen used by inhabitants along the middle reaches of the river around Timbuktu prior to 19th-century European colonialism.
The Nok civilisation of Northern Nigeria flourished between 500 BC and AD 200, producing life-sized terracotta figures that are some of the earliest known sculptures in Sub-Saharan Africa. Further north, the cities Kano and Katsina have a recorded history dating to around 999 AD. Hausa kingdoms and the Kanem–Bornu Empire prospered as trade posts between North and West Africa; the Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people consolidated in the 10th century and continued until it lost its sovereignty to the British in 1911. Nri was ruled by the Eze Nri, the city of Nri is considered to be the foundation of Igbo culture. Nri and Aguleri, where the Igbo creation myth originates, are in the territory of the Umeuri clan. Members of the clan trace their lineages back to the patriarchal king-figure Eri. In West Africa, the oldest bronzes made using the lost-wax process were from Igbo-Ukwu, a city under Nri influence; the Yoruba kingdoms of Ife and Oyo in southwestern Nigeria became prominent in the 12th and 14th centuries, respectively.
The oldest signs of human settlement at Ife's current site date back to the 9th century, its material culture includes terracotta and bronze figures. Oyo, at its territorial zenith in the late 17th to early 18th centuries, extended its influence from western Nigeria to modern-day Togo; the Edo's Benin Empire is located in southwestern Nigeria. Benin's power lasted between the 19th centuries, their dominance reached further. At the beginning of the 19th century, Usman dan Fodio directed a successful jihad and created and led the centralised Fulani Empire; the territory controlled by the resultant state included much of modern-day northern and central Nigeria. For centuries, various peoples in modern-day Nigeria traded overland with traders from North Africa. Cities in the area became regional centres in a broad network of trade routes that spanned western and northern Africa. In the 16th century, Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to begin significant, direct trade with peoples of modern-day Nigeria, at the port they named Lago
Calabar is the capital of Cross River State, Nigeria. It was named Akwa Akpa, in Efik language; the city is adjacent to the Calabar and Great Kwa creeks of the Cross River. Calabar is described as the tourism capital of Nigeria. Administratively, the city is divided into Calabar Municipal and Calabar South Local Government Areas, it has a population of 371,022 as at 2006 census. On 10 September, 1884, Queen Victoria signed a Treaty of Protection with the King and Chiefs of Akwa Akpa, known to Europeans as Old Calabar; this enabled the United Kingdom to exercise control over the entire territory around Calabar, including Bakassi. Today, Calabar is a large metropolis with several towns like Akim, Ikot Ansa, Ikot Ishie, Duke Town, Henshaw Town, Cobham Town, Ikot Omin, Obutong. Since the 16th century, Calabar had been a recognized international seaport, shipping out goods such as palm oil. During the era of the Atlantic slave trade, it became a major port in the transportation of African slaves and was named Calabar by the Spanish.
By the 18th century, most slave ships that transported slaves from Calabar were English, with around 85% of these ships being owned by Bristol and Liverpool merchants. Old Calabar and Creek Town, 16 kilometres northeast, were crucial towns in the trade of slaves in that era; the first British warship to sail as far as Duke Town, where she captured seven Spanish and Portuguese slavers, may have been HMS Comus in 1815. The main ethnic group taken out of Calabar as slaves were the Igbos, from the neighboring Igbo land. African-American writer and slave John Jea was from the area. A small mulatto community of merchants was located there that had links to missionary and other merchant colonies in Igboland and across the Atlantic; the city was the home the first social club in The Africa Club. It hosted the first competitive football and field hockey games in Nigeria. Among the city's firsts were the first Roman Catholic Mass and the oldest secondary school in eastern Nigeria; the school graduated Nnamdi Azikiwe, elected as the first President of Nigeria.
The city has an international museum, a botanical garden, a Free Trade Zone/Port, an international airport and seaport, an integrated sports stadium complex, a cultural centre, one of the most prominent universities in the country – the University of Calabar, a slave history park and several historical and cultural landmarks. It has several standard hotels and amusement parks; the former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor lived in the old colonial palace in the city, under an agreement that led to the end of his country's civil war, before fleeing extradition to Liberia in March 2006. The Tinapa Resort, a development by the Cross River State government, lies to the north of the city beside the Calabar Free Trade Zone; the Cross River State Annual Christmas Festival held every year attracts thousands from within and beyond Nigeria. The festival, includes music performance from both international artists. Other annual events include the Calabar Carnival, a boat regatta, fashion shows, a Christmas Village, traditional dances and the annual Ekpe Festival.
Under Köppen's climate classification, Calabar features a tropical monsoon climate with a lengthy wet season spanning ten months and a short dry season covering the remaining two months. The harmattan, which influences weather in West Africa, is noticeably less pronounced in the city. Temperatures are constant throughout the year, with average high temperatures ranging from 25 to 28 degrees Celsius. There is little variance between daytime and nighttime temperature, as temperatures at night are only a few degrees lower than the daytime high temperature. Calabar averages just under 3,000 millimetres of precipitation annually. Calabar has three principal landlord kingdoms, namely the Qua Kingdom of Ejagham /Bantu origin, the Efut and the Efik Kingdoms; the Qua Kingdom has the Ndidem of the Qua nation as the Grand Patriarch, the Efut have the Muri munene as the Grand Patriarch, the Efik Kingdom patriarch is known as the Obong. The Efik political authority as it concerns the Obong is hinged on a political tripod: Creek Town, made up of Ambo and Eyo.
Each leg of this tripod at one time or the other was ruled by a separate Obong. Within the last 100 years, a gentleman's agreement to merge these three zones into one, with a single titular head as the Obong, the distribution or opening up of the title to all Efik wards, was reached; each of the aspirants to the throne is none no more so than the other. The title of the Obong of Calabar had been held by Ekpo Nsa in the 17th century. Attempts by the Henshaw to have an Obong resulted in a war in 1870; the Henshaws did not attain this title again until within the last 50 years, when David Henshaw became Obong. Cobham Town, from which Bassey Ekpo Bassey hails, had its only Obong recently. All this was made possible because of "the contract". Before the colonial period, Calabar known as Akwa Akpa, was a kingdom with the City of Calabar as the site of government, the Obong of Calabar as the ruler and the Ekpe secret society as the stool on which the Obong of Calabar sat. Calabar people are people from the Greater Calabar district – Calabar South, Calabar Municipality, Bakassi, Biase and Akamk
The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization, tasked to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international co-operation and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. The headquarters of the UN is in Manhattan, New York City, is subject to extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi and The Hague; the organization is financed by voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law; the UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. In 24 October 1945, at the end of World War II, the organization was established with the aim of preventing future wars. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; the UN is the successor of the ineffective League of Nations.
On 25 April 1945, 50 governments met in San Francisco for a conference and started drafting the UN Charter, adopted on 25 June 1945 in the San Francisco Opera House, signed on 26 June 1945 in the Herbst Theatre auditorium in the Veterans War Memorial Building. This charter took effect on 24 October 1945; the UN's mission to preserve world peace was complicated in its early decades during the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union and their respective allies. Its missions have consisted of unarmed military observers and armed troops with monitoring and confidence-building roles; the organization's membership grew following widespread decolonization which started in the 1960s. Since 80 former colonies had gained independence, including 11 trust territories, which were monitored by the Trusteeship Council. By the 1970s its budget for economic and social development programmes far outstripped its spending on peacekeeping. After the end of the Cold War, the UN shifted and expanded its field operations, undertaking a wide variety of complex tasks.
The UN has six principal organs: the General Assembly. The UN System agencies include the World Bank Group, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, UNESCO, UNICEF; the UN's most prominent officer is the Secretary-General, an office held by Portuguese politician and diplomat António Guterres since 1 January 2017. Non-governmental organizations may be granted consultative status with ECOSOC and other agencies to participate in the UN's work; the organization, its officers and its agencies have won many Nobel Peace Prizes. Other evaluations of the UN's effectiveness have been mixed; some commentators believe the organization to be an important force for peace and human development, while others have called the organization ineffective, biased, or corrupt. In the century prior to the UN's creation, several international treaty organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross was formed to ensure protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and strife.
In 1914, a political assassination in Sarajevo set off a chain of events that led to the outbreak of World War I. As more and more young men were sent down into the trenches, influential voices in the United States and Britain began calling for the establishment of a permanent international body to maintain peace in the postwar world. President Woodrow Wilson became a vocal advocate of this concept, in 1918 he included a sketch of the international body in his 14-point proposal to end the war. In November 1918, the Central Powers agreed to an armistice to halt the killing in World War I. Two months the Allies met with Germany and Austria-Hungary at Versailles to hammer out formal peace terms. President Wilson wanted peace, but the United Kingdom and France disagreed, forcing harsh war reparations on their former enemies; the League of Nations was approved, in the summer of 1919 Wilson presented the Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant of the League of Nations to the US Senate for ratification.
On January 10, 1920, the League of Nations formally comes into being when the Covenant of the League of Nations, ratified by 42 nations in 1919, takes effect. However, at some point the League became ineffective when it failed to act against the Japanese invasion of Manchuria as in February 1933, 40 nations voted for Japan to withdraw from Manchuria but Japan voted against it and walked out of the League instead of withdrawing from Manchuria, it failed against the Second Italo-Ethiopian War despite trying to talk to Benito Mussolini as he used the time to send an army to Africa, so the League had a plan for Mussolini to just take a part of Ethiopia, but he ignored the League and invaded Ethiopia, the League tried putting sanctions on Italy, but Italy had conquered Ethiopia and the League had failed. After Italy conquered Ethiopia and other nations left the league, but all of them realised that they began to re-arm as fast as possible. During 1938, Britain and France tried negotiating directly with Hitler but this failed in 1939 when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia.
When war broke out in 1939, the League closed down and its headquarters in Geneva remained empty throughout the war. The earliest concrete plan for a new world organization began under the aegis of the U. S. State Department in 1939; the text of the "Declaration by United Nations" was drafted at the White House on December 29, 1941, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins
Lake Chad is a large, endorheic lake in Africa, which has varied in size over the centuries. According to the Global Resource Information Database of the United Nations Environment Programme, it shrank by as much as 95% from about 1963 to 1998, but "the 2007 image shows significant improvement over previous years." Lake Chad is economically important, providing water to more than 30 million people living in the four countries surrounding it on the edge of the Sahara. It is the largest lake in the Chad Basin. Lake Chad is a freshwater lake located in the Sahelian zone of west-central Africa, it is located in the interior basin which used to be occupied by a much larger ancient sea sometimes called Mega Chad. The lake is ranked as one of the largest lakes in Africa. However, its surface area varies by season and as well as from year to year. Lake Chad is in the far west of Chad, bordering on northeastern Nigeria; the Chari River, fed by its tributary the Logone, provides over 90% of the lake's water, with a small amount coming from the Yobe River in Nigeria/Niger.
Despite high levels of evaporation, the lake is fresh water. Over half of the lake's area is taken up by its many small islands and mud banks, a belt of swampland across the middle divides the northern and southern halves; the shorelines are composed of marshes. Because Lake Chad is shallow—only 10.5 metres at its deepest—its area is sensitive to small changes in average depth, it shows seasonal fluctuations in size. Lake Chad has no apparent outlet; the climate is dry most of the year, with moderate rainfall from July through September. Lake Chad gave its name to the country of Chad; the name Chad is a local word meaning "large expanse of water", in other words, a "lake". Lake Chad is the remnant of a former inland sea, paleolake Mega-Chad, which existed during the African humid period. At its largest, sometime before 5000 BC, Lake Mega-Chad was the largest of four Saharan paleolakes, is estimated to have covered an area of 1,000,000 km2, larger than the Caspian Sea is today, may have extended as far northeast as within 100 km of Faya-Largeau.
At its largest extent the river Mayo Kébbi represented the outlet of the paleolake Mega-Chad, connecting it to the Niger River and the Atlantic. The presence of African manatees in the inflows of Lake Chad is an evidence of that history. Romans reached the lake in the first century of their empire. Indeed, during the time of Augustus Lake Chad was still a huge lake and two Roman expeditions were performed in order to reach it: Septimius Flaccus and Julius Maternus reached the "lake of hippopotamus", they passed near the Tibesti mountains. Both expeditions passed through the territory of the Garamantes, were able to leave a small garrison on the "lake of hippopotamus and rhinoceros" after three months of travel in desert lands. Lake Chad was first surveyed from shore by Europeans in 1823, it was considered to be one of the largest lakes in the world then. In 1851, a party including the German explorer Heinrich Barth carried a boat overland from Tripoli across the Sahara Desert by camel and made the first European waterborne survey.
British expedition leader James Richardson died just days before reaching the lake. In Winston Churchill's book The River War: An Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan, published in 1899, he mentions the shrinking of Lake Chad, he writes: Altogether France has enough to occupy her in Central Africa for some time to come: and when the long task is finished, the conquered regions are not to be of great value. They include the desert of the Great Sahara and wide expanses of profitless scrub or marsh. Only one important river, the Shari, flows through them, never reaches the sea: and Lake Chad, into which the Shari flows, appears to be leaking through some subterranean exit, is changing from a lake into an immense swamp. Lake Chad has shrunk since the 1960s, when its shoreline had an elevation of about 286 metres above sea level and it had an area of more than 26,000 square kilometres, making its surface the fourth largest in Africa. An increased demand on the lake's water from the local population has accelerated its shrinkage over the past 40 years.
The size of Lake Chad varies seasonally with the flooding of the wetlands areas. In 1983, Lake Chad was reported to have covered 10,000 to 25,000 km2, had a maximum depth of 11 metres, a volume of 72 km3. By 2000, its extent had fallen to less than 1,500 km2. A 2001 study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research blamed the lake's retreat on overgrazing in the area surrounding the lake, causing desertification and a decline in vegetation; the United Nations Environment Programme and the Lake Chad Basin Commission concur that at least half of the lake's decrease is attributable to shifting climate patterns. UNEP blames human water use, such as inefficient damming and irrigation methods, for the rest of the shrinkage; as late as December 2014, Lake Chad was still sufficient in size and volume such that boats could capsize or sink. The European Space Agency has presented data showing an actual increase in lake extent of Lake Chad between the years of 1985 to 2011. Referring to the floodplain as a lake may be misleading, as less than half of Lake Chad is covered by water through an entire year.
The remaining sections are considered as wetla
Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. On 1 May 1876, she adopted the additional title of Empress of India. Victoria was the daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth son of King George III. Both the Duke and the King died in 1820, Victoria was raised under close supervision by her mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, she inherited the throne at the age of 18, after her father's three elder brothers had all died, leaving no surviving legitimate children. The United Kingdom was an established constitutional monarchy, in which the sovereign held little direct political power. Victoria attempted to influence government policy and ministerial appointments. Victoria married her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840, their nine children married into royal and noble families across the continent, tying them together and earning her the sobriquet "the grandmother of Europe". After Albert's death in 1861, Victoria avoided public appearances.
As a result of her seclusion, republicanism temporarily gained strength, but in the latter half of her reign, her popularity recovered. Her Golden and Diamond Jubilees were times of public celebration, her reign of 63 years and seven months was longer than that of any of her predecessors and is known as the Victorian era. It was a period of industrial, political and military change within the United Kingdom, was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire, she was the last British monarch of the House of Hanover. Her son and successor, Edward VII, initiated the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the line of his father. Victoria's father was Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth son of the reigning King of the United Kingdom, George III; until 1817, Edward's niece, Princess Charlotte of Wales, was the only legitimate grandchild of George III. Her death in 1817 precipitated a succession crisis that brought pressure on the Duke of Kent and his unmarried brothers to marry and have children.
In 1818 he married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, a widowed German princess with two children—Carl and Feodora —by her first marriage to the Prince of Leiningen. Her brother Leopold was Princess Charlotte's widower; the Duke and Duchess of Kent's only child, was born at 4.15 a.m. on 24 May 1819 at Kensington Palace in London. Victoria was christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Manners-Sutton, on 24 June 1819 in the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace, she was baptised Alexandrina after one of her godparents, Emperor Alexander I of Russia, Victoria, after her mother. Additional names proposed by her parents—Georgina and Augusta—were dropped on the instructions of Kent's eldest brother, the Prince Regent. At birth, Victoria was fifth in the line of succession after the four eldest sons of George III: George, the Prince Regent; the Prince Regent had no surviving children, the Duke of York had no children. The Duke of Clarence and the Duke of Kent married on the same day in 1818, but both of Clarence's legitimate daughters died as infants.
The first of these was Princess Charlotte, born and died on 27 March 1819, two months before Victoria was born. Victoria's father died in January 1820. A week her grandfather died and was succeeded by his eldest son as George IV. Victoria was third in line to the throne after York and Clarence. Clarence's second daughter was Princess Elizabeth of Clarence who lived for twelve weeks from 10 December 1820 to 4 March 1821 and, while Elizabeth lived, Victoria was fourth in line; the Duke of York died in 1827. When George IV died in 1830, he was succeeded by his next surviving brother, Clarence, as William IV, Victoria became heir presumptive; the Regency Act 1830 made special provision for Victoria's mother to act as regent in case William died while Victoria was still a minor. King William distrusted the Duchess's capacity to be regent, in 1836 he declared in her presence that he wanted to live until Victoria's 18th birthday, so that a regency could be avoided. Victoria described her childhood as "rather melancholy".
Her mother was protective, Victoria was raised isolated from other children under the so-called "Kensington System", an elaborate set of rules and protocols devised by the Duchess and her ambitious and domineering comptroller, Sir John Conroy, rumoured to be the Duchess's lover. The system prevented the princess from meeting people whom her mother and Conroy deemed undesirable, was designed to render her weak and dependent upon them; the Duchess avoided the court because she was scandalised by the presence of King William's illegitimate children. Victoria shared a bedroom with her mother every night, studied with private tutors to a regular timetable, spent her play-hours with her dolls and her King Charles Spaniel, Dash, her lessons included French, German and Latin, but she spoke only English at home. In 1830, the Duchess of Kent and Conroy took Victoria across the centre of England to visit the Malvern Hills, stopping at towns and great country houses along the way. Similar journeys to oth
Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea is the northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean between Cape Lopez in Gabon and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia. The intersection of the Equator and Prime Meridian is in the gulf. Among the many rivers that drain into the Gulf of Guinea are the Volta; the coastline on the gulf includes the Bight of Bonny. The origin of the name Guinea is thought to be an area in the region, although the specifics are disputed. Bovill gives a thorough description: The name Guinea is said to have been a corrupt form of the name Ghana, picked up by the Portuguese in the Maghrib; the present writer finds this unacceptable. The name Guinea has been in use both in Europe long before Prince Henry's time. For example, on a map dated about 1320 by the Genoese cartographer Giovanni di Carignano, who got his information about Africa from a fellow-countryman in Sijilmas, we find Gunuia, in the Catalan atlas of 1375 as Ginyia. A passage in Leo points to Guinea having been a corrupt form of Jenne, less famous than Ghana but for many centuries famed in the Maghrib as a great market and a seat of learning.
The relevant passage reads: "The Kingdom of Ghinea... called by the merchants of our nation Gheneoa, by the natural inhabitants thereof Genni and by the Portugals and other people of Europe Ghinea." But it seems more probable that Guinea derives from the Berber for Negro. Marrakech has a gate, built in the twelfth century, called the Bab Aguinaou, the Gate of the Negro; the modern application of the name Guinea to the coast dates only from 1481. In that year the Portuguese built a fort, São Jorge da Mina, on the Gold Coast region, their king, John II, was permitted by the Pope to style himself Lord of Guinea, a title that survived until the recent extinction of the monarchy; the name "Guinea" was applied to south coast of West Africa, north of the Gulf of Guinea, which became known as "Upper Guinea", the west coast of Southern Africa, to the east, which became known as "Lower Guinea". The name "Guinea" is still attached to the names of three countries in Africa: Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, as well as New Guinea in Melanesia.
The main river shedding its waters in the gulf is the Niger River. Different definitions of the geographic limits of the Gulf of Guinea are given; the Gulf of Guinea contains a number of islands, the largest of which are in a southwest-northeast chain, forming part of the Cameroon line of volcanoes. Annobón known as Pagalu or Pigalu, is an island, part of Equatorial Guinea. Bobowasi Island is an island off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, part of Western region Ghana. Bioko is an island off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, part of Equatorial Guinea. Corisco is an island belonging to Equatorial Guinea. Elobey Grande and Elobey Chico are two small islands belonging to Equatorial Guinea. São Tomé and Príncipe is a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea that became independent from Portugal in 1975, it is located off the western equatorial coast of Africa and consists of two islands, São Tomé and Príncipe. They are located about 140 kilometres apart and about 250 and 225 kilometres off the northwestern coast of Gabon.
Both islands are part of an extinct volcanic mountain range. São Tomé, the sizeable southern island, is situated just north of the Equator. Media related to Gulf of Guinea at Wikimedia Commons The Gulf of Guinea Commission - CGG - GGC
The British Empire comprised the dominions, protectorates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2, 24% of the Earth's total land area; as a result, its political, legal and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories. During the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries and Spain pioneered European exploration of the globe, in the process established large overseas empires.
Envious of the great wealth these empires generated, England and the Netherlands began to establish colonies and trade networks of their own in the Americas and Asia. A series of wars in the 17th and 18th centuries with the Netherlands and France left England and following union between England and Scotland in 1707, Great Britain, the dominant colonial power in North America, it became the dominant power in the Indian subcontinent after the East India Company's conquest of Mughal Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The independence of the Thirteen Colonies in North America in 1783 after the American War of Independence caused Britain to lose some of its oldest and most populous colonies. British attention soon turned towards Asia and the Pacific. After the defeat of France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Britain emerged as the principal naval and imperial power of the 19th century. Unchallenged at sea, British dominance was described as Pax Britannica, a period of relative peace in Europe and the world during which the British Empire became the global hegemon and adopted the role of global policeman.
In the early 19th century, the Industrial Revolution began to transform Britain. The British Empire expanded to include most of India, large parts of Africa and many other territories throughout the world. Alongside the formal control that Britain exerted over its own colonies, its dominance of much of world trade meant that it controlled the economies of many regions, such as Asia and Latin America. During the 19th century, Britain's population increased at a dramatic rate, accompanied by rapid urbanisation, which caused significant social and economic stresses. To seek new markets and sources of raw materials, the British government under Benjamin Disraeli initiated a period of imperial expansion in Egypt, South Africa, elsewhere. Canada and New Zealand became self-governing dominions. By the start of the 20th century and the United States had begun to challenge Britain's economic lead. Subsequent military and economic tensions between Britain and Germany were major causes of the First World War, during which Britain relied upon its empire.
The conflict placed enormous strain on the military and manpower resources of Britain. Although the British Empire achieved its largest territorial extent after World War I, Britain was no longer the world's pre-eminent industrial or military power. In the Second World War, Britain's colonies in East and Southeast Asia were occupied by Japan. Despite the final victory of Britain and its allies, the damage to British prestige helped to accelerate the decline of the empire. India, Britain's most valuable and populous possession, achieved independence as part of a larger decolonisation movement in which Britain granted independence to most territories of the empire; the Suez Crisis confirmed Britain's decline as a global power. The transfer of Hong Kong to China in 1997 marked for many the end of the British Empire. Fourteen overseas territories remain under British sovereignty. After independence, many former British colonies joined the Commonwealth of Nations, a free association of independent states.
The United Kingdom is now one of 16 Commonwealth nations, a grouping known informally as the Commonwealth realms, that share a monarch Queen Elizabeth II. The foundations of the British Empire were laid when Scotland were separate kingdoms. In 1496, King Henry VII of England, following the successes of Spain and Portugal in overseas exploration, commissioned John Cabot to lead a voyage to discover a route to Asia via the North Atlantic. Cabot sailed in 1497, five years after the European discovery of America, but he made landfall on the coast of Newfoundland, mistakenly believing that he had reached Asia, there was no attempt to found a colony. Cabot led another voyage to the Americas the following year but nothing was heard of his ships again. No further attempts to establish English colonies in the Americas were made until well into the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, during the last decades of the 16th century. In the meantime, the 1533 Statute in Restraint of Appeals had declared "that this realm of England is an Empire".
The subsequent Protestant Reformation turned Catholic Spain into implacable enemies. In 1562, the English Crown encouraged the privateers John Hawkins and Francis Drake to engage in slave-raiding attacks against Spanish and Portuguese ships off the coast of West Africa with the aim of breaking into the Atlantic slave tr