A polity is any kind of political entity. It is a group of people who are collectively united by a self-reflected cohesive force such as identity, who have a capacity to mobilize resources, are organized by some form of institutionalized hierarchy. In geopolitics, a polity can be manifested in different forms, such as a state, an empire, an international organization, a political organization and other identifiable, resource-manipulating organizational structures. A polity, like a state, does not need to be a sovereign unit; the most preeminent polities today are Westphalian states and nation-states referred to as "nations". It therefore encapsulates a vast multitude of organizations, many of which form the fundamental apparatus of contemporary states such as their subordinate civil and local government authorities. Polities do not need to be in control of any geographic areas, as not all political entities and governments have controlled the resources of one fixed geographic area; the historical Steppe Empires originating from the Eurasian Steppe are the most prominent example of non-sedentary polities.
These polities differ from states because of their lack of a defined territory. Empires differ from states in that their territories are not statically defined or permanently fixed, that their body politic was dynamic and fluid, it is useful to think of a polity as a political community. A polity can be defined either as a faction within a larger entity or, at different times, as the entity itself. Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan, for example, are parts of their own distinct polity, they are though, members of the sovereign state of Iraq, itself a polity, albeit one, much less specific and, as a result, much less cohesive. It is therefore possible for an individual to belong to more than one polity at a time. Thomas Hobbes was a significant figure in the conceptualisation of polities, in particular of states. Hobbes considered notions of the state and the body politic in Leviathan. In previous centuries, body politic was understood to mean "the physical person of the sovereign:" emperor, king or dictator in monarchies and despotisms, the electorate in republics.
As many polities have become more democratic in the last few centuries the body politic, where sovereignty is bestowed, has grown to a much greater size than the ruling elite, such as the monarchy. In present times, it may refer to the representation of a group, such as ones drawn along ethnic or gender lines. Cabinets in liberal democracies are chosen to represent the body politic. Kokutai Politeia Political system Dictionary of the History of Ideas: analogy of the body politic
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland known internationally as the UK Parliament, British Parliament, or Westminster Parliament, domestically as Parliament, is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the Sovereign, the House of Lords, the House of Commons; the two houses meet in the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London. The House of Lords includes two different types of members: the Lords Spiritual, consisting of the most senior bishops of the Church of England, the Lords Temporal, consisting of life peers, appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister, of 92 hereditary peers, sitting either by virtue of holding a royal office, or by being elected by their fellow hereditary peers.
Prior to the opening of the Supreme Court in October 2009, the House of Lords performed a judicial role through the Law Lords. The House of Commons is an elected chamber with elections to 650 single member constituencies held at least every five years under the first-past-the-post system; the two Houses meet in separate chambers in the Palace of Westminster in London. By constitutional convention, all government ministers, including the Prime Minister, are members of the House of Commons or, less the House of Lords and are thereby accountable to the respective branches of the legislature. Most cabinet ministers are from the Commons, whilst junior ministers can be from either House. However, the Leader of the House of Lords must be a peer; the Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Treaty of Union by Acts of Union passed by the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland, both Acts of Union stating, "That the United Kingdom of Great Britain be represented by one and the same Parliament to be styled The Parliament of Great Britain".
At the start of the 19th century, Parliament was further enlarged by Acts of Union ratified by the Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of Ireland that abolished the latter and added 100 Irish MPs and 32 Lords to the former to create the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927 formally amended the name to the "Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", five years after the secession of the Irish Free State in 1922. With the global expansion of the British Empire, the UK Parliament has shaped the political systems of many countries as ex-colonies and so it has been called the "Mother of Parliaments". However, John Bright – who coined the epithet – used it in reference to the political culture of "England" rather than just the parliamentary system. In theory, the UK's supreme legislative power is vested in the Crown-in-Parliament. However, the Crown acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the powers of the House of Lords are limited to only delaying legislation.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was created on 1 January 1801, by the merger of the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland under the Acts of Union 1800. The principle of ministerial responsibility to the lower House did not develop until the 19th century—the House of Lords was superior to the House of Commons both in theory and in practice. Members of the House of Commons were elected in an antiquated electoral system, under which constituencies of vastly different sizes existed. Thus, the borough of Old Sarum, with seven voters, could elect two members, as could the borough of Dunwich, which had completely disappeared into the sea due to land erosion. Many small constituencies, known as pocket or rotten boroughs, were controlled by members of the House of Lords, who could ensure the election of their relatives or supporters. During the reforms of the 19th century, beginning with the Reform Act 1832, the electoral system for the House of Commons was progressively regularised.
No longer dependent on the Lords for their seats, MPs grew more assertive. The supremacy of the British House of Commons was reaffirmed in the early 20th century. In 1909, the Commons passed the so-called "People's Budget", which made numerous changes to the taxation system which were detrimental to wealthy landowners; the House of Lords, which consisted of powerful landowners, rejected the Budget. On the basis of the Budget's popularity and the Lords' consequent unpopularity, the Liberal Party narrowly won two general elections in 1910. Using the result as a mandate, the Liberal Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith, introduced the Parliament Bill, which sought to restrict the powers of the House of Lords; when the Lords refused to pass the bill, Asquith countered with a promise extracted from the King in secret before the second general election of 1910 and requested the creation of several hundred Liberal peers, so as to erase the Conservative majority in the House of Lords. In the face of such a threat, the House of Lords narrowly passed the bill.
The Parliament Act 1911, as it became, prevented the Lords from blocking a money bill, allowed them to delay any other bill for a maximum of three sessions, after which it could become law over their objections. However, regardless of the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949, t
Republic of Ireland
Ireland known as the Republic of Ireland, is a country in north-western Europe occupying 26 of 32 counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, located on the eastern part of the island, whose metropolitan area is home to around a third of the country's over 4.8 million inhabitants. The sovereign state shares its only land border with a part of the United Kingdom, it is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the Celtic Sea to the south, St George's Channel to the south-east, the Irish Sea to the east. It is a parliamentary republic; the legislature, the Oireachtas, consists of a lower house, Dáil Éireann, an upper house, Seanad Éireann, an elected President who serves as the ceremonial head of state, but with some important powers and duties. The head of government is the Taoiseach, elected by the Dáil and appointed by the President; the state was created as the Irish Free State in 1922 as a result of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. It had the status of Dominion until 1937 when a new constitution was adopted, in which the state was named "Ireland" and became a republic, with an elected non-executive president as head of state.
It was declared a republic in 1949, following the Republic of Ireland Act 1948. Ireland became a member of the United Nations in December 1955, it joined the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the European Union, in 1973. The state had no formal relations with Northern Ireland for most of the twentieth century, but during the 1980s and 1990s the British and Irish governments worked with the Northern Ireland parties towards a resolution to "the Troubles". Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the Irish government and Northern Ireland Executive have co-operated on a number of policy areas under the North-South Ministerial Council created by the Agreement. Ireland ranks among the top twenty-five wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, as the tenth most prosperous country in the world according to The Legatum Prosperity Index 2015. After joining the EEC, Ireland enacted a series of liberal economic policies that resulted in rapid economic growth.
The country achieved considerable prosperity between the years of 1995 and 2007, which became known as the Celtic Tiger period. This was halted by an unprecedented financial crisis that began in 2008, in conjunction with the concurrent global economic crash. However, as the Irish economy was the fastest growing in the EU in 2015, Ireland is again ascending league tables comparing wealth and prosperity internationally. For example, in 2015, Ireland was ranked as the joint sixth most developed country in the world by the United Nations Human Development Index, it performs well in several national performance metrics, including freedom of the press, economic freedom and civil liberties. Ireland is a member of the European Union and is a founding member of the Council of Europe and the OECD; the Irish government has followed a policy of military neutrality through non-alignment since prior to World War II and the country is not a member of NATO, although it is a member of Partnership for Peace. The 1922 state, comprising 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland, was "styled and known as the Irish Free State".
The Constitution of Ireland, adopted in 1937, provides that "the name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland". Section 2 of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948 states, "It is hereby declared that the description of the State shall be the Republic of Ireland." The 1948 Act does not name the state as "Republic of Ireland", because to have done so would have put it in conflict with the Constitution. The government of the United Kingdom used the name "Eire" and, from 1949, "Republic of Ireland", for the state; as well as "Ireland", "Éire" or "the Republic of Ireland", the state is referred to as "the Republic", "Southern Ireland" or "the South". In an Irish republican context it is referred to as "the Free State" or "the 26 Counties". From the Act of Union on 1 January 1801, until 6 December 1922, the island of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. During the Great Famine, from 1845 to 1849, the island's population of over 8 million fell by 30%. One million Irish died of starvation and/or disease and another 1.5 million emigrated to the United States.
This set the pattern of emigration for the century to come, resulting in constant population decline up to the 1960s. From 1874, under Charles Stewart Parnell from 1880, the Irish Parliamentary Party gained prominence; this was firstly through widespread agrarian agitation via the Irish Land League, that won land reforms for tenants in the form of the Irish Land Acts, secondly through its attempts to achieve Home Rule, via two unsuccessful bills which would have granted Ireland limited national autonomy. These led to "grass-roots" control of national affairs, under the Local Government Act 1898, in the hands of landlord-dominated grand juries of the Protestant Ascendancy. Home Rule seemed certain when the Parliament Act 1911 abolished the veto of the House of Lords, John Redmond secured the Third Home Rule Act in 1914. However, the Unionist movement had been growing since 1886 among Irish Protestants after the introduction of the first home rule bill, fearing discrimination and loss of economic and social privileges if Irish Catholics achieved real political power
The Crown dependencies are three island territories off the coast of Great Britain that are self-governing possessions of the Crown: the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Isle of Man. They do not form part of either the British Overseas Territories. Internationally, the dependencies are considered "territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible", rather than sovereign states; as a result, they are not member states of the Commonwealth of Nations. However, they do have relationships with the Commonwealth, the European Union, other international organisations, are members of the British–Irish Council, they have their own teams in the Commonwealth Games. They are not part of the European Union; the Isle of Man is within the EU's VAT area. As the Crown dependencies are not sovereign states, the power to pass legislation affecting the islands rests with the government of the United Kingdom; however they each have their own legislative assembly, with the power to legislate on many local matters with the assent of the Crown.
In each case, the head of government is referred to as the Chief Minister. "The Crown" is defined differently in each Crown Dependency. In Jersey, statements in the 21st century of the constitutional position by the Law Officers of the Crown define it as the "Crown in right of Jersey", with all Crown land in the Bailiwick of Jersey belonging to the Crown in right of Jersey and not to the Crown Estate of the United Kingdom. Legislation of the Isle of Man defines the "Crown in right of the Isle of Man" as being separate from the "Crown in right of the United Kingdom". In Guernsey, legislation refers to the "Crown in right of the Bailiwick", the Law Officers of the Crown of Guernsey submitted that "The Crown in this context ordinarily means the Crown in right of the république of the Bailiwick of Guernsey" and that this comprises "the collective governmental and civic institutions, established by and under the authority of the Monarch, for the governance of these Islands, including the States of Guernsey and legislatures in the other Islands, the Royal Court and other courts, the Lieutenant Governor, Parish authorities, the Crown acting in and through the Privy Council."
This constitutional concept is worded as the "Crown in right of the Bailiwick of Guernsey". Since 1290, the Channel Islands have been governed as the Bailiwick of Jersey, comprising the island of Jersey and uninhabited islets such as the Minquiers and Écréhous the Bailiwick of Guernsey, comprising the islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Herm and Lihou; each Bailiwick is a Crown dependency and each is headed by a Bailiff, with a Lieutenant Governor representing the Crown in each Bailiwick. Each Bailiwick has its own legal and healthcare systems, its own separate immigration policies, with "local status" in one Bailiwick having no jurisdiction in the other; the two Bailiwicks exercise bilateral double taxation treaties. Since 1961, the Bailiwicks have had separate courts of appeal, but the Bailiff of each Bailiwick has been appointed to serve on the panel of appellate judges for the other Bailiwick; the Bailiwick of Guernsey comprises three separate jurisdictions: Guernsey, which includes the nearby islands of Herm and Jethou, other smaller uninhabited islands.
Sark, which includes the nearby island of Brecqhou, other smaller uninhabited islands. Alderney, including smaller surrounding uninhabited islands; the parliament of Guernsey is the States of Deliberation, the parliament of Sark is called the Chief Pleas, the parliament of Alderney is called the States of Alderney. The three parliaments together can approve joint Bailiwick-wide legislation that applies in those parts of the Bailiwick whose parliaments approve it. Guernsey issues its own coins and banknotes: Guernsey banknotes Coins of the Guernsey poundThese circulate in both Bailiwicks alongside UK coinage and English and Scottish banknotes, they are not legal tender within the UK. There are no political parties in any of the parliaments. Guernsey has its own separate international vehicle registrations, internet domain, ISO 3166-2 codes, first reserved on behalf of the Universal Postal Union and added by the International Organization for Standardization on 29 March 2006. In any case the GBG on a numberplate is only put on the number plate of a car or motorbike at the request of the vehicle owner and is not compulsory, however a motorbike/scooter can have an identical number to a car, e.g. 5432 on 2 wheels and on 4 wheels.
The Bailiwick of Jersey consists of the island of Jersey and a number of surrounding uninhabited islands. The parliament is the States of Jersey, the first known mention of, in a document of 1497; the States of Jersey Law 2005 introduced the post of Chief Minister of Jersey, abolished the Bailiff's power of dissent to a resolution of the States and the Lieutenant Governor's power of veto over a resolution of the States, established that any Order in Council or Act of the United Kingdom proposed to apply to Jersey must be referred to the States so that the States can express their views on it. Jersey issues its own coins and banknotes: Jersey banknotes Coins of the Jersey poundThese circulate in both Bailiwicks alongside UK coinage and English and Scottish banknotes, they are not legal tender within
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom, having financed the European coalition that defeated France during the Napoleonic Wars, developed a large Royal Navy that enabled the British Empire to become the foremost world power for the next century; the Crimean War with Russia and the Boer wars were small operations in a peaceful century. Rapid industrialisation that began in the decades prior to the state's formation continued up until the mid-19th century; the Great Irish Famine, exacerbated by government inaction in the mid-19th century, led to demographic collapse in much of Ireland and increased calls for Irish land reform. The 19th century was an era of rapid economic modernisation and growth of industry and finance, in which Britain dominated the world economy. Outward migration was heavy to the United States; the empire was expanded into much of South Asia. The Colonial Office and India Office ruled through a small number of administrators who managed the units of the empire locally, while democratic institutions began to develop.
British India, by far the most important overseas possession, saw a short-lived revolt in 1857. In overseas policy, the central policy was free trade, which enabled British and Irish financiers and merchants to operate in many otherwise independent countries, as in South America. London formed no permanent military alliances until the early 20th century, when it began to cooperate with Japan and Russia, moved closer to the United States. Growing desire for Irish self-governance led to the Irish War of Independence, which resulted in most of Ireland seceding from the Union and forming the Irish Free State in 1922. Northern Ireland remained part of the Union, the state was renamed to the current "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" in 1927; the modern-day United Kingdom is the same country as the one from this period—a direct continuation of what remained after the secession—not an new successor state. A brief period of limited independence for Ireland came to an end following the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which occurred during the British war with revolutionary France.
The British government's fear of an independent Ireland siding against them with the French resulted in the decision to unite the two countries. This was brought about by legislation in the parliaments of both kingdoms and came into effect on 1 January 1801; the Irish had been led to believe by the British that their loss of legislative independence would be compensated with Catholic emancipation, that is, by the removal of civil disabilities placed upon Roman Catholics in both Great Britain and Ireland. However, King George III was bitterly opposed to any such Emancipation and succeeded in defeating his government's attempts to introduce it. During the War of the Second Coalition, Britain occupied most of the French and Dutch overseas possessions, the Netherlands having become a satellite state of France in 1796, but tropical diseases claimed the lives of over 40,000 troops; when the Treaty of Amiens ended the war, Britain agreed to return most of the territories it had seized. The peace settlement was in effect only a ceasefire, Napoleon continued to provoke the British by attempting a trade embargo on the country and by occupying the city of Hanover, capital of the Electorate, a German-speaking duchy, in a personal union with the United Kingdom.
In May 1803, war was declared again. Napoleon's plans to invade Great Britain failed, chiefly due to the inferiority of his navy, in 1805 a Royal Navy fleet led by Nelson decisively defeated the French and Spanish at Trafalgar, the last significant naval action of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1806, Napoleon issued the series of Berlin Decrees, which brought into effect the Continental System; this policy aimed to eliminate the threat from the British by closing French-controlled territory to foreign trade. The British Army remained a minimal threat to France. Although the Royal Navy disrupted France's extra-continental trade—both by seizing and threatening French shipping and by seizing French colonial possessions—it could do nothing about France's trade with the major continental economies and posed little threat to French territory in Europe. France's population and agricultural capacity far outstripped that of the British Isles, but it was smaller in terms of industry, mercantile marine and naval strength.
Napoleon expected that cutting Britain off from the European mainland would end its economic hegemony. On the contrary Britain possessed the greatest industrial capacity in the world, its mastery of the seas allowed it to build up considerable economic strength through trade to its possessions and the United States; the Spanish uprising in 1808 at last permitted Britain to gain a foothold on the Continent. The Duke of Wellington pushed the French out of Spain, in early 1814, as Napoleon was being driven back in the east by the Prussians and Russians, Wellington invaded southern France. After Napoleon's surrender and exile to the island of Elba, peace appeared to have returned. Napoleon reappeared in 1815; the Allies united and the armies of Wellington and Blücher defeated Napoleon once and for all at Waterloo. To defeat France, Britain put heavy pressure on the Americans
The British Isles are a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe that consist of the islands of Great Britain, the Isle of Man, the Hebrides and over six thousand smaller isles. They have a total area of about 315,159 km2 and a combined population of 72 million, include two sovereign states, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; the islands of Alderney, Jersey and Sark, their neighbouring smaller islands, are sometimes taken to be part of the British Isles though, as islands off the coast of France, they do not form part of the archipelago. The oldest rocks in the group are in the north west of Scotland and North Wales and are 2.7 billion years old. During the Silurian period, the north-western regions collided with the south-east, part of a separate continental landmass; the topography of the islands is modest in scale by global standards. Ben Nevis rises to an elevation of only 1,345 metres, Lough Neagh, notably larger than other lakes in the island group, covers 390 square kilometres.
The climate is temperate marine, with warm summers. The North Atlantic drift brings significant moisture and raises temperatures 11 °C above the global average for the latitude; this led to a landscape, long dominated by temperate rainforest, although human activity has since cleared the vast majority of forest cover. The region was re-inhabited after the last glacial period of Quaternary glaciation, by 12,000 BC, when Great Britain was still part of a peninsula of the European continent. Ireland, which became an island by 12,000 BC, was not inhabited until after 8000 BC. Great Britain became an island by 5600 BC. Hiberni and Britons tribes, all speaking Insular Celtic, inhabited the islands at the beginning of the 1st millennium AD. Much of Brittonic-occupied Britain was conquered by the Roman Empire from AD 43; the first Anglo-Saxons arrived as Roman power waned in the 5th century, dominated the bulk of what is now England. Viking invasions began in the 9th century, followed by more permanent settlements and political change in England.
The Norman conquest of England in 1066 and the Angevin partial conquest of Ireland from 1169 led to the imposition of a new Norman ruling elite across much of Britain and parts of Ireland. By the Late Middle Ages, Great Britain was separated into the Kingdoms of England and Kingdom of Scotland, while control in Ireland fluxed between Gaelic kingdoms, Hiberno-Norman lords and the English-dominated Lordship of Ireland, soon restricted only to The Pale; the 1603 Union of the Crowns, Acts of Union 1707 and Acts of Union 1800 attempted to consolidate Britain and Ireland into a single political unit, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands remaining as Crown Dependencies. The expansion of the British Empire and migrations following the Irish Famine and Highland Clearances resulted in the dispersal of some of the islands' population and culture throughout the world, a rapid depopulation of Ireland in the second half of the 19th century. Most of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom after the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Anglo-Irish Treaty, with six counties remaining in the UK as Northern Ireland.
The term "British Isles" is controversial in Ireland, where there are nationalist objections to its usage. The Government of Ireland does not recognise the term, its embassy in London discourages its use. Britain and Ireland is used as an alternative description, Atlantic Archipelago has seen limited use in academia; the earliest known references to the islands as a group appeared in the writings of sea-farers from the ancient Greek colony of Massalia. The original records have been lost. In the 1st century BC, Diodorus Siculus has Prettanikē nēsos, "the British Island", Prettanoi, "the Britons". Strabo used Βρεττανική, Marcian of Heraclea, in his Periplus maris exteri, used αἱ Πρεττανικαί νῆσοι to refer to the islands. Historians today, though not in absolute agreement agree that these Greek and Latin names were drawn from native Celtic-language names for the archipelago. Along these lines, the inhabitants of the islands were called the Πρεττανοί; the shift from the "P" of Pretannia to the "B" of Britannia by the Romans occurred during the time of Julius Caesar.
The Greco-Egyptian scientist Claudius Ptolemy referred to the larger island as great Britain and to Ireland as little Britain in his work Almagest. In his work, Geography, he gave these islands the names Alwion and Mona, suggesting these may have been names of the individual islands not known to him at the time of writing Almagest; the name Albion appears to have fallen out of use sometime after the Roman conquest of Great Britain, after which Britain became the more commonplace name for the island called Great Britain. The earliest known use of the phrase Brytish Iles in the English language is dated 1577 in a work by John Dee. Today, this name is seen by some as carrying imperialist overtones although it is still used. Other names used to describe the islands include the Anglo-Celtic Isles, Atlantic archipelago, British-Irish Isles and Ireland, UK
British Overseas Territories
The British Overseas Territories or United Kingdom Overseas Territories are 14 territories under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not been granted independence or have voted to remain British territories; these territories do not form part of the United Kingdom and, with the exception of Gibraltar, are not part of the European Union. Most of the permanently inhabited territories are internally self-governing, with the UK retaining responsibility for defence and foreign relations. Three are inhabited only by a transitory population of scientific personnel, they all share the British monarch as head of state. As of April 2018 the Minister responsible for the Territories excluding the Falkland Islands and the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus, is the Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the UN; the other three territories are the responsibility of the Minister of State for Europe and the Americas. The fourteen British Overseas Territories are: The term "British Overseas Territory" was introduced by the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, replacing the term British Dependent Territory, introduced by the British Nationality Act 1981.
Prior to 1 January 1983, the territories were referred to as British Crown Colonies. Although the Crown dependencies of Jersey and the Isle of Man are under the sovereignty of the British monarch, they are in a different constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom; the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are themselves distinct from the Commonwealth realms, a group of 16 independent countries each having Elizabeth II as their reigning monarch, from the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary association of 53 countries with historic links to the British Empire. With the exceptions of the British Antarctic Territory and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the British Indian Ocean Territory, the Territories retain permanent civilian populations. Permanent residency for the 7,000 civilians living in the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia is limited to citizens of the Republic of Cyprus. Collectively, the Territories encompass a population of about 250,000 people and a land area of about 1,727,570 square kilometres.
The vast majority of this land area, 1,700,000 square kilometres, constitutes the uninhabited British Antarctic Territory, while the largest territory by population, accounts for a quarter of the total BOT population. At the other end of the scale, three territories have no civilian population. Pitcairn Islands, settled by the survivors of the Mutiny on the Bounty, is the smallest settled territory with 49 inhabitants, while the smallest by land area is Gibraltar on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula; the United Kingdom participates in the Antarctic Treaty System and, as part of a mutual agreement, the British Antarctic Territory is recognised by four of the six other sovereign nations making claims to Antarctic territory. Early colonies, in the sense of English subjects residing in lands hitherto outside the control of the English government, were known as "Plantations"; the first, colony was Newfoundland, where English fishermen set up seasonal camps in the 16th century. It is now a province of Canada known as Labrador.
It retains strong cultural ties with Britain. English colonisation of North America began in 1607 with the settlement of Jamestown, the first successful permanent colony in Virginia, its offshoot, was settled inadvertently after the wrecking of the Virginia company's flagship there in 1609, with the Virginia Company's charter extended to include the archipelago in 1612. St. George's town, founded in Bermuda in that year, remains the oldest continuously inhabited British settlement in the New World. Bermuda and Bermudians have played important, sometimes pivotal, but underestimated or unacknowledged roles in the shaping of the English and British trans-Atlantic Empires; these include maritime commerce, settlement of the continent and of the West Indies, the projection of naval power via the colony's privateers, among other areas. The growth of the British Empire in the 19th century, to its territorial peak in the 1920s, saw Britain acquire nearly one quarter of the world's land mass, including territories with large indigenous populations in Asia and Africa.
From the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, the larger settler colonies – in Canada, New Zealand and South Africa – first became self-governing colonies and achieved independence in all matters except foreign policy and trade. Separate self-governing colonies federated to become Canada, South Africa, Rhodesia; these and other large self-governing colonies had become known as Dominions by the 1920s. The Dominions achieved full independence with the Statute of Westminster. Through a process of decolonisation following the Second World War, most of the British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean gained independence; some colonies becam