The Deceivers (Aiello novel)
The Deceivers is a crime novel by the American writer Robert Aiello set in contemporary Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It tells the story of Grant Montgomery, a retired mentalist who helps police solve the murder of a psychic scam artist; when he uncovers a national crime network, a ruthless public official targets him. Contemporary Authors Online; the Gale Group, 2006. Author's website Pittsburgh Post-Gazette book review
Saeed Jaffrey was an Indian-British actor whose versatility and fluency in multiple languages allowed him to straddle radio, stage and film in a career that spanned over six decades and more than a hundred and fifty British and Indian movies. He was able to breathe life into the smallest of roles through intense preparation and a nuanced performance, like that of the interpreter and guide Billy Fish in The Man Who Would Be King, an act that brought him international attention, his seductive, resonant voice combined with a gift for mimicry and a sharp ear for accents made him the natural choice as narrator for audio books. His narration of the Kama Sutra titled The Art of Love was listed by Time magazine as "one of the five best spoken word records made", he voiced all 86 characters in the 1997 BBC World Service broadcast of Vikram Seth's novel, A Suitable Boy. During the 1980s and 1990s he was considered to be Britain's highest-profile Asian actor, thanks to his leading roles in the movie My Beautiful Laundrette and television series series The Jewel in the Crown, Tandoori Nights and Little Napoleons.
He played an instrumental part in bringing together film makers James Ivory and Ismail Merchant and acted in several of their Merchant Ivory Productions films such as The Guru, Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures, The Courtesans of Bombay and The Deceivers. He broke into Bollywood with Satyajit Ray's Shatranj Ke Khilari for which he won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award in 1978, his cameo role as the paanwala Lallan Miyan in Chashme Buddoor won him popularity with Indian audiences. He became a household name in India with his roles in Raj Kapoor's Ram Teri Ganga Maili and Henna, both of which won him nominations for the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award, he was the first Asian to receive Canadian film award nominations. In 1995 he was awarded an OBE in recognition of his services to drama, the first Asian to receive this honour, his memoirs, Saeed: An Actor's Journey, were published in 1998. Jaffrey died at a hospital in London on 15 November 2015, after collapsing from a brain haemorrhage at his home.
He was posthumously given the Padma Shri award in January 2016. Saeed Jaffrey was born on 8 January 1929 to a Punjabi Muslim family in Punjab region. At that time, his maternal grandfather, Khan Bahadur Fazle Imam, was the Dewan or Prime Minister of the princely state of Malerkotla, his father, Dr Hamid Hussain Jaffrey, was a physician and a civil servant with the Health Services department of the United Provinces of British India. Jaffrey and his family moved from one medical posting to another within the United Provinces, living in cities like Muzaffarnagar, Mirzapur, Aligarh, Mussoorie and Jhansi. In 1938, Jaffrey joined Minto Circle School at Aligarh Muslim University where he developed his talent for mimicry. In 1939 he played the role of Dara Shikoh in a school play about Aurangzeb. At Aligarh, Jaffrey mastered the Urdu language and attended riding school. At the local cinemas in Aligarh, he saw many Bollywood movies and became a fan of Motilal, Prithviraj Kapoor, Noor Mohammed Charlie, Fearless Nadia, Kanan Bala and Durga Khote.
In 1941 at Mussoorie, Jaffrey attended Wynberg Allen School, a Church of England public school where he picked up British-accented English. He played the role of the Cockney cook, Mason, in the annual school play, R. C. Sherriff's Journey's End. After completing his Senior Cambridge there, Jaffrey attended St. George's College, Mussoorie, an all-boys' Roman Catholic school run by Brothers of Saint Patrick, he played the role of Kate Hardcastle in the annual school play, Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops To Conquer. At Mussoorie and his brother Waheed would sneak out at night to watch British and American films at the local theatres. In 1945, Jaffrey gained admission to Allahabad University where he completed his B. A. degree in 1948 and M. A. degree in 1950. At Allahabad, Saeed learned about Hindu mythology for the first time. While visiting his father in Gorakhpur in the winter of 1945, Saeed discovered the BBC World Service on the shortwave radio; when India gained independence from Britain on 15 August 1947 Jaffrey heard Jawaharlal Nehru's inaugural speech on All India Radio as the Prime Minister of India, titled Tryst with Destiny.
The partition of India caused all of Saeed's relatives in New Delhi and Bannoor, Punjab to flee to Pakistan. Saeed was awarded his second postgraduate degree, in drama, by the Catholic University of America in 1957. In February 1951 Jaffrey travelled to New Delhi to try his luck as a cartoonist, writer or broadcaster, he auditioned as an announcer at All India Radio. He started his radio career as an English Announcer with the External Services of All India Radio on 2 April 1951 for a salary of ₹250 / month. Unable to afford a place to stay and having no relatives in the city, Jaffrey spent his nights on the bench behind the office building. Mehra Masani, the station director arranged for him to share a room at the YMCA for ₹30 / month. Jaffrey bought a Raleigh bicycle for the commute. Along with Frank Thakurdas and'Benji' Benegal, Jaffrey set up the Unity Theatre, an English language repertory company at New Delhi in 1951; the first production was of Jean Cocteau's play The Eagle Has Two Heads, with Madhur Bahadur playing the role of the Queen's Reader opposite Saeed as Azrael.
Unity Theatre subsequently staged J. B. Priestley's Dangerous Corner, Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, Molière's The Bourgeois Gentleman, Christopher Fry's The Firstborn and T. S. Eliot's The Cocktail Party. After graduation from Miranda House in 1953, Bahadur joined All India Rad
Indian Rebellion of 1857
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a major, but unsuccessful, uprising in India in 1857–58 against the rule of the British East India Company, which functioned as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown. The rebellion began on 10 May 1857 in the form of a mutiny of sepoys of the Company's army in the garrison town of Meerut, 40 miles northeast of Delhi, it erupted into other mutinies and civilian rebellions chiefly in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, though incidents of revolt occurred farther north and east. The rebellion posed a considerable threat to British power in that region, was contained only with the rebels' defeat in Gwalior on 20 June 1858. On 1 November 1858, the British granted amnesty to all rebels not involved in murder, though they did not declare the hostilities formally to have ended until 8 July 1859; the rebellion is known by many names, including the Sepoy Mutiny, the Indian Mutiny, the Great Rebellion, the Revolt of 1857, the Indian Insurrection, the First War of Independence.
The Indian rebellion was fed by resentments born of diverse perceptions, including invasive British-style social reforms, harsh land taxes, summary treatment of some rich landowners and princes, as well as skepticism about the improvements brought about by British rule. Many Indians rose against the British. Violence, which sometimes betrayed exceptional cruelty, was inflicted on both sides, on British officers, civilians, including women and children, by the rebels, on the rebels, their supporters, including sometimes entire villages, by British reprisals. After the outbreak of the mutiny in Meerut, the rebels quickly reached Delhi, whose 81-year-old Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah Zafar, they declared the Emperor of Hindustan. Soon, the rebels had captured large tracts of the North-Western Provinces and Awadh; the East India Company's response came as well. With help from reinforcements, Kanpur was retaken by mid-July 1857, Delhi by the end of September. However, it took the remainder of 1857 and the better part of 1858 for the rebellion to be suppressed in Jhansi and the Awadh countryside.
Other regions of Company controlled India—Bengal province, the Bombay Presidency, the Madras Presidency—remained calm. In the Punjab, the Sikh princes crucially helped the British by providing support; the large princely states, Mysore and Kashmir, as well as the smaller ones of Rajputana, did not join the rebellion, serving the British, in the Governor-General Lord Canning's words, as "breakwaters in a storm."In some regions, most notably in Awadh, the rebellion took on the attributes of a patriotic revolt against European presence. However, the rebel leaders proclaimed no articles of faith. So, the rebellion proved to be an important watershed in Indian- and British Empire history, it led to the dissolution of the East India Company, forced the British to reorganize the army, the financial system, the administration in India, through passage of the Government of India Act 1858. India was thereafter administered directly by the British government in the new British Raj. On 1 November 1858, Queen Victoria issued a proclamation to Indians, which while lacking the authority of a constitutional provision, promised rights similar to those of other British subjects.
In the following decades, when admission to these rights was not always forthcoming, Indians were to pointedly refer to the Queen's proclamation in growing avowals of a new nationalism. Although the British East India Company had established a presence in India as far back as 1612, earlier administered the factory areas established for trading purposes, its victory in the Battle of Plassey in 1757 marked the beginning of its firm foothold in eastern India; the victory was consolidated in 1764 at the Battle of Buxar, when the East India Company army defeated Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. After his defeat, the emperor granted the Company the right to the "collection of Revenue" in the provinces of Bengal, known as "Diwani" to the Company; the Company soon expanded its territories around its bases in Madras. In 1806, the Vellore Mutiny was sparked by new uniform regulations that created resentment amongst both Hindu and Muslim sepoys. After the turn of the 19th century, Governor-General Wellesley began what became two decades of accelerated expansion of Company territories.
This was achieved either by subsidiary alliances between the Company and local rulers or by direct military annexation. The subsidiary alliances created the princely states of the Muslim nawabs. Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Kashmir were annexed after the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849; the border dispute between Nepal and British India, which sharpened after 1801, had caused the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814–16 and brought the defeated Gurkhas under British influence. In 1854, Berar was annexed, the state of Oudh was added two years later. For practical purposes, the Company was the government of much of India; the Indian Rebellion of 1857 occurred as the result of an accumulation of factors over time, rather than any single event. The sepoys were Indian soldiers who were recruited into the Company's army
The Deceivers (film)
The Deceivers is a 1988 adventure film directed by Nicholas Meyer, starring Pierce Brosnan and Saeed Jaffrey. The film is based on the 1952 John Masters novel of the same name regarding the murderous Thuggee of India; the film takes place in 1825 India. The country is being ravaged by Thuggees, a Kali-worshiping cult known as "Deceivers," who commit robbery and ritualistic murder. Appalled by their activities, English Captain William Savage undertakes a dangerous mission in which he disguises himself, infiltrates the Thugee cult. At constant risk of betrayal and vengeance, Captain Savage undergoes a disturbing psychological transformation, experiencing the cult's insatiable bloodlust for himself; the film was shot in various locations around the arid steppe region in northwestern India. Pierce Brosnan as William Savage Saeed Jaffrey as Hussein Shashi Kapoor as Chandra Singh Shanmukha Srinivas as Hira Lal Helena Michell as Sarah Wilson Keith Michell as Colonel Wilson David Robb as George Anglesmith Tariq Yunus as Feringea Jalal Agha as The Nawab Gary Cady as Lt. Maunsell Salim Ghouse as Piroo Neena Gupta as The Widow Nayeem Hafizka as Sepoy Bijoya Jena as Harlot H.
N. Kalla as The Nawab Servant Rajesh Vivek Kammo as Official John Masters' original novel was published in 1952, it was his second novel, following Nightrunners to Bengal."It offers color and violence in large gobs" said the Washington Post. The New York Times called it "an unfocused work that never comes to grips with its material."The novel was adapted for radio by the BBC in 1994. In 1957 it was announced John Bryan would produce a film of the novel for the Rank Organization with Masters writing the screenplay; the film was not made. In 1974 Stanley Donen announced he had the rights and wanted to make "the kind of movie I've never made before - a big sprawling epic." He did not make it either. Film rights passed to Merchant Ivory Productions. "It's different for us," said producer Ismail Merchant. "We're known for doing E. M. Forster and Henry James. Deceivers is in the same genre as Raiders of the Lost Ark. Which is a switch."Mechant said he made it to "keep the production company moving". Development took ten years.
Original directors were Stephen Frears. Merchant approached writer and director Nicholas Meyer—fresh off his work on Volunteers and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home—through Meyer's agent about directing The Deceivers. Meyer agreed to a substantial pay cut in order to direct the film, remarking, "Hollywood is making films I have no interest in seeing, machined tooled, with a lot of numbers after their names; the studios don't just want home runs. They want grand slams. Anything less than $100 million is not interesting to them.""It's action-adventure = a'cavalry to the rescue' type film," said Meyer. Christopher Reeve and Treat Williams were considered for the part of William Savage, but Meyer lobbied to have an actual Englishman in the role. In his memoir The View from the Bridge, Meyer wrote, "'Here's a story about an Englishman who disguises himself as an Indian,' I reasoned.'If you cast this actor, you will have an American disguising himself as an Englishman, disguising himself as an Indian.
We will be lost in the stunt if he pulls it off, not pay attention to the story and the things we want to take for granted, i.e. that it concerns an Englishman.'"The part went to Pierce Brosnan, whom Meyer fondly described as "Errol Flynn—with talent." Brosnan had just missed the chance to play James Bond due to his commitments to Remington Steele. His casting was announced in April 1987."I play an Englishman, a glorified accountant working for the East India Trading Co." said Brosnan. "He disguises himself as an Indian. He goes on the road with the Thugs, who kill people by strangulation." Shooting took place over a four-month period in India, in Jaipur and Khajuraho, while post-production was completed in London. Filming started 21 September 1987. Filming was marred with difficulties from the onset. According to Meyer, the production was subject to frequent disruption from the local Jaipur mafia for declining to make any dealings with their leader. Meyer wrote, "Scores of hooligans stormed through our sets.
The producers argued it was "a pure and simple thriller". At one point, Ismail Merchant and co-producer Tim Van Rellim were arrested for "obscenity and misrepresentation of Hindu culture." Among the allegations was that the production filmed a Sati as one happened. Merchant responded to the allegations with disgust, saying, "What happened was a mockery—people taking advantage of democratic principles in order to whip up a frenzy."Associate producer Paul Bradley said the charge came from a politically well-connected Jaipur businessman, unhappy at the depiction of Kali and the subplot about suttee. "The script has been submitted to and passed by the Indian government," said Bradley. "Any film made in India by a foreign company, has to be vetted and passed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting." Bradley said the businessman and some film workers had been "pressuring the production company to employ them at exorbitant rates."Despite the disruptions, Meyer spoke of his Indian production crew, stating, "One day when we needed our tulip crane for a big shot, I was flummoxed to learn that four of its bolts had been stolen, incapacitating a vital piece of equipment.
I don't deal well with last minute alterations to T
Company rule in India
Company rule in India refers to the rule or dominion of the British East India Company over parts of the Indian subcontinent. This is variously taken to have commenced in 1757, after the Battle of Plassey, when Mir Jafar, the new Nawab of Bengal enthroned by Robert Clive, became a puppet in the Company's hands. By 1818, with the defeat of the Marathas, followed by the pensioning of the Peshwa and the annexation of his territories, British supremacy in India was complete; the East India Company was a private company owned by stockholders and reporting to a board of directors in London. Formed as a monopoly on trade, it took on governmental powers with its own army and judiciary, it turned a profit, as employees diverted funds into their own pockets. The British government had little control, there was increasing anger at the corruption and irresponsibility of Company officials or "nabobs" who made vast fortunes in a few years. Pitt's India Act of 1784 gave the British government effective control of the private company for the first time.
The new policies were designed for an elite civil service career that minimized temptations for corruption. Company officials lived in separate compounds according to British standards; the Company's rule lasted until 1858, after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, it was abolished. With the Government of India Act 1858, the British government assumed the task of directly administering India in the new British Raj; the English East India Company was founded in 1600, as The Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies. It gained a foothold in India with the establishment of a factory in Masulipatnam on the Eastern coast of India in 1611 and the grant of the rights to establish a factory in Surat in 1612 by the Mughal emperor Jahangir. In 1640, after receiving similar permission from the Vijayanagara ruler farther south, a second factory was established in Madras on the southeastern coast. Bombay island, not far from Surat, a former Portuguese outpost gifted to England as dowry in the marriage of Catherine of Braganza to Charles II, was leased by the Company in 1668.
Two decades the Company established a presence on the eastern coast as well. Since, during this time other companies—established by the Portuguese, Dutch and Danish—were expanding in the region, the English Company's unremarkable beginnings on coastal India offered no clues to what would become a lengthy presence on the Indian subcontinent; the Company's victory under Robert Clive in the 1757 Battle of Plassey and another victory in the 1764 Battle of Buxar, consolidated the Company's power, forced emperor Shah Alam II to appoint it the diwan, or revenue collector, of Bengal and Orissa. The Company thus became the de facto ruler of large areas of the lower Gangetic plain by 1773, it proceeded by degrees to expand its dominions around Bombay and Madras. The Anglo-Mysore Wars and the Anglo-Maratha Wars left it in control of large areas of India south of the Sutlej River. With the defeat of the Marathas, no native power represented a threat for the Company any longer; the expansion of the Company's power chiefly took two forms.
The first of these was the outright annexation of Indian states and subsequent direct governance of the underlying regions, which collectively came to comprise British India. The annexed regions included the North-Western Provinces, Delhi and Sindh. Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Kashmir, were annexed after the Anglo-Sikh Wars in 1849–56. In 1854 Berar was annexed, the state of Oudh two years later; the second form of asserting power involved treaties in which Indian rulers acknowledged the Company's hegemony in return for limited internal autonomy. Since the Company operated under financial constraints, it had to set up political underpinnings for its rule; the most important such support came from the subsidiary alliances with Indian princes during the first 75 years of Company rule. In the early 19th century, the territories of these princes accounted for two-thirds of India; when an Indian ruler, able to secure his territory, wanted to enter such an alliance, the Company welcomed it as an economical method of indirect rule, which did not involve the economic costs of direct administration or the political costs of gaining the support of alien subjects.
In return, the Company undertook the "defense of these subordinate allies and treated them with traditional respect and marks of honor." Subsidiary alliances created the princely states, of the Muslim nawabs. Prominent among the princely states were: Cochin, Travancore, Mysore, Cis-Sutlej Hill States, Central India Agency and Gujarat Gaikwad territories and Bahawalpur; the area encompassed by modern India was fractured following the decline of the Mughal Empire in the first half of the 18th century 1757: 24 Parganas of the Sundarbans annexed to Clive after the Battle of Plassey. 1760: Northern Circars a
Dacoity is a term used for "banditry" in Bengali, Hindi and Urdu. The spelling is the anglicized version of the Hindustani word, as a colloquial Indian English word with this meaning, it appears in the Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases. Banditry is criminal activity involving robbery by groups of armed bandits; the East India Company established the Thuggee and Dacoity Department in 1830, the Thuggee and Dacoity Suppression Acts, 1836–1848 were enacted in British India under East India Company rule. Areas with ravines or forests, such as Chambal and Chilapata Forests, were once known for dacoits; the word "dacoity", the anglicized version of the Hindustani word ḍakaitī, comes from ḍākū or Bengali ḍakat. In Urdu, ḍākū ڈاکو is ḍakait ڈکیت plural for bandits; the crime of banditry is known as dakaitee ڈکیتی. In Hindi, dacoity means "armed robbery"; the term dacoit means "a bandit", according to the OED. The dacoity have had a large impact in the Morena and Chambal regions in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh haryana in north-central India.
The exact reasons for the emergence of dacoity in the Chambal valley has been disputed. Most explanations have suggested feudal exploitation as the cause that provoked many people of this region to take to arms; the area was underdeveloped and poor, so that banditry posed great economic incentives. However, the fact that many gangs operating in this valley were composed of higher castes and wealthy people appears to suggest that feudalism may only be a partial explanation of dacoity in Chambal valley. Furthermore, traditional honor codes and blood feuds would drive some into criminality. In Chambal, organized crime controlled much of the countryside from the time of the British Raj up to the early 2000s, with the police offering high rewards for the most notorious bandit chiefs; the criminals reguarily targeted local businesses, though they preferred to kidnap wealthy people, demand ransom from their relatives - cutting off fingers and ears to pressure them into paying high sums. Many dacoity posed as social bandits toward the local poor, paying medical bills and funding weddings.
One ex-dacoit described his own criminal past by claiming. I fought injustice." Following intense anti-banditry campaigns by the Indian Police, highway robbery was completely eradicated in the early 2000s. Chambal is still popularily believed to be unsafe and bandit-infested by many Indians. One police officer noted that the fading of the dacoity was due to social changes, as few young people were any longer willing to endure the harsh life as highway robber in the countryside. Instead, they prefer to join crime groups in the city; the term is applied, according to the OED, to "pirates who infested the Ganges between Calcutta and Burhampore". Dacoits existed in Burma as well – Rudyard Kipling's fictional Private Mulvaney hunted Burmese dacoits in "The Taking of Lungtungpen". Sax Rohmer's criminal mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu employed Burmese dacoits as his henchmen. Indian police forces use "Known Dacoit" as a label to classify criminals. Notable dacoits include: Gabbar Singh Gujjar, inspired the famous 1975 film Sholay, based on his life Chavviram Singh Yadav, he was became the synonym of awe.
Kalua Yadav, Most famous dacoit of Bareilly Veerappan Malangi Phoolan Devi Dadua Gujjar Daku Man Singh, involved in 90 police encounters and killed 32 police officers Nirbhay Gujjar, the last dacoit and biggest dacoit of Chambal called the last Lion of Chambal Sultana Daku Paan Singh Tomar Hafizullah Ramesh Singh Sikarwar Biswanath Sardar Amritlal Kirar, the infamous daaku of Chambal. In Madhya Pradesh, women belonging to a village defence group have been issued firearm permits to fend off dacoity; the Ex chief minister of the state, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, recognised the role the women had played in defending their villages without guns. He stated that he wanted to enable these women to better defend both themselves and their villages, issued the gun permits to advance this goal; as the dacoits flourished through the 1940s–1970s, they were the subject of various Hindi films made during this era, leading to the emergence of the dacoit film genre in Bollywood. The genre began with Mehboob Khan's Aurat.
Mother India received an Academy Award nomination, defined the dacoit film genre, along with Dilip Kumar's Gunga Jumna. Other popular films in this genre included Homi Wadia's Diamond Queen, Raj Kapoor’s Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai and Moni Bhattacharjee's Mujhe Jeene Do. Pakistani actor Akmal Khan had two dacoit films and Imam Din Gohavia. Other films in this genre included Khote Sikkay, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Kuchhe Dhaage both by Raj Khosla; the most famous dacoit film is Sholay, written by Salim-Javed and starring Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, with its dacoit character Gabbar Singh played by Amjad Khan. It was a masala film that combined the dacoit film conventions of Mother India and Gunga Jumna with that of Spaghetti Westerns, spawning the Dacoit Western genre known as the "Curry Western" genre; the film borrowed elements from Akira Kurosawa's Seven S
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