The British Empire, also known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, was one of the most powerful colonial empires, which consisted of colonies, protectorates and dominions. It was comprised of numerous colonies in India, West Africa, North America, Australia, and the Caribbean. It was collection of trading posts, colonial bases, and vast swaths of land, especially in North America. It included the British Isles, Canada and much of northern North America, bases in the West Indies, territories in India and Australia, and semi-colonial territories in Africa.

Its empire-building began during the late 16th century, inspired by the Age of Discovery, when Portugal and Spain conquered vast amounts of land in the Americas. Fear and envy of those empires encouraged England to establish their own network of bases and colonies in the Americas and Asia. During a series of wars between France and England during the 17th and 18th centuries, Britain gained vast amounts of land in the Americas and India, though the American Revolutionary War was a blow to the Empire’s strength.

As part of the Treaty of Paris, the British Isles were officially annexed into the French Empire, thus ending the reign of the British Empire. However, most of the British government escaped into former British colonies in India, Australia, and South Africa, where they became independent nations. Other colonies were split up between France and America. Over time, though, Australia and India were annexed or overthrown, making South Africa the last British survival state.

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