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Britain: British Empire C. 1919-69 - General Reasons For Its Decline In The 20th Century

In GCSE History students will study the British Empire. One area they will look at is its decline during the 20th Century and the reasons that came about.

In 1919 the British Empire was still largely intact - indeed Britain gained territory from Germany in Africa and elsewhere. In the second half of the 20th Century, however, it was in decline. Decolonisation began with India in 1947, and continued rapidly after 1960. By 1969 little of the once vast British Empire remained.

Find out some of the reasons for the British Empire's decline in the 20th Century by playing this quiz.

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  1. In 1967 the Labour government withdrew all of its military assets from East of Suez. There was also an important decision regarding the pound sterling, an international currency. What was this decision?
    The military re-deployment reflected Britain's weaker military status. Its financial weakness was shown at the same time by the Chancellor's measure
  2. In 1963, and again in 1966, Britain applied to join the EEC (the European Economic Community), only to be rebuffed by a French veto. Two members of this group enjoyed more successful economies than Britain. Which were these two states?
    British policy-makers calculated that Britain's trade was now more likely to be with European states than with the Commonwealth and they therefore urged negotiations to join the EEC (Common Market)
  3. In February 1942 General Percival surrendered a key British colony to the Japanese. Which colonial possession was this?
    This defeat convinced many in Britain's colonies that she could no longer defend them against attack. Some even (briefly) welcomed the Japanese as liberators. When the British returned they found strong opposition to re-colonisation entrenched
  4. The post-war Labour government of Clement Attlee granted independence to India, partly as it lacked the means to deal with the Congress Party, and partly out of anti-colonial conviction. In which years did India (and Pakistan) gain their independence?
    The loss of India was a big blow to the Empire. India had been the "Jewel in the Crown", and had provided many of the Empire's key resources - including manpower. Colonial peoples elsewhere took heart from this event: if India could gain independence, they felt, then so could they
  5. In 1922 Britain signed an agreement with the Irish Dail (parliament in Dublin) that brought the Anglo-Irish War to a close, and encouraged anti-colonial elements elsewhere in their quest to achieve independence. What was agreed between the two sides in 1922?
    The news of Irish independence was a great encouragement to other colonial peoples - as its opponents in Britain had long argued it would be
  6. In 1965 a white settler revolt in a British colony erupted. Britain declined to use force, and resorted instead to economic sanctions. Which was this colony?
    Britain was embarrassed by the failure to prevent the rebellion from occurring, and also from the failure to deal with it effectively
  7. In 1919 British troops killed several hundred Indian demonstrators. The British general Dyer received a hero's welcome from some sections of British society when he returned to the UK. This incident caused the Indian Congress Party to press hard for independence. Where did this massacre take place?
    There was some condemnation of Dyer in Britain, but also much approval. Many Indian nationalists took the view that the incident showed that Britain was untrustworthy. Nationalists in other colonies were encouraged to step up their efforts against Britain
  8. The 1945-51 Labour governments left India partly for economic reasons: keeping the sub-continent would simply be too expensive for cash-strapped Britain. And Labour wanted to spend much of what money was available on something else. This had been promised in Labour's election manifesto in 1945. What was this?
    Labour was faced with the need to establish priorities: the looming Cold War and promises made to the electorate in 1945. Imperial costs (at least in the Indian sub-continent) came below this
  9. In 1956 Britain and France launched a major military expedition which failed in its objective. What name was given to this incident?
    The United States complained that they had not been warned of this action in advance. The incident showed Britain's weakness: she could now only act with American approval
  10. In 1960 a British prime minister made an historic speech in Capetown, South Africa, declaring that "a wind of change" was blowing through Africa. In other words, he was saying, African nationalism is a political reality of which colonial powers (and Apartheid South Africa) must take note. Who was this British P.M.?
    1960 heralded a new burst of independent states, especially in Africa, including Nigeria. Britain had clearly neither the power nor the will to resist anti-colonial pressures

Author: Edward Towne

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