Учебное пособие для студентов II курса - страница 13


By the late 1830s the monarchy was beginning to look a disreputable and even unnecessary institution. Kings were not expected to rule but to reign. From this low point the monarchy was rescued by Queen Victoria, one of the most notable figures in British royal history. She came to the throne in 1837 and reigned u ntil her death in 1901. Her achievement was restoring respect and usefulness to the Crown, and then going further by becoming the symbol of the nation.

Victoria first learned about her future role during a history lesson when she was 10 years old. The future queen reacted to the discovery by declaring, "I will be good." She took an active interest in the policy of her ministers. Her relations with Prime ministers Peel and Disraeli were excellent but she was not on good terms with Palmerston and Gladstone. The Queen’s conscientious approach to her duties did much to raise the reputation of the monarchy.

One should never forget about the impact of Victoria’s private life on the country’s policy. In 1839 Victoria fell in love with her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. They were married in February 1840, and Albert soon developed a keen interest in governing his new country. Prince Albert served as his wife’s private secretary. Being an active patron of the arts and sciences he was the prime organizer of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Albert also favored the expansion of education, and he served as chancellor of the University of Cambridge. He became a great champion of strengthening and modernizing Britain's armed forces. Though Prince Albert was respected by most of his new countrymen, he was not loved; many resented him because he was a foreigner. For Victoria, however, her husband represented perfection, and the two were very happy together. The royal couple offered an example of family life that contrasted sharply with the images of the previous British monarchs. They took an intense personal interest in the upbringing of their children, and enjoyed a private family life.

Victoria partly owed her success to the fact that she possessed shrewd commonsense and high principles. In many ways the Queen was a very contradictory person. She idolized family life, but felt uncomfortable in the presence of little children. She had no interest in social issues, and yet the 19th century in Britain was an age of reform. She resisted technological change at the time when technological innovations reshaped the face of European civilization. And a lot of technological initiatives came from Britain. Most significantly, Victoria was a queen determined to retain political power; yet unwillingly she greatly contributed to the transformation of the monarch’s political role into a ceremonial one and thus preserved the English monarchy. In a period when middle-class values were of greatest importance, Victoria embodied the qualities that the middle classes most admired – devotion to family and friends, integrity and reliability. Everything that was summed up in the word “respectability”. Nowadays we use the word “Victorian” not only in the meaning of “old-fashioned”, but also to characterize efficiency, high morals and good business practice. But Victoria’s most important asset was her devotion to the nation. Even when she became an elderly woman, she continued to execute her duties.

Victoria early became a widow as Prince Albert died of typhoid fever in 1861. The Queen wanted to retire from public life completely but the sense of duty and responsibility made her emerge from retirement to perform her royal duties. In the last 20 years of her reign she became as completely loved and idolized as Elisabeth I had been. Victoria was often called “the grandmother of Europe” because by her children’s marriages she was related to every royal house of Europe.

In the 19th century the British Empire was constantly expanding and reforming its political relations with old colonies. In 1837 there was a rebellion in Canada. That led to working out the system of self-government for Canada. In 1855, a similar system was applied to the other two territories with white populations, Australia and New Zealand. Later, Prime Minister Gladstone became convinced that there should be Home Rule for Ireland and introduced a Bill in Parliament in April 1886. But the Bill was lost.

The British Empire managed to acquire new territories in various regions of the world. Particularly successful was the conquest of India. Due to internal disputes India’s rulers found themselves completely unprepared for a well-elaborated British invasion. It was Prime Minister Disraeli and his government that gave Queen Victoria the title of Empress of India in 1877.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the purchase of a half-share in the enterprise aroused British interest in the affairs of Egypt and the Sudan. In fact, the British government did not have any elaborated policy towards Africa until the end of the century. They did not want extra territories to administer at great coast. Muсh of the exploration of Africa was left to private individuals: missionaries and businessmen. David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary explored much of East and Central Africa. Cecil Rhodes, an explorer, businessman and settler, aimed to establish a great empire for Britain in Africa and to build a railroad from Cairo to the Cape. British influence was similarly extended to Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda through private companies.

The situation in the Near East was also far from being stable. There were serious collisions between the Russian and British Empires about the control other the territory of Afghanistan. Neither of the two succeeded in conquering the country, but a very bitter feeling remained and affected the relations between Russia and Britain.

Britain’s only war with a great power in the 19th century was the Crimean War with Russia. It lasted from 1854 to 1856 and was aimed at the reduction of Russian influence in the Balkan region. The war revealed that the British army was very inefficient compared to other European armies.

The most important battles were fought at Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman. The first Victoria crosses were awarded. The siege and defence of Sevastopol brings to the Russian mind the names of admirals Kornilov, Nakhimov, and the first Russian nurse Daria Mikhailova. To the English mind, it brings the name of Florence Nightingale, the first English nurse. Her work in organizing field hospitals in the Crimea pioneered modern nursing methods and promoted the recognition of nursing as a respected profession.

After a long siege Sevastopol was taken by the allies in 1855 and the war was ended by the Treaty of Paris (1856). The Treaty provided for the demilitarization of the Black Sea. Neither Russia nor Turkey was allowed to have a fleet of ships in the Black Sea. The position of the British Empire was strengthened again. The Russian Black Sea fleet was rebuilt only 16 years later.

At the end of the century (1899 – 1901), Britain waged a war in South Africa known as the Boer War. The presence of British emigrants in the two Dutch Boer republics, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, and the question of their civic rights under the Boer rule, worsened Anglo-Boer relations. In 1899, the Boers under Kruger, the Transvaal President, declared war on Britain. It was the first war overseas to split the public opinion. Moreover, public opinion in Europe and America turned against Britain as in opened the first internment camps. The war led to a demand for army reform and to a reaction against imperialism.

The war was won by Britain and the two Dutch republics became part of the British Empire, but Queen Victoria did not live to celebrate the victory. She died in 1901, and her death marked the end of an age – Britain’s summer.

Victoria’s reign saw the rapid industrialization of Britain, and a vast growth of national wealth, reflected in the imperialism of the late 19th century. Britain became the strongest colonial power in the world. Its trade with colonies flourished. British businessmen wanted to buy cheap and sell dear, but they were blocked by various preferences granted to colonial produce. Thus foreign markets were growing more important than colonial.

The development of industrial production and trade stimulated the development of transport. The railroad network more than doubled during the mid-Victorian years. And although originally the railroads were built to carry goods, they also catered for passengers. The number of passengers carried annually increased 7 times by the middle of the century. A boom in steamship building began in the 1860s. The value of British exports went up 3 times and overseas capital investments increased 4 times.

The Great Exhibition of 1851, held at Crystal Palace in London, was the first world's fair and symbolized Britain’s industrial supremacy.

Working class living standards improved. The growth of trade unionism led to the establishment of the Trades Union Congress in 1868.

The Victorian age was the peak of the so-called “English summer”. And not only due to the industrial development and colonial expansion of the country. It was also the age of rapid development of science. Charles Darwin and Michael Faraday are two of the most distinguished figures in the history of British science.

In 1857 ^ Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species. His theory of evolution based upon scientific observation, was welcomed by many as proof of mankind’s ability to find a scientific explanation for everything. But for religious people, who made the majority of the middle class, the idea that all living-beings, including human-beings, had developed from simpler creatures was intolerable. It led to a crisis in the Church. The battle between “faith” and “reason” lasted for the rest of the century.

The country’s developing economy needed skilled workers, technicians and engineers to meet the demands of the growing industrial centres. From the 1870s to the 1890s, several Education Acts were passed by Parliament. In 1870 schooling was made compulsory. All children up to the age of 13 were supposed to go to school, where they were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and sometimes – elementary science. In Scotland, there had been a state education system since the time of the Reformation. There were 4 Scottish universities, three of them dating from the Middle Ages. In Wales, schools had begun to grow rapidly in the middle of the 19th century, partly for nationalist reasons. By the middle of the century Wales had a university and a smaller university college.

The government began to build “redbrick” universities (and schools) in the new industrial centres. The term “redbrick” distinguished the new universities, usually built of red brick, from older, mainly stone-built universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The new universities had a more pragmatic approach to education, and taught more science and technology to feed Britain’s industries.

From the early 1850s to the early 1870s, with occasional years of high unemployment and business failure, almost all sections of the population seemed to be benefiting from relative prosperity. Profits rose, and so did wages and incomes from land. Indeed, those supporters of protection who had argued in the 1840s that free trade would ruin British agriculture were mocked by the mid-Victorian prosperity of agriculture. It was during these years that Victorianism, came to represent a cluster of moral attributes such as “character”, “duty”, “will”, earnestness, hard work and respectable behaviour. These virtues were not only embraced by the striving bourgeoisie, but all of them also made an appeal to other class sections of the population, aristocratic or trade-unionist. But in spite of that, there was always a Victorian underworld. Belief in the family was accompanied by the spread of prostitution, and in every large city there were districts where every Victorian value was ignored. Many Victorians were as eager to read about crime as to read the Bible.

The Late Victorian period was a time of security, the age of house parties and long weekends in the country. Different variants of socialist theories spread in Great Britain including Marxism.

London remained the financial, political and cultural centre of Britain. Moreover, it was one of the country’s industrial centres. You can now watch an old documentary showing London at the end of the 19th century.

The Victorian age gave rise to a new trend in literature – critical realism. The best-known poets of the period were Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning and Robert Louis Stevenson. Alfred Tennyson made his mark very early with Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (1830) and Poems (1832). In his early work Tennyson brought an exquisite lyric gift to late-Romantic subject matter, but in the major poems of his middle period Tennyson combined the larger scale required by his new ambitions with his original gift or the brief lyric by building long poems out of short ones.

But the dominant form of literature during the Victorian period was the novel. Early Victorian literature includes some of the greatest and most popular novels ever written. Political novels, religious novels, historical novels, sporting novels, Irish novels, crime novels, and comic novels all flourished in this period. Most novelists of the period wrote long works with many characters.

^ Charles Dickens (1812–1870), the greatest master of the century, exhibited an astonishing ability to create living characters. His novels Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Great Expectations and others put among the best writers in worlds literature. His exposures of social evils and his powers of caricature and humour have won him a vast readership. Even during his lifetime Dickens became the national symbol of the country. He invented the theatre for one author, and gave public readings from his novels.

Another master of characterization, ^ William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1883), the author of Vanity Fair, was a popular writer, working for the enlarged reading public of his day, and especially for serial publication. Both authors were humourists, sentimentalists and social satirists. But instead of writing about the lower classes and social injustice, Thackeray satirized romantic sentimentality and the snobbishness of upper-class life.

The 19th century saw a surprisingly big number of women-writers who did not only write for pleasure, but left a substantial trace in English literature. One of them was ^ Jane Austen, the author of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma. She had a witty mind and wrote about right judgement, right behaviour and the formation of character.

Elizabeth Gaskell remains best-known for the novel Mary Barton in which she describes with realism and sympathy the lives of industrial and agricultural workers in the wake of the Chartist movement.

^ George Eliot is the pen-name of Mary Ann Evans. Her best-known novels are The Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner. Eliot was the first among the English novelists to develop an interest in factors that contribute to making people what they are, the first to analyze these factors and to show them at work. The idea is manifested in Silas Marner, which is a wonderful study of English provincial life, rural speech and character.

The famous ^ Brontё sisters, Charlotte and Emily, brought up in poor surroundings, wrote the books which rank among the most popular novels of the century. Charlotte Brontё’s Jane Eyre describes the life of a poor and plain-looking girl who has a strong character and wins her happiness. Charlotte’s sister, Emily Brontё, is the author of one of the greatest English novels, Wuthering Heights. In the opinion of some critics no woman could have written it. The novel has been compared to Shakespeare’s King Lear, chiefly because of its immense and uncontrollable passions.

The Irish-born intellectual ^ Oscar Wilde was a poet, a writer and a dramatist. He led an eccentric life that fuelled his witty satires and epigrams on Victorian society. As a member of the aesthetic movement in literature, Wilde advocated the idea of art for art’s sake. His works include two collections of fairy stories, the only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, a few poems and four comedies – Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, and The Importance of Being Earnest. The plays sparkle with clever paradoxes and witty dialogues.

In the middle of the century, in 1848, a group of seven young men, led by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, formed the ^ Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (‘PRB’). They aimed to revolutionize British art by painting serious subjects directly from nature, with vivid realism of detail. Their chosen name reflected their wish to return to the sincerity and simplicity of the artists of the Middle Ages. Their subjects were to tackle modern social problems – drink, prostitution, gambling and so on. They often had a religious message, as in Holman Hunt’s “The Awakening Conscience”. The young woman in the picture is the kept mistress of the man. She had jumped up from her lover’s lap and is staring out of the window at the brilliant light we can see reflected in the large mirror behind her. The light symbolizes Christ, and Hunt’s title indicates that she has had a crisis of conscience and has realized the moral horror of her situation. The Pre-Raphaelites illustrated history, mythology and literature; they brought a new concern for truth to life and human psychology.


  • The name of Wellington got into the English language thanks to the high boots he used to wear. In Modem English the word “wellingtons” means high rubber boots.

  • It was after the first name of Robert Peel (Robert – Bob – Bobby) that London policemen were nicknamed ‘bobbies’.

  • The world’s highest award to a nurse today is the Florence Nightingale medal.


1. The beginning of the century

t the beginning of the 20th century the British did not realize that they were living at the end of an age – the age of Britain’s glory also known as the “English summer”. At the time, Britain was no longer as powerful as it had been. Britain was losing its leading role in the world.

The exploration of the world went on carrying explorers to Polar regions – the Arctic and the Antarctic. Here Britain’s most serious rivals were Russia and Norway. At the beginning of the century Robert Scott, a British naval officer and explorer led two expeditions to Antarctica. On the first expedition, in 1901 – 1904, he carried out surveys of the Ross Sea and on the second (1910 – 1912) he led a sledge journey to the South Pole. Scott tried to use motor sledges, but unfortunately they failed him. He reached the South Pole on the 18th of January 1912, shortly after Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer. Robert Scott and his four companions died on the return journey.

In Europe, Germany had become very strong. Its economic prospects were clearly greater than Britain’s. Like the USA, it was producing more steel than Britain, which enabled it to develop its industrial potential and build a strong navy. Britain, though did not lag behind in building its army and navy and producing aircraft and submarines for military purposes. And although London was still the center of the world financial system, Britain found that other countries, especially France, Germany and the USA were increasingly competing with her. Why did Britain lose the advantages it used to have? There seem to have been a number of reasons. Other countries, particularly Germany, had more natural resources, including coal and iron, as well as wheat-producing lands. As a result of the growth in international trade, Britain became less self-sufficient, and as a result of growing American and German competition she began to trade more with the less competitive countries.

Between 1902 and 1907, Britain concluded treaties and agreements with Russia, France and Japan to strengthen friendship and prevent the threat of conflicts. But Britain failed to sign a treaty with Germany and the Ottoman Empire (the present-day Turkey). And in fact, Germany was the country Britain feared most of all, particularly the German navy. Being an island, Britain could not possibly survive for long without food and other essential goods which were delivered by sea.

2. Britain in World War I

y 1914 the balance of forces in Europe had developed into an extremely dangerous situation. Britain was even drawn into partnership with France, its historical rival and enemy. A dreadful chain of events in the summer of 1914 led to the beginning of the First World War which started with the murder of the Austrian Archduke in Sarajevo. Britain hoped that it would not be dragged into the military conflict, but the leading politicians realized that only a miracle could prevent the country from being dragged into the war. But no miracle occurred.

In August 1914 Germany’s attack on France took the German army through Belgium. But by the treaty of 1838, Britain was supposed to guarantee Belgium’s neutrality, so Britain had to declare war on Germany. There was another reason for Britain to get involved in the war. She was afraid that Germany’s ambitions, just like Napoleon’s a century earlier, would completely change the map of Europe. And as a result of the war, the map of Europe was really changed, but in a way different to anybody’s expectations.

Apart from the Crimean war, it was Britain’s first European war in fifty years. It turned into four years of bitter fighting. Fortunately, no military actions occurred on the British Isles. Britain fought overseas – on the Continent and in the Middle East. It was during that war that Britain produced the first tank – Mark I. It was a monstrous machine which scared the enemy with its mere exterior. The tanks could crawl at a speed of 5 kilometres an hour, which was more than enough to scare the enemy.

It is clear that the war at sea was much more important for Britain than the war on land, because defeat at sea would have inevitably resulted in British surrender. From 1915 German submarines started to sink merchant ships bringing supplies to Britain. They managed to sink 40 per cent of Britain’s merchant fleet and at one point brought Britain to within six weeks of starvation.

The feeling of hatred to Germany and Germans in Britain was so strong that when Germany offered to make peace at the end of 1916, neither Britain nor France welcomed the idea. In 1917 the attacks of German submarines on neutral shipping drew America into the war against Germany. The arrival of American troops in France and Italy ended Germany’s hopes and it surrendered in November 1918.

Britain’s losses in the war were fifty times more than in the twenty-year war against Napoleon: 750,000 died and 2,000,000 were seriously wounded.

Public opinion demanded no mercy for Germany. Hence, when France and Britain met to discuss peace at Versailles in 1919, Germany was not even invited to the conference. The prominent British economist of the time, John Keynes, argued that it was foolish and short-sighted to punish Germany as Europe’s economic and political recovery was impossible without Germany. But his advice was neglected. Later on, Germany took revenge in the economic and political sphere in the 1930s when it started preparations for the next world war.

3. Social issues in the 1920s

In 1918 Parliament voted for universal suffrage for men. The struggle of women for equal rights, which had begun at the end of the 19th century gained new force as British women were determined to win voting rights. In fact, it was recognized that in Britain women were treated worse than anywhere else in Europe. A man treated his wife and daughters as if they were his property. Wife beating was one of the social problems. And although suffragettes had been demanding equal rights since 1897, the violent and sometimes vulgar methods they used caused a feeling of hostility. The war of 1914 changed everything. Britain would have been unable to continue the war without the women who took men’s places in the factories and mines, who nursed them in hospitals. By 1918 29 per cent of the total workforce in Britain was female. But it was not until 1928 that British women got voting rights.

The liberation of women also took other forms – they started to wear lighter clothes, shorter hair and skirts, began to smoke and drink openly and began to wear cosmetics. Married women wanted smaller families. Divorce became easier. From 1910 to 1939 the number of divorces increased ten times over. Social issues could not fail to be expressed in literature.

4. The General Strike and Depression

Economically, the mid-twenties and the beginning of the thirties were marred by a general decline in the economic situation. The men who had won the First World War had been promised “a land fit for heroes”, but it was easier said than done. The cost of the war had led to increased taxation and a fall in the living standards. In 1926 popular discontent led to a general strike. As the government could not control the situation, businessmen were allowed to make quick profits, particularly in textile and engineering industries, and in the shipyards. As a result, from 1930 to 1933 Britain, like most European countries and the USA was severely hit by the economic crisis known as the Depression. Over 3 million people lost their jobs. The effect of the depression was even worse in Germany, Britain’s most important market. The economic collapse of Germany led to the rise of Adolf Hitler. Powerful new Nazi and Fascist governments were taking over in Germany, Italy, Austria and Spain. In the middle of the 1930s the British economy began to recover. It depended a great deal on Britain’s growing motor industry.

5. The Abdication

When George V died in 1936, the crown went to Edward VIII. But he abdicated the same year in order to marry American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. The throne went to George VI who remained king up to 1952. When he died, elder daughter Elizabeth became Britain’s next monarch. King George’s wife, Queen Elizabeth, whom everybody knew as the Queen Mother, died in 2002.

6. Britain in World War II

In 1935 it was already clear that Germany was preparing to regain its position in Europe, and if necessary, by force. The government was faced with the problem of rebuilding the army and the navy. This meant huge investments in heavy industry. By 1937, British industry was producing weapons, aircraft and equipment for war. Financial aid was rendered by the United States of America.

At the same time Germany and its European and Asian allies (the Axis powers) – Italy and Japan – were taking advantage of Britain and France’s indecision and started occupying territories of other states. There was good evidence that Germany’s demands could not be easily satisfied. In order to avoid a war, Britain cooperated with Germany in the take-over of the German-speaking parts of Czechoslovakia by Germany. On his return from Munich, the British Premier said that for the country it meant a temporary peace. Six months later Germany occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia. Britain, realizing that the war was inevitable, gave a guarantee of support to Poland in case of a German invasion. In September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, and Britain declared a war.

Few people in Britain realized how strong the German army was. (The first period of the war – the end of 1939 was relatively quiet for Britain as it was not involved in any military action. That period is known as the phony war.) But in May 1940 Germany attacked the allied British and French forces, defeated the French army and drove the British army into the sea on the beaches of Dunkirk. At Dunkirk, a small French port, the British army was saved by thousands of private boats that crossed the Channel. Dunkirk was a miraculous rescue from a military disaster. In the same year, 1940, the Germans started bombing British cities. The colloquial name for the series of air-raids by the German Air Force is known as the Blitz. The purpose of the raids was to weaken British resistance to projected invasion. The cities of London and Coventry were particularly badly damaged.

Battle of the Atlantic began the same year. The German strategy was to cut off Britain’s supplies of food and munitions by submarine action. Rationing for essential items of food, clothing and fuel was introduced.

In 1941 Britain received first shipments of food and arms from the USA as part of the Lend-Lease Plan.

The war had begun as a traditional European struggle where Britain fought to save the balance of power” but it quickly became world-wide. Both sides wanted to control the oil fields in the Middle East and the Suez Canal, which was Britain’s route to India.

In 1941, Japan, which was Germany’s ally, attacked Britain’s colonial possessions in Malaya, Burma and India. As a result, the soldiers of the Empire had to fight against the Axis of Germany, Italy and Japan practically all over the world.

In 1941 two most powerful world nations had to join the war – the USSR and the USA. The Allied Forces joined their efforts in fighting against the common enemy.

In February 1945, the leaders of the Allied Forces, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, met for a conference in Yalta, where the final defeat of Germany was planned. Germany was to be demilitarized and divided into 4 zones of occupation. The Allied leaders also agreed that it was necessary to establish the United Nations Organization. It was set up in 1945 to maintain world peace and foster international cooperation.. At the Yalta Conference, the USSR agreed to enter the war against Japan.

As you know, the war in Europe ended in 1945 when the allied troops defeated Germany. Germany signed the Act of Capitulation on May 8, 1945, that is why May 8 is celebrated in Europe and the USA as Victory Day. But World War II ended only in September. When Japan refused to surrender, the USA dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which resulted in the immediate death of over 110,000 civilians. Many thousands more died later from the after-effects.

The war cost Britain 303,000 soldier and 60,000 civilians.

Strange as it may seem, in the 1940s Britain produced a writer whose literary career actually started during the war. James Aldridge worked as a war correspondent and visited Norway, Greece, Egypt, Lybia, Iran and the Soviet Union. His first novels, Signed with Their Honour and The Sea Eagle were based on his war experiences. After the war, Aldridge mainly wrote about the national liberation movement in the former colonial countries. The writer’s anti-colonial views were expressed in his novel The Diplomat.

7. Britain in the post-war period

After the war, the victorious Allies created the United Nations. The Allies formed themselves into a Security Council into which they invited some less powerful nations. They hoped that the success of wartime alliance would be carried into peacetime. But the idea of common purpose which had previously united them, no longer existed.

In 1948-49 the Soviet Union stopped all road and rail traffic to West Berlin. It was only due to a huge airlift of essential supplies from the West that West Berlin survived the blockade which lasted almost a year. As a result of the struggle for West Berlin, two opposing alliances were set up: the NATO of the western nations and the Warsaw Treaty Organization, or the Warsaw Pact of the eastern bloc.

In 1950, the United Nations faced a problem in the Far East. Troops of North Korea started a war against South Korea. British troops formed part of the United Nations force which defended South Korea. Only fear on both sides limited the level and extent of the war. But while Britain became more fearful of Soviet intentions, it also became unhappy with the forceful attitude of its ally, the United States of America.

Britain’s foreign policy was also concerned with finding a new part to play in the changing world. It had to get used to changing relations with its friends, particularly with America, with the European countries, and with members of the Commonwealth, a new association of former British possessions.

8. The fall of the colonial system

At the end of World War II, the German colonies in Africa, as well as Iraq and Palestine in the Middle East, were added to Britain’s area of control. The empire was now bigger than ever before and covered a quarter of the entire land surface of the world.

The UN Charter in 1945 called for an end to colonialism and for progress towards self-government. In India, there had been a growing demand for freedom back in the 1920s and 1930s. The national liberation movement was led by Mahatma Gandhi. In 1947 the British troops and officials finally left India. The first Indian President was J. Nehru. The former colony split into a Hindu state called India and a smaller Muslim state called Pakistan. Later, in 1971, part of Pakistan broke away to form Bangladesh. Ceylon became independent in 1948 and changed its name into Sri Lanka in 1972.

Britain also left Palestine where it was unable to keep the promises either to the Arab or to the Jewish population. As a result of the establishment of a new independent state of Israel in 1948, Palestinian Arabs were left not only without a state, but without a territory or even autonomy of their own.

For most of the 1950s Britain managed to keep its other possessions, but after the Suez conflict it began to give them up. Until 1956, Britain had controlled the Suez Canal, but in 1956 Egypt decided to take it over. Britain, together with France and Israel, attacked Egypt. But the rest of the world, particularly the USA, loudly disapproved of Britain’s actions and forced Britain to withdraw troops from Egypt.

The 1960s are known in history as the decade of decolonization and bitter struggle of colonies for independence. Between 1945 and 1965, 500 million people in the former British colonies became independent. As a result, the former British possessions, which greatly depended on Britain economically, and even more politically, formed the Commonwealth of Nations.

9. The Falklands War

In 1982 Britain went to war in the Atlantic to win back the Falkland Islands from Argentina, after Argentina had invaded the islands. The operation, which was denounced for the useless casualties by the majority of the countries, was quite popular in the United Kingdom. Once more Britain felt that it was a world power capable of defeating the enemy. The war itself cost 900 million pounds, and the total cost of defending the islands from 1982 to 1987 rose to 3 billion pounds.

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