Global Language and World Culture
Questions about British history and colonialism

Questions about British history and colonialism

The defeat of the Spanish invincible armada
The defeat of the Spanish invincible armada

I guess the most surprising discovery was how long Gandhi remained loyal to the ideal of the British Empire, even in India.
Arthur L. Herman

Remember that politics, colonialism, imperialism and war also originate in the human brain.
Vilayanur S. Ramachandran

It is not polite for a Russian to interfere in British politics.
Alexander Lebedev


1) Do you remember what important event happened in 1066?

The Battle of Hastings. At this battle the Anglo-Saxon king Harold was defeated’ and killed by an invading army of Normans under their ruler William the Conqueror. William was crowned king of England and established a strong unified kingdom. In the following centuries the English were able to begin the conquest of Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

2) What is the Magna Carta and when was it signed?

The English barons forced King john to sign an agreement called the Magna Carta (the Great Charter) in 1215 and accept that every English citizen, even the king, must obey the laws of the land. The document limited the powers of the king and gave people the right to have a fair trial’. It became the foundation of ordinary English people’s legal rights.

3) What do you know about the conquest of Wales?

After many wars and rebellions King Edward I succeeded in conquering Wales in 1284, although it was not officially united to England until 1543. Edward built a chain of castles in Wales to protect his forces and control the Welsh. Attempts to conquer Scotland and Ireland were less successful; it took the English hundreds of years to completely dominate the British isles.

4) In 1348 Black Death reached Britain, what do you know about that?

A terrible plague called the Black Death arrived in Europe from China. It reached Britain in 1348 and killed about one in every three people. Both towns and countryside were devastated; in some places there were famines because there were not enough people to work in the fields. Britain suffered from other plagues over the following centuries, including the Great Plague in 1665.

5) The age of Reformation, could you tell something about that?

In the early 16th century the Roman Catholic Church was going through the crisis of the Reformation. Followers of Martin Luther rejected the authority of the Pope and the teachings of the Church. When Pope Clement VII refused to allow King Henry VIII to divorce his first wife, Henry also decided to break away from Rome. He established the Church of England with the monarch as its head. England became a Protestant country. The break with Rome was therefore effected by a series of acts of Parliament passed between 1532 and 1534, among them the 1534 Act of Supremacy which declared that Henry was the “Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England”.

6) What happened in 1588, can you remember?

Henry VIII’s daughter became Queen Elizabeth I. In her reign (1558-1603) the English navy defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 and prevented an invasion. England became an important sea power. English ships sailed around the world, setting up colonies in America and trading in Asia. Elizabethan England was also the time of Shakespeare, a golden age for English music, literature and theatre.

7) What happened in 1649? Do you know?

Charles I wanted to rule, the country by his divine right as king. Parliament rebelled against him, initiating the English Civil War (1642-49). The Royalists were defeated by the Parliamentary forces, led by the great general Oliver Cromwell. The king was ,xecuted and England became a republic (1649-60) with Cromwell as its head. Charles’s son, Charles II, returned to the throne in 1660 but his power was limited. Parliament was now the supreme authority.

8) What do you know about the Creation of the United Kingdom?

In 1707 the United Kingdom was created. England (+ Wales) and Scotland had had the same king since 1603, but now the two countries were officially united. Ireland only became part of the United Kingdom nearly a century later, in 1801.

The British Empire map by English Culture Blog
The British Empire map by English Culture Blog

British politics, as the world knows, is a joke. Yet it’s rarely funny.
Steven Patrick Morrissey

At the heart of globalisation is a new kind of intolerance in the West towards other cultures, traditions and values, less brutal than in the era of colonialism, but more comprehensive and totalitarian.
Martin Jacques

I hate imperialism. I detest colonialism. And I fear the consequences of their last bitter struggle for life. We are determined that our nation, and the world as a whole, shall not be the plaything of one small corner of the world.


100 years ago a quarter of the world was under British rule. This Empire had developed over the centuries for a variety of reasons, including trade, military security, exploration and emigration.

1) What do you know about Ireland?

Ireland was originally invaded in the twelth century. By the 17th century the English had conquered the island, confiscating much of the land in the north and giving it to Protestant settlers from Scotland and England. In 1801 Ireland became part of the United Kingdom. However the native Irish people, mostly Catholic, frequently rebelled against British rule in 1921 the south (the Republic of Ireland) became independent. The six counties of Northern Ireland, where the majority are Protestant, remained within the UK.

2) What do you know about America?

English settlers first came to North America in 1607. In 1776, the American colonies rebelled to set up the United States of America, winning independence in 1783. The first English colonies in Canada were in the 17″ century. The English defeated the French in 1763 to take complete control, including French speaking Quebec. Canada became an independent dominion, with its own government, in 1867. In the West Indies, the English took Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655. Other islands, such as Barbados and Trinidad, also became colonies in the 17th century. They became independent in the 1960s.

3) What do you know about Asia?

The East India Company began building trading settlements in India in the early 1600s. The British ruled most of the Indian sub-continent from the 1811 century until 1947 when India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka became independent. In the rest of south-east Asia, Malaysia and Singapore were under British control from 1786 until 1963, Burma from 1852 until 1948 and Hong Kong from 1841 until 1997.

4) What do you know about Africa?

In West Africa, Ghana and Nigeria were British territories from the mid-18th century until about 1960. The British also bought South Africa from the Dutch in 1814 and held it until 1931. In East Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe were British colonies from the 1890s until the 1960s. At the end of the 19th century the British also controlled Egypt and Sudan in the north.

5) What do you know about Australia?

Captain Cook explored Australia in 1770 and the first colony, a prison, was set up in 1788. The first colony in New Zealand was not until 1840. Australia became independent in 1901 and New Zealand in 1907.

6) What do you know about the end of Empire?

Britain fought in two great wars in the 20″ century against its main enemy, Germany: World War I (1914-18) and World War II (1939-45). After these wars, although it was victorious, the country was exhausted and had neither the money nor the military power to rule an empire. In any case the colonies now wanted to govern themselves. The Empire came to an end but most of its former members still maintain links through an organization called the Commonwealth.