Independence without firing a shot, the case of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the white Dominions

Risultato della ricerca: Working paper

Abstract

‘Commonwealth’ and ‘dominion’ are two terms often used in history. In the 20th century, however, their political use was strictly linked to the evolution of the British Empire. Since 1907, when the category of Dominion was officially born, the soon-to-be-called British Commonwealth of Nations walked through a path in which the colonial rule between the white self-governing colonies (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) and Great Britain created a bond looking like an alliance between equal States. Not by chance, at the end of the Second World War, the former white self-governing colonies were already enjoying full independence without fighting any war of independence against the metropolitan power. This was quite unique for an Empire embracing every corner of the world. In 1917, the Imperial War Conference, held in London during the First World War, paved the way towards the recognition of full sovereignty for the Dominions. Indeed, the British government acknowledged that the white self-governing colonies had the right to be an influential actor in handling the foreign affairs of the Empire. The Chanak crisis in 1922 showed that Britain, voluntarily or not, could not escape the fact that the Dominions already played the role of almost sovereign actors in international politics. The Balfour declaration of 1926 maintained that Britain and the white Dominions were at the same political level. As a consequence, the Statute of Westminster of 1931 gave a de facto independence to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The British Commonwealth of Nations, thus, was eventually born. Every new nation adopted the Statute in different years, and each of them could recognize since 1931 that, in theory, they were now able to pursue their own foreign policy independently from British interests. In practice, the security of the British Empire was still interconnected. Indeed, the bond uniting the Commonwealth became apparent at the outbreak of the Second World War, when the nowindependent Dominions entered the war alongside the former Motherland. Between 1907 and 1948, the Dominion category was flexible enough to be used in other cases: the Irish Free State, for example, or India and Pakistan. However, the ‘old’ white Dominions always enjoyed a different political treatment, leading to their independence without firing any shot against the metropolitan power.
Lingua originaleEnglish
EditoreIsraeli Commission of Military History
Numero di pagine7
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2019

Keywords

  • British Empire
  • Dominions

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