“The empire on which the sun never sets” has declined in the 20th century immensely. The United Kingdom was the most powerful empire for many years, but for several reasons has lost its leading position. Factors that contributed to the decline include:
1. Loss of Colonies – The UK lost much of its influence through its colonies gaining independence in the past 100 years. This included India, the “jewel in the crown” of the British Empire in 1947, the Caribbean in the 1960’s and South Africa in 1961, followed by other African nations. Canada, New Zealand, and Australia repatriated their independence which included no British involvement.
2. WWI and WWII – Both World Wars proved devastating for the United Kingdom. They were some of the costliest wars in terms of finances and population loss. Britain became essentially bankrupt after WWI. The once great Royal Navy became significantly reduced in size in the 20th century as well.
3. Economic Downturns – The United Kingdom has experienced several downturns in the 20th century from when they used to be one of the wealthiest nations in the world. The Great Depression and recessions in the 1970’s and 1980’s left the UK unable to bounce back as well. The rise of the United States as the lead superpower has made many leadership aspects of the UK obsolete. China and Germany have also become regional and worldwide economic powers.