The British Empire (commonly known as Britain or The Empire) is a sovereign state that comprises land on every continent. The country includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, much of the Caribbean, Guyana, parts of West Africa, most of Eastern and Southern Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, parts of Southeast Asia and Oceania and many smaller territories.
The British Empire is a federation governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system, with its seat of government in the capital city of London. It is a country in its own right and consists of many countries.
The British Empire originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. By 1922 the British Empire held sway over about 458 million people, one-fifth of the world's population at the time. The empire covers more than 12,720,000 km2, almost a quarter of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural influence is widespread. The phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" is often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse across the globe means that the sun is always shining on at least one of its territories. The Empire is a developed country and has the world's largest economy by nominal GDP (£29.36 trillion) and purchasing power parity. It was the world's first industrialized country and remains a great power with leading economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence. It is a recognized Nuclear Weapons State (having also been the first to develop and the only to militarily use Nuclear Weapons) and its military expenditure ranks first in the world.
Britain has been a permanent member of the League of Nations Executive Council since its first session after reorganization in 1950. It has been a member of the European Economic Community since 1973, although it does not partake in the European Currency Union (more commonly known as the Euro or the Eurozone). It is also a member of the British Commonwealth, the Allied Pact and a number of other international organizations.
The British Empire, since the passing of the Empire Act in 1938, has been a union of many constituent countries. Though most of these constituents bear the title "Imperial Dominion", the system is not uniform, and several countries within the Empire have different titles.
List of constituent countries
The United Kingdom has a unique status within the Empire. It is a constituent country of the British Empire, and itself consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.