Discussion: Empires come to an end, history can be

Discussion: Did the First World War Start the
Collapse of the British Empire?

First World War was the start of the modern era, today I live in a country that
is quite small compared to its past. A nation that once thrived and prospered
through many Eras, until 1914 the start of the Modern Era. I believe that World
War One was the start of the British Empire’s collapse, it did however gain
some new territories from the outcome of what was called “The Great War”.

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all Empires come to an end, history can be my evidence for this statement. Some
of the empires that entered the World War were the: German Empire,
Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire, which all
vanished due to the war. Whereas for the British Empire and the Japanese Empire
flourished and reaped the rewards of the war. Although the outcome might have
been beneficial to the victors, this can only last for so long before people
start to ask… “Why was there a World War?” Those who fought in the battles on
all fronts wanted more power for their homeland, such as: India, Australia, New
Zealand and countries in Africa. From this ideology of gaining more power, many
nations wanted independence from the Empires that they were in, this included
the British Empire.

the Great War London called its Empire to come to arms and support Britain, in
a War that didn’t directly involve them. This however allowed the idea of
fighting for your country and bringing honour to families. Even though many
were seen as the minority, they apparently were never treated like a different
soldier. It seems that on the battlefield that history and anger between
cultures or status were left behind and only shared a common interest. Fighting
the enemy. This can be a reason why many wanted to stay in the Empire due to
the bonds soldiers had with each other. Captain W.D. Downes wrote a book titled
“With the Nigerians in German East Africa”. This book was for the memory of all
Nigerians, placing; colour, race, creed and rank aside. Capt. Downes commanded
a crowd of men and he mentioned a Company Sergeant Major, CSM Belo Akure. “I
have never seen a braver man… his one idea is that his officers must on no
account risk unnecessary danger; on no account will he let an officer go in
front of him on a road.” (Downes, 2015) This should vaguely explain that
British overseas soldiers had the same vigour and valour as anyone else in the
Empire. My point is that soldiers who fought in battles found that the
connection of staying with their superior is beneficial, so staying with the
Empire could benefit struggling nations. As well as it shows how home-grown
British soldiers have respect for others that weren’t: born on the same land as
them, the same skin colour or the same religion. Regardless this implies that
respect still flowed in the Empire, this would be a major impact if the loyalty
of the Dominions/Colonies had wavered away from the British Empire.

those who hadn’t joined in the war had a different view of the British Empire.
The event named “Easter Rising” was an Irish attack onto the British controlled
areas in major cities in Ireland. This was during the final days of April,
1916. This was a 6 day revolt, it saw thousands of Irish revolutionaries fight
to adopt independence, independence from the monarchy and the rule of the
British Government. Unsurprisingly the British Empire extinguished the
uprising, therefore it lead to the surrender of the republicans on the 29th of April. Majority of the leaders of
the revolt were executed, over 5,000 had died and over 3,000 had been arrested
(many of whom didn’t play any part of the uprising). (Freeman, 2016) This tells
us that the Irish, whom were still living at home, wanted to be very
independent. If they had thought that there was a time to strike and cry for
independence then this was the time, while the British were fighting in the
War. Due to this event it laid the foundations of an Irish Republic because the
British had executed the leaders of the rebellion, which overall created
martyrs for the Irish people. But when the war had ended the Irish soldiers
thought they’d be welcomed home as war heroes. They didn’t receive a
warm-hearted welcome, instead they were welcomed with disappointed faces. Faces
of which asked why the Irishmen served for the British. These men were
downhearted and probably decreased their loyalty towards the English.

loss of land via revolutions can be said to be a start of a collapse of any
sovereign nation. For instance the Russian Empire had power over the poor, so
they tore the liberty of choice for the Russian people, whom many didn’t want
to enter the war. They were unprepared which lead the Russian Government to
take food and materials farmers and the normal population. This caused anger
for the majority of the populace of Russia, then came the idea of having a
nation of their own, far away from any monarchy, thus began the Russian
Revolution. 1917 was the start of the end for the Tsarist, an end of an Empire
and a start of the Soviet Union. (Staff, 2009) This is quite similar to the
American Revolution where some may say that this was the actual start of the
end of the British Empire. As American colonies were targeted on 1763 by the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, due to the cost of “The Seven Years War” which saw
Britain in excess of £122 million. The colonies was the next to be targeted for
an increase of money, the American Colonist were not too happy for that and
felt like they were being treated unfairly and wanted independence and make
Great Britain acknowledge them as an independent nation. (Cogliano, 2011)

Revolution could’ve been that start of the end for the British Empire, but I
believe it wasn’t. The Thirteen Colonies were just a group of rouge colonist
whom later on grew and helped the Allies during the war. The actual start would
be when the countless losses of various ethnic soldiers and civilians from the
war, which lead to a reset on the trust on the Britain. This was a new era of
warfare, but officers didn’t see that yet, this war was fought with old tactics
and strategy. Asian, African, European, American and Oceanic people all fought
for a cause that they believed would bring honour but brought losses and failed
states.  India faced the Amritsar massacre, which resulted in innocent and
harmless protesters executed within 10 minutes since the order was given. 379
people had died and thousands injured. The British had seemed to have lost
control of the city of Amritsar, Brigadier General Reginald “Rex” Dyer found
himself to be within a city of hostiles civilians. Only 5 months after the war
had ended this had occurred, only after the economic ruin that the Empire was
facing had led to what almost could’ve been a “second Indian mutiny”. (Lloyd,

on India saw the influence of independence by Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi didn’t
hold a weapon and aimed at the enemy, he instead built an Ambulance Unit in
England. When WW1 broke out, Gandhi was on a ship heading towards India but
decided to help in England. On August 6th 1914, he was on English soil and
wasted no time calling for this Indian friends to create an Ambulance Unit.
What didn’t impress him was that fact that the Empire was in a crisis, he
wrote, “I knew the difference of status between an Indian and an Englishman…
But I do not  believe that we had been quite reduced to slavery. I felt
then that it was more the fault of individual offices than of the British
system, at that we can convert them by love. If we would improve our status
through the help of cooperation of the British, it was our duty to win their
help by standing by them in their hour of need.”  If Gandhi wasn’t
attacked by pleurisy, he may have stayed in the unit that he had made and
probably changed his views on the British treatment towards India. When Gandhi
returned to India he found out that the opinion of the nation was against the
unconditional assistance for the war. He didn’t favour a ‘bargain with the
government’ by giving cooperation at a price, he stated, ” We have been loyal
at a time of stress is test of fitness for swaraj (self-government). Loyalty is
no merit. It is a necessity of citizenship all the world over.” Through 1916 to
1918, he didn’t take part of any political parties, due to the fact his ideas
and beliefs didn’t match the two major groups in the Indian National Congress.
Early 1918, where it seem the allies were struggling, the Viceroy of India
called for its leaders opinion in a war conference in Delhi. Gandhi supported
the idea of recruitment with a sentence in Hindi, “With a full sense of my
responsibility, I beg to support the resolution.” He then helped on the
recruiting campaign, he helped recruit people from his home province Gujarat to
join the British Indian Army. (Ghandi, 2011) He was seen to support the fight
on the European front. Ghandi believed his right towards the empire, just like
any other country in the empire. Some see as a need to serve their higers. This
was during WW1, he then later witness the impacts of racism after the war
during his time in Africa. His views on the treatment of the ‘coloured’ by the
British ignited a change on the Indian subcontinent. Now we have no British
India, from this change emerged the independent states of India, Bangladesh,
Pakistan, Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar) and Sri Lanka.

faced a mixed view on the decision to enter the war for the British. In Canada there was a strong influence of join and
taking part of the war, this is due to the fact that most Canadians have
ancestors rooted to the British side. Whereas the French Canadians didn’t take
part of the war because they were prejudice towards the British, controlling
what was once originally French control colonies that was given/taken by the
British. But most English Canadians felt strong loyalty towards the Empire and
wanted to support them through the war. In the future a terrorist group,
similar to the IRA, the “Font de liberation du Quebec” or more commonly names
FLQ. They attacked military building with Molotovs (petrol bombs) to dismantle
the Canadian-British control in the Canadian state Quebec. Which showed the
amount of respect towards the British after the First World War.


F. D., 2011. BBC History. Online
Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/american_revolution_01.shtml
Accessed 2018 January 26.

C. W. D., 2015. With the Nigerians in German East Africa. 1st ed.
s.l.:Naval & Military Press.

H., 2016. World War 1: A History From Beginning to End. 1st ed.
s.l.:Hourly History.

D. N., 2014. The Telegraph. Online
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/inside-first-world-war/part-five/10544286/amritsar-massacre.html
Accessed 26 January 2018.

H., 2009. History.com. Online
Available at: http://www.history.com/topics/russian-revolution
Accessed 26 January 2018.

2011. MKGandhi.org. Online
Available at: http://www.mkgandhi.org/biography/wrldwar1.htm
Accessed 27 January 2018.