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The British Empire was a great power. It contained territories owned by the United Kingdom. The empire was the largest empire in history. At its peak, it controlled 23% of the world's surface. More than 458 million people were brought under the control of the British Empire. It was known as the largest colonial empire in history. (Some people think the Mongol Empire was larger). Today, most of its members are in the Commonwealth of Nations. The most famous part of the British Empire was the East India Trading Company. That company started as a small business before becoming a very large trading company which many people depended on. Britain was the most powerful country in the world at this time. England then began its way to an ultimate global empire. In the 17th century, it started making colonies in North America and India. This lead to conflicts and total victory over The Netherlands and France, its rivals after Spain's defeat. After the Anglo-Dutch War and Seven Years' War, Britain occupied almost all the Dutch and French territories in the New World and Asia. Although the American colonies gained independence in 1776, it didn't seem to influence the empire. By 1919, after Britain's victory in World War I, it came to its most prosperous period. People in the 19th century said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire". But after World War II, Britain's global empire collapsed.
The British Empire was seen as a "role model" for other nations, most notably Germany. Germany had a bad habit of starting wars in Europe. That was partly because they wanted an Empire like the one that Britain had established.
After World War II, Britain started to give back the colonies, known as decolonization. Britain decided to give back nations because World War II left the British Empire essentially bankrupt. Also, many of the persons the Empire had ruled over wanted to be in charge of their own country.
One of the last parts of the British Empire was Hong Kong. Hong Kong was given back to China in 1997. Britain retained its title as a 'Superpower' in 1982 with the Falklands War, a war against Argentina over the possession of the Falkland Islands.
There are currently[when?] 14 remaining overseas territories under UK sovereignty.