King's College London
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From Empire to Nationhood

British Empire and war

Cigarette cardCigarette cardBoth World Wars witnessed the mass recruitment of servicemen from every corner of the Empire and of the nearly two million causalities hundreds of thousands heralded from Australia, Canada, India and the Caribbean.

This rallying to the defence of the Empire had the effect of temporarily strengthening imperial ties.

Winston ChurchillWinston ChurchillHowever, surrender to the Japanese in Singapore in 1941 and defeat elsewhere also helped undermine the lingering myth of British imperial superiority when confronted with an Asian army.

SAS in CairoSAS in CairoThe Japanese exploited this in propaganda aimed at Indian audiences and in the context of pre-war demands for Indian independence.

Moreover, many in the US did not share Churchill's vision of the Empire as a future guarantor of world peace alongside the US. The US was anxious that its Lend Lease arrangements that supported Britain's war effort would not unintentionally sustain preferential trading ties between Britain and her colonies and thus disadvantage the US economy.

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