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The Dominions ( English were for "dominions") from the beginning of the 20th century , the self-governing colonies and Ireland within the British Empire .

The word was first used in the modern sense in the constitutional law of 1867 for the Dominion Canada and comes from a psalm in the King James Bible : " He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth " (“May he rule from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth”) ( Ps 72.8  EU ). The term dominion was intended to express the new country's ties to the monarchical form of government . Originally Canada was supposed to be called the "Kingdom of Canada", but the expression was given by the British Foreign Minister at the time, Lord Derby declined out of concern that he might upset the Americans.


Together with the Dominions, the mother country Great Britain formed the British Commonwealth of Nations . At the London Conference in 1926 , the so-called Balfour definition was formulated, which was enshrined in international law five years later by the Westminster Statute . The Dominions were defined as autonomous in domestic and foreign policy, with equal rights, in no way subordinate and yet linked by a common allegiance to the crown , i.e. as independent states, which all recognized the British king as their head of state.

As a voluntary association, the Commonwealth saw itself as an economic and defense unit in the interwar period . However, a common, centrally controlled defense policy was prevented by individual security interests. The successful cohesion in World War II is due not least to the fact that common interests were at stake here.

The 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference. V. l. From right: WL Mackenzie King ( Canada ), Jan Christiaan Smuts ( South African Union ), Winston Churchill ( United Kingdom ), Peter Fraser ( New Zealand ), John Curtin ( Australia )

The Dominions' self-image changed after 1945 at the latest. In 1948, each Dominion signed the United Nations Charter . Another apparently small change, but one that says a lot, is the name change from the Dominions Office (DO) to the Commonwealth Relations Office (CRO) in 1947.

In the course of the decolonization of South Asia, a structural change appeared for the Commonwealth. With India , Pakistan and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka ), three former Asian colonies were granted Dominion status. The white Commonwealth was broken into; the New Commonwealth came into being . After the proclamation of the republic in India in 1950, it was made possible that states could also become members of the Commonwealth which did not recognize the British crown as their own head of state.

At the beginning of the 1950s, the previous Dominions were initially called Commonwealth countries and, after Elizabeth II ascended the throne (1952), Commonwealth realms .

The South African Union , which became a republic in the following year due to the referendum held in 1960, created a presidential office and left the Commonwealth in the same year , took a special route .

Since the 1970s, a changed usage has also documented the changed nature of the Commonwealth: The head of state in Canada , Australia and New Zealand , for example , is officially no longer the British Queen, but the Queen of Canada , the Queen of Australia or the Queen of New Zealand .

For more information, see Commonwealth Realm , History section

List of Dominions

The white dominions :

The Asian Dominions :

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Constitutional law of 1867 : " ... shall form and be One Dominion under the Name of Canada ... " (English).
  2. Biography of Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley in the Canadian National Archives ( Memento from October 1, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (English)
  3. Canadian Heritage: The Prince of Wales Royal Visit 2001, Quiz (Kids) ( Memento from June 16, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) (English)
  4. ^ Patrick Keatley: The Politics of Partnership. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (= Penguin African Library. Volume 5). Penguin Books, Harmondsworth 1963, p. 208 (English).