The British Empire Unveiled: 25 Surprising Facts from History

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The Lost Colony of Roanoke was the first attempt at the British settlement in North America. The leader of the colony left for England for supplies and returned to find all 120 colonists and their buildings had vanished. The only clue was the word ‘CROATOAN’ carved into a tree.

2. During the English Civil War, Lady Mary Bankes defended a castle from over 200 attackers with only five men under her initial command. She would be reinforced by 80 royalists and would hold against a total of 600 men for three years before being betrayed and forced to surrender.

3. During WW1, the British created a campaign to shame men into enlisting. Women would hand out White Feathers to men not in uniform and berate them as cowards. It was so successful that the government had to create badges for men in critical occupations so that they would not be harassed.

4. The British crown had at least a 15% approval rating during the revolutionary war - higher than the current approval rating of the US Congress of 13% in 2016.

5. The British Government was able to safeguard supplies of fish and chips during both World Wars, making it one of the few non-rationed foods.

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6British Monarch Birthdays

British Monarch Birthdays

The British king or queen has two birthdays: their real birth date and one assigned to them during the summer, to ensure better weather for the parade.

7. Great Britain is one of only a few states that have an uncodified (unwritten) constitution. It consists not of a single document, but of a number of treaties, diverse laws, practices, and conventions that have evolved over a long period of time.

8. During the British Raj, India experienced some of the worst famines ever recorded, including the Great Famine of 1876–1878, in which 6.1 million to 10.3 million people died and the Indian famine of 1899–1900, in which 1.25 to 10 million people died.

9. When introducing Golf to India, the British were angered by monkeys running onto the course & playing with their balls. When all attempts to stop the monkeys failed, they decided the game needed to adapt. To do so they introduced a new rule: "Play the ball where the monkey drops it."

10. When the English colonial government in Dehli in India put a bounty on cobras to eliminate them from the city, it resulted in a cobra population boom. The bounty was greater than the cost of breeding a cobra, and the citizens were breeding them to sell to the government.

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11Gin & Tonic

Gin & Tonic

British colonials in India used gin to cover the bitter taste of anti-malarial quinine tonic, thus creating the Gin & Tonic.

12. In the early 19th century, the East India Company cut off the hands of hundreds of people in Bengal in order to destroy the indigenous weaving industry in favor of British textile imports.

13. The English common law known as the doctrine of "Ancient Lights," holds that people can have a reasonable expectation of sunlight; and that when they do, their neighbors ought not to take it away.

14. Citizens of the Commonwealth (Canada, Australia ect.) are allowed to vote in the United Kingdom.

15. During WWII, the British crown jewels were stored in a biscuit tin and kept in a chamber under Windsor Castle. During the construction, they covered it at night with a tarp so German airplanes couldn't tell what's going on. It was so secretive that not even then-Princess Elizabeth was told.

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16British Empire 

British Empire 

The British Empire was the largest empire the world has ever seen, claiming 23% of the world's land area with a population of 458 million.

17. British colonizers infected Tasmanian Aboriginal women with venereal diseases that left a significant percentage of the population unable to reproduce. This was one of several factors leading to the complete eradication of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

18. 40% of British government expenditure in 1833 was compensation paid to slave owners following abolition. The amount borrowed to fund this wasn’t paid of until 2015.

19. The British government in the 1960s feared that their control of Gibraltar was at risk from monkey lesbianism.

20. British suffragettes used toffee hammers to break windows as part of their successful protests for women voting.

21Independence Day Celebration

Independence Day Celebration

Britain is responsible for 63 Independence Day celebrations around the world. That is, on average, 1 Independence Day celebration from U.K. every 6 days throughout the year.

22. Britain removed all their road signs during World War II so that if the Germans invaded, they would get lost. These defensive preparations included the removal of signposts, milestones, and railway station signs. Gas pumps were also removed from service stations near their coast.

23. In 2005, the Republic of Fiji lost its declaration of independence from Britain. After five long years of searching, Fiji’s government finally turned to Britain, who provided them with a photocopy.

24. British built a 1,100-mile hedge through the middle of India. With parts 12 feet tall and 14 feet across, the hedge was constructed along part of the Inland Customs Line, a barrier that the British created to impose a high salt tax on people living on the relatively saltless side of the line.

25. Most beers couldn’t withstand the 6 month trip from Great Britain to the British colonies in India, where the climate was too hot to brew. In response, a brewer heavily hopped and aged their beers, making them pale, and able to survive the journey. That’s how IPAs or “Indian Pale Ales” got their name.

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