Home >About us >Our history

Our history

The Commonwealth is one of the world’s oldest political association of states. Its roots go back to the British Empire when some countries were ruled directly or indirectly by Britain. Some of these countries became self-governing while retaining Britain’s monarch as Head of State. They formed the British Commonwealth of Nations.

In 1949 the association we know today – The Commonwealth – came into being. Since then, independent countries from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific have joined The Commonwealth.

Membership today is based on free and equal voluntary co-operation. The last two countries to join The Commonwealth - Rwanda and Mozambique - have no historical ties to the British Empire.

First Commonwealth Senior Officials Meeting

16 October 1972

16 - 19 October 1972, Ottawa, Canada. The meeting considered comparative techniques of government across the Commonwealth and tasked the Secretariat with establishing procedures for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings which would ensure 'flexibility, informality and the opportunity to engage in frank discussion of common problems, even from opposing standpoints.'

First Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting

26 April 1966

26 April - 3 May 1966, London, United Kingdom. The meeting reviewed arrangements for the extradition of fugitive offenders within the Commonwealth and recommended the creation of a Legal Section within the Commonwealth Secretariat.

First meeting of Commonwealth Trade Ministers

13 June 1966

13 - 16 June 1966, London, United Kingdom. "It was agreed that Commonwealth countries should act in concert wherever possible in wider international organisations concerned with international trade and trade policy. Such action would aim to improve the position of Commonwealth countries in a practical way."

First Commonwealth Medical Conference

4 October 1965

4 - 13 October 1965, Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Ministers concluded that "adequate medical services are an essential foundation of social and economic progress in the developing countries. The Conference therefore took as its purpose a thorough review of the existing co-operation between Commonwealth countries in the fields of medicine and health and an examination of how this co-operation can be strengthened and extended."

First Commonwealth Education Conference

15 July 1959

15 - 28 July 1959, Oxford, United Kingdom. The meeting of Education ministers was convened in recognition of " the great importance of education and training as an indispensable condition of development. It is an objective of Commonwealth countries that their people should be able to share as widely as possible in the advantages of education of all kinds and at all levels".

Commonwealth Foundation is established

25 June 1965

Housed in Marlborough House in London, UK, the Commonwealth Foundation was set up to administer the interchanges between Commonwealth organisations in professional fields throughout the Commonwealth.

First meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers

21 July 1949

London, United Kingdom, 21 July 1949.
Ministers reviewed the economic position of the sterling area, in light of the recent fall in the level of gold and dollar reserves.

Regular meeting of Commonwealth Youth Ministers begin

10 May 1992

Male, Maldives, 10 -12 May 1992.
The discussions explored ways in which Ministries of Youth could be strengthened and the effectiveness of youth literacy and community service schemes improved.
Ministers had previously met in 1973 to consider the establishment of a Commonwealth Youth Programme.