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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.

Beginning of the modern Commonwealth

26 April 1949

Leaders agree that Commonwealth members are “free and equal members of the Commonwealth of Nations, freely co-operating in the pursuit of peace, liberty and progress”

Prime Ministers meetings

1 January 1926

The British Prime Minister and leaders of the Dominions met to discuss, in particular, constitutional issues, foreign affairs, defence and trade.

Imperial Conference

19 October 1926

The UK and its dominions agree they are "equal in status"

Statute of Westminster

11 December 1931

Statute of Westminster gives legal status to the independence of Australia, Canada, Irish Free State, Newfoundland, New Zealand and South Africa.

First Commonwealth Games

1 August 1930

First British Empire Games, later to become the Commonwealth Games, held in Hamilton, Canada.