A Crown colony or royal colony was a colony administered by the Government of the United Kingdom (the Crown) within the British Empire. There was usually a Governor, appointed by the monarch of the UK on the advice of the Home (UK) Government, with or without the assistance of a local Council. In some cases this Council was split into two: an Executive Council and a Legislative Council, and was similar to the Privy Council that advises the Monarch. Members of the Councils were appointed by the Governors, so there was no local autonomy, and British citizens resident in Crown colonies had no representation in local government. As the House of Commons of the British Parliament has never included seats for any of the colonies, there was no representation at any level of Government for British citizens residing in Crown colonies.
Crown colonies were different from self-governing colonies, within which the Sovereign state (the UK Government) delegated legislature for most local internal matters of governance to elected assemblies, beginning with the House of Burgesses of the colony of Virginia in 1619 and the House of Assembly of the Parliament of Bermuda in 1620. (However, the term "Crown colony" has sometimes been mistakenly applied to colonies that do have elected local governments and partial autonomy.)
All British colonies, whether Crown (such as the Falkland Islands) or self-governing (such as Bermuda), were renamed "British Dependent Territories" from 1 January 1983 under the British Nationality Act 1981. Many British citizens in the colonies (with the exceptions of the Falkland Islanders and subsequently the Gibraltarians) found that their "Citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies" had changed overnight to British Dependent Territories Citizenship, a form of British citizenship that stripped them of some of their rights, including the right to reside and work in the United Kingdom. From 2002 the colonies have been known officially as British Overseas Territories.
Early English colonies were usually established and administered by companies under charters granted by the monarch. The first "royal colony" was the Colony of Virginia, after 1624, when the Crown of the Kingdom of England revoked the royal charter it had granted to the Virginia Company and assumed control of the administration.
Executive governors are sometimes complemented by a locally appointed and/or elected legislature with limited powers — that is, such territories lack responsible government. For example, while the House of Assembly of Bermuda has existed continuously since its first session in 1620, Bermuda has only had responsible government since 1968. (Bermuda became a Crown colony in 1684, when the government revoked a Royal Charter given to the Somers Isles Company, successor to the Virginia Company, which had previously controlled administration, including the appointment of governors. Afterwards the British government appointed the Governor of Bermuda.)
Despite its later usage, the term "Crown colony" was used primarily, until the mid-19th century, to refer to colonies that had been acquired through wars, such as Trinidad and Tobago. After that time it was more broadly applied to every British territory other than British India, and self-governing colonies, such as the Province of Canada, Newfoundland, British Columbia, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and New Zealand.
The term Crown colony continued to be used until 1981, when the British Nationality Act 1981 reclassified the remaining British colonies as "British Dependent Territories". By this time, the term "Crown colony" referred specifically to colonies lacking substantial autonomy, which were administered by an executive governor, appointed by the British Government — such as Hong Kong, before its transfer in 1997 to the People's Republic of China.
There were three types of Crown colony as of 1918, with differing degrees of autonomy:
Crown colonies with nominated councils, such as British Honduras, Sierra Leone, British Windward Islands and Hong Kong, were staffed entirely by Crown-appointed members, with some appointed representation from the local population. Hong Kong had a representative council following the introduction of election for the Hong Kong Legislative Council in 1995.
|Name of colony||from||to||Reason for change of status|
|Aden||1937||1967||Became part of the Federation of South Arabia.|
|Ashanti||1901||1957||Became part of the dominion named Ghana upon its establishment in 1957.|
|Bahamas||1718||1973||Became an independent Commonwealth realm.|
|Basutoland||1884||1964||Became British protectorate in 1964; then became independent as Lesotho in 1966.|
|Bermuda||1684||1981||Became British Dependent Territory in 1981.|
|British Bechuanaland||1885||1895||Became part of British Cape Colony in 1895.|
|British Columbia||1866||1871||Became part of Canada in 1871.|
|British Guiana||1831||1966||Became independent as Guyana in 1966.|
|British Honduras (renamed Belize in 1973)||1884||1981||Became independent (as Belize) in 1981.|
|Burma||1937||1948||Separated from British India in 1937 and became a Crown colony. Became independent in 1948 as Burma (later Myanmar).|
|United Province of Canada||1841||1867||Became part of Canada in 1867.|
|Cape Colony||1806||1910||Became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.|
|Cayman Islands||1962||1981||Became British Dependent Territory in 1981.|
|Ceylon||1815||1948||Became independent in 1948 as Dominion of Ceylon (later Sri Lanka).|
|Cyprus||1914||1960||Became independent as Cyprus in 1960.|
|East Florida||1763||1783||Ceded to Spain. Later became part of the United States.|
|Falkland Islands||1841||1981||Became a British Dependent Territory in 1981.|
|Gambia Colony and Protectorate||1888||1965||Became independent as The Gambia in 1965.|
|Georgia||1755||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|Gibraltar||1713||1981||Became British Dependent Territory in 1981.|
|Gilbert and Ellice Islands||1916||1976||Became Gilbert Islands colony and Tuvalu colony before independence|
|Gold Coast||1821||1957||Became independent in 1957 as Ghana.|
|Hong Kong||1842||1981||Reclassified as a British Dependent Territory in 1981. Transferred to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.|
|Jamaica||1655||1962||Became independent in 1962 as Jamaica.|
|Kenya||1920||1963||United with the Kenya Protectorate in 1963 to form the independent country of Kenya.|
|Labuan||1846||1890||Administered by British North Borneo Company from 1890–1904.|
|1906||1946||Incorporated in the Straits Settlements on 30 October 1906.|
|1946||1963||Incorporated in North Borneo on 15 July 1946. Became part of Malaysia in 1963.|
|Lower Canada||1791||1841||Became part of Province of Canada in 1841.|
|Malacca||1946||1957||Became part of Malaya in 1957.|
|Malta||1813||1964||Became independent in 1964 as the State of Malta.|
|Massachusetts Bay||1692||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776 as the state of Massachusetts.|
|Mauritius||1903||1968||Became independent as Mauritius in 1968.|
|Natal||1843||1910||Became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.|
|Newfoundland||1825||1907||Became the Dominion of Newfoundland in 1907, and later joined Canada in 1949.|
|New Hampshire||1692||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|New Ireland||1779||1783||Ceded to the United States of America after Revolutionary War and again after War of 1812 (1814-1815).|
|New Jersey||1702||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|New South Wales||1788||1901||Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.|
|New York||1691||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|New Zealand||1841||1907||Became the Dominion of New Zealand in 1907.|
|Nigeria||1914||1960||Became independent as Nigeria in 1960.|
|Norfolk Island||1788||1914||Placed under administration of Australia in 1914 as a non-self governing territory. The island was self-governing between 1979 and 2015.|
|North Borneo||1946||1963||Became part of Malaysia in 1963 as Sabah. Labuan separated from Sabah in 1984 to become a Federal Territory.|
|North Carolina||1729||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|Nova Scotia||1710||1867||Became part of Canada in 1867.|
|Penang||1946||1957||Became part of Malaya in 1957.|
|Quebec||1763||1791||Divided between Upper and Lower Canada and the Northwest Territory.|
|Queensland||1859||1901||Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.|
|Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla||1882||1981||Became British Dependent Territory in 1981. Independent in 1983.|
|Sarawak||1946||1963||Became part of Malaysia in 1963.|
|Seychelles||1903||1976||Separated from British Mauritius in 1903 and became a Crown Colony and became independent in 1976.|
|Sierra Leone||1808||1961||Became independent as Sierra Leone in 1961.|
|South Australia||1834||1901||Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.|
|South Carolina||1729||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|Southern Rhodesia||1923||1965/1980||Declared independence in 1965 as Rhodesia, which became Zimbabwe Rhodesia, independence recognized by Britain in 1980 as Zimbabwe.|
|Singapore||1946||1963||Singapore became part of Malaysia in 1963; then became independent as the Republic of Singapore in 1965.|
|1946||1946||Labuan was incorporated into North Borneo on 15 July 1946, which became part of Malaysia in 1963.|
|1946||1955||Cocos (Keeling) Islands was transferred to Australia in 1955.|
|1946||1957||Christmas Island was transferred to Australia in 1957.|
|Straits Settlements||1786||1946||Penang became a separate Crown colony within the Malayan Union in 1946, which was re-organised as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and became independent in 1957; later became part of Malaysia in 1963.|
|1826||1946||Singapore became a separate Crown colony in 1946, after the Straits Settlements was dissolved.|
|1826||1946||Malacca became a separate Crown colony within the Malayan Union in 1946, which re-organised as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and became independent in 1957; later became part of Malaysia in 1963.|
|1857||1946||Cocos (Keeling) Islands became part of the Colony of Singapore in 1946.|
|1874||1937||Dinding (now Manjung) became part of the Federated Malay States in 1937, which later became part of the Malayan Union in 1946; the Malayan Union became the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and became independent in 1957; later became part of Malaysia in 1963.|
|1888||1946||Christmas Island became part of the Colony of Singapore in 1946.|
|1906||1946||Labuan became part of the Colony of Singapore in 1946.|
|Tasmania||1803||1901||Van Diemen's Land from 1803 to 1856; Formerly part of New South Wales from 1803 to 1825, when made an independent colony. Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.|
|Upper Canada||1791||1841||Became part of Province of Canada in 1841.|
|Vancouver Island||1848||1866||Merged with the Colony of British Columbia in 1866 which joined Canada.|
|Victoria||1851||1901||Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.|
|Virginia||1624||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|Western Australia||1829||1901||Swan River Colony from 1829 to 1832. Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.|
|West Florida||1763||1783||Ceded to Spain. Later became part of the United States.|
^a Source: This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Great Britain Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Chronological table of the statutes. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London part of the Office of Public Sector Information.
- "British Overseas Territories Act 2002". Gov.Uk.
- Porter, p. 477.
- History of Parliament: Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago – Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.
- Mark Doyle (2018), The British Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia [2 volumes], ABC-CLIO, pp. 82–, ISBN 978-1-4408-4198-9
- Olson, p. 343.
- Jenks, p. 70.
- Jenks, pp. 71–4.
- See: Malaysia Act 1963
- See: the Independence of Singapore Agreement 1965 and the Acts of Parliament of the United Kingdom – Singapore Act 1966.
- "Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955". www.legislation.gov.au.
- "Christmas Island (Request and Consent) Act 1957 (NO. 102, 1957)".
- See: Federation of Malaya Independence Act 1957
- "The Straits Settlements is dissolved". Retrieved 29 August 2015.
- Ehrlich, AS (1974). Human Organization, 33.2 – via ProQuest.
- Ehrlich, Josef (1916). Economic protectionism, Vol.6. Clarendon press.
- Jenks, Edward (1918). The Government of the British Empire. Little, Brown, and Company.
- Jenks, Edward (1918). The Government of the British Empire. Little, Brown, and Company.
- Olson, James (1996). Historical Dictionary of the British Empire. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-29366-X.
- Porter, Andrew (1998). The Nineteenth Century, The Oxford History of the British Empire Volume III. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924678-5.
- Wrong, Hume (1923). "The Old Representative System: The Change To Crown Colony Government". Government of the West Indies. England: Oxford University Press. p. 71. ISBN 1-113-74149-X. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
The phrase 'Crown Colony Government' is used with various meanings. In the broadest, and perhaps most correct, sense it is applied to all the colonies in which the Crown retains the real control of the executive (i.e. to all the West Indian colonies). By both official and common usage, however, it is often narrowed as to exclude colonies with elected Assemblies, though without a responsible executive.