As Dominion ( German as " dominion " ), the self-governing colonies of the British Empire were officially designated at the beginning of the 20th century. The term was first used in its modern sense in the Constitution Act of 1867 for the Dominion of Canada and comes from a psalm of the King James Bible: He Shall have dominion so from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth (Ps 72.8 EU). The term dominion was the closeness of the new country express the monarchical form of government. Originally Canada should be called " Kingdom of Canada ", the concept of the kingdom but was by the then British Foreign Secretary, Lord Derby out of concern that he would anger the Americans refused.


Together with the Dominions was the mother country Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations. At the London Conference in 1926 the so-called Balfour definition was formulated, which was established under international law five years later by the Statute of Westminster. The Dominions were defined here as autonomous ( internal and foreign policy ), equal rights, subordinated in any way and yet connected by a common allegiance to the crown, that is, as independent states, but all the British king as their head of state recognized.

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

The self-understanding of the Dominions changed at least after 1945. Example, the Charter of the United Nations in 1948 was signed by each Dominion itself. Another seemingly small change, but says a lot, is the change of name of the Dominions Office (DO) in the Commonwealth Relations Office (CRO ) in 1947.

In the wake of decolonization of South Asia indicated for the Commonwealth to a structural change. With India, Pakistan and Ceylon ( now Sri Lanka) was awarded three former Asian colonies of Dominion status. The white Commonwealth was broken; it was the New Commonwealth. After the proclamation of the Republic of India in 1950, allowing even those states could be a member of the Commonwealth, who do not acknowledge the British crown as their own head of state.

In the early 1950s, the previous Dominion initially called Commonwealth countries and after the accession of Elizabeth II ( 1952) Commonwealth realms.

A special path took the South African Union, which was in the following year to the Republic because of the referendum held in 1960, a presidential created and in the same year resigned from the Commonwealth.

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

→ See detailed Commonwealth Realm, section history

List of Dominions

The white Dominions:

  • Canada Canada (1867-1931)
  • Australia (1907-1942)
  • New Zealand New Zealand (1907-1947)
  • Newfoundland Newfoundland (1907-1949)
  • 1912 South Africa Union of South Africa ( 1910-1961 )
  • Ireland 1922 Irish Free State ( 1922-1949 )
  • Rhodesia Sud 1923 Southern Rhodesia ( 1923-65, de facto)

The Asian Dominions:

  • India India (1947-1950)
  • Pakistan Pakistan (1947-1956)
  • Ceylon Ceylon (1948-1972)