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The Commonwealth of Nations is a worldwide political organization of independent nations with their dependencies, all of which recognize the British monarch as head of the Commonwealth.
The origins of the Commonwealth lie in the British Empire. Starting in the 16th century, Britain invaded other lands. This was very violent most of the times. Some colonies, such as India, had large local populations ruled by British overlords. Others, such as Australia, became colonies for settlement by the British.
By the start of the 20th century, these lands of settlement, known as Dominions, were largely internally governed. As these settlements became less profitable, the idea of a Commonwealth began. In 1931 Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were granted 'independence'.
When World War II broke out, these Commonwealth nations and the colonies fought alongside the UK and its allies for the ideals of liberty. They helped the Allies to win in 1945. Independence for the remaining colonies followed soon after. Most join the Commonwealth to remain close to the vast amount of recourses that Britain had.
From the start, the UK was the dominant force in what was known as 'the British Commonwealth'. This was run from the Commonwealth Office in London. By the 1950s, it had become 'the Commonwealth of Nations'.
In 1965, an office called the Commonwealth Secretariat was set up to run the Commonwealth. The UK remained the dominant power giving directives through the various offices.
Under the 'old Empire', the UK had allowed some special rules for trade with the colonies. These rules made things from the colonies cheaper in the UK. They also encouraged the colonies to buy goods made in the UK.
The members, on 1 December 1996, were: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Cameroon, Canada, Cyprus, Dominica, the Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru (special member), New Zealand, Nigeria (suspended), Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, St.Kitts and Nevis, St.Lucia, St.Vincent, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu (special member), Uganda, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Western Samoa, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
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