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In short

The Commonwealth of Nations, also known as simply the Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire.

What these nations known for

The Commonwealth operates by intergovernmental consensus of the member states, organized through the Commonwealth Secretariat and non-governmental organisations, organised through the Commonwealth Foundation.

Introduction

The Commonwealth covers more than 29,958,050 km2 (11,566,870 sq mi), equivalent to 20% of the world’s land area. It spans all six inhabited continents. With an estimated population of 2.419 billion people, nearly a third of the world population, the Commonwealth in 2014 produced a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of $10.45 trillion, representing 14% of the gross world product when measured nominally and 17% of the gross world product when measured in purchasing power parity (PPP).

Origin

Queen Elizabeth II, in her address to Canada on Dominion Day in 1959, pointed out that the confederation of Canada on 1 July 1867 had been the birth of the “first independent country within the British Empire”. She declared: “So, it also marks the beginning of that free association of independent states which is now known as the Commonwealth of Nations. As long ago as 1884 Lord Rosebery had described, while visiting Australia, the changing British Empire, as some of its colonies became more independent, as a “Commonwealth of Nations”.Conferences of British and colonial prime ministers occurred periodically from the first one in 1887, leading to the creation of the Imperial Conferences in 1911.

The Commonwealth developed from the imperial conferences. A specific proposal was presented by Jan Smuts in 1917 when he coined the term “the British Commonwealth of Nations” and envisioned the “future constitutional relations and readjustments in essence” at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 by delegates from the Dominions as well as Britain. The term first received imperial statutory recognition in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, when the term British Commonwealth of Nations was substituted for British Empire in the wording of the oath taken by members of parliament of the Irish Free State.

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