The ruler of a region has dominion over it, and the area itself may be called the ruler's dominion. In the days of the British Empire, Great Britain had dominion over many countries throughout the world. Though Canada has been quite independent of Great Britain since the 19th century, its formal title remains Dominion of Canada. The word has an old-fashioned sound today, and probably shows up in history books, historical novels, and fantasy video games more often than in discussions of modern nations.
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"Dominion status" was first accorded to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, and the Irish Free State at the 1926 Imperial Conference through the Balfour Declaration of 1926, recognising Great Britain and the Dominions as "autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations". Their full legislative independence was subsequently confirmed in the 1931 Statute of Westminster. Later India, Pakistan, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) also became dominions, for short periods of time.
With the dissolution of the British Empire after World War II and the formation of the Commonwealth of Nations, it was decided that the term Commonwealth country should formally replace dominion for official Commonwealth usage. This decision was made during the 1949 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference when India was intending to become a republic, so that both types of governments could become and remain full members of the Commonwealth, and this term hence refers to the autonomous dominions and republics.
After this, the term dominion without its legal dimension stayed in use for thirty more years for Commonwealth countries which had the crown as head of state, before gradually, particularly after 1953, being replaced by the term realm, as equal realms of the crown of the Commonwealth.
Use of dominion to refer to a particular territory within the British Empire dates back to the 16th century and was sometimes used to describe Wales from 1535 to around 1800: for instance, the Laws in Wales Act 1535 applies to "the Dominion, Principality and Country of Wales". Dominion, as an official title, was conferred on the Colony of Virginia about 1660 and on the Dominion of New England in 1686.
Dominion status was formally accorded to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, and the Irish Free State at the 1926 Imperial Conference to designate "autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations".The British Government of Lloyd George had emphasised the use of the capital "D" when referring to the Irish Free State in the Anglo-Irish Treaty to assure it the same constitutional status in order to avoid confusion with the wider term "His Majesty's dominions", which referred to the British Empire as a whole. At the time of the founding of the League of Nations in 1924, the League Covenant made provision for the admission of any "fully self-governing state, Dominion, or Colony", the implication being that "Dominion status was something between that of a colony and a state".
The legal status of "Dominion" under British nationality law ceased to exist from 1 January 1949, when it was determined each Dominion would legislate for its own citizenship. However, "Dominion status" itself never ceased to exist within the greater scope of British law, because acts pertaining to "Dominion status", such as the Statute of Westminster 1931, have not been repealed in both the United Kingdom and historic Dominions such as Canada. The term "within the crown's dominions" continues to apply in British law to those territories in which the British monarch remains head of state, and the term "self-governing dominion" is used in some legislation. When a territory ceases to recognise the monarch as head of state, this status is changed by statute. Thus, for example, the British Ireland Act 1949, recognised that the Republic of Ireland had "ceased to be part of His Majesty's dominions".
In connection with proposals for the future government of British North America, use of the term "Dominion" was suggested by Samuel Leonard Tilley at the London Conference of 1866 discussing the confederation of the Province of Canada (subsequently becoming the provinces of Ontario and Quebec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into "One Dominion under the Name of Canada", the first federation internal to the British Empire. Tilley's suggestion was taken from the 72nd Psalm, verse eight, "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth", which is echoed in the national motto, "A Mari Usque Ad Mare". The new government of Canada under the British North America Act, 1867 began to use the phrase "Dominion of Canada" to designate the new, larger nation. However, neither the Confederation nor the adoption of the title of "Dominion" granted extra autonomy or new powers to this new federal level of government. Senator Eugene Forsey wrote that the powers acquired since the 1840s that established the system of responsible government in Canada would simply be transferred to the new Dominion government:
The term "Dominion" remained in informal use for some years when relating to newly independent territories and was sometimes used to refer to the status of former British territories during an immediate post-independence period while the British monarch remained head of state, and the form of government a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. The legal status of Dominion in British nationality law had ceased to exist on 1 January 1949. However, leaders of the independence movements sometimes called for Dominion status as one stage in the negotiations for independence (for example, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana). Moreover, while these independent states retained the British monarch as head of state, they remained "within the Crown's dominions" in British law, leading to the confusion of terminology. These constitutions were typically replaced by republican constitutions within a few years.
As the above quote indicates, the term Dominion was sometimes applied in Africa to Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) during the period from 1957 until 1960, when it became the Republic of Ghana; Nigeria from 1960 until 1963, when it became the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Uganda from 1962 to 1963; Kenya, from 1963 to 1964; Tanganyika from 1961 to 1962, after which it became a republic and then merged with the former British protectorate of Zanzibar to become Tanzania; Gambia from 1965 until 1970; Sierra Leone from 1961 to 1971; and Mauritius from 1968 to 1992. Malta also retained the Queen as head of state from 1964 to 1974 under the name of State of Malta. The term was also applied to Fiji upon independence. Similar occasional references to Barbados (which retained the Queen as head of state from 1966 to 2021) as a "dominion" can be found in publications as late as the 1970s. 041b061a72