In September 1982, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher travelled to Beijing to negotiate with the Chinese government the future of Britain`s last great and most populous overseas, Hong Kong.  In accordance with the Treaty of Nanjing of 1842 and the Beijing Agreement of 1860, Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula had been ceded to Great Britain on a permanent basis, but most of the colony was made up of the New Territories, acquired in 1898 under a 99-year lease that was to expire in 1997.   Thatcher, who saw parallels with the Falkland Islands, initially wanted to maintain Hong Kong and proposed a British administration with Chinese sovereignty, although China opposed it.  An agreement was reached in 1984 – according to the Sino-British Joint Statement, Hong Kong was to become a special administrative region of the People`s Republic of China, which maintained its way of life for at least 50 years.  The 1997 award ceremony marked many, including Charles, Prince of Wales, who was present, “the end of the Empire.”  In the 19th century, Britain`s population grew dramatically, accompanied by rapid urbanization, which led to significant social and economic pressures.  In order to find new markets and sources of raw materials, the British government of Benjamin Disraeli launched a period of imperial expansion in Egypt, South Africa and elsewhere. Canada, Australia and New Zealand have become self-managed masters.  Britain was again challenged by France under Napoleon, in a struggle that, unlike previous wars, represented a competition of ideologies between the two nations.  Britain`s position on the world stage was not the only one to be threatened: Napoleon threatened to invade Britain just as his armies had invaded many continental European countries.
 With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, goods produced by slavery became important to the British economy.  Added to this were the costs of suppressing regular slave revolts. With the support of the British abolitionist movement, Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act in 1807, which abolished the slave trade in the Empire. In 1808, the Sierra Leone Colony was designated as the official British colony for freed slaves.  Parliamentary reform in 1832 diminished the influence of the West Indies Committee. The Abolition of Slavery Act, passed the following year, abolished slavery in the British Empire on 1 August 1834 and finally brought the Empire into compliance with British law (with the exception of territories managed by the East India Company and Ceylon, where slavery ended in 1844). According to the law, complete emancipation was granted to slaves after a “doctrine” of four to six years.  In the face of opposition from abolitionists, the apprenticeship system was abolished in 1838.
 The British government compensated slave owners.   Under the terms of the Versailles contract signed in 1919, the Empire reached its greatest dimension with the addition of 4,700,000 km2 and 13 million new subjects.  The colonies of Germany and the Ottoman Empire were distributed to the Allies in the form of mandates of the Federation of Nations.