The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland ­p; the U K ­p; is officially created on the first day of 1900. The old cliche still applies. The sun never sets on Britannia's Empire. But this new century will change that forever, before it's much more than half over.

Her sphere of influence is still expanding, slighty. She takes on Nigeria as a protectorate this same January 1st. She annexes the Tonga Islands in May.

Her Parliament accepts the Commonwealth of Australia Act, uniting the colonies under a federal government. It purchases London's Alexandra Palace and Alexandra Park and creates a board of Trustees to administer them. It abolishes child labor, passes a railway safety act and provides for workmen's compensation.

Britannia's citizens too are active.Archaeologist Sir Arthur John Evans begins excavating the royal palace of Knossos, in Crete. George Bernard Shaw's Candida has its London premiere at the Strand Theatre. William Butler Yeats' The Shadowy Waters is produced by Dublin's Abbey Theater. Joseph Conrad publishes Lord Jim - A Tale. Oxford's student population reaches 2500. Cambridge has close to 2800.

Not an unusual year on the surface. But all is not quite well with the Empire. The first hairline cracks are beginning to appear. On January 5th Irish nationalist John Edward Redmond calls for a revolt against British rule. And fellow nationalists in Dublin are demanding the same by September.

But it is on the African continent where the cracks are most ominous. War with the Boers had broken out last October, and the end of 1899 found British garrisons at Mafeking, Kimberly and Ladysmith under siege. This year Kimberly is finally relieved on February 15th. Ladysmith on the 28th. Then Mafeking on May 17th. By September the Boers are defeated. The flames of nationalism are extinguished in South Africa for the time being, but there are still brushfires ­p; in Somalia and the Gold Coast ­p; to be put out. The strain is beginning to become apparent. And greater challenges lie ahead.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.

© 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte