The British Empire was a global empire that spanned from the late 16th to the early 20th century. It was composed of territories that were controlled by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states, including colonies, protectorates, and mandates. At its height, the British Empire covered more than a quarter of the world's land area and was the largest empire in history. It was known for its economic and cultural impact, as well as its role in shaping the modern world. The empire played a significant role in the development of trade, industry, and global communication. It also had a lasting impact on the politics, cultures, and societies of the territories it controlled.