Crown colonies were ruled by a governor appointed by the Crown (and, later, the Colonial Office). Though the term was not used at the time, the first of what would later become known as Crown colonies was the Colony of Virginia in the present-day United States, after the Crown took control from the Virginia Company in 1624.
Until the mid-nineteenth century, the term was primarily used to refer to those colonies which had been acquired through wars, such as Trinidad and British Guiana, but after this point it was more broadly applied to any colony other than the British Raj and the colonies of British settlement such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand (later to become the Dominions).
The term continued to be used up until 1981, when the British Nationality Act 1981 reclassified the few remaining British colonies as “British-Dependent Territories”. From 2002 they have been known as British Overseas Territories.
Types of Crown colony
There were three types of Crown colony as of 1918, with differing degrees of autonomy. Crown colonies with representative councils, such as Bermuda, Jamaica, Ceylon and Fiji contained one or two legislative chambers, consisting of Crown appointed and some locally elected members. Those colonies with nominated councils, such as British Honduras, Sierra Leone and Grenada were staffed entirely by Crown appointed members, with some appointed representation from the local population. The third category of Crown colony, smallest in number, had the least autonomy and were ruled directly by the Governor, such as Gibraltar, Saint Helena and Basutoland.