An overseas territory of the United Kingdom (formerly known as a dependent territory or earlier as a crown colony) is a territory that is under the sovereignty and formal control of the United Kingdom but is not a physical part of the United Kingdom proper (Great Britain and Northern Ireland).
Overseas territories or crown colonies should also be distinguished from Crown dependencies (the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which have a different constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom), and protectorates (which were not formally under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom). They should also not be confused with Commonwealth realms, which are independent states sharing the same sovereign as the United Kingdom.
At one time, crown colonies were just like any other colony and were directly administered by officials appointed by the British government. Today, however most overseas territories are self-governing colonies, only relying on Britain for defence, foreign affairs, and some trade issues.
Crown colonies have never been considered integral parts of the United Kingdom, and have never had representation in the British Parliament, on the grounds that they are separate jurisdictions. This is in contrast to other European countries, such as France, Denmark, and the Netherlands, whose dependencies have varying degrees of integration with their so-called 'mother countries'. Only in Malta was integration ever seriously considered by the British Government, in 1955, but this was later abandoned, while in Gibraltar it was rejected in 1976.
Queen Elizabeth II is head of state in the overseas territories in her role as Queen of the United Kingdom, not in right of each territory. This compares with independent realms of the Commonwealth of Nations, such as Canada or Australia, where the Queen has a separate and distinct role in each realm as "Queen of Canada" or "Queen of Australia".
The Queen apppoints a Governor who acts on her behalf, and is in charge of the territory's internal security matters, as well as acting as a delegate between the colony and the British government. He possesses the power to dissolve the parliament and must give all laws his personal Royal Assent. Depending on the stage of the colony's evolution (see Stages of colonial evolution) these may be only exercised in a symbolic capacity. The Governor is usually from the United Kingdom.
UK government policy on overseas territories is set out in the 1999 White Paper Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories (http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1018028164839).
Over the years, colonial governments have evolved in stages, with the intent being eventual independence from Britain. Colonies with tiny populations rarely evolve beyond stage one.
Stages of colonial evolution
Most other countries have become republics after independence, as a sort of sixth step, in which constitutional amendments are passed abolishing the role of the British monarch as Head of State. This is what has occured within India, Pakistan, and most of formerly British Africa.
Almost all former British colonies are members of an international organization known as the Commonwealth of Nations. The British monarch is the ceremonial "head" of the organization, but has no active role and nations do not have to observe her as head of state in order to be members.
Current overseas territories
In addition there are the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus.
Former crown colonies
For a fuller list of countries which were formerly crown colonies, or which include former crown colonies, see Commonwealth of Nations. Note that many Commonwealth countries were protectorates rather than colonies, such as Brunei. Some members were previously administered by other Commonwealth countries, such as Western Samoa (by New Zealand), Papua New Guinea (by Australia) and Namibia (by South Africa), while Mozambique was formerly a Portuguese colony.
de:Kronkolonie [[ja:イギリスの海外領土]] no:Liste over tidligere britiske kolonier pl:Terytoria zamorskie Wielkiej Brytanii sv:Kronkoloni