Imperial Conferences (Colonial Conferences before 1911) were periodic gatherings of government leaders from the self-governing colonies and dominions of the British Empire between 1887 and 1937, before the establishment of regular Meetings of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in 1944. They were held in 1887, 1894, 1897, 1902, 1907, 1911, 1921, 1923, 1926, 1930 and 1937.
All but the second conference (held in Ottawa, Canada) were held in London, the United Kingdom: the seat of the Empire. The 1907 conference changed the name of future meetings to Imperial Conferences and agreed that the meetings should henceforth be regular rather than taking place while overseas statesmen were visiting London for royal occasions (e.g. jubilees and coronations).
List of conferences
Originally instituted to emphasise imperial unity, as time went on, the conferences became a key forum for dominion governments to assert the desire for removing the remaining vestiges of their colonial status. The conference of 1926 agreed the Balfour Declaration, which acknowledged that the dominions would henceforth rank as equals to the United Kingdom, as members of the 'British Commonwealth of Nations'.
The conference of 1930 decided to abolish the legislative supremacy of the British Parliament as it was expressed through the Colonial Laws Validity Act and other Imperial Acts. The statesmen recommended that a declaratory enactment of the Parliament - which became the Statute of Westminster 1931 - be passed with the consent of the dominions, although some dominions did not ratify the statute until some years afterwards. The 1930 conference was notable, too, for the attendance of Southern Rhodesia, despite it being a self-governing colony, and not a dominion.
The 1932 British Empire Economic Conference held in Ottawa discussed the Great Depression, and the governments agreed to institute 'Imperial Preference': a system of protectionist tariffs on imports from non-imperial countries.
Towards Commonwealth meetings
After World War II, with the transformation of the British Empire into the Commonwealth of Nations, Imperial Conferences were replaced by biennial Meetings of Commonwealth Prime Ministers (MCPM), renamed Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM) in 1971