The Commonwealth grew rapidly after the Second World War. In the 1940s Transjordan (now Jordan), India, Pakistan, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Burma became independent and joined. Three more countries became independent in the 1950s – Sudan, outside the Commonwealth, and Malaya and the Gold Coast (now Ghana) within it. Cyprus proved a critical case when it was admitted to the Commonwealth in 1961. It was realised that if Cyprus became a full member despite a population of only half a million, ‘all the other tiddlers would demand this treatment’.
In the 1960s, 21 more countries (almost half the eventual total) joined. In 1970 there were 31 members, in 1980 there were 45, and in 1990 there were 50. With South Africa’s return in 1994 the total of 51 equalled the original United Nations membership in 1945.
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Source: Commonwealth Secretariat.