Opinion: The British Empire: A legacy of violence? | Richard Galpin
The British Empire is an extraordinary thing. The British state was not only the richest and most powerful in the history of the world, but its empire was also the longest in recorded history. Over a century, one after another, Britain controlled parts of the world at the height of its power, at least until the end of the 19th century. Britain did not do this alone, or even in partnership with another power. It was the result of a unique confluence of factors, which ranged from the sheer size of the British population to the strength of the economic union between the British Empire and the United States.
In 1854, Britain ruled two-thirds of the earth’s surface and was responsible for around half of the world’s population. Even if we don’t all agree on how Britain should be ranked, or how much its role in the world should be viewed as absolute, it is difficult to deny the centrality of Britain to the modern world. If it is accepted that the British Empire is a remarkable accomplishment in itself, it is also notable that it has come at a very high cost.
During the course of the empire, Britain has experienced some of the most violent and destructive wars in world history. What is often forgotten, however, is that the violence that Britain has experienced has also given it unparalleled influence on the world. At its zenith, the British Empire was the largest, richest and most powerful country in the history of humanity.
During the course of the empire, Britain experienced some of the most violent and destructive wars in world history. Despite these wars, Britain’s influence and the strength of the British economy far outweighed the cost. British influence was so great that it even outshined the American influence, which was no less significant at the time.
While Britain has done a lot to shape the world since the beginning of the 18th century, it is important to recognise that its history began before that. Before modernity, the British Empire was something like the most powerful monarchy in Europe, a combination of global and national interests, where the government of Great Britain was much in need of a strong military to