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Rising to Prominence: The History of the British Empire Essay

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Updated: May 3rd, 2022

Introduction

The British Empire was the strongest empire between the 16th and the 20th centuries. Several factors accelerated its rise to prominence. This paper discusses these factors using information from a book titled the History of the British Empire.

The Location of the Document

I visited the Beaton Institute’s official website and clicked on the archive search option. I then typed the British Empire and it opened the Google Custom Search option. Google search opened seven other options. I clicked on the “Great Empires” and several other options were revealed. However, I realized they were not the ones I wanted.

Therefore, I had use the new search space to refresh my search. So, I once again typed “the British Empire” in the search space. The new search engine, “Search CBU and Beyond” gave me ten results, and I chose a book titled “The History of the British Empire” by Julian Birkett, Basil Comely and Jeremy Paxman.

Relevant Historical Context

The British Empire was the biggest empire at its peak, between the end of the 16th century and the 18th century (Paxman, Comely & Birkett, 2012). It included the entire United Kingdom and its colonies. As such, it covered approximately 33, 700, 000 square kilometres. This was about a quarter of the world’s surface area. It had close to 460 million subjects under its leadership (Paxman, Comely & Birkett, 2012). Due to its expansive region, it was nicknamed “the Empire on Which the Sun Never Sets”-at least one of its colonies saw the sun when it was night elsewhere.

Portugal and Spain were the pioneers in matters of exploration and later colonialism. They amassed massive amounts of wealth, which attracted England, Netherlands and France to the colonization of other countries in the world. Winning the series of wars that broke up between England and these two other countries and later its union with Scotland to form the Great Britain gave it an advantage over its competitors (Paxman, Comely & Birkett, 2012).

Therefore, the Great Britain emerged as the greatest colonial master in the Northern America and India. However, the independence of America and other colonies in the 1700s almost destabilized the empire. Leaders had to look for other regions to extend their conquest. Therefore, they went to Africa, Asia and the Pacific (Paxman, Comely & Birkett, 2012). When they defeated Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo, the empire enjoyed a one hundred-year period without being challenged by any other country.

Nevertheless, the emergence of Germany and America in the 20th century posed stiff competition to the Great Britain. They challenged them in economic and military matters. This competition was responsible for both the First World War and the Second World War (Paxman, Comely & Birkett, 2012). Many of the UK’s former colonies in South-East Asia were under the control of Japan.

Though the British and their allies won the war, it proved that their position as the strongest empire in the world was no longer as stable as it had been in the previous century. They could not claim to be unchallengeable since other countries had almost successfully challenged them, and it had taken extensive support from the allies for them to win (Paxman, Comely & Birkett, 2012).

Shortly after the wars, British Colonies began fighting for independence. In fact, most of them got their independence from around 1947. The loss of India was a very big loss to the Britons (Paxman, Comely & Birkett, 2012). It had been their most valuable possession for over a hundred years. The independence wave slowly moved to all the other parts of the world, and eventually, all the colonies gained independence.

The passing on of Hong Kong to the Chinese government in 1997 was the main gesture of the end of the British Empire (Paxman, Comely & Birkett, 2012). Many former colonies then resorted to the formation of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Critical Analysis

This document is a masterpiece in the understanding the history of the British Empire. It gives massive details about the rise and fall of the British Empire between the 16th and the 20th Centuries. It attributes the success of Britain to its military and economic powers in this period. It is clear from the document that Britain was unmatched in terms of military skills since it easily defeated its competitors: France, Netherlands and later Germany and Japan.

In addition, it conquered a wider region in the whole world compared to any other country. It also came from behind and overtook both Spain and Portugal, who were the pioneers, in matters of exploration, conquest and the spread of their civilization to other parts of the world.

During the last periods of the British Empire, their relationship with their colonies and allies helped them maintain their position as the greatest empire in the world. They used people from their colonies and the military support from their allies in fighting their enemies in both the First and Second World Wars. The loss of the colonies and the emergence of the United States of America led to the eventual fall of the British Empire.

Conclusion

The British Empire emerged as a result of its military and economic ability. It used these two areas of strength in subduing their competitors. In later years, it used manpower from its colonies in defeating their competitors. The empire fell in the late 20th century due to the loss of its colonies.

Reference

Paxman, J., Comely, B., & Birkett, J. (2012). The History of the British Empire. London: BBC.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Rising to Prominence: The History of the British Empire." May 3, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/rise-to-prominence/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Rising to Prominence: The History of the British Empire'. 3 May.

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