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Thread: Why did Britain become so powerful?

  1. Default Why did Britain become so powerful?

    Britain is often called the world's smallest superpower, so how did such a small country go from a second tier European power to Pax Britannica and back again in 300 years?

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by william walker View Post
    Britain is often called the world's smallest superpower, so how did such a small country go from a second tier European power to Pax Britannica and back again in 300 years?
    Wow, that's a pretty broad question. I doubt there is one single answer, probably more like dozens that all happened to fall in to place at about the same time.

    To name a few, I would guess that they actually put the money behind having a world class Navy, they were really first with the industrial revolution, and they just happened to have evolved a commercial and civil law (including the joint stock company) which is probably one of the best of the law traditions that promote civil peace and handle commercial transactions fairly.

    It's probably not a coincidence that the most successful nations on the planet have borrowed heavily from English common law in their legal traditions.
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  5. #3

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    To me the British Empire largely seems to be an accidental empire.

    The origins (Scotland, Ireland) mostly are simply from the desire to secure their own borders. Then later when Spain, France, Portugal and the Dutch were expanding their empires, England mostly preyed upon their traders, but finally started to colonize North America as a way to gain natural resources, as well as resettle excess and troublesome population.

    Most of her later colonial gains were largely due to other wars. The 7 Years War was a European war that spread out throughout the world, and when it settled the British Empire grew exponentially. They gained almost all of French North America, and that started them upon their path.

    However, they handled their colonies very differently then most. In North America and Australia, they largely settled their own population in largely uninhabited lands, once again using them for excess population and those undesired, and got resources. In the others like India and China, they wanted trade, largely leaving the indigenous people alone and ruling through puppets.

    As far as the latter, by the middle of the 20th Century, it was becoming obvious that colonies were no longer an effective way to gain resources. Larger and larger ships and more powerful weapons doomed not just the colonies of England, but of France, Spain, Belgium, and all the other Colonial European powers.

    England however was smart enough to realize this quickly enough to avoid the ugly wars that France did.
    War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
    John Stuart Mills

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  7. Default

    The British Empire carefully avoided imposing direct rule, which required a costly military component, and instead it favoured indirect rule, by which the colonial administrators meddled in local politics in close collaboration with the local ruling classes. The British awarded the local elites with administrative positions to become part of the imperial bureaucracy and the British gained access to the colonies' resources and markets in return, which was a win-win situation. Britain's soft and liberal approach to imperialism made it acceptable to the colonised for centuries and a nation cannot invade or colonise other countries successfully without being greeted as liberators. The local elites welcomed Britain's civilising influence and they sent their sons and daughters to Britain to get a good education, which helped long-term economic development of those colonies.
    Last edited by ThirdTerm; Aug 20 2013 at 10:08 PM.
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  9. #5

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    Comfortable geographic location on an island, saving from massive invasions and predetermining huge navy and small army.

    Also the first country with industrial revolution happened, which resulted into ability to rule with iron first over poor and underdeveloped African and South Asian countries and tribes.
    Last edited by KGB agent; Aug 20 2013 at 10:58 PM.
    “War is peace.
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  11. Default

    I think something missed and not talked about at all when people look at why Britain became so powerful is the Church of England and England's break from the Catholic Church under Henry the VIII, this allowed the British state to do what was best for it and not have things imposed by a foreign power based in Rome. Henry the VIII also started the Royal Navy, so he was vital in Britain becoming the power it became. I also think we can't underrate the importance of John Churchill, first of all siding with the Protestant William or the Catholic James, then defeating the French in Bavaria. Which moved Britain up to a great power in Europe.

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  13. Default

    The first time anyone encounters them they mistake them for a bunch of nancies and dandies who drink tea and eat crumpets (still have no idea what the hell those are) and are surprised when they can actually fight.

  14. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by reallybigjohnson View Post
    The first time anyone encounters them they mistake them for a bunch of nancies and dandies who drink tea and eat crumpets (still have no idea what the hell those are) and are surprised when they can actually fight.
    I agree with this in some ways, in the 1600's people really didn't think much of England or Britain in France, Spain or Holland, but that all changed in the 1700's. However by WW1 the British were becoming stupid thinking themselves to be what the hype talked of them being and paid the price in WW1 with basically no inovations or individuals to change the course of the war. We had this in all out other great victories in Europe over the years. I think it's because of political reforms that took place in the 20 years before WW1, giving the state much of power and private sector being weakened within the defence procurement.

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    Have you ever read “The Influence of Sea Power on History” by Alfred Thayer Mahan?

    Written at the height of Britain’s empire, it explains why they were the pre-eminent power of the day.
    ObamaTax Delendum Est

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  17. #10

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    Maybe by stealing values of other countries . We usually call it as Imperialism , so very large-scale robbery .

    .
    Last edited by Lien; Aug 21 2013 at 04:46 AM.

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