The British Overseas: Exploits of a Nation of Shopkeepers

The British Overseas: Exploits of a Nation of Shopkeepers

The British Overseas: Exploits of a Nation of Shopkeepers

The British Overseas: Exploits of a Nation of Shopkeepers

Excerpt

Ten generations ago, in the age of Shakespeare and Ralegh, these small islands were inhabited by six or seven millions of people whom we may loosely call the British race. For the most part they were rustic, though they were showing signs of a change from a life of agriculture to a life of commerce. In the course of this change which transformed them, for a time, into the richest and strongest community (or rather group of communities) in history, two phenomena may be observed, each of them unique, so far as our meagre records show. In the first place the British, with whom for brevity of reference I include the Irish, increased in numbers from something less than 7,000,000 to something more than 140,000,000, a rate of multiplication unequalled by any other nation in Europe or Asia. In the second place the majority of the British race have, abandoned the British Isles and made their homes elsewhere, a diaspora which in its effect upon the progress of mankind can be compared only with the Dispersion of the Jews.

It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the British have populated every temperate region in the whole world which was empty when their period of expansion began, if I may be allowed to describe as temperate every region having a climate like that of north-western Europe. In three instances only did the other colonising nations establish themselves in temperate regions, and all three settlements, French Acadie, Dutch Manhattan, and Dutch South Africa, were brought under British control. Elsewhere the expansion of France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Belgium, and even of Russia has been into sub-arctic or sub- tropical lands. Even in the Argentine, if that is another exception, the development was largely due to British pioneers and British money. Much of the interest of early imperial history lies in the determination of the climatic frontier which limits white . . .

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