When Britain Ruled the Waves, Foreign Trade, Empire Followed

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 10, 2004 | Go to article overview

When Britain Ruled the Waves, Foreign Trade, Empire Followed


Byline: William Anthony Hay, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

People shape their environment, but the environment also shapes people and societies. The relationship between land and sea casts a particular shadow, and Alfred Thayer Mahan opened his influential 1890 book "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History" by discussing the cultural, economic, and institutional factors that lay the foundation for naval supremacy.

That Britain is an island, indeed the primary island of an archipelago off Europe, defines its history, and Mahan offered Britain as the paradigm for a maritime state. Sea power defined Britain's empire, differentiating it from such land empires as Rome or China and enabling it to reach far beyond its home islands.

In this book, Jeremy Black offers an updated analysis of how proximity to the ocean affected Britain's trade, politics, and strategy, along with public attitudes toward the sea. "The British Seaborne Empire" takes a broad view of its subject, integrating culture and the arts into a discussion that also notes how perspectives change over time. Mr. Black models his volume on classic studies of the Spanish and Dutch seaborne empires, but his book covers a far broader period and will doubtless join them as a definitive work.

Seaborne and riverine transport played a central role in the earliest polities to develop within the British Isles, and that role shaped the development of culture and institutions. Only from the 19th century did railways and improved roads shift patterns of communication, and control over the sea had vital political implications. Riverine and coastal shipping led readily to deep sea activity by the later Middle Ages, and fishing played a major part in extending the range of English voyages.

New routes to Asia and the Americas stimulated maritime activity over a greater range. Successful voyages provided capital to develop new ports, and consequent shifts in foreign trade changed the relative importance of regions within England. Mr. Black notes the fine line between piracy and trade as adventurers used force to open markets and protect ships.

Englishmen saw trade as the lifeblood of empire, which drove economic expansion at home and the acquisition of overseas colonies. War and trade by sea created a pool of trained seamen and capable leaders that facilitated the development of England's navy.

Tudor and Stuart monarchs revived the navy Alfred the Great had first established in the 9th century. It then played a major part in the institutional development of an English state. The navy later helped England extend its dominance over the British Isles and also contributed to parliament's victory over Charles I. Sea power enabled Oliver Cromwell's regime to enforce its authority on colonies across the Atlantic in the 1650s, and then aided the Hanoverians in their defeat of the Jacobite challenge during the 18th century.

While the Tudor and Stuart navy was a tool of royal policy, after 1688 Englishmen viewed their navy as a national institution and placed sea power at the core of national strategy. Mr. Black focuses primarily on the British Empire that developed after 1703, when the Act of Union established the United Kingdom of Great Britain and brought Scotland together with England and Wales under a single parliament at Westminster. The integration of Scotland into the English maritime system laid the foundation for Britain's seaborne empire from the 18th through the 20th century.

Mr. Black's expertise shines through in his discussion of the Hanoverian era and modern military history, and he emphasizes the importance of the contingent application of sea power in particular circumstances. Naval supremacy made British strategy flexible, by securing the home islands and key trade routes while facilitating overseas conquests that provided leverage in peace negotiations. Britain's ability to project power along inland waterways in North America and along the shoreline in India was a decisive advantage in colonial wars on land. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

When Britain Ruled the Waves, Foreign Trade, Empire Followed
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.