Great Britain: Foreign Policy and the Span of Empire, 1689-1971: A Documentary History - Vol. 1

By Joel H. Wiener | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

by J. H. PLUMB

As Great Britain fades as a great power, its astonishing achievements, in many ways as remarkable as those of any nation in recorded history, begin to fade too. Principally these achievements fall into three categories--political, economic, and imperial. Since the seventeenth century England has never known either civil or political revolution; furthermore its basic political institutions, although reformed, have remained stable: it has led the world and taught the world representative democracy. Economically Britain was the first country to demonstrate the viability of the Industrial Revolution which has led to changes in human society as profound as those that were the consequence of the Neolithic revolution seven thousand years ago. And lastly, not only was Britain since 1780 the greatest imperial power the modern world has witnessed, but she is the only imperial power to divest herself of that empire without invasion, civil war, or frequent rebellion. Some might cavil that this record was seriously blotted by the American Revolution, but this may be countered by the argument that the great growth of Britain's imperial power was subsequent to and not prior to that Revolution. And those who would point to the rebellion and repression in Ireland must allow that it was extremely difficult for most Englishmen, or Scotsmen for that matter, to regard Ireland as anything but an integral part of the United Kingdom. Even admitting the bloodiness of the Irish situation, upon which further discussion will be necessary, the changed relationships without serious bloodshed in India, in Africa, and in the West Indies is a remarkable contrast to either the fall of Rome, the collapse of China, or the disintegration of the Spanish and French empires.

Naturally these three great achievements were intimately linked. Without political stability or industrial revolution it is doubtful if England could ever have secured her imperial destiny. The markets of the Empire fertilised the

-xliii-

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Great Britain: Foreign Policy and the Span of Empire, 1689-1971: A Documentary History - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xli
  • Introduction xliii
  • FOREIGN POLICY 1
  • The Eighteenth Century 1689-1788 1
  • THE AGE OF REVOLUTION 1789-1848 143
  • EUROPEAN UPHEAVAL AND THE BACKGROUND TO WAR 1848-1914 371
  • The First World War and Its Aftermath 1914-1939 627
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