IT will be readily admitted, even by those to whom the fact is unpalatable, that since the end of the Napoleonic wars England has been the dominant nation of the world, and that her participation in the Great War will probably be the decisive factor in its length, if not in its termination. Why should so commanding a position belong to a couple of islands whose population was less than that of France (until a few years ago), Germany, Austria-Hungary, or Russia? For none of these nations has accepted British hegemony as a law of the universe. The answer is to be found in the accidents of history and geography, with which must be reckoned certain traits of character that are the product of free institutions and a peculiar consciousness of national unity.
First of all, at the end of the eighteenth century a series of remarkable inventions, for which English genius must receive full credit, transformed England from an agricultural into an industrial country and vastly stimulated its already thriving commerce. By chance this revamping of the national life coincided with the French Revolution and the first Napoleonic Empire, a period during which the continent of Europe was devastated by a succession of wars and thereby prevented from imitating the new English system. Though England was an active and the most steadfast participant in the long struggle to crush Napoleon, her territory was not invaded, and her sea power enabled her at once to destroy the foreign trade of the Napoleonic states and to establish her own monopoly in the Americas