Pax Britannica

Pax Britannica

Pax Britannica was the period of
relative peace in Europe and the world during which the British Empire became
the global hegemon and adopted the role of global policeman.
Between 1815 and 1914, a period referred to as Britain’s “imperial century,”
around 10,000,000 square miles of territory and roughly 400 million people
were added to the British Empire. Victory over Napoleonic France left the
British without any serious international rival, other than perhaps
Russia in central Asia. When Russia acted aggressively in the 1850s, the
British and French defeated it in the Crimean War, thereby protecting the by
then feeble Ottoman Empire. Britain’s Royal Navy controlled most of
the key maritime trade routes and enjoyed unchallenged sea power.
Alongside the formal control it exerted over its own colonies, Britain’s
dominant position in world trade meant that it effectively controlled access to
many regions, such as Asia and Latin America. British merchants, shippers and
bankers had such an overwhelming advantage over everyone else that in
addition to its colonies it had an “informal empire”.
History After losing the American colonies in
the American Revolution, Britain turned towards Asia, the Pacific and later
Africa with subsequent exploration leading to the rise of the Second
British Empire. The industrial revolution began in Great Britain in the
late 1700s and new ideas emerged about free markets, such as Adam Smith’s The
Wealth of Nations. Free trade became a central principle that Britain practiced
by the 1840s. It played a key role in Britain’s economic growth and financial
dominance. From the end of the Napoleonic Wars in
1815 until World War I in 1914, the United Kingdom played the role of global
hegemon. Imposition of a “British Peace” on key maritime trade routes began in
1815 with the annexation of British Ceylon. Under the British Residency of
the Persian Gulf, local Arab rulers agreed to a number of treaties that
formalised Britain’s protection of the region. Britain imposed an anti-piracy
treaty, known as the General Treaty of 1820, on all Arab rulers in the region.
By signing the Perpetual Maritime Truce of 1853, Arab rulers gave up their right
to wage war at sea in return for British protection against external threats. The
global superiority of British military and commerce was aided by a divided and
relatively weak continental Europe, and the presence of the Royal Navy on all of
the world’s oceans and seas. Even outside its formal empire, Britain
controlled trade with many countries such as China, Siam, and Argentina.
Following the Congress of Vienna the British Empire’s economic strength
continued to develop through naval dominance and diplomatic efforts to
maintain a balance of power in continental Europe.
In this era, the Royal Navy provided services around the world that benefited
other nations, such as the suppression of piracy and blocking the slave trade.
The Slave Trade Act 1807 had banned the trade across the British Empire, after
which the Royal Navy established the West Africa Squadron and the government
negotiated international treaties under which they could enforce the ban. Sea
power, however, did not project on land. Land wars fought between the major
powers include the Crimean War, the Franco-Austrian War, the Austro-Prussian
War and the Franco-Prussian War, as well as numerous conflicts between lesser
powers. The Royal Navy prosecuted the First Opium War and Second Opium War
against Imperial China. The Royal Navy was superior to any other two navies in
the world, combined. Only Germany was a potential naval threat.
Britain traded goods and capital extensively with countries around the
world, adopting a free trade policy after 1840. The growth of British
imperial strength was further underpinned by the steamship and the
telegraph, new technologies invented in the second half of the 19th century,
allowing it to control and defend the empire. By 1902, the British Empire was
linked together by a network of telegraph cables, the so-called All Red
Line. The Pax Britannica was weakened by the
breakdown of the continental order which had been established by the Congress of
Vienna. Relations between the Great Powers of Europe were strained to
breaking point by issues such as the decline of the Ottoman Empire, which led
to the Crimean War, and later the emergence of new nation states in the
form of Italy and Germany after the Franco-Prussian War. Both of these two
wars involved Europe’s largest states and armies. The industrialisation of
Germany, the Empire of Japan, and the United States of America contributed to
the relative decline of British industrial supremacy in the early 20th
century. See also
Historiography of the British Empire Imperial Federation
Pax Americana References


  1. 123 456 says:

    America isn’t very good at doing what we did

  2. Damian Matras says:

    British Empire <3 Please come back, we need you! And we don't have much time :'-(

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