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World War One marked the beginning of the end of the British Empire. Is it so - Essay Example

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Summary
When Adolf Hitler wrote in 1924 that the British Empire was “the greatest world power on earth,” it was in praise of a superpower that still held dominion over colonies in every corner of the globe (James, 1994)…
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World War One marked the beginning of the end of the British Empire. Is it so
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World War One marked the beginning of the end of the British Empire. Is it so

Download file to see previous pages... But Britain had been bled white by the Great War in which the mother country, its colonies and dominions sustained a combined 1.2 million deaths. The British Empire had committed its full weight to the defeat of Germany and the other Central Powers – the cost was its physical and moral supremacy as an imperial power and its practical control over an enormously over-extended collection of overseas possessions. Absolute naval supremacy and a willingness to wage countless “little wars” around the world enabled Great Britain to build and maintain the largest empire the world has ever known. So long as the British were able to follow this “blueprint of empire,” it was possible for them to continue doing business as usual. All-out war in 1914 proved to be a fatal scenario for imperial aspirations. It is worthwhile to note that the British Empire reached its zenith only 21 years before the end of World War I. At that time, Queen Victoria ruled over approximately 372 million human beings occupying 11 million square miles (“Imperialism to Post-Colonialism,” 2010). The Royal Navy was the envy of the world, able to respond to flash points in any part of this vast area in a matter of weeks. The Boer War had shaken the notion of British invincibility but, comparatively speaking, did little material damage on a worldwide scale. It is one of the Name 2 most breathtaking facts of modern world history that World War I did so much to hasten the end of a world empire that just two decades before had appeared unassailable. Aftermath and empire Achieving victory over Imperial Germany forced Great Britain into the modern technological age. The British Army had pioneered the tank and a number of other technical innovations in what Niall Ferguson termed “a huge feat of military modernization” (2002). As has often been the case in British history, need drove advancement but failed to have a lasting impact on the security of the empire. “The stark reality was that, despite the victory and the territory it had brought, the First World War had left the Empire more vulnerable than ever before” (Ibid). The British failed abjectly to apply the lessons learned during the Great War to the need for more efficient management of its colonies. This tendency to fall back on traditional, even outmoded tactics would cost the British much in the years after the war. “Time and again, in the inter-war period, this was a pattern that would repeat itself…a sharp military response, followed by a collapse of British self-confidence, hand-wringing, second thoughts, a messy concession, another concession” (Ferguson, 2002). Ferguson uses Ireland as a prime example. The British had suffered some 1,400 casualties in Ireland by 1921, a toll that the British government and people were no longer willing to tolerate in the interest of empire. British forces in Ireland found themselves overwhelmed because Lloyd George’s government had failed to adopt the advice of Winston Churchill, who called for the utilization of tanks and armoured cars (Ibid). Put simply, the British were content Name 3 to manage circumstances “on the cheap,” a convenience that cost them dearly in Ireland and would do so repeatedly in subsequent years. Perhaps the most telling sign that Great Britain’s imperial facade was cracking was the loss of its historic edge in naval power. Weapons technology had taken a turn against the Royal Navy during the war. U-boat ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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