Britain: Land Beyond Hope and Glory?

Denis Judd questions the role of Empire in defining Britain’s identity in relation to Europe and the rest of the world.

A cursory look at a map of the world at any time between the years 1765 and 1965 would confirm the impression that the British Empire was central to the British experience and identity. At its height the Empire and Commonwealth encompassed a quarter of the human race and nearly a fifth of the world’s land surface. Kipling’s celebrated description of ‘dominion over palm and pine’ was entirely apt, and for good measure could have included dominion over tundra, veld, desert, tropical rainforest, much of the high seas, equatorial jungle, prairie and polar ice.

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