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DisambiguationEdit

Britain or Great Britain may refer to any of the following:

Rise of the ModernsEdit

Time of War: 1800Edit

The Age of ConquestEdit

  • The British, one of the factions in the up-and-coming mod The Age of Conquest

HistoryEdit

The history of the modern British Empire, later known as the United Kingdom - comprising the kingdoms of England, Wales and Scotland and territory in Ireland - was a tale of trade, conquest, and industry in which the English state changed from a weak and humiliated nation on the outskirts of Europe into not only a European but also a global superpower. Her mastery of the seas, confirmed once and for all at Trafalgar in 1805, made up for an army which was somewhat small by European standards, and meant that England could expand far beyond the borders of Europe, to places as far away as the Caribbean, India and Australia.

Call to PowerEdit

The period between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries saw a great change in the status of England from a poor, war-torn nation, to the wealthiest nation on earth, truly a power to be reckoned with. The path the nation took was, however, a rocky one, with several dynastic changes. The ruling houses in England were the Tudors and the Stuarts. During the time of the Stuarts, England had flirted with a republican government between 1649 and 1660, which was deposed in favour of a monarchy. When the last Stuart ruler, Anne, died in 1714, and the Stuart line ran out of suitable (that is, Protestant) male heirs, the English looked towards Germany and modern England would have two "imported dynasties" - the Hannoverians, and later on, the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas, later known as the House of Windsor.

English monarchs faced many challenges from the time of the Tudors. One of these was religion, which intermingled with politics with disastrous results. This happened because of the nature of the English Reformation in the 1530s — the issue at the heart of the matter was that Henry VIII Tudor wanted a divorce, and the Pope wouldn't give him one. As a result, the Pope was removed as head of the Church of England, and replaced by Henry himself. Only later did religion actually come into play, as increasing numbers of people sought to worship outside a church that reeked of "Popery". Charles I lost his throne (and eventually his head too) because he refused to do away with some of the 'Papist' practices within the church, and his son James II would be ingloriously hounded out of the country in 1688 into exile in France by people who feared his Catholicism.

The other important feature of English political life was the rise of Parliament. A relatively insignificant part of government in 1492, it became crucially important as a result of the Reformation, which was legitimised by being brought in via Parliament. Thereafter Parliament, especially the House of Commons, would be a consistent thorn in the sides of English monarchs (especially the Stuarts). It even took up arms against one monarch (Charles I again), because it feared that it was about to be bypassed and rendered permanently powerless. By 1792, the process by which Parliament became de facto rulers of the country was well underway.

Queen of the WavesEdit

One would have been forgiven to think that at the onset of the 18th century, that England was doomed forever to be a minor power beset by political troubles, but in fact the creation of a parliament as well as the limitation of power would most benefit England in later centuries. This drive towards limiting the sovereign power of the monarch would be most vital in creating a vibrant economy and an industrialised society. Coupled with the Royal Navy, which could protect English interests, this led towards the modernisation of the English economy.

Beginning with the American colonies, the English (subsequently known as the British) would then reach out towards India and the Spice Islands. Early industrialisation and a powerful trade empire created tremendous wealth in the country, which was often diverted into the pockets of European allies, who would fight as England's proxy (as would happen, with varying degrees of success, during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars between 1792 and 1814). The British Empire reached its zenith under Queen Victoria (1837-1901), who ushered in the Victorian dynasty. The two other prominent figures of this period were Gladstone and Disraeli who both served as Prime Ministers during Victoria's reign. Gladstone was a liberal and a humanitarian while Disraeli was an imperialist and nationalistic. These two opposing figures fought on opposite sides of the issues but it was Disraeli and his policies that got the Queen's favour. India was at this time administered by the East India Company, but after a mutiny of Indian troops (in fact a mass rebellion), the country became fully under control of the British government, with the monarch as its Emperor. A trade dispute with China would also result in the Opium War, which saw Britain, make further colonial gains in Asia. In Africa, Rhodes was carrying out ambitions to see British influence stretch from the North in Egypt all the way to South Africa. Including her colonies in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, British influence was felt literally around the world. Although by the end of the 19th century all three would gain its independence they would remain staunch allies of Britain and part of the Commonwealth. However, Ireland was again trying to reassert its independence and resorted to terrorism in order to make its point, the fruits of which are still a problem to this day. Great writers such as Charles Dickens and Alfred Tennyson as well as musicians such as Edward Elgar echoed the social sentiments and romanticism of the Victorian era.

Despite the seemingly apparent success of Britain's empire, storm clouds were brewing in Europe, as British success engendered European jealousies. Britain had to contend with French and American influence in the Pacific, and also had to engage with Russia in what was to be known as the Great Game — a scramble for more power in Central Asia to protect her interests therein. Yet however, the greatest threat to the British Empire would be neither one of these countries, but one of its staunchest allies: Prussia.

The Great War and its aftermathEdit

Formerly, Prussia had been an ally of Britain since the Westminster Convention of 1758, and even faced down Napoleon together, yet by the mid-19th century, things were coming to a head. Through conquest and diplomacy with the guidance of its gifted chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and several wars with Denmark, Austria and France, Prussia would unify the German petty kingdoms and principalities into a single Reich in 1871 with its king as its emperor or Kaiser. Bismarck, however, rationally saw that Germany was in no position to challenge the United Kingdom, and did all he could to keep Germany out of a war; yet in 1890 he was forced to resign, and the more hawkish elements, encouraged by Germany's glory-seeking Kaiser Wilhelm II, steered Germany towards conquest.

When war broke out between Russia and Austria in 1914, Germany and Britain went to war with one another, Germany being allied with the central powers of Austria-Hungary and Turkey, and Britain on the side of the so-called "Triple Entente" comprising Russia and France as well. Although Germany was defeated, the war was a bloody one that cost Britain well under a million lives and also ushered in the socioeconomic and political crises that would lead to the dissolution of Britain's empire in the 20th century. |}

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