How did Britain Use Conflict to Gain Power?

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Between 1600 and 1800, Britain evolved into a dominating empire that controlled most of the southern hemisphere. An underlying factor for their success was their strong economic state which enabled them to use conflict to extend their power overseas.

Britain's economy played a large role in their success to conquer many countries as they were able to afford and provide for the navy and army. The British economy grew between 1600-1900. This was predominantly a result of the success of the sugar and slave trade. The slave trade was the transporting and selling of human beings as slaves. The majority of these were black Africans who were taken into captivity by European countries and North America. These slaves from the African population were traded with the British for weapons and armoury. They were then sent to work at the New World Plantations (in North America) and produce raw materials such as cotton, sugar, rum, and tobacco. This was called the transatlantic slave trade. The British were supplied with these goods by their colonies- preserving their wealth. During 1780 and 1850, the British economic state was enhanced by the Industrial Revolution. As Britain was the first country to establish a factory, goods were shipped to Britain from all the regions of the world, and this began the trade of raw materials. Britain's economic strength meant that the country was able to afford to fight wars and had the adequate tools to do this. Britain's power was extended overseas by its ability to fight the French and to control native populations. Another reason for the conservation of resources was the fact that the British did not maintain a standing army as this was a very expensive factor. Despite this, the British were very successful in colonising many more countries using their navy.

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The British navy was a primary factor in the success of the British Empire. From the Elizabethan era, monarchs had supported the growth of the navy and this continued as an advantage for the British Empire. During the 18th century, the navy continued to expand. By the year, 1755, the navy had over 200 ships and 40,000 personnel. During the peak of The Seven Years War (1756-1763), the navy had further expanded to 300 ships and manpower of 80,000. This war resulted in triumph for the Royal Navy. Naval technology continued to improve in 1765. The Navy Board built the 100 guns first-rate ship victory which had soon become the standard for ships at the time. Ships were very expensive structures and the strong economic state of Britain helped to support this. The navy had enabled Britain to attack and raid countries from the sea- trapping their growing colonised population on land. Travelling by sea was more efficient than by land as you could carry more goods to your destination. However, travelling at sea concluded to have many problems- e.g., not being able to navigate themselves, and the deadly diseases that sailors caught (scurvy) while having many deficiencies. By 1790, the problem of accurate timekeeping at sea had been solved meaning that sailors could calculate where they were and navigate themselves. This was with the help of John Harrison (the inventor of the marine chronometer).

The British army was not as professional or as highly valued by the government as the navy, but nevertheless, most battles were won by the thin red line. Even though Britain was not able to maintain a large army, they were able to provide its army with the most advanced weapons. The British Army in the 18th century was commonly seen as disciplined, regimented, and harsh. Camp life was dirty and cramped with the potential for a rapid spread of disease, and punishments were ruthless. Yet, many men volunteered to join the army, to escape the bleak conditions of life in the cities, and for a chance to earn a regular wage.

In the final analysis, I believe that Britain's economy was the most important factor for the success in colonising most of the world's population as it was the driving force for the support and provisions for the navy and army.

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How did Britain Use Conflict to Gain Power? (2022, November 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from
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