Britain as a Global Power in the Twentieth Century
This chapter examines the extent to which Britain's status as a global power in the twentieth century was underpinned by the existence of its empire. It suggests that, in a military sense, empire represented an uncertain resource. While the mobilization of the empire in the two world wars was ultimately crucial to British victory, its latent power in the years leading to those conflicts was poorly appreciated, not least by UK policy‐makers themselves. As such, it had limited value as a deterrent to Britain's enemies. Furthermore, the process of mobilizing the empire for war placed an almost intolerable strain on the fragile structures of imperial control. Britain's continuing aspirations to play the role of a global power following post‐war decolonization reflect the extent to which its overseas interests had always transcended the formal boundaries of empire. Meanwhile the Anglo‐American alliance provided Britain with a degree of security that its empire had never offered.
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