Now, a website about style, football and gadgets isn’t really a place for too many value judgements on the British Empire. Suffice to say that we did some good things, but we also inflicted an awful lot of damage too in subjugating, and occasionally wiping out indigenous communities. Also the repercussions of the lines on the map that Britons drew lingers on in The Middle East, South America, parts of Africa and closer to home in Ireland.
However one hugely astonishing thing about the British is the way in which people of this sea-faring nation have been just about everywhere in the globe.
It was a thought that last year inspired historian Stuart Laycock to pen a fascinating book called All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded. It is safe to say that the list that hasn’t had any British influence is a pretty short one and includes The Vatican, Monaco, Chad, Mongolia and Paraguay among others. Britain has in fact invaded nearly 90% of the countries in the world, so it isn’t that surprising that in some parts of the world we don’t have the best of reputations.
Questions about the nature of British Imperialism aside the book does throw up some amazing anecdotes about places that have been influenced by the British that almost no one in this country has a clue about.
For example what about the US state that has a Union Jack as part of its flag? Or the German island which we ran as a major holiday destination for much of the nineteenth century? Or the Scandinavian country that we kind of ‘invaded’ so we could use one of its islands as a vegetable patch.
Here then are ten really great stories. Some are inspired by the book , which if you love history really is a must purchase. I have also done some of research of my own and of course there are a couple of nods to Wikipedia, from whence many of the images came.
So without further ado let’s head for Heligoland.
Buy the book here.
Given the way that the British Navy, and indeed British pirates, were all over the Caribbean in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it is fair to say that when it come to our interest in Cuba the locals actually got off pretty lightly. We did have one serious go at the place though in 1741 when we invaded as part of the fabulously named War of Jenkins' Ear. We found a nice spot in the south east end of Cuba which we christened Cumberland Bay and moved in. We didn't hang around for long though and these days the place is known much more ominously as Guantanamo Bay. We were back in 1762 and managed to invade a large chunk of the place including the capital Havana. However within a year we had swapped it for Florida and Minorca and were gone forever.