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.
Oddly enough Britain was at war with Iceland as recently as the 1970s with the Cod War, which was actually a serious altercation about fishing rights. It was eventually settled but not too many people know that the Brits already had a bit of form in Iceland. Up until the second world war Iceland was part of Denmark, so when the fighting started like its parent country remained neutral. Things changed rapidly when the Germans invaded Denmark and the British began to see how useful Iceland would be as a naval base. So on the 10th May 1940 a group of Royal Navy ships turned up in Reykjavik harbour and took control of the town. After some initial resistance the Icelandic government was 'persuaded' to co-operate and we ran the place until July 1941 when we handed it over to the Americans who hung around until 1946.