The US State with a Union Jack in its flag, the war in which we didn’t fight but grew vegetables and other weird episodes from British Imperial history

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As everyone in the UK knows there was once a time when the Union Jack flew in many, many places across the world.

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.

4 Minorca

Picture 4 of 10

I have this theory that Britain should do a deal to buy a couple of Canary Island from Spain. Then each winter some UK residents would get a free February Winter holiday on the islands. It might sound pricey to send people there but it would save the NHS billions as it would make us happier and healthier. Perhaps we should have clung on to the island of Minorca - that jewel of the Balearic Islands which is located in the Mediterranean Sea and these days belongs to Spain. After all we tried very very hard to keep it. We first took the place in 1708 during the War of the Spanish Succession. We were still running the place a decade or so later establishing Port Mahon as the island's main naval base. The Spanish booted us out in 1756, but we got sovereignty back a few years later. The islands then went back and forth between us and the Spanish until Spain finally took total control in 1802. Ironically when the French tried to invade during the Napoleonic War it was the Brits, who were allied to the Spaniards, who protected the islands.