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.
Over the years Britain has owned various parts of France, most notably Calais which was under our rule for around 150 years in the middle ages. Another part of France that was British for a small time was Corsica. The island was owned by the Italian state of Genoa before being picked up by the French. In the late eighteenth century seeing an opportunity to annoy Napoleon and pick up a handy base in the Med, British troops accompanied by Corsican nationalists threw the French out. For a couple of years we ran the island in collaboration with the locals. As time went by our interest in Corsica waned and we left the islands, - taking some Corsican nationalists with us - leaving it wide open for the French to reclaim the place.