For almost four hundred years Britain ruled substantial areas of the world
outside Europe. In the first 150 years, from 1600 to 1750, expansion was a
matter of setting up small but prosperous trading posts and settlements
very close to the sea, supported by naval strength and close contact with
friends in England. After 1750 imperial rule began to move inland and for
the next 170 years, up to the end of the First World War, a steadily
increasing part of the earth’s surface was ruled from London. The naval
and industrial power which made this possible also meant that Britain
could exert a great deal of influence in the world outside the empire, but
this was a matter of diplomacy rather than direct rule.
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