Classic History Books

The History of England by A. E. Pollard

of Machiavelli; circumstances, and something within which made for empire, proved too strong for
liberal intentions, and the only British war waged between the Peace of Versailles in 1783 and the

rupture with Revolutionary France in 1793 resulted in the dismemberment of Tippoo Sultan's kingdom of

Mysore (1792). The crusading truculence of the French republicans, and Napoleon's ambition, made the

security of the British Isles Pitt's first consideration; but when that was confirmed by naval victories over

the French on the 1st of June, 1794, and at the battle of the Nile in 1798, over the Dutch at Camperdown

and over the Spaniards at Cape St. Vincent in 1797, over the Danes at Copenhagen in 1801, and over the

French and Spaniards combined at Trafalgar in 1805, Great Britain concentrated its energies mainly on

extending its hold on India and the Far East, and on strengthening its communications with them. The

purpose of the battle of the Nile was to evict Napoleon from Egypt, which he had occupied as a

stepping-stone to India, and Malta was seized (1800) with a similar object. Mauritius, too, was taken

(1810), because it had formed a profitable basis of operations for French privateers against the East India

trade; and the Cape of Good Hope was conquered from the Dutch, the reluctant allies of the French, in

1795, as a better half-way house to India than St. Helena, which England had acquired from the same

colonial rivals in 1673. The Cape was restored in 1802, but reconquered in 1806 and retained in 1815.

In the Far East, British dominion was rapidly extended under the stimulus of the Marquess Wellesley,
elder brother of the Duke of Wellington, who endeavoured in redundantly eloquent despatches to

reconcile his deeds with the pacific tone of his instructions. Ceylon was taken from the Dutch in 1796,

and was not restored like Java, which suffered a similar conquest; and British settlements were soon

afterwards founded at Singapore and on the Malay Peninsula. In India itself Tippoo was defeated and

slain in his capital at Seringapatam in 1799, the Mahrattas were crushed at Assye and Argaum in 1803,

the nabob was forced to surrender the Carnatic, and the vizier the province of Oudh, until the whole

coast-line of India and the valley of the Ganges had passed directly or indirectly under British control.

These regions were conquered partly because they were more attractive and accessible to the British, and

partly to prevent their being accessible to the French; the poorer and more difficult mountainous districts

of the Deccan, isolated from foreign infection, were left under native rulers.

The final overthrow of Napoleon, to which Great Britain had contributed more by its efforts in the
Spanish Peninsular War (1808-1814) than at the crowning mercy of Waterloo, confirmed its conquests in

India and its control of the trade routes of the world. Its one permanent failure during the war was

Whitelocke's expedition to Buenos Ayres in 1807; that attack was not repeated because the Spaniards

having, by their revolt against Napoleon, become England's allies, it was hardly fair to appropriate their

colonies; and so South America was left to work out its destinies under Latin and not Teutonic influence.

Most of the West Indian islands, however, with British Honduras and British Guiana on the mainland,

had been acquired for the empire, which had now secured footholds in all the continents of the world.

The development of those footholds into great self-governing communities, the unique and real

achievement of the British Empire, was the work of the nineteenth century; and its accomplishment

depended upon the effects of the changes known to us as the Industrial Revolution.



The Industrial Revolution is a phrase invented by Arnold Toynbee, and now generally used to indicate
those economic changes which turned England from an agricultural into an industrial community. The

period during which these changes took place cannot from the nature of things be definitely fixed; but

usually it is taken to extend from about the middle of the eighteenth century to the close of the reign of

George III. Two points, however, must be remembered: first, that there was a commercial as well as an


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