Pax Britannica pp 214-232 | Cite as

Darkening Horizons

  • Barry Gough
Part of the Britain and the World book series (BAW)


It was a world in which the sun never seemed to set on the British Empire. The 1880s were the years of Pax Britannica’s finest influence, the years in which persons such as Sir George Bowen (as we saw in Chapter 1) could talk about the magnificence of the Britannic achievement. Still, these years marked the beginnings of its feared decline. But throughout the age of Pax Britannica, Britain and the empire were never without testy and jealous rivals. Such rivalry had driven colonial expansion. The course of history since 1815 gave assurance, perhaps falsely, that upstart rivals could be dealt with, managed even, and from time to time smaller wars had been fought to maintain British primacy. The Crimean War is the boldest example, and in numerous cases merely raising fleets and deploying squadrons and battalions had served the purpose, always in alliance with adroit diplomacy. In the Americas the challenge came from the United States. The French and Russians proved to be the most contentious challengers in the eastern Mediterranean, though never in combination. Portugal’s strength had waned, as had Holland’s. Spain’s strength was still exercised in Cuba, the Philippines and elsewhere, its resurgent power of the late nineteenth century posed no particular difficulty to Britain though crossed directly over the course of the rising naval power and global ambitions of the United States. Since 1815 the technique of deploying regiments to British North America and beefing up the squadrons at Halifax and Esquimalt had proved to be a useful counterpart when faced with American “manifest destiny”.1


Free Trade Suez Canal Submarine Cable Naval Force British Policy 
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© Barry Gough 2014

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  • Barry Gough

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