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Lineages of EmpireThe Historical Roots of British Imperial Thought$
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Duncan Kelly

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264393

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264393.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

‘Neither Masters nor Slaves’: Small States and Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century

‘Neither Masters nor Slaves’: Small States and Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century

(p.52) (p.53) 3 ‘Neither Masters nor Slaves’: Small States and Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century
Lineages of Empire

Richard Whatmore

British Academy

In the nineteenth and twentieth century, the British Empire was viewed as a moral phenomenon. It was often described as supportive of self-government, benevolent, and respectful of the customs and laws of the dependent states of the empire. In the twentieth century, Britain became involved in world wars to defend the independence of its small states. This involvement was partially spurred by commercial interests but it was mainly because of the desire to maintain Britain’s reputation as a defender of liberty and because of its self-perception as an archetypal free state. This chapter determines the origins of the perception of Britain as defender of small states and of Europe’s small republics. It begins with an evaluation of the prevailing perspectives on the empire during the eighteenth century and the survival strategies employed by Europe’s small republics. The chapter also examines the bankruptcy of the traditional policies for maintaining national independence by the latter part of the eighteenth century. It concludes with the perception of Britain as a defender of small states by the time of the Vienna Settlement.

Keywords:   nineteenth century, twentieth century, British Empire, Britain, defender of liberty, perception, Britain as defender, Europe’s small republics, Vienna Settlement

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