How ‘great’ was Great
Britain from 1750 to1914? Well, to answer that question you would need to
define ‘great’, one word with many meanings. These include: big, large, or in
terms of influence. All of these are valid in this essay, and the ‘greatness’
of Britain will be analysed throughout its, arguably, finest years. Great can
be split into meanings, just as Britain can be with its main aspects. The
‘greatness’ of Britain can be spilt into the P.E.S.C.I.M. formula (Political,
Economic, Social and Cultural, Imperial and Military). It will also be explored
in a ‘case-study approach’, looking at some of the main aspects, and moments,
from Britain’s best years.


One of the factors which
contributed to the social and cultural landscape of Great Britain during this
period was The British Empire. This changed the way people spoke forever. They
all communicated using one language, making trade easier between the colonies
and the British. This also brought new words into the language, such as jungle
and pyjamas. The Empire brought with them to the colonies their highly-renowned
education system, improving literacy rates, by almost 20% in Northern American
colonies by 1760. The law systems were also improved, some of them up to today.

Some of these countries speak English as one of the main languages, or have a
better ability to speak English after imperial rule. This was exceptional for
the colonies and development in them, as they were improved in many ways, like
in infrastructure. This proves that Britain was not just great for itself, but
for the colonies they protected as well.


Yet with all of those
improvements, came drawbacks. Native culture was ignored, banned and dying,
because of the British culture being forced onto them. This lead to the
extinction of some native tribes, and some others were dying out, just because
of British rule. Britain just stole the land, apart from in a few cases, from
the people and the countries ruling them. They took resources too, just for the
well-being of citizens in the British Isles. They also stopped the practice of
native religion, and forced Christianity onto the colonists. This only enraged
the people of the colonies, and later encouraged protest against the rule of
Britain, and eventually, independence. This is not normally heard of the
empire, and knocks back their greatness. Although this is a big knock, the
positives outweigh the negatives, and only the colonies realised the downsides.

So this this is arguably the strongest piece of evidence for the ‘greatness’ of
Great Britain and is one of the more significant pieces of evidence, because it
affected more than 400 million people and happened across one quarter of the
face of the globe.


In addition to this, a
factor for the ‘greatness’ of Britain economically was the Industrial
Revolution. This rapidly improved the economy, and revolutionised the factory
workplace. Technology was used in the workplace and increased job
opportunities. This gave more people in a working class family an opportunity
to bring in even a small income. Exports of these goods were even more
important to the economy, they could be exported to the colonies of the empire
and money would come from it. A lucky few would own a factory and would often
earn a solid amount of money out of selling the goods produced. The economy was
one of the biggest in the world, and was the first industrial country in the
world. The Industrial Revolution brought forward some of the greatest British
minds of all time, such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who modernised the railway,
and Richard Trevithick, who created the first working steam train in 1804. This
only heightens the ‘greatness’ of Britain further, and this makes it strong
evidence for the greatness of Britain.













Although the Industrial
Revolution was significant in many ways, it was bad for those involved. Most of
the families, who lived in some of the worst conditions of all people, had small
houses or none at all, because of poor wages. Almost all of the proceeds would
go to the owners of the workplace, therefore opening up the class gap
economically. Children were separated from mothers as most of them started
working at the age of about seven. They then would do some of the most
dangerous jobs of the times, such as chimney sweep, and trapper, who opened the
doors of the mine with little to no light to work with. The mines were very
dangerous places; toxic gasses could kill in mines. Only canaries were used
against these, when they fell from their perch, the people had to get out. The
machinery in factories could kill someone, and wouldn’t stop for ‘piecers’,
young girls who would mend broken threads, and they risked losing limbs and
even death. This makes a big dent in the reputation of the revolution, but
still was a significant turning point in the economy. The weight of evidence
shows that the Industrial Revolution contributed hugely to the ‘greatness’ of
Britain in the period, because of how they were known to be an economic
superpower and kept it until the 1900’s.


Britain was becoming more
politically advanced during the 19th century, this is because of its
growth towards complete suffrage. Suffrage is where all people have the opportunity
to vote in a democratic vote. Britain was growing towards this complex idea,
although it did not reach complete democracy and suffrage until the twenties. A
big turning point in this was the Peterloo Massacre, where fifteen died and
four hundred were injured. It was a big protest in St. Peter’s Field,
Manchester, 60-80,000 strong, listened to great orators, hoping for political
reform. Once Henry Hunt, one of the most liked, started talking, the crowd
cheered. Threatened by this, the magistrates then trampled the protesters on
horses. The government, at the time, was run by the Tories (later Conservative
Party) and opposed by the Whigs (Liberals). They only allowed approximately 5%
the vote, and some old manors voted for the same amount of M.P.s as the city of
Manchester. This forced the Chartists to form, the 1st mass middle
class movement in history. They proposed that all should get the vote and
wanted reform, even after the Great Reform Act, which extended the vote to more
men. They eventually got what they wanted, after the Chartist collapse of 1848
after their embarrassment in their last main ballot. This came in the form of
the 2nd Reform Act, thought of as ‘a leap in the dark’. It had most
of the chartist ideas in it and they affected voting after the fall of
Chartism. Britain made movements towards women’s’ suffrage until 1928 where all
above 21 were allowed the vote. This proves that Britain is ‘great’ because
they may not have been democratic to start with, but made significant changes
after mistakes they made.


Although Britain made
leaps and bounds into complete democracy, they did not start well, because it
was centred around the rich. Before the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, the top 5%
voted for M.P.s and the middle and lower classes had no say in parliament
whatsoever. The rich would get what they wanted, and who they wanted into power
because of how they revolved around the rich. The government would tax less and
the rich would become richer, and more powerful. When more had the vote, the
city of Manchester would have the same amount of M.P.s as an old manor and the
area around. The master of it would get who he wanted into parliament by
setting him up in his constituency. This proves that Britain was making
consistent mistakes, but improved eventually. This proves the ‘greatness’ of
Britain, not only naturally, but good at changing too.


The evidence strongly suggests
that Britain was a power of the sea. Many of their finest victories came during
the period. Some of the empire’s colonies were captured for naval purposes.

Many great leaders were crushed, and created, in Britain’s naval battles. The
Napoleonic Wars highlight some of Britain’s finest moments from any era. France
declared war in 1793, and started one of the finest naval campaigns ever seen.

One of the main turning points in these wars was the Battle of the Nile. This
was decisive, and Britain seemed to be greater than ever, bringing forward one
of the most famous Briton of all time, Admiral Horatio Nelson, to the public
view.  The French then went at the navy
again, at one of the most famous battles in history, the Battle of Trafalgar.

Although Nelson was killed during the battle, his leadership defeated the
Spanish and French powers, when heavily outnumbered. This created British
identity and was one of the ‘greatest’ points of the period.



Some of the very few
low-points of British naval domination were all the American revolution losses.

These were rare defeats for an ‘unbeatable’ navy force, who were shocked by
defeats. Although these happened, arguably the ‘greatest’ strengths of Britain
were its navy, and was regarded as one of the best the world has ever seen.


Britain was at its
strongest during the period, but did the reign of Victoria aid or hinder
Britain. This may be true as she ruled over a superpower, and was coming into
its ‘Golden Era’. Before Victoria the country lacked something to make it
‘great’, but in the reign of Victoria, the empire was at its strongest. The
population before 1750 was approximately 5.8 million, but at the peak of the
empire, it was 21.1 million, a huge difference. The average GDP per capita was
100 before 1750, but 149 by 1870. This could be because of how the Industrial
Revolution completely changed the economic landscape for years to come, and
ensured a stable economic future. The country’s GDP was 100 before 1750, but
rose to a huge 548 before 1870. This shows the strength of the economy and the
country’s exports paying off. The numbers in the British Navy were hugely
smaller than countries it fought against, yet still gained big victory after
big victory, after being overlooked for many years before. The British made big
changes to the navy just before 1700, and the empire funded its growth.  The empire funded the navy after it gained
land for the empire. After 1800, the navy grew to 140,000 strong and with 596
cruise ships. This was a large difference compared to the 1775 figures 117
ships of the line, and 82 cruisers. This shows that Britain realised its naval
strength, and improved on it over time. By looking at this it screams out that
the factors discussed improved the country massively, and made Britain
‘greater’.  This evidence ensures the
fact that all of the factors developed each other, until they finally reached
their peak. The economy grew and grew, the empire acquired more and more
colonies, and the navy maintained its lofty standards. These all helped each
other grow stronger, and not one hindered their progress. This was Britain from
1750 to 1914, and it only grew bigger, better, and greater.



In conclusion to all of
the evidence from incredible events, movements, and people, whose efforts made
Britain the biggest country in the world, Britain had proven itself against
other superpowers of the world, and had developed itself to set the pace for
all the others. Britain influenced the colonies it was protecting, the
countries it was fighting against, and finally itself. Its empire spanned a
quarter of the globe and was unparalleled by others, as well as dwarfing them.

It developed economically during the Industrial Revolution, and therefore
became a global frontrunner economically, as well as keep up with the
democratic standards of the time. The biggest part was the empire, it was
‘great’ to many extents, influentially, as well as the largest in the world. It
set the pace for all to follow economically, and was the crucial first domino
in the chain for Industrial Revolution. It had an ‘invincible’ navy force, and
did all of this while becoming a fully democratic nation. By doing all of
these, it brought forward some truly ‘great’ Britons. How ‘Great’ was Great
Britain from 1750-1914? Britain was one of the biggest powers in the world, and
fulfilled all of the criteria for being ‘great’. To conclude and to answer the
question, Britain was one of the greatest nations the world has ever seen. 

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