The very notion of power and by extension the one of great power, have always been elaborate concepts to grasp. Should one study the strength of a nation from a historical perspective, then it appears that the notion of great power could only be defined comparatively. Indeed, it is only in its interaction with others that a nation is, or is not, a great power. Many theorists attempted to determine what places an entity, not especially a political one, in a position of power. From Robert Dahl's emphasis on influence within a decision-making process to James March's stress on power as a control on the outcome of events , the task proves to be demanding. Basically, a large acceptation of the concept seems acceptable here. Britain became a Great Power when she managed to fully integrate the process of decision making among other European Powers, when she influenced their attitude in order to achieve her goals.
[...] Indeed, when Britain stepped out the international stage for a long period, without the ability to intervene when desired, it reinforced continental States at her expense, as underlined by the “isolation without splendor” of the Restoration monarchy. On the contrary, when Britain intervened to avert a particular State to dominate the continent, she preserved the equilibrium of European forces at her advantage. The Elizabethan intervention against Spain in 1585 is a relevant case in point. Although she was military unprepared, the Queen refused to let Madrid freely assault the United Provinces. [...]
[...] The House of Lords congratulated George I for alliance that opens to us so fair a prospect of an undisturbed succession, an equal balance of power and a flourishing commerce” Whether or not Britain intervened directly into international affairs, she constantly influenced them from the end of the seventeenth century and, in order to do so, she heavily relied on her military Navy. Without falling into Mahan's historical determinism, one can observe that Britain made an efficient use of her geographical condition. [...]
[...] The Making of a Great Power. London : Longman Howard, Christopher. The Policy of Isolation Historical Journal, vol.10, no (1967) : 77-88 Kennedy, Paul. The Rise and Fall of the British Naval Mastery. London: Allen Lane Kennedy, Paul. The Rise and Fall of Great Powers. London : Fontana Press Lockyer, Roger. Tudor and Stuart Britain 1714. Harlow, New York. Longman Mahan, Alfred Thayer. The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783. Boston: Little Brown Nye, Joseph S. changing nature of world power”, Political Sciences Quarterly , vol.105, no 2. [...]
[...] On a wider outlook it was mainly trade that prompted overseas expansion, which started in the first decade of the sixteenth century. Military and diplomatic victories were often turned into territorial acquisitions. The peace of Paris in 1763 dramatically extended the Empire with strategic trading ports like St Lucia, Marie Galante, St Vincent and Tobago. This period marked the “funding of the second british empire”. The administration of the Empire promoted its stability. When the French colonial system was rigidly centralized and governed from Paris, the British colonies enjoyed a relatively broad local autonomy, which reduced expenditures and frictions. [...]
[...] Britain enjoyed at that time a wide advance in technical engineering inherited from an early promotion of experimental sciences, epitomized by the foundation of the Royal Society of London for the promotion of Natural Knowledge in 1660. Nevertheless, in order to be fully exploited technical improvement required the “classical partnership”between entrepreneurs and inventors. Indeed, James Watt would never have been able to refine his steam-based engine without the financial support of Matthew Boulton. As a matter of fact, the development of steam power enhanced British industrialization. [...]
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