Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts A Post-Imperial Power? Britain and the Royal Navy

A Post-Imperial Power? Britain and the Royal Navy

For a century and a half, from the Napoleonic Wars to World War II, the British Empire was the greatest power in the world. At the core of that power was the Royal Navy, the greatest and most advanced naval force in the world. For decades, the distinctive nature, the power and the glory, of the empire and the Royal Navy shaped the character and provided the identity of the British nation.

Today, the British Empire seems to be only a memory, and even the Royal Navy sometimes can appear to be only an auxiliary of the U.S. Navy. The British nation itself may be dissolving into its preexisting and fundamental English, Scottish, and even Welsh parts. But British power and the Royal Navy, and particularly that navy’s power projection, still figure in world affairs. Properly understood, they could also continue to provide an important component of British national identity.

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