The British Empire is the largest (14.1 million square miles) and most populous (532 million people) empire in history. It is the reason why English is one of the world's most important languages, why 1/3 of the world drives on the left, and why much of the world uses the parliamentary system. Another testament to its power is the fact that one of its former colonies, the United States of America, is the current hyperpower.
The British Empire began in 1066 with the Battle of Hastings, where William of Normandy defeated King Harold II of the Saxons. Since then, England has consolidated power by annexing Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the crown dependencies, and numerous other territories and colonies around the world. For example, thanks to Francis Drake's defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the United Kingdom has been able to expand throughout the New World. In North America, Britain founded 13 colonies along the eastern seaboard of the modern-day United States. North of these colonies, Britain founded the Dominion of Canada after it defeated the French at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.
The next episode focuses on British expansion into Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific.
For more information, read: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/2003_34_thu_01.shtml
The Penguin Book of Historic Speeches by Brian MacArthur
The Dictionary of Battles by David Chandler
The Guinness Book of Military Blunders by Geoffrey Regan
The Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes by Max Hastings
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