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World Domination on the Cheap

August 30, 2008

An older article published several years ago at Enjoy!

It was once said “The Sun never sets on the British Empire”. In all honesty this could be said of several colonial powers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including France and Germany. This doesn’t lessen the fact that England was once the world’s lone superpower, ruling ¼ of the earth’s surface, and 444 million people.

According to the book Empire by Niall Fergusun, at the turn of the 20th Century, British controlled territory was three times the size of its closet rival, France, and ten times that of its future opponent, Germany. Yet the armed forces totaled only .08% of the population and the defense budget was 2.5% of the national net product.

To protect its far-spanning dependencies Britain could call on an army roughly the size of the Roman Army at its height. In 1898 there was 99,000 soldiers in Britain, 75,000 in India, and 41,000 scattered around the globe, from the America’s to Asia and Africa.

The Royal Navy was perhaps the country’s most vital asset. As a rule it was twice the size of the next largest naval power. At the close of the 1900’s there were 150 naval stations covering the world’s oceans, supporting the hundreds of battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and gunboats guarding the empire.

Astonishingly between 1906-1913, English shipyards built 27 dreadnought battleships, the capital ships of their day, at a cost of $82 million dollars. This is less than the cost of a modern guided missile frigate.

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