Britain’s disproportionate impact on world history has been highlighted by research for a new book, which found that it has invaded 173 out of the 195 modern countries recognised by the UK government as independent states. Today’s superpowers of Russia, China and the U.S.A., as well as countries as diverse as Argentina, Iceland and Vietnam have all had “the boys from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne” on their soil at some point in their history, either as members of armed forces, or as state-sponsored privateers and armed explorers.
Only a relatively small proportion of the countries actually became part of the British Empire, which was the largest in history and, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area (over 13 million sq miles) and one-fifth of the world’s population (458 million people); at the time it was policed by around only 350,000 UK service personnel, or 1 per 37 sq. miles of territory and 1 per 1,309 people.
Stuart Laycock, author of All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Round To, told the Telegraph that his 2 years of research was prompted by a question from his 11-year-old son on how many countries Britain has invaded. Stuart said, “I was absolutely staggered when I reached the total. I like to think I have a relatively good general knowledge, but there are places where it hadn’t occurred to me that these things had ever happened. It shocked me. Other countries could write similar books – but they would be much shorter. I don’t think anyone could match this, although the Americans had a later start and have been working hard on it in the twentieth century.” He added that the only other nation that comes close is France, which also holds the record for enduring the most British invasions – starting with an incursion into Gaul by Ancient Britons at the end of the 2nd century AD.
Stuart said, “On one level, for the British, it is quite amazing and quite humbling, that this is all part of our history, but clearly there are parts of our history that we are less proud of. The book is not intended as any kind of moral judgment on our history or our empire. It is meant as a light-hearted bit of fun.”
In other words, anybody about to get on their high horse about the evil British, just chill out for Gawd’s sake! I can tell you that none of my ancestors ever got rich from the British Empire.