Victorian Geo-Politics - What Was It, Did Britain Rule The Waves?

Victorian geo-politics was a standout period in the history of England. It unfolded during the era of Queen Victoria who reigned over the country during the period 1837 -1901.

The song "Rule Britannia" springs to mind when considering this era of Victorian geo-politics. Part of the song goes, "Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves, Britain never, never, never, shall be slaves." One can imagine particularly the men during that age sticking out their chests with pride with ale in hand throughout the pubs of the land, raising their glasses together, whilst triumphantly singing this highly emotive refrain.

Britain it is fair to say at the time had plenty to be proud of, but how was that related to politics, and even more specifically to geo-politics, what does this combination of words mean?

Geopolitics has its roots in Greece and comes from a Greek word meaning "earth/land". It focuses on political power with regards to geographic space, paying particular attention to land territory and territorial waters and how this correlates with diplomatic history.

If one were to look at a map of Britain in 1886, one would be amazed at the various imperial British dominions scattered all round it, marked out in their traditional British national colors. The period between 1815-1914 was referred to as Pax Britannica, which was Latin meaning British Peace. This period would be called Britain's "imperial century" and it was the time where their global domination, was at its height.

It was during this time with such dominant power that Britain became the global policeman, something hard to imagine these days, that's for sure. They had added around 10 million square miles in territory along with 400 million people to their ever increasing British Empire. Other than perhaps Russia and in central Asia, Britain had no serious rival after attaining victory over the French.

Looking at Victorian geo-politics, it could be demonstrated that they truly did rule the waves. Most of the key major maritime routes for trade were under the control and supervision of the British Royal Navy. As well as this control they exerted over their own colonies, their dominant world trade position meant they effectively controlled access to countries such as Argentina, China and Siam.

British merchants and shippers had a huge advantage over others it could be said they had their own informal empire. By the 1840's, free trade would become a core principle they would build on. As things evolved it would play a major role in economic growth and financial dominance.