The history of humanity is long and bloody, with over 7 million years of history, but today will focus on the brief period of the hegemony of the Pax Britannica, and the Pax Americana’s word Pax is the Roman word for peace and harkens back to the Pax Romana.
“Pax Romana,” which means “Roman peace,” refers to the period from 27 B.C.E. to 180 C.E. in the Roman Empire.
This 200-year period saw unprecedented peace and economic prosperity throughout the Empire, spanned from England in the north to Morocco in the south and Iraq in the east.
The word hegemony means that a nation is the most powerful than any other nation.
For the British, during their time of dominance, from the defeat of Napoleon, the battle of Waterloo in 1815 CE to the start of the Second World War in 1945 CE marked nearly 145 years of peace and hegemony for Britain.
However, the United States existed during the Pax Americana age, which has been seen since 1945 CE.
With the end of the Second World War, American influence and stability stretched from North America to the rest of the globe.
The key takeaway is that this feature is part of understanding the development of the economic system, technology, and politics that facilitated the rise of the British and American hegemony in the 18th to the close of the Second World War in the 21st century with the ruse of the USA.
Due to America being a successor state of the British Empire and taking cultural, economic, and social traditions from England transplanted in the United States, it makes historical sense to pair both groups together.
The Origins of the English Empire
For this narrative of history to make any sense to a reader unfamiliar with the history of England, it is first necessary to set the stage for the titanic events that would lead to the birth of the British Empire and its hegemony in the 19th century.
To begin with, we must first look at the geographical positioning of England in Western and Northern Europe, with England and France approximately 23 miles or 37 km apart across the English Channel.
According to the geopolitical analysis Peter Zeihen, half of the United Kingdom, England, Wales, and Scotland, more than half of the land is useless due to the mountainous terrain, mainly in Scotland and Wales.
During the medieval ages, this was even worse, with East Anglia’s primary swamplands and the north of England being disconnected due to swamps and rivers, which made that piece of territory hard to control from Winchester and London during the period of England’s Anglo-Saxon and first Norman came within the Conqueror.
This history is significant to understand the context of how England, predominantly England, transformed itself from a backwater into a power at its height in 1922.
It was the largest empire the world had ever seen, covering around a quarter of Earth’s land surface and ruling over 458 million people.
The Historian David Starkey stated that “the British Empire is just England with add-ons.” The statement may be inflammatory for the Scots and the Welsh, but this statement has a significant truth.
Certain nations are destined to fail due to the limitations of geography.
This argument is supported by thinkers such as Tim Marshall, author of Prisoners of Geography, and Peter Zeilhen, author of The End of the World is Just the Beginning, who use geography to demonstrate the limitations and advantages of different global powers.
The geographical limitations of Scotland and Wales led to them being eventually conquered or incorporated peacefully, in the case of the Scots with the Act of Union 1707 and the Edwardian conquest of Wales in the late 13th century.
The origin development of the English Empire was born from the failure, conquest, and dynastic politics, starting with the Anglo-Saxon/Old English being conquered by William the Conqueror in 1066 CE.
Unfortunately, modern-day people often forget that William II, Duke of Normandy, had a substantial holding in northern France. Before his invasion in 1066 CE, three years previously, he conquered Maine, which lands were controlled by Angevin Count of Anjou.
It’s also necessary to point out that in northern France, the Dukes of Normandy and Dukes of Brittany, Counts of Anjou and Flanders, and finally, the kings of the Franks were engaged in campaigns of dominance to gain control or hegemony of northern France.
For this history, the most important fact is that from the 1050s CE, starting with King Henri I, King of the Franks, and Duke William II of Normandy, until the ending of the Hundred Years War in 1453 CE, the kingdoms or accurately the dynasties of Normandy-Plantagenet ruled England from 1066 VCE to 1485 CE and the Capet Kings and Valois Kings of France fought wars over control various touches and even the crown of France for over 500 years.
The English crown had, multiple times, controlled more lands in France than the King of France.
Still, over a series of conflicts and the defeat of the English during the Hundred Years War from 1337 CE to 1453 CE, the English were reduced to control in the city and port of Calais possession from 1347 CE to 1558 CE.
A New Future and a New Empire
From 1274 CE to 1453 CE, the English state was dedicated to pursuing warfare and conquest of continental territory in Europe and the British Isles.
England developed the institutional memory and knowledge on how to wage war in that period by facing multiple threats.
The military culture neglected the Navy throughout this period, even though England’s people were never more than 70 miles from the sea.
The British nobility and monarchy primarily saw the Navy as a means of transportation, not a national security issue.
The Navy was neglected because the English monarchy descended from Norman, Angevin Count, and Dukes from France from 1066 to King Richard II in his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 CE.
This meant England’s leadership primarily focused on maintaining or expanding its continental holdings.
England’s geographical position as an island nation’s command of the North Sea was never effectively utilised.
This policy would only change with the rise of a new Anglo-Welsh Dynasty of Welsh descent.
The new dynasty is called the Tudors and ruled England, Wales, and parts of Ireland from 1485 to the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 CE.
Henry Tudor, or Henry Vii of England, the first Tudor King of England, is a descendant of Welsh nobility.
He defeated the last Plantagenet king of French descent in 1485 at Bosworth Field. He started England on a new future away from pursuing continental territory and being a political appendage of French national politics.
The future of England was still unclear until the end of the 17th century; during the 16th, it was still massively unclear what the future and policy of England’s rulers would be.
Henry VIII, who succeeded his father, King Henry VII of England, in 1509, still pursued continental policies until he died in 1547 of a dream of retaking England’s old continental domains in France.
However, by this time, England had lost most of its institutional memory of waging war to the use of Parliament by raising taxation, raising new soldiers, and outfitting a Navy able to defend the English coastline, the Scottish border, or even as a means of transportation to France.
This was because the Hundred Years’ War ended in 1453 CE, and England, from 1455 CC to 1487 CE, was engaged in a civil war over control of the English crown called the Wars of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster, which were cadet houses of House Plantagenet.
During this period, the central government collapsed, and its ability to function as a means of war was greatly diminished. When Henry VIII came and pursued war with France in the 1540s, most of this knowledge was outside living memory.
It was the failure and internal violence within the nation that meant that England lost national confidence in the ability to put forth a vision of national destiny due to the previous being a colossal failure for the Plantagenet dynasty, which contributed to the destruction of the dynasties are ruled England from 1154 to 1485.
The dreams of a continental empire were finally destroyed by the French finally reclaiming the city of Calais, the last English territory taken in France by King Edward III of England in 1347.
France retook the city during the reign of Queen Mary I of England. She ruled from 1553 to 1558 and succeeded her younger brother, Edward Vi of England, who ruled from 1547 to 1553.
In 1558, she was alleged to have stated, “When I am dead and opened, you shall find ‘Calais.” The closing of one dream of empire led to a new vision of an English empire stretching throughout the Americas with the goal of overseas English Dominion.
The model that would become the British Empire and lead to the Pax Britannica comes from two places: the Dutch Republic, which existed from 1579 to 1795, and the English experience during the conquest of Ireland in the 16th century, which would be the blueprint of empire.
The English have been in Ireland since the 12th century with the support of the Pope of that period to conquer and establish the Dominion of the island of Ireland. In the 16th century, England’s rule and control over the island was greatly diminished.
It was during the reign of King Henry VIII, who made himself, with an Act of Parliament in 1542 CE, King of the island of Ireland. His daughter, Queen Elizabeth I of England, ruled from 1558 CE to 1603 CE, would truly establish British control of the island of Ireland and be the blueprint for colonisation, extermination, and exploitation through Britain’s new colonies in North America. What encouraged the Elizabethans to move away from continental wars towards colonialism and expansion of the Navy was due to 16th century England having no standing army and no true Navy.
When Philip II of Spain became king consort and co-ruler to Queen Mary I of England from 1556 CE to 1558 CE, he stated that “the true defence of England is its Navy.”
England has very much to be grateful for because it was Philip II of Spain who helped the development of the English navy.
He attempted three invasions of England with three separate Spanish Armada, one in 1588 CE, the second in 1596 CE, and the final Armada in 1597 CE.
It was these three defeats of Spain, which at the time was the world’s number one superpower with Philip the Second of Spain’s rule in the Netherlands, the Spanish peninsula, and all of South America the control over Portuguese trade and colonies when Philip became king of Spain in 1580 CE since then his motto after 1580 CE was “the world is not enough.”
17th Century and the Decline of Old Powers
In the 17th century, three significant events happened: the Spanish empire became the sick man of Europe, and the British weakened control of the Duch Republic’s control of international trade.
Finally, the Second Hundred Years War began between France and Britain, which lasted from 1688 CE to 1815 CE — from this period, a Hundred years of the British Empire’s dominance emerged.
British from 1603 CE until the start of the English Civil War in 1642 CE, the Navy was greatly neglected, and the end of the Commonwealth in 1660 CE under the English experiment at republicanism.
However, during this period, the Commonwealth became an issue of national importance that the previous Stuart Kings neglected for over 40 years.
When Charles II of England was restored to the throne in 1660, he made the Navy an issue of national security.
The reason why the British past laws, such as The Navigation Acts (1651, 1660), were acts of Parliament intended to promote the self-sufficiency of the British Empire by restricting colonial trade to England and decreasing dependence on foreign imported goods.
The reason for this was the standard economic theory of Mercantilism, a form of economic nationalism that sought to increase the prosperity and power of a nation through restrictive trade practices.
Its goal was to increase the supply of a state’s gold and silver with exports rather than to deplete it through imports. It also sought to support domestic employment.
These few would be the standard until the mid-20th century that for one nation to become rich, another had to be poor with international trade; it was seen as a purely zero-some game with a Darwinian attitude of survival fitted applied to all countries.
In the words of the politics and international relations author and thinker John Mearsheimer, it was this understanding of economics and international politics that nations exist in a self-help system, meaning their survival or destruction depends on their abilities to amass power.
He made these arguments in his 2001 book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.
The British Foreign Policy Regarding Continental Europe
The British foreign policy from the 17th century until the end of World War II in 1945 CE was to prevent any nation from unifying the continent of Europe.
When the United could destroy the British Isles due to being unable to stand against Europe as a United political entity, this foreign policy is nothing new to Europeans since the 16th century.
With different kingdoms, the fighting wars to prevent any kingdoms from unifying or destroying the balance of power in continental Europe.
The first two great nations who battled it out over control of Europe were Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, king of United Spain, Duke of Burgundy, which incorporated the Netherlands, and ruler of southern Italy, including Sicily, who rained from 1516 to 1556.
His opponent was Francis I of France, who ruled from 1515 CE to 1547 CE.
They thought the Italian Wars, also known as the Habsburg–Valois Wars, were a series of conflicts fought between 1494 and 1559, mainly in the Italian peninsula, but later expanding into Flanders, the Rhineland, and the Mediterranean Sea.
This would be a trend in Europe unbroken until the end of the Napolean Wars, 1799 CE to 1815 CE. For the British, since the Battle of the Solent in 1545 CE, the French number 30,000 attempted to invade Tudor England.
The last time the English crown was until 1688 CE when they pursued an aggressive policy against one of the stronger nations of Europe.
The event, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 CE to 1689 CE, is significant for two reasons. The first was that it led to banking reform, with The Bank of England being founded as a private bank in 1694 to act as a banker to the Government.
And the brief union with the Dutch Republic with the invasion of William of Orange, who became William III of England and became co-monarch with Mary II of England.
This event galvanised the British nation and placed that country on the path of empire and war in Europe, mainly with France. From 1688 CE, Britain would fight the Nine Years’ War 1688 CE to 1697 CE, the War of the Spanish Succession 1701 CE to 1714 CE, and the Seven Years’ War 1756 CE to 1763 CE was a global conflict that involved most of the European and American Revolutionary War 1775 CE to 1783 CE.
The English were determined to fight France to prevent the French from dominating the European continent, and fighting the French was seen as Britain’s national destiny, likened to the motivation of the First Hundred Years War.
Britain’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, who was in office for 20 years and 315 days from 3 April 1721 until 11 February 1742, lost position due to his unwillingness to fight a war against France and lost the support of the House of Commons.
France, throughout the 18th century, spent 45 years out of 100 fighting wars in Europe and around the globe, with the British being a big funder of the enemies of France.
The American Revolution to the End of the Pax Britannica
The beginning of the end of the British Empire was not from any great rival or catastrophe or long decline being painful or wrecked with war bloodshed; the end of the British Empire came about by the hand of his children with the American Revolutionary War is from 1775 to 1883.
The end of the British Empire was almost prophesied by the Economist, philosopher, and author of The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith, in 1776, the publication of his book and his view on the end of the empire.
Adam Smith argued that colonies would betray and leave the influence of the home islands due to the pursuit of their national self-interests and that the pursuit of the empire would only weaken the home nation.
Great new technologies were also being created with the Industrial Revolution starting in 1769, the creation of the steam engine created by James Watt, though it should be highlighted that the development of technology originated from France in 1680 and eventually, through different iterations, led to the advancements made by James Watt.
The invention of machinery and technology to generate wealth from manufacturing was the first time people were freed from the burden of an agricultural economy.
In 1800 CE, 80% of people survived by farming; now, less than 2% of the UK’s population works in farming. As industrial technology spread from Britain to the rest of Europe and the world, British industry started to decline and become less competitive due to machinery becoming old.
Nations like Germany United for the first time in 1871 CE, outcompeting their British rival.
The reason for this is simple: it took the English seven generations to industrialise, which meant the British took upon the financial burden and development of the technology, while other nations that industrialised after the British followed their technology development path within England.
This is why it took the Germans five generations to surpass the British Empire.
This process repeated nation after nation until contemporary times when China reindustrialised within 40 years. That’s less than seven generations of development within less than one generation.
This is why, by the outbreak of World War One in 1914 CE, Britain’s dominance was over, with Germany and the United States of America taking over the economy and the return to total war continental wars, which had not happened for nearly 100 years.
The End of World War II and Pax Americana
The United States maintained its power and prevented full-scale wars by doing something unique, truly innovative, and very American.
They promised its allies within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation founded in 1949 CE that any nation wishing to join the Western block by being part of the United States sphere of influence would get rich.
The Americans created a system called globalisation rather than the nation’s only trading within their captured market within their empires.
Each country embraced the Adam Smith philosophy specialisation. Each nation will specialise in a product or service that would lead to greater prosperity worldwide.
The United States could only guarantee the security framework during the Second World War in 1945 because, by that point in American history, it had not been around long enough to have poor relations and bad blood with its neighbours.
For example, a nation like Great Britain fought the French from at least 1066 until the battle of Waterloo 1815 CE and the Germans twice within 20 years.
This is replicated in all continents apart from the United States in North America.
America is unique because they historically faced off against three main rivals: the Mexicans, whom they defeated in 1848 CE during the American-Mexico War of 1846 CE to 1848 CE.
The British, who were their old colonial masters, and the Americans had political and social fear.
Finally, the great enemy was the Soviet Union, which threatened the United States with total annihilation from 1945 CE until the end of the Cold War, with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 CE reuniting eastern and western Germany.
The United States, however, the USA paid the price for the power of writing its ally’s foreign policy.
That is, the United States would fight for their allies’ interests worldwide, which is why the United States US engaged in 64 covert and six overt attempts at regime change during the Cold War.
Also, from 1945 CE, the United States was involved in various proxy wars with the Soviet Union and its allies, starting with the Vietnam War, which United States involvement began in 1947 CE to the American withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973, the Korean War 1950 CE to 1953 CE and support of the Mujahideen and Osama Bin Laden in the Soviet-Afghan War of 1979 CE to 1989 CE which contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union but also lead that the United States fighting own 20 years’ war in Afghanistan and the Middle East from 2001 CE to 2021 CE.
The United States paid the price for its involvement in global affairs during the Cold War, with over 340,104 American men killed, and globalisation came at a price for the working classes inside of the developed nations after World War II.
Particularly in the United States, the sacrifice of home-grown American industry is due to globalisation and the reindustrialisation of places like South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan that re-entered the global economy with cheaper manufacturing goods and services in the 1960s and 70s.
The United States enabled less developed nations or nations to become free from colonialism, and the horrors of the Second World War could industrialise historically.
According to the Author and journalist Gregg Easterbrook, countries that did not have access to coal and steel would not industrialise. What the United States did during the Cold War until today was enable all nations to trade internationally even if that nation was not a direct ally of the United States.
The prosperity greater by globalisation has led to extreme poverty across the globe, falling from 76% to 10%, the lowest level ever achieved, according to our method.
This reduction, however, is distributed unevenly throughout the period. It took 136 years from 1820 for our global poverty rate to fall under 50%, then another 45 years to cut this rate in half again by 2001.
A comparison with human history from before 1945 and after 1945 in the period of the Pax Britannica and the Pax Americana was the United States, not the British, that created a lasting peace that was greater and beyond any the other period of human history, there are still wars, but these wars are no longer total wars of previous centuries.