Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire, 1714–1783 by Brendan Simms - review by Leslie Mitchell

Leslie Mitchell

Keeping an Eye on the Neighbours

Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire, 1714–1783

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From the very beginning of this book, the reader is left in no doubt of what he should think once its eight hundred pages have been absorbed. The first paragraph pronounces that ‘the history of eighteenth-century Britain was in Europe’. All the attention given to America, India, and the imperial project generally has gone too far. In fact, British soldiers sweating it out in Bengal or freezing in New England were only engaged in peripheral events. The real focus of foreign policy had to be on European developments.

There were lots of reasons why this should be so. For much of the century, trade with European countries was four or fives times greater than that with the emerging empire. It was still twice as important on the eve of the American War of Independence. Until 1763, more soldiers

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