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Maritime non-fiction / History

How Britain began to rule the waves

The First British Empire: Global Expansion in the Early Modern Age, by John Oliphant

The_First_British_Empire_cover_web.jpgHistorians divide Britain's imperial past into two periods, with the first – an Atlantic dominion including the Caribbean and North American colonies – coming to an end due to American independence. After this, the country needed to rebuild its fortunes by expanding into markets and territories in Asia.

With the British Empire now a popular target for culture wars and 'cancel culture' (replacing the old national mythologising), this new book has been written with the stated goal of approaching the era with accuracy, nuance, and balance. To this end, it presents a variety of perspectives on the empire, including its impact on colonised peoples as well as the motivations and effects on those at home.

This is a detailed and thorough, but very readable, account of the period. And what a time it was, especially for seafarers, as England's colonies were born from the exploits of explorers, anti-Catholic crusaders and pirates – and maintained against the odds. Although not a maritime book per se – it has a more intense focus on politics, economics, social change and war – this time in British history cannot be understood without full consideration of the sea, so there's plenty here for those readers who have a particular interest in our maritime past.

This book is the Nautilus Book of the Month for February 2024, and will be sold at a discount in the Nautilus Bookshop throughout the month

The First British Empire: Global Expansion in the Early Modern Age
By John Oliphant
Amberley Publishing, £22.99
ISBN: 978 14456 96805

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