The years 1790 to 1830 saw Britain engage in an extensive period of war-waging and empire-building which transformed its position as an imperial state, established its reputation as a distinctive military power and secured naval preeminence.
Despite this apparent success, Britain did not become a world super power in the conventional sense. Instead, as Professor Collins demonstrates, it operated as an enclave power, influencing or dominating many regions of the world without ever asserting global hegemony. Even in the 1820s, Britain still had to fight to maintain influence, and sometimes struggled to assert dominance on the borderlands of the empire.
By locating naval and military power at the heart of Britain's relationship with the wider world, Bruce Collins offers an insightful reinterpretation of the interaction between military and naval war-making, the expansion of the empire, and the nature of the British regime. Using examples of conflicts ranging from continental Europe and Ireland to North America, Africa and India, he argues that the state's effectiveness in war was crucial to its imperial expansion and gives new significance to British military conduct in an age of revolution and war.
Bruce Collins is Professor of Modern History at Sheffield Hallam University.