The English economy boomed as the processing of raw materials such as cotton and iron, and manufacture of goods in parallel with the growth of cities and major conurbations forever changed the face of England.
1.6.The British Empire
Although called ''British'', the empire was dominated by England. The credit for the first ever usage of the words ''British Empire'' is usually given to Doctor John Dee, Queen Elizabeth I's astrologer, alchemist, and mathematician.
The British Empire, in the early decades of the 20th century, ruled over a population of 400-500 million people – then roughly a quarter of the world's population – and covered nearly 30 million square kilometers, roughly 40 % of the world's land area.
The British Empire came together over 300 years through a succession of phases of expansion by trade, settlement, or conquest, interspersed with intervals of pacific commercial and diplomatic activity. Its territories were scattered across every continent and ocean, and it was described with some truth, as the empire on the sun never sets. Arguably, its peak was reached in the 1890th and 1900th. The independence of the USA was the only major hiccup in its growth.
The Empire facilitated the spread of British technology, commerce, language, and government around much of the globe. Imperial dominance contributed to Britain's extraordinary economic growth, and greatly strengthened its voice in world affairs. Even as Britain extended its imperial reach overseas, it continued to develop and broaden democratic institutions at the homeland.
From the perspectives of the colonies, the record of the British Empire is mixed. The colonies received from Britain the English language, an administrative and legal framework on the British model, and technological and economic development. During desalinization, Britain sought to pass parliamentary democracy and the rule of law to its colonies have since chosen to join the Commonwealth of Nations, the association which replaced the Empire.
The Victorian Era was at the height of the Industrial Revolution, a period of great social, economic, and technological change in the United Kingdom.
Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria) (1829) was a Queen, reigning from 20 June 1837 until her death 63 years later. As well being queen of the United Kingdom of the Great Britain and Ireland, she was also the first monarch to use the title Empress of India.
Victoria was the last monarch of the House of the Hanover; her successor belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
In 1851, the first World Fair, known as the Great Exhibition of 1851, was held. Organized by Prince Albert, the exhibition was officially opened by the Queen on 1 May 1851. Despite the commercial fears of many, it proved an incredible success, with its profits being used to endow the South Kensington Museum.
The United Kingdom was involved in the Crimean war in 1854, on the side of Ottoman Empire and against Russia. Immediately before the entry of the United Kingdom, rumours that the Queen and Prince Albert preferred the Russian side, whose Royal family were close relatives, diminished the popularity of the Royal couple. Nonetheless, Victoria publicly encouraged unequivocal support for the troops.
During Victoria's last years, the United Kingdom was involved in the two Boer Wars, which received the enthusiastic support of the Queen. These wars resulted in the victory of the British over the Dutch settlers in Southern Africa, the liquidation of the two independent republics they had founded and the incorporation of the territories into the British Empire. During the later war with Germany the Royal family changed its surname in 1917 to Windsor to minimize embarrassment.
1.7. World War I and the "inter-war" years
World War I, also known as the First World War, the Great War, the War of the Nations, and the "War to end of Wars", was a world conflict occurring from 1914 to 1918. No previous conflict had mobilized so many soldiers or involved so many in the field of battle. Never before had casualties been so high. Chemical weapons were used for the first time, the first mass bombardment of civilians from the sky was executed, and some of the century's first large-scale civilian massacres took place. Both the UK and British Empire were major force on the, eventually, winning side, while Germany led the opposing force.
WWI proved to be the catalyst for the Russian Revolution, which would inspire later revolutions in countries as diverse as China and Cuba, and would lay the basis for the Cold War standoff between the Soviet Union and the United States. The defeat of Germany in the war and failure to resolve the unsettled issues that had caused the Great War would lay the basis for the rise of Nazism, and thus the outbreak of World War II in 1939. It also laid the basis for a new form of warfare that relied heavily on technology, and would involve non-combatants in war as never before,
The war has shattering effect on Britain. About 750,000 members of British armed forces died. German submarines sank about 7 million tons of British shipping. The war also created severe economic problems for Britain and shook its position as a world power.
By 1920, nearly 2 million workers were unemployed. The coal industry suffered badly as people began to use oil for fuel. Trade unions tried to win gains for their members in many industries. But employers refused concessions, and strikes followed.
A General Strike occurred in 1926, when miners, supported by the Trades Union Congress, struck against reduced wages. After nine days, the main strike ended. The miners remained on strike several months longer but finally had to accept the wage cuts.
The world economic situation deteriorated in the late 1920's. By 1932, the United Kingdom had about 3 million unemployed. The industrial districts of northern England, Scotland, and South Wales became distressed areas, each with thousands of people out of work.
The world economic crisis gradually eased. Economic growth occurred mostly in London, south-east England, and the western Midlands. In these areas, new industries produced airplanes, cars, radio and electrical equipment, and other items powered by oil and electricity. In the 1930s, Coventry had 142 factories marking cars. Working conditions and housing in these areas were better than in the old industrial regions.
King George V died in 1936, and his oldest son became King Edward VIII. Edward wanted to marry an American divorcee, Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson. The government, the Church of England, and many British people objected. Edward then abdicated, gave up the throne, to marry "the woman I love." The story unraveled like a soap opera and held Britain enthralled. It as never clears whether the majority of the people supported or opposed the union.
Edward's brother became as George VI.
1.8.World War II and the 'post-war' years.
German and Soviet troops marched into Poland on September 1, 1939. The war that Churchill had so publicly foreseen had begun. On September 3, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. Prime Minister Neville chamberlain at once named Churchill first Lord of the Admiralty, the same post he had held in World War I. The British fleet was notified with a simple message: "Winston is back."
Chamberlain's government fell in 1940 after various military setbacks. On May 10, King George VI asked Churchill to form a new government. At the age of 66, Churchill became prime minister of Great Britain.
The Germans had to defeat the Royal Air Force before they could invade across the English Channel. In July 1940, the German Luftwaffe (air force) began to bomb British shipping and ports, and in September, began nightly raids on London. "The Blitz" destroyed many British cities, perhaps the worst damage being Coventry. The RAF, though outnumbered, fought bravely and finally defeated the Luftwaffe. Churchill expressed the nation's gratitude to it's airman: "Never in field of human conflict as so much owed by so many to so few."
While the battle raged, Churchill turned up everywhere. He defied air-raid alarms and went into the streets as the bombs fell. He toured RAF headquarters, inspected coastal defences, and visited victims of the air raids. Everywhere he went he held up two fingers in a "V for victory" salute. To the people of all the Allied nations, this simple gesture became an inspiring symbol of faith in eventual victory.