Europe was already crowded with advanced civilisations when Imperialism was at its peak. Therefore, there were virtually no colonies or protectorates administered by the British. There was, however, a British presence in the Mediterrenean. This was brought about primarly through the Royal Navy's insatiable demand for naval bases. The outposts in the Mediterrenean were all gained at different times, but all served the purpose of helping to guard and keep open the essential communications lines to India. Concerns over Indian security would provide successive British governments with excuses for bases and annexations in all sorts of places. In the case of the Mediterrenean sea, it provided the fastest form of communication to India even before the opening of the Suez canal. With the advent of the Suez canal, the Mediterrenean quickly became the jugular vein of empire; transporting goods and forces between the Mother country and the colonies. These outposts of empire were of genuine strategic value to the British Empire.

Ireland was very much a victim of proximity. Sharing the same set of Islands as their powerful British neighbours, and facing the wrong direction to have any powerful European allies, meant that it was always going to be difficult for the Irish to remain independent of the Empire.

For more information on the colonies please click on their nameplates on the map...

British Empire clickable map

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by Stephen Luscombe