Brexit and the British Empire

Some historians argue that what we have seen with the British referendum result to leave the European Union is a repeat melodrama of an Empire coming to terms with its decline.

Brexit and the British Empire

The Roman Empire reached its territorial peak around the time of Emperors Hadrian and then Trajan in the 2nd century.

Rome was sacked three centuries later in 476. What happened in those 300 or more years between the Empire’s peak and its end? Like all Empires facing decline, it spluttered on, its strength compromised by overspending, its territories divided by a growing number of political and border disputes and rivalries, it’s power waning, its territories decreasing, all the while a rump of true believers contending that the glory days had not passed. Like all Empires before and since these true believers felt those glory days would return. History now tells us that it did not.

After the Roman Empire, the British Empire is probably the most successful Empire the world has ever seen, particularly in terms of its cultural impact. However, the British Empire peaked less than 100 years ago.

Study Guide: The American War Of Independence

Some historians argue that what we have seen with the British referendum result to leave the European Union is a repeat melodrama of an Empire coming to terms with its decline. As such, those who wish to leave yearn for a return to the days of the past, where Britain can rediscover its role as a great trading nation. Those who wish to remain accept that like all Empires the pinnacle has been reached, and that a nation the size of Britain in terms of population and economy is best suited as a part of a greater body such as the European Union.

European Parliament Strasbourg, TeaMeister, Flickr Creative Commons

European Parliament Strasbourg, TeaMeister, Flickr Creative Commons

In the last 50 years Britain has successfully integrated as a part of a greater Europe with an identity to match. Most people believe that in a globalised digital world interconnectivity is the future. However if Britain is to follow the life cycle of other Empires that have preceded it, the 21st Century could be characterised by many more decades of division and decline. Growing unrest with the strong ties with Europe which dilute the “sovereignty” of a nation which once ruled half of the planet does indeed sing to this tune.

The Eastern Roman Empire lived on for another 1000 years before the sacking of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453. Some Historians contend that the divisions in modern Britain caused by the UK’s removal from a greater Europe will mean the United Kingdom could splinter into separate entities with England, Scotland and Wales becoming separate countries and with Northern Ireland once again becoming part of Ireland.

Whatever the outcome, history tells us it is difficult to reclaim the glory days of the past. Will Britain thrive as an independent nation in a global world, or is her position within a greater European superstate still the best option for economic prosperity and social harmony?

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Empire Builders

From the Romans to the Raj, the Ottomans to the Incas, great empires have come and gone through the ages; but all have left behind extraordinary legacies, monuments, inventions and innovations that were so revolutionary that they changed the course of history.

Bringing to life ten great empires, each episode visiting the ten most significant sites that defined their achievements and legacy; “Empire Builders” visits 100 historic sites, discovering how they were built, for what purpose, and what they reveal about the empire’s rise and fall.


Britain’s empire was one of conquest and credit; an empire based on money, on violence, and on the ability to employ large numbers of troops to fight.

In this episode of Empire Builders, we explore 10 sites that made history, and chart the rise and fall of the British empire. Visit us over at the Pilot Guides Store to download the full episode or buy on DVD.


Rome’s empire was built on power and conquest. They invented the victory arch. Its not surprising Rome’s ingenious and groundbreaking building methods were copied by successive European empires and still are today.

In this episode of Empire Builders we explore 10 sites that defined the Roman Empire.  Visit us over at the Pilot Guides Store to download the full episode or buy on DVD.

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