Edited by Eric H. Kessler and Diana J. Wong-MingJi
Chapter 8: Cultural Mythology and Global Leadership in England
Romie Frederick Littrell INTRODUCTION At least some of the English have had a tradition of viewing themselves as uniquely qualified to be world leaders; Lord Palmerston, in 1858 in Parliament: ‘our duty – our vocation – is not to enslave, but to set free; and I may say, without any vain-glorious boast, or without great offence to anyone, we stand at the head of moral, social and political civilization. Our task is to lead the way and direct the march of other nations’, and according to Archibald Philip Primrose 5th earl of Rosebery, prime minister 1894–5, the British Empire was ‘the greatest secular agency for good that the world has seen’. England has significant examples of effective leadership in King William I of Normandy, establishing a line of kings who built and adapted a strong, lasting government. King John abused his powers, and was forced by noble English leaders to sign the Magna Carta, which limited the powers of the king and established a cornerstone of English Common Law, spread by the Empire around the world. Henry II established laws for all of the people of England. Under the rule of Elizabeth I, England became one of the most powerful nations in the world, growing into the British Empire in the seventeenth to twentieth centuries. The events of the building of the British Empire actually define the Real First World War, where the pursuit of trade brought British overseas merchants and the military into conflict with other imperial powers, initially with...
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