In the last one hundred years, indeed the last 300 years, first the English and then the Americans have led the world both militarily and economically. While the British stopped the advances of French and Spaniards, the Americans (combined with Brits) stopped the advance of Japanese and Germans.
Now, both are engaged in a battle against Islam and, somewhat, with the Chinese. Was the last century – or three – that of the English Speaking? British historian Andrew Roberts discusses this in his new book A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900.
In the past one hundred years, four successive political movements—Prussian militarism, German Nazism, Japanese imperialism, and international Communism— mounted military campaigns to conquer Europe, Asia, and the world. Had any of them prevailed, it would have been a profound loss for civilization as we know it. Yet over the course of these bids for power, a coalition headed first by Britain and then by the United States emerged not just to oppose but to destroy them utterly.
From the long perspective of human affairs, these victories must stand as among the most remarkable of the past three millennia. They were as decisive for world history as the victories of the ancient Greeks over Persia, of Rome over Carthage, and of the Franks over the Umayyad Caliphate.
Moreover, military triumph has been complemented by economic success. The policies of free-trade liberalism, which in the nineteenth century made Britain the economic powerhouse of the world, were revived in our own time to achieve the same for the United States and its trading partners. In the past fifty years, much of the world has been economically transformed to a greater degree than in the previous thousand. Most of Asia has enjoyed unprecedented economic growth, with both China and India propelled from socialist penury to future world-power status by the demands of America’s booming technology and consumer markets.
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