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Pax Britannica (Latin for "the British Peace", modelled after Pax Romana) was the period of relative peace in Europe when the British Empire controlled most of the key naval trade routes and enjoyed unchallenged sea power. It refers to a period of British imperialism after the 1815 Battle of Waterloomarker, which led to a period of overseas British expansionism. Britain dominated overseas markets and managed to influence and almost dominate Chinese markets after the Opium Wars.

The Empire's strength was guaranteed by dominance of a Europe lacking in strong nation states, and the presence of the Royal Navy on all of the world's oceans and seas. In 1905, the Royal Navy was superior in strength to the next two largest navies combined (known as the 'two power rule').

This led to the spread of the English language, the British Imperial system of measures, and rules for commodity markets based on English common law.

The Pax Britannica was weakened by the breakdown of the continental order established by the Congress of Vienna. Relations between the Great Powers of Europe were strained to breaking point by issues such as the decline of the Ottoman Empire, which lead to the Crimean War, and later the emergence of new nation states in the form of Italymarker and Germanymarker after the Franco-Prussian War. Both of these two wars involved Europe's largest states and armies. The industrialisation of Germanymarker, the Empire of Japanmarker, and the United States of Americamarker further contributed to the decline of British industrial supremacy following the 1870s.

Other uses

  • The phrase was used by the British author Jan Morris as the title of the middle volume of a trilogy about the rise and fall of the British Empire. The book surveyed the Empire at the time of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee on 22 June, 1897. The first volume of the trilogy was Heaven's Command, the last Farewell the Trumpets.
  • Pax Britannica is the title of a 1949 book by the British writer and commentator F. A. Voigt, arguing that continuation of the British Empire – in a fast process of dissolution at the time of writing – was essential for the stability of the world.
  • The phrase was used as the title of a 1985 Charles Roberts/Origins Award-winning board wargame by Greg Costikyan which, while out of print, is still popular as a play-by-mail and play-by-email game. The game has rules governing the acquisition of colonial territories, and declaration of war on other countries, but all wars only take place in the Third World.
  • The 1990 Album of the London industrial music group Test Dept was called Pax Britannica.
  • One of the series of novels from Abaddon Books is called "Pax Britannia."

The Pax Britannica lasted for approximately a century. It ended with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

See also


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