Great Britain's geopolitical role in the global scheme of things has undergone many radical changes over the last four centuries. Once a maritime superpower and ruler of half the world, Britain's current position as an isolated, economically fragile island squabbling with its European neighbours often seems difficult to accept, it not comprehend. Although still afforded nominal status through membership of groups such as G7 and the retention of a permanent seat on the UN Security Coucil, the simple truth is that Britian has been resting on her laurels since 1945, if not before. This book covers the history of the British expansion overseas from the 16th century to the 20th century. Narrative and analysis are interwoven with revealing eyewitness quotation to provide keen insight into the minds of those involved in conquering, settling and ruling the greatest empire the world has ever seen. Throughout, there are consistent themes: the search for profit and the moral misgivings it generated; domestic developments which made imperial expansion desirable; and the sense of national and personal identity felt by the empire-builders.