'If it had not been for you English, I should have been Emperor of the East; but wherever there is water to float a ship, we are sure to find you in our way.' Emperor Napoleon But just thirty-five years earlier, Britain lacked any major continental allies, and was wracked by crises and corruption. Many thought that she would follow France into revolution. The British elite had no such troubling illusions: defeat was not a possibility. Since not all shared that certainty, the resumption of the conflict and its pursuit through years of Napoleonic dominance is a remarkable story of aristocratic confidence and assertion of national superiority. Winning these wars meant ruthless imperialist expansion, spiteful political combat, working under a mad king and forging the most united national effort since the days of the Armada. And it meant setting the foundations for the greatest empire the world has ever known.
David Andress is Professor of Modern History at the University of Portsmouth, where he has taught since 1994. He is the author of a number of acclaimed studies of the French Revolution and its international context, including The French Revolution and the People (2004), The Terror (2005), and 1789 (2008). As well as broadening his writing interests to embrace the British Isles, he is currently editing the Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution.