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Greater Britain or Greater Synthesis? Seeley, Mackinder, and Wells on Britain in the global industrial era

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 May 2001

Abstract

At the zenith of British power at the beginning of the twentieth century there was a widespread recognition that Britain's position in the emerging global industrial inter-state system was increasingly precarious and that widespread adjustments would be needed. One solution, the ‘imperial federalism’ of Seeley and Mackinder, proposed the political integration of the scattered British settler colonies into a ‘Greater Britain’. Alternatively, Wells predicted that Britain would become integated into an Anglo-American ‘greater synthesis’, and that Europe would be unified on ‘Swiss confederal’ rather than German authoritarian lines. These proposals and prophesies were based upon interpretations of the changing material context composed of technology interacting with geography, and were seriously flawed. Extensive debates on these schemes indicate that the range of grand strategic choice was broader than that conceptualized by contemporary realism. The failure of British national integration due to geographic factors and the endurance of the Anglo-American special relationship casts the roles of the nation-state and the Western liberal order in a new perspective.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2001 British International Studies Association

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