, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 483-487

First online:

The British isles and the age of exploration — a maritime perspective

  • Smith Hance D. Affiliated withDepartment of Maritime Studies and International Transport, University of Wales

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The basic patterns of economic and political development of the British Isles region in a European context is outlined for the half century following Columbus’ discovery of America, noting the separate identities of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The maritime dimension of these developments was based on trade with Europe, developed mainly in England and Scotland; and upon considerable development of the fisheries. Exploration and colonial expansion did not begin until after 1550 and continued into the seventeenth century. The historical role of the British Isles in Europe is considered as a sequence of approximately half-century phases extending from 1500 until the present, in which British maritime supremacy played a role in the nineteenth century similar to that played by the Spanish Empire in the sixteenth century.