As an island nation, the sea has
provided Great Britain with a natural barrier that has protected
it from invasion. In the late 1500s, King Phillip II of
Spain launched the famed Spanish Armada with orders to invade
England. In the battle that followed, the Spanish were defeated
and England was not invaded. Until the recent development
of air travel, any nation wishing to take over England would
need to attack by sea.
Natural ports are abundant in the
British isles, eventually allowing the development of a
powerful navy and shipping industry. This is but one of
the factors that led to the start of the Industrial Revolution
in Great Britain. The success of industrialization there
became a driving force, eventually leading to the practice
of imperialism in order to obtain cheap natural resources
and vast markets to consume items manufactured at home.
Britain emerged as a world superpower with its empire stretching
across the globe in areas such as India, Africa, and China.
Japan was one area that did not face
imperialism by Great Britain. Because of its island status,
Japan followed a policy of isolationism for more than 200
years. The policy was easily enforced due to the vast seas
surrounding the island nation. The Japanese thought their culture
superior to all others until the arrival of Commodore
Matthew Perry in the 1850s.
Representing the United States, Perry
demanded that Japan open itself to trade, and soon other
European nations followed suit. Fearing the imperial conquest
that had happened to the neighboring Chinese, the Japanese
began a massive policy of industrialization called the Meiji
Restoration. They soon realized that they lacked abundant
natural resources necessary to sustain industrialization,
and therefore decided to take advantage of their position
in the sea to build a modern navy allowing them to imperialize
Korea, China, and eventually most of the Pacific Rim.