“The British like to see their military history as a succession of scrapes — the Armada or the Battle of Britain, for example — in which they are outnumbered and outgunned and survive by guts and ingenuity. It seems to demonstrate a higher moral purpose. But much of the story of their empire is testament not to moral but to technological superiority. . . . As Hilaire Belloc put it in The Modern Traveller, published that year:

Whatever happens, we have got // The Maxim Gun, and they have not.”

— Jeremy Paxman, Empire