An Empire Drowning: British Imperialism and the Sea in Literature

Catherine Ferguson


This essay argues that when the British Empire came into power during the colonial era, its own thirst for expansive power is what led to its fear of the ocean and the untamed world. To address this, the essay examines a variety of literary sources, including the Bible, Robert Louis Stevensons Treasure Island, and Virginia Woolfs The Waves. Focusing primarily on the fear of untamable nature, the essay emphasizes how these texts construct the sea as a liminal space that escapes order. The essay states that Britain did not simply have a fear of the ocean despite its power, but more accurately, its power is what caused its fear.

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