How Great Britain is now right on course to become Little Britain
How did a small island ever become the most powerful country on the planet? Our nearest neighbour was always an unlikely candidate to become the world's superpower, but that is exactly what Britain managed.
For a fair number of decades in the 19th century its economy was the workshop of the world as it led the industrial revolution. On that economic foundation was built the biggest empire that has ever existed.
Although the term 'Great Britain' was coined in Roman times by the geographer Ptolemy to refer to the larger of these two islands (he called Ireland "little Britain"), it was only with the invention of the steam engine, steel and mass production that the country rose to became the most powerful state in the world.