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In his history of the British Empire, written in 1940, A. Newton lamented that Seeley "dealt in the main with the great wars of the eighteenth century and this gave the false impression that the British Empire has been founded largely by war and conquest, an idea that was unfortunately planted firmly in the public mind, not only in Great Britain, but also in foreign countries".

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After losing its first Empire to the Americans, Britain then turned its attention towards Asia, Africa, and the Pacific.

Following the defeat of Napoleonic France in 1815, Britain enjoyed a century of almost unchallenged dominance and expanded its imperial holdings around the globe.

John Darwin (2013) identifies four imperial goals: colonizing, civilizing, converting, and commerce.

The cultural turn in historiography has recently emphasised issues of language, religion, gender, and identity.

The implication Buckner says is that Imperial history is "therefore less important than was formerly believed".