This chapter begins with a discussion of England's transformation from a weak kingdom on the margins of Europe to a nation able to vie with and sometimes defeat Dutch, French, Portuguese, and Spanish rivals in their competition for new territory and coveted commodities. It argues that there was no single colonial template in place, no clear sense yet that people around the world could be lumped together as subjects to be governed in a uniform style under British administrators and governors. This sensibility was characteristic of a later style of British rule, and possibly the logical result of trends evident in the 17th century toward centralization and force. But even as the assimilationist model waned — replaced by racist ideas that called for rigid hierarchies, displacement, separation, and exclusion — and even as cosmopolitanism no longer defined how the English would encounter the world, the larger lessons cosmopolitans had imparted — the necessity of knowing and understanding the world beyond England's shores — shaped the empire that came in their wake.
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