Rudyard Kipling’s creations in verse and prose are among the most familiar in the English language. It would be difficult to shield a child in any Anglophone country from Mowgli’s exploits among the wolves, or from an explanation of how the leopard got his spots. Many teenagers are still exposed to the hammering exhortations of “If—,” recently voted the most popular poem in Great Britain:If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
The incoherence of the British Empire
Was there ever really a British Empire? Cartographers certainly wanted you to think so. Starting in the late eighteenth century, British mapmakers colored territories ruled by the British in red or more often in pink (for contrast with the typeface). At the height of Britain’s global power, imperial pink tinted a quarter of the map. Suspended on the walls of schoolrooms around the empire, the map became one of the most memorable icons of British dominance.