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Does Britain still lead the world in anything? © Getty Images

Does Britain still lead the world in anything?

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Rule Brittania?

Asked by: Paul Hider, by email


While Britons have pioneered all sorts of things from the steam engine and the computer to passenger jets and rugby football, we have dismally failed to maintain world dominance in much at all that we can be proud of.

One problem is the size of Britain. Our population is too small to compete with the likes of the US in rankings based on sheer numbers of, say, Nobel Prizes. On the other hand, we’re too big a country to beat tiny nations like Luxembourg on per capita rankings of, say, numbers of patented inventions granted per year.

What’s left isn’t very impressive: we are the largest importer of wine, the biggest consumer of fast food (yes, really), the most surveilled people on the planet with around five million CCTV cameras, and we’re among the world’s biggest arms producers. Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it?


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Robert is a science writer and visiting professor of science at Aston University.


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