This essay demonstrates the relationship between Romantic-period travel in its various forms, and the social and political contexts that emerged from it. It considers travel for educational and recreational purposes, to increase scientific and cultural knowledge, and to colonise new territories and acquire economic or administrative control of land abroad. While recognising the impact of travel on a wide variety of locations through recent postcolonial studies (that include China, South America, the Arctic, and Antarctic) the regions of Europe, Africa, North America, Australasia, and India are focused on here as the most represented areas in travel writing and the imaginative literature it inspired. The Romantic period was an important watershed in the history of empire, before more rigid structures of imperial policy were implemented in the later nineteenth century. This provided a discursive space in which discussion of British responsibilities abroad, as well as counter-imperial arguments, could come to the fore. Thus, the interesting intersections between Romantic formulations of the world and socio-political interventions in these global contexts can be understood through the writings of the period.