Here is a compilation of term papers on ‘Britain and the World’ for class 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short term papers on ‘Britain and the World’ especially written for school and college students.
1. Term Paper on Britain and the World (1815-1832):
This, however, is a field in which it is notoriously easier to find a detailed narrative than a generalized survey, and so it may be useful to supply the latter.
It must first be realized, as it often is not, that relations between States differ fundamentally from relations within States. In domestic affairs the State is sovereign in the sense of giving law and commanding obedience, and often deploys its power and authority to harmonize and pacify, to achieve compromises and consensus, and to avert confrontations, within society.
The British State became increasingly successful in these aims, except in Ireland. In international affairs, at least within Europe, there seemed to be a parallel development. There was greater reluctance to engage in war, especially in Britain, than in previous periods, and fewer wars occurred than in earlier and later centuries.
The Great Powers collaborated in many cases to settle international differences peacefully. But the State in its external relations remained sovereign in the sense that it was subject to no overriding control, and the factor of power and the threat of war always lurked just behind the exchanges of diplomacy. Outside Europe, Britain, is officially and unofficially, showed less hesitation to use force.
So great was Britain’s power in the nineteenth century that, as is true only of very strong or very fortunate states, what she did domestically was scarcely affected by the actions of other Powers. Britain’s interest in the rest of the world was exceptional, but for the most part outgoing.
There were, it is true, a number of alarms or invasion panics, chiefly in connection with France. But their main significance was that they hastened the process, more or less continuous during the nineteenth century, of refurbishing the British navy.
The fleet was usually kept at the ‘two-power standard’, that is, equal to the combined forces of the two largest navies other than Britain’s, and never fell below the ‘one-and-a-half power standard’. Britain was therefore for practical purposes immune from invasion, which every other European country experienced during the century.
Sea-power enabled and encouraged her to divide her external relations into two nearly distinct compartments, those with the Continent of Europe, and those with the rest of the world. This point must be elaborated, both in general and with particular reference to the Treaties of 1815 and the policies of the succeeding years.
British statesmen of the nineteenth century never seriously entertained the idea of annexing territory on the mainland of Europe. But they considered that Britain had interests there. They all held that the union of the Continent under one Power would be dangerous to Britain and that she must oppose, if necessary by force, any attempt to dominate Europe. They believed more particularly that Britain could not safely acquiesce in the union of France with what is now Belgium.
Britain had entered on war with France in 1793 because her rulers thought that the French invasion of Belgium both constituted in itself a serious threat to British interests and security, and reflected an intention to try to dominate the whole of Europe. The Treaties of 1815 ratified the return to something like the position of before 1793, and Britain’s prime concern in European politics was to keep France thus contained.
The only other Power, which sometimes seemed equally dangerous, was Russia, for reasons which will appear. By extension, it was further held that it was to the advantage of Britain to preserve a ‘Balance of Power’ in Europe, that is, a situation in which several Great Powers were comparable with each other in strength, by supporting the weaker against the stronger. But this wider principle could be very flexibly applied, and seldom seemed to require the use of force to maintain it.
Outside Europe, on the other hand, it was the aim of Britain’s statesmen that she herself should be dominant. This is not to say that they wished her to annex the whole world. Almost all of them were reluctant to take over the government of any more large territories.
The history of the American colonies was regarded as an object-lesson. It appeared that the likely outcome of establishing a large settlement colony was rebellion and separation. In any case, it cost Britain a good deal to defend her Empire, and the return was uncertain, except in the case of India, where revenue exceeded expenditure.
There was growing doubt that the main eighteenth-century argument for colonies, that they increased the trade of the mother-country by giving her a monopoly of their markets, was valid. British statesmen took little pride in the Empire, at least until the 1870s.
But they were determined that their country’s possessions and trade should be unmolested, and, though they did not forbid other Powers to acquire new territory outside Europe, they viewed the process with suspicion.
The pressures on the home government from outside Britain, and sometimes from within, were strong in support of further annexations, and the Empire grew steadily throughout the period.
Foreign and Imperial Policy:
In European affairs the main interest of the years after Waterloo lies in the attitude of the Great Powers to liberal, nationalist and revolutionary movements. To the rulers of Russia, Austria and Prussia, and to the Bourbon Kings restored in France when Napoleon fell, the European settlement of 1815 was sacred and indivisible, not only the frontiers between the states but also the regimes within them.
Any change in either threatened the security of all governments. Reform was no better than revolution, liberalism than democracy, nationalism than expansionism – each involved all the others. The settlement, however, left the Austrian, Russian and Ottoman Empires all governing many people who felt some consciousness of nationality distinct from their rulers and from other groups within the Empire concerned.
Castlereagh considered it unpractical to try to prevent all change; he did not think that the interests of Britain required him to do so; and he knew that the British public would not allow him to adopt that policy. He thought that a Power which moved to suppress a revolution or a constitution in another state might have expansionist intentions, and that its action might be more likely to disturb the peace than the change of regime against which it was directed.
He was enough of a constitutionalist to sympathize with some of the opponents of the established order abroad. But, though he would not approve the intervention of the Powers against the revolutions of 1820, he would not actively oppose it. This was his version of the policy or doctrine of ‘non-intervention’.
Canning’s emphasis was different. He had more sympathy with liberal movements. He was also anxious to identify himself with a popular foreign policy, and took to publishing more of his dispatches than his predecessors. But he did not believe that it was in Britain’s interests to support constitutionalism in all cases, and, except in Portugal, he refused to give it active assistance.
He differed from Castlereagh less in what he wanted to happen than in his attitude to co-operation with other Powers. Both men held that it was more important to Britain that Europe should be at peace and that there should be some sort of Balance of Power on the Continent than that established regimes and boundaries should be rigidly preserved. But Canning pursued British interests in isolation, without regard for those of other states.
The battle of Navarino was a brilliant naval victory against a much superior force. Yet it was described in the King’s Speech as ‘an untoward event’. Canning and his successors were torn between sympathy with the Greeks, Christians and heirs of ancient civilization struggling against rulers who were Moslem as well as barbarous, and reluctance to do anything which might reduce Turkish and increase Russian power.
Only when it had become apparent that the Greeks were going to establish themselves anyway did Canning negotiate a settlement on this basis with Russia. Navarino was fought to put an end to the Turks’ obstruction of this settlement.
It is noticeable that even in Europe Britain was at her most effective in questions concerning weak Powers with access to the sea. The Mediterranean, like the oceans, was dominated by the British navy. The use of the fleet to advance British views was considered normal, the use of the army exceptional.
Half unintentionally, Britain had much expanded her Empire during the wars with France. She had been induced, largely by a threat of French-rivalry, to annex much more of India, and by 1818, through the East India Company, governed directly 553,000 square miles with an estimated population of 87,000,000, and indirectly a further 590,000 square miles and 43,000,000 people.
With Europe sealed off by her navy from the rest of the world, she had taken over most of the enemy French and Dutch Empires. At the end of the war she handed back some of her conquests, retaining only those which were considered necessary to her trade and to enable her navy to control the seas. But the Empires of all other Powers were crumbling. France’s was almost wholly gone.
The Dutch had given up Ceylon and part of Guiana, as well as the Cape, to Britain, and remained rulers of the East Indies by her permission. The Spanish and Portuguese colonies on the mainland of America, separated from the mother-countries during the wars, rebelled against them when their rule was re-imposed.
By 1824 the colonies were independent. Britain was the only Power in a position to fill the power-vacuum that existed in large parts of the world, and between 1815 and 1832 was sometimes tempted to annex territory in the interests of her traders or of existing colonists.
In 1819 Singapore was purchased on the first ground, in 1829 the colony of Western Australia founded on the second. In general, however, it was ‘informal empire’ that was preferred. The South American republics owed their political independence to Britain and her navy, but they were effectively her economic colonies.
Trade between Britain and South America developed much more rapidly than that between Britain and Canada, reinforcing the view that direct rule of territory overseas brought no economic advantage. The truth was that Britain was so easily the greatest industrial and commercial country of the world that no area could afford not to trade with her.
She had little reason to fear foreign competition, whether in her own colonies or elsewhere. Her navy ensured security for commerce. Free Trade theories were peculiarly applicable to this situation.
Relations with the United States presented a special problem. Unless they were peaceful, Britain’s trade and her cotton industry would be disrupted and Canada threatened, as during the war of 1812-14. There were plenty of small disputes, chiefly over the Canadian boundary, which could have led to war.
But of course the American as well as the British economy would have suffered severely if it had come to that. Cotton exports to Britain made up nearly a half of total United States exports.
Britain was careful not to oppose the United States’ westward expansion to the Pacific, and it was with the un-acknowledged assistance of British ships and policy that President Monroe was able in 1823 to proclaim his ‘Doctrine’ that European Powers should not interfere in the affairs of the American Continent. At various times each side avoided taking offence too readily at the actions of the other, recognizing how much it stood to lose by going to war.
In the internal affairs of the British Empire two developments of particular importance must be noticed:
First, in India the arrival of Lord William Bentinck to be Governor-General in 1828 was the beginning of an era of reform.
Secondly, in Canada demands became stronger for ‘responsible government’, that is, for the surrender of British control over the domestic affairs of the country, especially as embodied in nominated governors and executive councils, to locally-elected representatives.
2. Term Paper on Britain and the World (1832-1850):
During these years Britain took decisive action in relation to all her principal dependencies. The effects on world history have been enormous, greater possibly than those of her domestic development, certainly than those of her foreign policy, over the same period. The most important instances concern Ireland, India and the struggle over ‘responsible government’ in the settlement colonies.
The Act of 1800 had made Ireland legally part of the United Kingdom. But she never became integrated with England, even to the degree that Scotland did. Irish nationalism was to develop further later in the century, but it had been maturing already before the Union. The Irish were thought of, and thought of themselves, as a distinct people.
Already relations between them and the British had been poisoned by a long history of unhappy incidents. Matters were made worse by the fact that the two nations were both established in both countries, and by the grave domestic problems of Ireland.
Most of the land of Ireland was owned by persons of English origin. Many of these landlords were absentee. Those who worked the land were mostly Irish, mere tenants under English law, but conceiving of themselves as part-owners. Most landlords were Protestant, most tenants Roman Catholic, yet the tenants had to pay tithe to the Protestant Established Church.
Thus, there was a clash of nationality, religion and attitude to law, in addition to the normal tension between the receiver and the payer of rent. Further, the situation was radically different in one small area of Ireland, Ulster. There landlords accepted that tenants had some rights in their holdings, and many of the tenants, being of Scottish origin, were Protestant.
Land was all-important in Ireland. The linen industry flourished, especially round Belfast, but general industrial development was stifled by British competition and lack of mineral resources. Irish agriculture was prosperous in a sense. It produced a good deal of corn, which was mostly exported to Britain, and an ever-increasing amount of potatoes, on which the mass of the inhabitants lived.
Enclosure had not occurred as in Britain. Rather, the number of small tenanted plots was allowed to grow fast. The population was rising rapidly, and by the census of 1841 had reached at least 8,000,000, twice the modern level and equal to over half the population of England and Wales at that date.
Standards of living were far lower than in Britain, and there was no general Poor Law until 1838, when a stricter version of the English Act of 1834 was enacted for Ireland. For most Irishmen a smallholding and the food it produced offered the only prospect of survival, except perhaps for emigration.
It has already been pointed out that large numbers of Irishmen swelled the population of Britain by the 1840s, especially in the Glasgow and Liverpool areas. Their primitive and ostentatious Catholicism heightened Protestant sentiment, and their poverty and tolerance of squalor intensified distaste for them, in Britain.
Doubtless Ireland’s problems would have been better treated separately from Britain’s, and in fact special measures were usually passed for the island. But the constitutional relationship made it necessary for Ireland’s affairs to be discussed at length by Parliament at Westminster, rather than treated like those of a straightforward colony.
The presence of many Irish landowners in the House of Lords made certain kinds of legislation very difficult to pass, and the addition of 100 odd Irish M.P.s to the House of Commons not only be devilled British politics and delayed British business but also, in the state of the electoral system both before and after the changes of 1829 and 1832, gave publicity and authority to unrepresentative views on Irish questions.
Moreover, Irish conditions bred so much violence that the army rather than the civil power was employed to enforce order, and the ordinary liberties of the subject were abridged more often than not.
In the field of education in particular, Parliament showed itself prepared between 1831 and 1850 to enact measures for Ireland far more drastic than would have been entertained for Britain: an undenominational State education system was imposed in 1831; new Universities, intended to be secular, were chartered in 1845.
The Irish Church Temporalities Act was nearer to confiscation of Church property than anything applied in Britain during these years. But the reforms of Parliamentary representation and of municipal corporations (1840) were decidedly restrictive.
Tithe, though its collection had been rendered impossible by concerted violence by 1832, was not made a charge on landlords and commuted until 1838, two years later than for Britain. An attempt to modify the land law in the interests of the tenants was defeated in the Lords in 1845.
Ireland in the ‘forties supplies another example, like Chartism in Britain, of a great popular movement which had no direct influence on Parliament. O’Connell, the victor of Catholic emancipation, was the effective spokesman of Ireland in the ‘thirties and ‘forties, until his death in 1847.
He worked with the Whig Government of 1835-41 in the hope of procuring Irish reforms, and with some success. In 1840, however, he took up the cause of Repeal of the Union, which commanded wide and enthusiastic support in Ireland but was anathema in England. By 1843 the movement seemed to some as strong as the Catholic Association had ever been.
But Peel’s Government defeated it in that year by measures of coercion, by forbidding at the last moment a monster meeting arranged at Clontarf, and by securing the imprisonment of O’Connell. The reasons for the failure of the movement are similar to those for the failure of Chartism. O’Connell insisted on legality and order among his followers.
He successfully advised them to acquiesce in the prohibition of the Clontarf meeting. So, there was in reality much less reason to fear civil war in Ireland in 1843 than in 1829. Repeal was a less meaningful programme even than the Charter; it was quite unclear what was supposed to be substituted for the Act of Union.
Although the House of Commons contained some 30 Irish M.P.s who supported it, there were more opposed to it. Ireland in fact was less united in favour of Repeal than it had been in favour of Emancipation. Britain was virtually unanimous on the question, whereas she had been divided in 1829. Peel’s answer to the movement, like his answer to Chartism, was social legislation: better security for Roman Catholic endowments, an increased grant for the seminary at Maynooth and attempted land reform.
Castastrophe intervened. With successive seasons of potato blight, perhaps a million Irishmen died of starvation and associated disease between 1845 and 1849. Roughly the same number emigrated. Peel’s Government tried to ease the situation by distributing cheaply specially-imported maize and by a programme of public works.
In March 1847 the number employed on relief works reached its maximum of 734,792. This policy was then abandoned by Russell’s Government in favour of compelling the Irish upper classes to organize and pay for adequate provision against starvation, both individually and through the Poor Law. It soon became evident that this could not suffice.
The Treasury had to assist, though technically only with loans. In August 1847, 3,000,000 Irishmen were being fed at the public expense. While, throughout the period of the famine, grain was leaving the country for consumption in Britain, between September 1846 and July 1847 cereal imports were four times as high as exports.
It will always be disputed how much Governments could and should have done to relieve the situation. Considering their attitudes in other matters, their beliefs that the State should not normally interfere in the workings of the economy and that it was the business of the local propertied classes, in Ireland as in Britain, to support the poor, and bearing in mind the pressure of British taxpayers and economists against relief expenditure by the Treasury, the remarkable fact seems to be that they did so much.
The scale of the calamity was without recent precedent and contemporary parallel in Western Europe. On the other hand, while it is said that during Peel’s Ministry no one actually died of starvation in Ireland, during Russell’s the story was very different. It has been implied that Peel, if he had remained in office, might have carried out policies better-calculated to preserve lives, but, if so, he never indicated what they would have been.
The problem became more difficult after he resigned. However, an indictment lies against the whole framework of the age’s economic ideas. More specifically, for the Irish it was another, and the greatest, count against Britain that hundreds of thousands should die while their produce was being shipped to feed other parts of the United Kingdom.
In result, the population of Ireland fell, and continued to do so well into the present century. It was 6,500,000 in 1851, 5,800,000 ten years later. The average age of marriage climbed into the thirties, as men waited for the opportunity to obtain a holding of reasonable size. Emigration continued on a large scale.
Subdivision of land ceased, and by the Encumbered Estates Act of 1849 the British Government applied a new remedy to Ireland, encouragement to Free Trade in land and so, it was hoped, to enclosures and the development of ‘high farming’.
This enactment, attempting to establish in Ireland a system which had proved successful in Britain, was another instance of an Irish measure more drastic than could have been passed for the United Kingdom as a whole. Characteristically too, it failed. Recipes applicable in Britain did not succeed in Ireland.
When Lord William Bentinck went to India as Governor-General in 1828, he wrote to Bentham: ‘I shall govern in name, but it will be you who will govern in fact’. With Benthamite influence is came more general radical attitudes. Bentinck and his assistants despised the old culture, languages, laws, customs and religions of India, and wanted to introduce progressive Western ideas and institutions into the country.
Associated with Radical administrators came Christian missionaries, first allowed into India in 1813, equally critical of much that they found there. Bentinck legislated for India in the ruthless manner Bentham recommended for all countries. Ritual murders and suicides were forbidden.
The codification of the law began, based on English notions, and for the first time some Indian judges were appointed to administer it. There already existed provision by the Company, under the Charter of 1813, for an annual subvention to Indian education. Bentinck, relying on an Education Minute written by Macaulay, declared in 1835 that ‘the content of higher education should be Western learning, including science, and that the language of instruction should be English’.
English was made the official language of government business. By these measures Bentinck forcibly exposed India to the ideas of the West, especially of his own country, to Christianity, individualism, egalitarianism and nationalism. The effects are never likely to be wholly effaced.
Responsible Government in the Settlement Colonies:
In nearly all settlement colonies there existed legislatures, but they were unable to act with freedom, because their resolutions were subject to the veto of the governors, which was often used, and to overriding control from Britain. Further, the electorates were not able to impose ministers on the governor even when a party won a majority of seats in the legislature.
In one such area the home government between 1832 and 1850 asserted its authority anew against the settlers: in the West Indies the emancipation of slaves was forced on reluctant white electorates and legislatures. But in Canada this is the period when the mother-country first significantly relaxed her control.
Canada, apart from the Maritime Provinces, was divided into Upper and Lower, the latter being predominantly French. Rebellions in both colonies in 1837 were the culmination of many years of disputes between the elected assemblies on the one hand and the nominated governors and legislative councils on the other.
Although the Government accepted immediately only one of Durham’s two main recommendations, for the union of the provinces, in 1847 the Earl of Elgin went out as governor and conceded the other, ‘responsible government’, that is, he took his Ministers from the majority party in the assembly and followed their advice, carrying the Whig conception of monarchy, very soon after its final adoption in Britain, to Canada.
However, there remained, technically at least, a superior power in the Parliament at Westminster; laws made in the colonies could still be disallowed if they conflicted with the law of England; and the British Government maintained control over foreign policy.
Formal and Informal Empire:
Of the annexations of this period, the most important was that of New Zealand. The balance of forces here was complex. Missionaries were at odds with promoters of systematic colonization. The Government stepped in finally in order to retain some control of the situation, partly in the interests of the native Maoris, partly to forestall French intervention.
The expansion of the territory under British control in India continued. On the other hand, the Colonial Office declined to-take over Sarawak, where James Brooke, a former officer of the Indian Army, had become the effective ruler in 1841.
South Africa presented a special problem. In Cape Colony, settled originally by the Dutch and only recently annexed by Britain, conflicts between the ‘Boers’ of Dutch origin and the Government were aggravated by the attitude of British humanitarians and missionaries, whose Protestantism, unlike that of the Boers, led them to campaign for the emancipation of African slaves.
In 1835-37 about 5,000 Boers left the Colony and established themselves under republican governments, effectively independent of Britain, in the Transvaal and Natal. This emigration is known as the ‘Great Trek’.
The motives behind it included land-hunger, general dissatisfaction with British government, and particular discontent over the terms under which slaves had been emancipated in the Colony and over the refusal of the Colonial Office to ratify the annexation of an area called Queen Adelaide Province.
Not only was this district but also in 1843, Natal brought under British control and in 1848 the Orange River Sovereignty as well. These annexations were made with the half-hearted support of some Boers and partly as a by-product of British intervention on their behalf against African raids, but mainly in the interests of British settlers in Natal. Not until 1852 did Britain actually recognize the independence of the Transvaal.
Informally, or half formally, the war with China in 1839-42 was the symbol of Britain’s penetration into a huge market and of the West’s impact on a civilization of vast antiquity and, until recently, superior achievement. By the peace China ceded Hong Kong to Britain.
Perhaps the most striking development of all was the enormous increase in emigration from the United Kingdom, from Britain as well as from Ireland. The famine largely explains the exodus of Irishmen. But now more were emigrating west than into Britain, and Englishmen, Welshmen, Scotsmen and most other European nationalities, especially Germans, were joining them.
Before 1846 there were only three years in which more than 100,000 persons left the United Kingdom for extra-European countries, 1832 and 1841-42. Thereafter there was only one year in the nineteenth century when fewer than 100,000 did so, 1861. The figures for the late ‘forties are: 1846, 130,000; 1847, 258,000; 1848, 248,000; 1849, 299,000.
In the early ‘fifties the average was over 300,000 a year. Of the total, 70 per cent went to the United States and virtually all the rest to some part of the Empire, chiefly to Canada, especially before 1851.
Nearly two million Irishmen, all told, left Europe between 1845 and 1854, and probably something like 400,000 from other parts of the United Kingdom. The discoveries of gold in California and Australia in 1849 and 1851 helped to maintain and re-direct the flow.
It is significant for discussion of the impact of the Industrial Revolution that, even in the case of Britain, it was from the rural rather than from the urban areas that emigrants usually came. Free or cheap land was available to settlers in America. But most Irish immigrants settled in towns.
The appeal of a more democratic constitution was important, but it was decisive that the United States offered the best opportunities of employment and that Irishmen already there paid the cost of their relatives’ and friends’ passages. To emigrants as to traders, the formal Empire proved comparatively unattractive.
Palmers ton dominated British foreign policy in this period. He was Foreign Secretary for 15 of the 21 years after 1830. He exerted exceptional influence in the Cabinet. The combination against Mehemet Ali, largely his own achievement, was imposed on reluctant colleagues.
In the late ‘forties he often ignored ordinary processes of consultation. At first his authority rested on his unrivalled industry and knowledge, his assurance and clear head. Later his position with the public and in Parliament made Russell as Prime Minister fear to discipline him.
He could be as doctrinaire, and as sharp, as Russell. ‘Her Majesty’s Government,’ he wrote, ‘do not happen to recollect any Country in which a Constitutional system of Government has been established that has not on the whole been better off in consequence of that system than it had been before’.
He thought the despotic regimes of Europe ought to change their ways. In particular he condemned Russian rule in Poland and Austrian in Italy. He gave his blessing to an ‘unofficial’ expedition in support of the Spanish Liberals in 1836. He supported rebels in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, again semi-officially. He publicly criticized what he saw as tyranny, and praised its opponents.
But he put British interests as he understood them before ideological considerations. He was clear that Austria must be maintained as a major Power, offsetting the influence of Russia in Eastern Europe.
Throughout the crisis of the 1848 Revolutions he worked to preserve peace before all else. He refused to protest against Russia’s intervention to crush the Hungarian Revolution on behalf of Austria in 1849. When he thought either France or Russia was challenging for hegemony he acted decisively.
By his dominance of the Cabinets in which he served he made their foreign policy, and therefore that of the Liberal party, individual. His methods and manner, however, were more unusual than his aims. Like a handful of other great Ministers concerned with foreign policy, Castlereagh, Canning, Gladstone and Salisbury in this period, but unlike the lesser fry, he believed that Britain should exert her influence continuously, to direct events to her advantage, perhaps to the general advantage, not shirking threats of force.
He was exceptional among these, though, in that he deliberately aired his views to foreign representatives even when he knew the Cabinet did not share them; he conceived, further, that it was Britain’s positive duty to offer advice even if she had no intention of acting to enforce it; he was ready to use dubious methods, as with Spain and Naples; and he was the most publicity- minded of all Foreign Secretaries, having copious Blue Books printed and identifying himself with certain public prejudices.
Accidentally, the Conservatives were exceptionally pacific in this period, and there was a clearer contrast than is usual between party foreign policies. During these years also, a more fundamental dispute arose: the ultimate aim of many of the supporters of Free Trade was peace between nations, and Cobden gave wide currency to criticisms of secret diplomacy, interventionism and the pursuit of the Balance of Power. The Don Pacifico debate, however, showed clearly where majority support lay.
The Eastern Question was the area of chief development in foreign policy in these years, and Palmerston was again much involved. The Greek revolt had alarmed the Powers by showing the weakness of the Ottoman Empire. In 1833, after a brief war in which Russia crushed Turkey, the former acquired by the Treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi a virtual protectorate over the latter.
This state of affairs Palmerston set out to modify. He acted against Mehemet Ali because he considered it essential that the Turkish Empire be weakened no further, and in the settlement he secured, on paper, the surrender by Russia of her pretensions to protect and advise the Turks.
Fear of Russia in Britain increased markedly in this period, partly because of her expansion towards India. Between 1839 and 1842 the Russian and British Empires almost clashed on the North-West Frontier of India, as Britain sought to intervene in Afghanistan and Russia infiltrated Persia.
3. Term Paper on Britain and the World (1850 –1868):
In imperial affairs the chief interest in this period centres on India, but certain developments elsewhere should be briefly noticed. Responsible government was extended to Australia and New Zealand during the ‘fifties. In 1858 Canada was allowed to lay a tariff on British goods.
In 1865 the Colonial Laws Validity Act considerably extended the powers of colonial legislatures. In 1867 a federation was established in Canada, including some of the Maritime Provinces as well as Quebec and Ontario. On the other hand, a rebellion in Jamaica in 1865, repressed with unnecessary severity by Governor Eyre, led to the abolition of the island’s representative assembly.
It is principally in relation to this and the next period that a debate has arisen among historians about the nature of the Empire and of imperialism. Traditionally, the ‘fifties and ‘sixties have been regarded as the years of the nineteenth century when Ministers were most reluctant to annex territory, when they most cheerfully conceded responsible government, when there was least public pride in the colonies and when the Cobdenites’ distaste for military adventures was most widely shared.
Yet, it has been argued, the Empire expanded vastly, apparently regardless of these views. It is possible to point to two insignificant withdrawals: Britain gave up sovereignty over what became the Orange Free State in 1854, and surrendered the troublesome protectorate of the Ionian Islands in 1864.
Otherwise the record of territories occupied or annexed between 1851 and 1871 includes Berar and Oudh in India, Burma, Lagos, Basutoland, Griqualand, Queensland, the territories of the Hudson’s Bay Company and British Columbia. Britain reasserted her control of the Chinese economy by the Second China War of 1856-60.
She might keep few soldiers in Britain, but the Indian revenue supported an army of 200,000. She continued to dominate the economy of South America. Emigration proceeded on a tremendous scale. British foreign investment at least trebled. All these extensions of British influence abroad should, it is claimed, be considered ‘imperialist’.
The difference between formal and informal Empire is trivial. Britain used in each area whatever method was appropriate to impose her power and secure her trade. The grant of responsible government itself was ‘simply a change from direct to indirect methods of maintaining British interests’. Free Trade required military and naval backing. The Pax Britannica was an armed peace.
Clearly it is true that to discuss the development of the Empire purely in constitutional and theoretical terms is misleading. It made little difference to the inhabitants whether Oudh was annexed by the Company or the Crown, and whether Sarawak was the private domain of the Brooke family or a province of the formal Empire.
Even in cases like these, though, it might make some difference. The Maoris were evidently in a better position after the annexation of New Zealand. And in many instances the difference between formal and informal Empire was enormous. It would be hard to show that, with all Britain’s investment in the United States and all the emigration there from the British Isles, Britain had much control over the country’s political development. She declined to interfere in Latin American politics. Again, that Canada could lay a tariff on British goods was bound to injure the trade of the mother-country.
No discussion ought to assume that ‘British interests’ were ever readily identifiable. What they were was a matter of opinion. Further, immediate interests were subordinated to other concerns. Some Christian missionary propaganda was doubtless tinged with hypocrisy, but it is impossible to account for the details of African expansion without allowing for the campaign against the slave trade, which obsessed Palmerston almost as much as the Evangelicals.
David Livingstone, who explored much of central Africa in a series of journeys between 1841 and 1873, discovering the Victoria Falls in 1855, was chiefly concerned to eradicate slaving. Many Free Trade advocates were genuine internationalists.
The position varied over time: the ‘sixties were less notable for imperial expansion, as for interference in Europe, than the ‘fifties. But Britain’s Governments were always refusing to give aid to her merchants, and left them to meet economic competition themselves. In summary, during these years the attitudes of British Ministers and opinion restricted the scope of imperialist development, although none the less the expansion that occurred was vast.
The Indian ‘Mutiny’:
From 1847 to 1856 the Earl (later Marquess) of Dalhousie was, Governor-General of India. He continued the policies of Bentinck: in particular, he extended the educational system by giving grants-in-aid to private Colleges and by founding the first three Indian Universities. His special impress was his public works programme, cutting irrigation canals, building roads and planning railways, all on a vast scale.
He also set out to reduce the power of the independent princes, taking over Oudh on the ground that it was misgoverned, refusing to allow rulers without direct heirs to adopt successors and informing the old Emperor that his title would lapse with his death.
In 1857 the progress of Westernization was brutally interrupted. On May 11 the troops at Meerut ‘mutinied’, marched to Delhi and proclaimed the Emperor their leader. Oudh, and within it Lucknow, was the other main centre of revolt. The immediate occasion of the rising was the introduction of new cartridges, which the soldiers had to bite before loading, and which contained fat of animals sacred to the Hindu and impure to the Mohammedan.
But the grievances of the rebels were much wider. The ‘Mutiny’ ‘was a last passionate protest of the conservative forces in India against the relentless penetration of the West’. For a time the situation looked black for the British, some famous atrocities were committed against them, and it was not until 1859, after some savage reprisals, that order was completely restored.
One result of the ‘Mutiny’ was the assumption by the Crown in 1858 of the powers of the East India Company. A Secretary of State for India replaced the President of the Board of Control, the Governor-General became the Viceroy. The European element in the Indian Army was strengthened.
Although public works programmes were maintained, future Viceroys showed themselves less hasty Westernizers. The princes were taken into partnership; there was less determination to create and uphold an Indian intelligentsia; more respect was paid to Indian traditions. The heroic, iconoclastic period had lasted rather longer in India than at home.
The reaction was stronger. Men with experience of Indian conditions were to contribute powerfully to the strains in late nineteenth-century British thought which questioned the validity of democracy, of radical reform, and of the whole approach of utilitarianism.
The Crimean War and Foreign Policy:
From March 1854 to March 1856 Britain was at war with Russia. It is important to have some idea how she came to involve herself in this, her only European land war between 1815 and 1914, and with what consequences to herself and other countries. Early in 1853 Russia, expecting that the Ottoman Empire would shortly break up and relying on the sympathy of Austria and Britain, made very strong demands at Constantinople.
She asserted in particular an unrestricted right to intervene to protect the Orthodox Christian subjects of the Sultan. The Turks rejected these claims, and in June Russia occupied the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, roughly the modern Romania. War between Russia and Turkey broke out in October.
For many months the other Powers worked to keep and then restore the peace, but when it came to the point the attitude of Russia was always un-conciliatory. The Turks were supported more or less strongly by Britain, France and Austria, because they believed Russia to be intransigently expansionist and the Ottoman Empire a bulwark of the status quo against a new bid for hegemony. Britain and France formally declared war on Russia after making an alliance with the Sultan in March 1854.
Britain’s policy has been much criticized. Cobden and Bright took the view that what Russia claimed was quite reasonable, and that in any case the issues were not vital enough for Britain to fight about them. Critics more ready to accept the realities and conventions of international politics have concentrated blame on the divided counsels of the Aberdeen Government, in which the Prime Minister was pacific and tentative while Palmerston was bellicose and decisive.
It may be that vigorous action early in 1853 would have made Russia reduce her demands before it was too late. Once that stage had passed, it is difficult to see what the British Government could have done to avoid joining in the war unless it was prepared to permit the Turks to be crushed by Russia or protected solely by France.
Both the British and French Governments were egged on by the violent reaction of public opinion in their countries to the Russian naval victory at Sinope in November 1853, which was regarded as a ‘massacre’. This was an occasion when The Times modified its attitude because opinion ran ahead of it. But even without the pressure of the public the Government would probably have felt bound to fight.
Because, of the failure to win a quick victory, the hardships suffered by the troops and the inefficiencies revealed in the Government’s and the generals’ handling of the war, a strong body of opinion demanded administrative reform, denouncing aristocratic incompetence. The Civil Service reforms of 1855 were hastened.
Florence Nightingale’s success in improving hospital services in the Crimea helped the development of nursing in Britain. But in fact the war was finally too successful, was too short and had too slight an impact on the population as a whole to make possible a general overhaul of administration.
As soon as peace was restored, the feeling in favour of economy reasserted itself and the army, as hitherto, was starved of money for comforts and ancillary services. Aristocratic incompetents continued to be able to buy themselves commissions. At the top, the fusion of the Secretary ship for War with the Secretary ship at War did little to strengthen the chain of command.
By the time peace was made, Russia had long abandoned the Principalities, which soon became a virtually independent state. The Treaty of Paris of March 1856 guaranteed the Turkish Empire and, to weaken and humiliate Russia, neutralized the Black Sea.
The War had certainly secured the position of the Ottoman Empire, though it did not lead to the reforms there for which Palmerston and his supporters hoped. It also, as some of its advocates in Britain had believed it would, improved chances for liberal movements on the Continent, in Germany and Italy if not in Poland, by turning Russia into a revisionist power.
The Anglo- French alliance remained of importance for several years, giving British Ministers some influence over the policies of the most creative and powerful European ruler of the late ‘fifties and early ‘sixties.
The Crimean War was in a sense the apogee of the bellicose feeling associated with Palmerston. For the rest of this period Britain’s policy was declining in effectiveness, and Palmerston’s own part in it was becoming smaller. In his second Cabinet he was controlled much more strictly by his more cautious colleagues than in any other Administration in which he served after 1830.
Though he made known his clear-cut opinions to the Press, to envoys of Britain and to those of other Powers, it was another policy than his which was officially endorsed by the Government as a whole and which alone might be enforced by arms. In 1864 Bismarck, the Pnissian Chancellor, called Palmerston’s bluff, ignoring his pro-Danish speeches.
In 1866 the Austro-Prussian War proceeded without even arousing much interest in Britain. It has been suggested that Cobden’s views had triumphed. That is to exaggerate. But a more genuine non-intervention than Canning’s and Palmerston’s, almost isolationism, was in the ascendant.
4. Term Paper on Britain and the World (1868-1885):
Between 1869 and 1871 two events transformed the world situation. First, in 1869 the Suez Canal was completed. Economically, it proved very beneficial to Britain: her ships made up over three-quarters of the tonnage that used it. It facilitated and cheapened her trade with India and the Far East. But it created problems for her Ministers, by making the Eastern Mediterranean even more important than hitherto to her interests. Secondly, the unification of Germany profoundly modified European power- politics.
With the defeat of Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian War it was scarcely possible any longer to regard France as the major European land power. Germany under Bismarck took the leadership of the Continent. At least for his lifetime, this change improved the prospects of peace. The only Power both able and willing to pursue an expansionist policy within Europe for the rest of this period was Russia.
Partly because of the opening of the Suez Canal and the consequent concern of the Powers over the state of the Eastern Mediterranean, European and extra-European affairs became more closely entangled together in this period. The Ottoman Empire was now more genuinely the route to India.
Cyprus was taken by Britain as a kind of compensation for the weakening of the Turks in 1876-78, and also to balance a proposed French foray into Tunis, which took place in 1881. The return of competition for colonies among the Great Powers inevitably linked European and extra-European questions.
In the early years of the period that the near-isolationism of the ‘sixties was maintained, even strengthened. As long as Belgium was left alone, the British Government showed little inclination to interfere in the Franco-Prussian War. Clarendon and Granville, both undemonstrative Foreign Secretaries, were succeeded by Derby, ‘the most isolationist Foreign Secretary that Great Britain has known’.
Disraeli, of course, believed in assertions of British power, and Salisbury was more positive than Derby. But when Gladstone returned to office he included in his Cabinet both Granville and (after 1882) Derby. ‘Splendid isolation’ was as characteristic of this period as of the last decade of the century, to which the phrase was originally applied.
Among interventionists, Disraeli was at least as ready to use force in defence of the Ottoman Empire as any Minister of the century, and he was less concerned than the other notorious friends of Turkey with the quality of the Sultan’s government. He wished to give aid to the Turks whatever they did to the Bulgarians.
Salisbury was prepared to work against Russian domination of the Balkans, and backed the mobilization of the reserves in 1878, which led to Derby’s resignation. But he had no confidence in the Ottoman Empire, would guarantee only Turkey-in-Asia, and thought the establishment of independent nation-states like Bulgaria the best arrangement that could be hoped for. At the Congress of Berlin Beaconsfield and Salisbury worked skillfully together to secure British interests as, they now conceived them, helping to procure a peace which lasted 34 years.
Balkan nationalism was a novelty in 1875. It could hardly have been expected to enter into Palmerston’s calculations, because it had barely displayed itself during his lifetime. It necessarily affected Salisbury’s, and came to play an essential part in Gladstone’s. His sympathy with nationalism spread from Italy to Norway, to Ireland, even to the Sudan, where he saw ‘a people rightly struggling to be free’, and to the Balkans.
He believed it right to sustain true national feeling wherever it was to be found. This was one aspect of a thoroughly moralist approach to foreign policy. He is quite often represented as a non-interventionist, and he certainly sometimes showed exceptional moderation, as over the Alabama.
In reality, however, he was a new and special sort of interventionist. He argued against action when he conceived it to be unilateral and selfish. But he believed it was Britain’s duty to act ‘to preserve the public law of Europe’ and in the causes of justice and civilization. He preferred it to be visible that such intervention was collective, but, if he was convinced that Britain in a particular instance could embody the will or the ‘moral force’ of Europe or the civilized world, he would support her acting on her own.
He would have gone to the aid of the Bulgarians in the name of the Concert of Europe. He justified the occupation of Egypt as an action collective in spirit if not in practice. He leapt to the defence of the Afghans after a border incident with Russia in 1885. ‘We must,’ he said, ‘do our best to have right done in this matter.’
Add to this variety of approach among the principal statesmen concerned the near-pacifism of Bright, and it must seem that Britain was taking advantage of her pre-eminence to indulge disputes within and between parties, and in the result a degree of confusion and vacillation in her policies, which a less powerful country could scarcely have survived. There can have been few periods of such uncertainty in her history.
About her Empire the same extended gamut of opinions displayed itself. Derby, whose office under Gladstone was the Colonial Secretary ship, had the traditional distaste for territorial gains. When an Australian delegation came to him urging annexations in the Pacific, he ‘asked them whether they did not want another planet all to themselves.’
Gladstone took much the same line as in foreign affairs. Britain had a mission in relation to her existing colonies, a mission to make them free agents whose co-operation with the mother-country, if it were to continue, was to be unforced, and whose subordination, if maintained, was to be willing.
The white colonies should be self-governing and look to their own defence. It was not to be hoped that they might assist in defending Britain. That would be to involve them in policies over which they had insufficient control and in affairs, which barely concerned them.
New annexations should be avoided, as beyond Britain’s strength. British dominion in India was to be regarded rather differently. It had arisen dubiously, but, now that it existed, it must be maintained. However, its spirit must be to educate the people of India to ultimate self-reliance.
These were attitudes of long standing. It was a novelty of this period that some statesmen began to glory in the Empire. Disraeli was their prophet. It was he who had been responsible in 1852 for the famous dismissal of colonies as ‘a millstone round our neck’. As late as 1866, he agreed with the future Derby that the separation of Canada was positively desirable.
But in 1872, when he set up the Conservatives as social reformers, he also seized for them the imperialist position. He asserted that the Liberals had spent the last forty years trying ‘to effect the disintegration of the Empire of England’.
They had succeeded in this aim more completely than in any of their other policies, so far as they could succeed by action from Whitehall. But they had failed ultimately ‘through the sympathy of the Colonies for the Mother Country. They have decided that the Empire shall not be destroyed.’
The issue is not a mean one. It is whether you will be content to be a comfortable England, modelled and moulded upon Continental principles and meeting in due course an inevitable fate, or whether you will be a great country, an Imperial country, a country where your sons, when they rise, rise to paramount positions, and obtain not merely the esteem of their countrymen, but command the respect of the world.
Disraeli’s stand was extraordinary in comparison both with his own past views and with those of the bulk of his followers. In numerous ways, however, it is characteristic of him, and of his relationship to his party and his time. The history he deployed to support it was at best plausible, like his attempt to identify the interests of Conservatism and those of the working-man.
But plausibility is the true coin of politics. Bland disregard of his previous attitudes was one of his attributes and strengths. His later actions show, as in the case of social policy, that he had little capacity to put his principles into detailed execution. The purchase of the Suez Canal shares, it is true, was a coup for which he was responsible and which had considerable effects on the history of imperialism.
The invention of the Empire of India was his. But in detail he was pushed into annexation and imperial adventure by subordinates ‘on the spot’, whose actions he blessed only after the event. This was true, as will be seen, both of the annexation of the Transvaal and the Afghan expedition.
It is somewhat doubtful whether he meant what he said, or understood what he was saying, either in his anti-imperialist or his imperialist utterances. He was in all these respects the opposite of Gladstone, whose history was careful to the point of pedantry, who wrote books to justify his changes of attitude, who was superb at making specific applications of general ideas, and who used words like a casuist.
In this particular context, though, Disraeli was outbidding Gladstone in his own trump suit, making morality serve rather than frustrate imperialism, accusing Liberals of viewing everything in a financial aspect, and totally passing by those moral and political considerations which make nations great, and by the influence of which alone men are distinguished from animals.
Of course Disraeli was ‘educating his party’. The phrase has often been applied to the ‘fifties and ‘sixties, and it is true that he then had much to do with weaning the Protectionists from Protection and, at some points, with interesting them in Parliamentary reform. But he spent most of his energies during those decades preserving his position as Derby’s deputy and heir, and was more active in trying to fashion unlikely Parliamentary combinations than in making Policy statements.
As leader he proved much more of a creative force, and especially in the great speeches of 1872. It is typical too that the chief influence of these assertions of Conservative principles was delayed. It was not until the ‘nineties that his party became unitedly the party of Empire, and later still that Tory Democracy and Tory Social Reform came into their own.
Disraeli’s greatest contribution was as a myth-maker. It is even more remarkable that he should have become Prime Minister when that was his great talent, and a talent as yet largely unappreciated, than that he should have overcome the disadvantages of his Jewish race and modest social origins.
In his lifetime his success rested almost purely on Parliamentary skill. He could have risen so far only in a party denuded of its natural leaders. Having reached ‘the top of the greasy pole’, he put a stamp on British history which even Gladstone barely equalled.
During the ‘seventies and early ‘eighties imperialist attitudes spread. It became common form to say that there was a choice before Britain: of becoming great, or, as Tennyson put it, again in 1872, ‘Some third-rate isle half-lost among her seas.’ All kinds of movements, relevant in earlier periods only to the domestic history of Britain, became associated with imperialism.
Here is Ruskin, giving his inaugural lecture as first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford in 1870:
There is a destiny now possible to us, the highest ever set before a nation to be accepted or refused. We are still un-degenerate in race; a race mingled of the best northern blood. We are not yet dissolute in temper, but still have the firmness to govern and the grace to obey. . . . Will you youths of England make your country again a royal throne of kings, a sceptred isle, for all the world a source of light, a centre of peace; mistress of learning and of the Arts. . .?
This is what England must either do or perish: she must found colonies as fast and far as she is able, formed of her most energetic and worthiest men; seizing every piece of fruitful waste ground she can set her foot on, and there teaching these her colonists that their chief virtue is to be fidelity to their country, and their first aim is to be to advance the power of England by land and sea: and that. . . they are no more to consider themselves therefore disfranchised from their native land than the sailors of her fleets do, because they float on distant seas.
Cecil Rhodes, having made a small fortune in the diamond fields discovered in South Africa in the late ‘sixties, satisfied his ambition to go up to Oxford in 1873. He there came under Ruskin’s influence. He venerated Oxford as Newman, Gladstone and Matthew Arnold did, but was soon planning to tie it to the Empire and to the advance of the Anglo-Saxon race through his Scholarships.
Darwinism, and in particular the idea of the survival of the fittest, came to sub-serve imperialism. Alfred Milner, later to be the archetypal ‘Pro-consul’, was a product of the Balliol of the ‘seventies and of T. H. Green, and deeply involved in the early social work of Toynbee Hall. It is notorious that the public schools, founded to furnish Anglican education for the middle-classes, became seminaries for empire-builders.
The chronology of imperialism is a difficult subject. With all these developments, Gladstone could win the Election of 1880, which he thought meant ‘the downfall of “Beaconsfieldism”. During the ‘eighties, however, the imperialist pressures grew rapidly. The Imperial Federation League, which sought to bring the white colonies into effective association, was founded only in 1884, but had behind it fifteen years of schemes and discussions.
In 1881-82 J. R. Seeley, Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, delivered some famous lectures on The Expansion of England, which held out the possibility that ‘Greater Britain’, brought together by steam and electricity, would rival the emerging world-powers, the United States and Russia.
It could be said that ‘the shock caused by the news of the fall of Khartoum has no parallel in the experience of the present generation.’ This incident, followed by the Home Rule crisis, which clarified the issue of imperial unity and brought together on one side of the House of Commons and of public debate the great majority of those who placed their hopes for Britain’s future on her colonial connexions, made imperialism the prevailing attitude.
For domestic politics and history the development of the imperialist mood is of immense significance. It is a question, though, what difference it made to policy, especially before 1885. There were very few imperialists among the Ministers of 1868-85.
Some even of those who were prominent in colonial adventures later were at this time indifferent. Chamberlain himself had advanced only a short way by 1885 from his earlier separatist views.
At a minimum, though, the colonies were perforce taken more seriously by Ministers from about 1870. Gladstone himself spoke more of Britain’s imperial mission thereafter than before. He proved right, though not exactly as he expected, that the removal of British troops from some dependencies in the early ‘seventies would lead to greater imperial co-operation.
The self-governing colonies offered military aid to Britain several times during this period. But, insofar as policy differed in the ‘seventies and ‘eighties from that of earlier decades, the main cause was events and attitudes outside Britain. Whatever statesmen might feel at Westminster, British subjects overseas commanded skills and weapons which made them capable of imposing order and promoting material progress in large areas of the world where the native inhabitants could do neither.
More and more colonies existed, some officially ‘responsible’ for their government, some only loosely controlled, and, further, more and more ‘informal’ colonies existed. All of them were likely to feel the need for aid from the British Government in maintaining their position, and all of them were in a position virtually to commit Ministers to support actions taken without prior consultation.
Moreover, the appearance of rival claims from other States proved a strong incentive to Cabinets to annex territory. If a Government was in any case going to have to answer for the acts of British subjects overseas, and especially if it was going to have to deal with international situations they had precipitated, then it would be better placed the more control it had.
Griqualand West was annexed in 1871 because diamonds were found there and the Orange Free State had a rival claim. The annexation of the Transvaal was arranged by a minor official who was supposed to be trying to secure a South African Federation with a view to obtaining a united front among the colonists against the natives.
He did not exactly exceed his instructions, and the unsatisfactory terms he made had to be accepted by Beaconsfield’s Cabinet. The Ministry refused to send additional troops to fight the Zulus, but again a subordinate in South Africa committed it to war against them, and so to defeat.
In Afghanistan the same Cabinet allowed itself to be overridden at each stage by its Viceroy. In promoting the greatest imperial adventure of all, one which led on to many more, the occupation of Egypt, Gladstone and his colleagues were not precisely overruled. Disorder in Egypt was threatening the security of traffic through the Suez Canal.
The French would not cooperate, nor would the Turks. In the end the Cabinet decided to take over the country ‘temporarily’. They and their successors were to promise to leave 66 times in the next forty years, and on most occasions they meant it.
In the case of Gordon, Gladstone and his colleagues grossly mismanaged the situation: they were divided on the Sudan question, they gave it inadequate consideration and they procrastinated. On the other hand, they had sent Gordon to the Sudan to evacuate it, and they could hardly be expected to cooperate cordially with him when he disobeyed them.
Territorial expansion in this period was, economically, less successful than hitherto. While emigration reached its highest level in 1883, most of it was still to the United States. Within the Empire the older territories were more popular than the new. A similar pattern is observable in trade and investment figures.
Though, trade with the Empire was growing rather faster than trade with the rest of the world, the great bulk of imperial trade was with India and Australasia. In general, of course, trade and investment were growing less rapidly than before, while the formal Empire was expanding faster. Arguably, though, with most of the world’s surface already be spoken, and now that other Powers were competing, it was necessary more often than before to impose political control if any economic advantage at all was to be forthcoming.
Pressures from the periphery were too strong for Governments. They still adhered to the policy of according responsible government. In 1872 it was extended to Cape Colony, in return for an undertaking that Britain would not have to meet the cost of defending the country.
But no Ministry succeeded in permanently diminishing imperial burdens except in this way. British Somaliland (1834), Nigeria (1884), Bechuanaland (1885) and upper Burma (1885). Some of these territories were called ‘protectorates’, as was the part of New Guinea, which the Australians seized without authority from London in 1883.
Lord Derby’s sarcasm was wasted on them: they thought they would like a planet all to themselves. Another mode of postponing annexation was tried in 1881, when the Liberal Cabinet agreed to charter a North Borneo Company.
It will be apparent from the dates given that the ‘scramble’ for Africa, and for the Pacific Islands, began in the last years of this period. Gladstone’s Government, the victors of Midlothian, could not escape being involved.
They sent representatives to the Berlin Conference of 1884 which partitioned West Africa. Neither at home nor abroad could they or any other Ministers afford the loss of prestige, which followed on defeat, or withdrawal, or failure to assist British enterprise.
It was not until after the end of the First World War that Britain’s Empire reached its largest extent. Only after the Second World War did it become the Commonwealth.
‘There is no need,’ said Lord Rosebery, Gladstone’s sponsor in Midlothian, in 1884, ‘for any nation, however great, leaving the Empire, because the Empire is a commonwealth of nations.’ In the next year was held the first meeting of the Indian National Congress, inspired by the liberalism and nationalism of the West, forming the party which was to win Indian independence.