Great Britain: Victorian Foreign Policy
Victorian Foreign Policy
The reign of Victoria (1837–1901) covered the period of Britain's commercial and industrial leadership of the world and of its greatest political influence. Initial steps toward granting self-government for Canada were taken at the start of Victoria's reign, while in India conquest and expansion continued. Great Britain's commercial interests, advanced by the British navy, brought on in 1839 the first Opium War with China, which opened five Chinese ports to British trade and made Hong Kong a British colony. The aggressive diplomacy of Lord Palmerston in the 1850s and 60s, including involvement in the Crimean War, was popular at home.
From 1868 to 1880 political life in Great Britain was dominated by Benjamin Disraeli and William E. Gladstone, who differed dramatically over domestic and foreign policy. Disraeli, who had attacked Gladstone for failing to defend Britain's imperial interests, pursued an active foreign policy, determined by considerations of British prestige and the desire to protect the route to India. Under Disraeli (1874–80) the British acquired the Transvaal, the Fiji Islands, and Cyprus, fought frontier wars in Africa and Afghanistan, and became the largest shareholder in the Suez Canal Company. Gladstone strongly condemned Disraeli's expansionist policies, but his later ministries involved Britain in Egypt, Afghanistan, and Uganda.
Gladstone's first ministry (1868–74) had disestablished the Church of England in Ireland, and in 1886, Gladstone unsuccessfully advocated Home Rule for Ireland. The proposal split the Liberal party and overturned his ministry. In the last decades of the 19th cent. competition with other European powers and enchantment with the glories of empire led Britain to acquire vast territories in Asia and Africa. By the end of the century the country was entangled in the South African War (1899–1902). Great Britain's period of hegemony was ending, as both Germany and the United States were surpassing it in industrial production.
Sections in this article:
- The Thatcher Era to the Present
- <named-content content-type="electronic">The 1960s and 70s</named-content><named-content content-type="print">The Late Twentieth Century</named-content>
- World War II and the Welfare State
- World War I and Its Aftermath
- Victorian Foreign Policy
- Economic, Social, and Political Change
- The Growth of Empire and Eighteenth-Century Political Developments
- The Stuarts
- Tudor England
- Medieval England
- Early Period to the Norman Conquest
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