Challenges at Home and Abroad 1886-1901

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Liberal Decline - Parlimentary Reform

3rd Reform Act

1884 Act - Extension of franchise, agricultural labourers would vote Conservative. 4 million working class couldnt vote due to the requirement of 12 months of tenancy, so they couldn't vote Liberals. Liberals made no attempt to win support of newly franchised working classes, limited social reform.

1885 Redistribution of Seats Act - Salisbury set clever boundries to increase the amount of Conservative MP's elected. 

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Liberal Decline - Liberal Split

Gladstone in the 1880's:

  • In 1868-74 he presided over a great reforming government. But in 1880's Gladstones obsession with Ireland led him to neglect social reform. He ignored signs that other Liberals were against Home Rule. 
  • By 1880's many thought it was time for a change at the top. Others still had unwavering support for the "Grand Old Man". 

Gladstones conversion to Home Rule in 1886 caused a dramatic split in the Liberal party. 

  • Whigs - led by Lord Hartington, took away financial backing from Liberals
  • Pro-Union Radicals - led by Joseph Chamberlain, loss of potentially important leadership and ideas (Chamberlain's programme of social reform and state intervention) 

Groups became known as Liberal Unionists, by 1895 were absorbed into Conservative Party. 

  • In 1892 - Narrow victory for Liberals but another Irish Home Rule Bill introduced by Gladstone was defeated and he resigned in 1894 - Sucessor = Lord Roseberry
  • 1895 - Liberals suffered crushing defeat 
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Liberal Decline - Loss of Leadership and Money

Loss of Leadership and Ideas:

  • After Gladstones resignation the Liberal party lacked a dominant figure.
  • The split of the Liberals meant the party also lost ideas from radicals such as Joseph Chamberlain. 
  • The Liberals had no sense of direction, they had limited appeal to the middle class and the newly enfranchised working class. 
  • New leaders - Lord Roseberry, Campbell Bannerman were uninspiring and shadowed by powerful Conservative figures - J. Chamberlain and Salisbury
  • It was unclear what the Liberals stood for - "petty quarrells and divergent policies" e.g temperance movement, land reform, welsh disestablishment. 
  • Liberals SHOULD have adressed matters of interest to the w/c who the Liberals had won the vote for. 

Loss of Money:

  • Liberal split - Whigs left the party taking their money and financial backing with them
  • Liberals could not afford to field candidated in all constituencies - easy victories for Conservatives. 
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Liberal Decline - Social Trends

Liberalism was undermined by existing social trends, this led to their decline. Increasingly class based politics, Liberals failed to attract middle class or working class. 

Efficient Conservative organisation and Parlimentary Reform helped to win and secure votes.

M/C > Conservative:

  • "Villa Toryism" lower m/c wished to protect their new houses and salaries
  • Primrose League attracted middle classes, social activites brought m/c tories together and spread Conservatism

W/C > Conservative

Harder to explain BUT

  • "Slum Toryism" w/c looked to the only party passing SOME social reform E.g Education and Housing
  • Popular Imperialism - patriotic appeal of the empire could be the explination of the support the Conservatives gained, 1900 'Khaki Election" - Boer War 
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Salisbury's 2nd Ministry 1886-1892

1886 - Conservatives won clear majory after the defeat of Gladstones Home Rule Bill. The Conservatives benefited from the weaknesses of the Liberals:

  • Liberal Split - Liberal Unionists joined the Conservatives
  • Liberals failed to attract working class voters

Conservatives also benefited from previous Parlimentary reform especially the Redistribution of Seats Act which moved middle class votes to the Conservatives. 

Lord Salisbury became prime minister for the 2nd time 

The beginning of conservative dominance. 

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Conservative Dominance - Liberal Unionists

Salisbury maintained an astute political alliance with Liberal Unionists

Keeping the support of the Liberal Unionists would perpetuate the Liberal Split and ensure the Conservatives the majority, Liberal Unionists held the balance of Power.

1886 pact promising Conservatives would not fight Liberal Unionist MPs. Coalition operated informally with the Liberal Unionists knowing they had won their seats due to Conservative support.

Conservatives continued to oppose Irish Home Rule which appealed to Liberal Unionists

Salisbury appointed 5 Liberal Unionists in 1895

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Conservative Dominance - Leaders of Commons

Salisbury appointed good Conservative leaders in the Commons.

  • Lord Randolph Churchill  - Popular proposals for social reform. (Although suggestion to use military spending for reform went too far)
  • W.H.Smith 
  • Balfour
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Conservative Dominance - Moderate Reform

Electorate had now increased in size (3mil > 6mil) and was a different composition, newly franchised included miners, rural workers and agricultural labourers. Conservatives managed to capture their vote and secured the majority:

Lord Salisburys second ministry was more sympathetic to the needs of ordinary people than expected.Salisburys modest domestic programme:

  • Local Gvt Act - 1888 - created county councils which gave rural voters a degree of control over local affairs.
  • Housing of the Working Class Act -  1890 - allowed local councils to replace unhabitable dwellings with council houses. 
  • Factory Act - 1890 - put an end to children under the age of 11 working and set max hours for women. 
  • Allotment and Smallholding Act - 1892 - attempted to set up agricultural labourers with their own plot of land, achieved little but indicated gvt awareness
  • Education Act - 1892 - board of education set up, board school fees abolished, free elementary education and gvt grants for universities. 
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Conservative Dominance - Party Organisation

Richard Middleton controlled organisation, he was sensitive to the slightest change in political mood - timings of elections

He ran the party machine - registered voters, raised money, leafletted

He increased the number of constituency agents and organised them on a regional basis

He revamped the national union and promoted the activities of the Primrose League - (Secured Middle Class support - "Villa Toryism")

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Conservative Dominance - Popular causes

Imperialism + Patriotism

  • Conservatives trumpted "age of imperialism" pride in nation sustained Conservative vote.
  • The wave of patriotism for the success of the Boer War was a reason for the surge in votes for the Conservatives especially from the working class. "Slum Toryism"
  • This led to a 1900 election victory (Khaki Election) for the Conservatives who won with another huge majority. 

W/C popularity

  • Defended the working mans pint from Liberal Interference
  • Opposed Home Rule, much of the w/c had anti-Irish sentiment
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Salisbury's 3rd Ministry 1895-1900

Produced little constructive legislation:

  • Agricultutal Ratings Act and Animal Diseases Act - passed off as measures to help farmers
  • 1897 - Chamberlain passed through a Workmens Compensation Act but failed to interest conservatives in idea of old-age pentions. 
  • Despite their legal paralysis they won the 1900 election with a huge majority - patriotism for the Boer War? "Khaki Election"
  • They ignored the growing gap between wealth of m/c and u/c and the poverty of w/c
  • Spread of Trade Unionism among unskilled w/c and socialsm led to to mass meetings and demonstrations against Balfours Irish Policy

Salisbury stepped down in 1902

  • He left the Conservatives in a good position for Balfour 
  • BUT they were not completely dominant, Conservatives not connecting with w/c because of lack of social reform. 
  • Problems on the horizon
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Trade Unions

Craft Unions - 

  • skilled workers
  • moderate (negotiations)
  • high subscription
  • fund for welfare
  • small membership
  • support lib/con party

New Unions

  • unskilled workers
  • militant (strikes)
  • low subscription
  • no funds for welfare
  • large membership
  • supported the idea of a new party for workers - LABOUR
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Growth In New Unionism

Why was there a grow in New Unionism?

  • uncertain economic climate - as manufacturing industries began to experience depression, a decrease in demand for goods, unskilled workers were the first to be laid off. High unemployment - strikes were uneffective as there were many people to replace strikers. Workers lucky to be in a job - had to aceept poor pay
  • spread of education - among w/c, coupled with the extension of the franchise gave unskilled w/c confidence and political awareness. Trade Unions legalised in 1876, wnskilled workers would seek advantaged gained by craft unions by forming their own "new" unions.
  • socialist ideas - SDF members and leading socialists held meetings outside factories to encourage workers to assert their rights. 
  • strikes - a few high profile strikes by unskilled workers gave impetus to the new union movement (Match Girls Strike, Dockers Strike, Gas Workers Strike) 
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Importance of Strikes

Why were these high profile strikes so important (match girls, gas workers, dockers)

  • Immediate result was a rapid increase in union membership and strike action.
  • The actions of low paid, poorly educated, ignored workforce had demonstrated they could no longer be exploited and ignored without a struggle
  • Intervention of established figures was an indication of public sympathy for the strikes
  • Success of strikes - gave confidence to other unskilled workers to form unions and was a huge boost to the concept of new unionsism with its militant leadership, low subs and striking as its main weapon.
  • Strengthed the position of the TU movement as a whole. 
  • Strong message to the establishment an society regarding the right of all workers to fair and decent wages. However there was a long struggle ahead to gain full acceptance of this concept.
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Trade Unions in 1890's

1890's was a difficult decade for new unionism.

  • The respect and sympathy won from the establishment in 1899 quickly disapeered.
  • Militant union leaders led a number of unsuccessful striked to establish the "closed shop" in which all employees were members of the Trade Union
  • Employers disagreed and organised police protection for non-union labour who they preferred to employ. 
  • Employers federations were formed - drew up registers of non-unions workers and co-ordinated lock outs to defeat strikes (Although many employers did begin to settle disputes through arbitration under the 1896 Conciliation Act)
  • E.g Federation of Engineering Employers instigated a lock out and used black-leg labour over a demand for an 8hour day. Defeat of a well respected Engineering Union

Trade Unions were not massively powerful yet but...

  • New mass unions were yet to grasp their political importance. 
  • By 1900 TU membership - 2million, 11% of total workforce
  • New Unionism marked the beginning of the close relationship between the TU movement and the socialist movement which produced in time, The Labour Party. 
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Why was there a need for the Labour Party?

  • Government Failure In Social Reform - Gladstone had extented the Franchise to the masses, but the w/c looked for a party to represent their interests, the Liberals failed to produce social reform as they were more preoccupied with Ireland and they were split.There was some support from the w/c for the Conservatives, "Slum Toryism" patriotism for the Boer War. BUT governments support for employers (Taff Vale), opposition to state intervention (Laissez Faire) and a lack of significant social reform, lost w/c support. 
  • Extension of Franchise - In 1867, w/c had been made a force in parliment for the first time. By 1900 w/c formed the majority of the electorate. Additionally Better Education was making the w/c more conscious of their political strength and more articulate about their grievances. 
  • Growing Disparity Between Rich and Poor - Increasing problems for the w/c, long working hours, unemployment, appalling living conditions, proved that w/c needed representation
  • Economic and Legal Pressure on Trade Unions - Economic slump put pressure on TU's to do more for those they represented. New Unions were more class concious and more open to socialist Ideas. Industrial action was not successful (Lyons v Wilkins) this put pressure on TU's to take political action. 
  • Limited success of Lib-Labs  - First 2 were elected in 1874 but they became undistinguishable from the Liberal party. They made little impact for the w/c. W/c candidates could not support themselves financially if they were elected they tended to be "swallowed" by the m/c dominated Liberals and therefore have little impact. 
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Rise and Development of the Labour Party

Rise of Labour stemmed from the growing influences of the w/c and their need for representation due to the harsh working and living conditions they suffered. 

Socialism - In 1884 intellectuals formed the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) - Revolutionary. Another group formed in 1884 was the Fabian Society - Evolutionary. James Kier Hardie was a miner who realised the need for a seperate voice in parliment for the working man. In 1892 he and two other candidate standing as Independant Labour Candidates had been elected to parliment. In 1893 he formed the Independant Labour Party (ILP) and succeeded in bringing in different socialist groups, socialists from labour clubs, Fabians and SDF members. 

Trade Unionism - The workers themselves formed trade unions. Not only the old exclusive craft unions (only for skilled well paid workers) but also the inclusive "new unions" for unskilled workers. The success of these unions (Match Girls Strike 1887 and Dockers Strike 1889) encouraged the growth of mass unionism. 1900- 2million trade union members. TU only wanted to improve the capitalist system, they disagreed with Socialists who wanted to overthrow it. TU leadership was at first unconvinced that a Labour Party would be successful but failure of gvt in social reform pushed their support away from Liberals and Conservatives.  

In 1900 the LRC - Labour Representation Comittee was formed. Unified Socialists, ILP and Trade Unionists. 1906 renamed the Labour Party. 

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Success of the Labour Party

When did they become an electoral force?

  • 1900 - 2 Seats (LRC)
  • 1910 - 42 Seats (7.6%)
  • 1918 - 63 Seats (22.2%)
  • 1923 - 191 Seats (30.5%) - Minority Government Formed
  • 1929 - 288 Seats - Second Minority Government
  • 1945 - Overall Majority - Clement Atlee

Impact of WW1 on the Labour Party

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Was the rise of the Labour Party inevitable?

Joe Haines, believes Labour party came into existence due to the working class mans needs. It was inevitable due to the terrible living and working conditions. 


Rise of Labour was not inevitable, although they appeared to have prospered 1900-1914 (TU membership increased, MP's salaries introduced, easier for men to stand for election, seat number increased) the rise was dangerously dependant on the electoral pact engineered with the Liberals. Liberals were likely to gain w/c support as they adopted progressive social reforms. 

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Debate on Irish Home Rule 1886-1901

Irish Home Rule Movement developed into a powerful force. 

Charles Parnells new Irish Nationalist Party gained majority of Irish seats, became the 3rd party of Government - They had the balance of power.

For Conservatives and Liberals, gaining the Irish vote seemed a way of maintaining control (Both parties were dealing with radical changes) 

In the aftermath of the 1886 Home Rule Bill defeat:

"Plan of Campaign" - Charles Parnell had been disappointed with the defeat of the Home Rule Bill in 1886, he put forward proposals to parliment to ease the distress of Irish tenants he was rebuffed by Salisbury. In Ireland a "Plan of Campaign" was siezed by 2 Nationalist MP's. All the tenants of one landlord would act together to refuse to pay the high rents demanded and give support to anyone who was evicted as a result.

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Conservatives and Ireland

Political Pressures - After the Liberal split in 1886, Conservatives only came to power because they obtained/absorbed the Liberal Unionists who left the Liberals over Home Rule. To continue to hold a majority, Conservatives needed to keep Liberal Unionist support, so they must oppose Home Rule. 

Salisbury's Policy towards Ireland - Salisbury aimed to give Ireland a "Resolute Government" and limit the power and influence of Parnell. Gladstone had dealt with Ireland with coercian and concilliation "hand in hand" whereas Salisbury adopted a hard-line policy from the start, to use tough action to deal with the perpetrators of violence and unrest. "Killing Home Rule with Kindness." Conservatives had a different approach to the Land question, they disliked taking away landlords rights without compensation and preffered to lend money to tennants.

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Conservatives and Ireland

Balfours policies as Chief Secretary of Ireland -

  • He introduced a Land Act (July 1887) to demonstrate to the Irish tennants the gvts desire to address their main grievance. Improved on Gladstones Act and allowed for further rent review.
  • Balfour outlawed the "Plan of Campaign" and followed this up with a new Crimes Act (1887) - it extended police and magistrates powers to deal with trouble makers. In 1887 - violence escalated - riot at michelstown - police shot and killed 3 demonstrators - "Bloody Balfour".
  •  In 1890 - Balfour relaxed the Crimes Act and introduced the Public Works to deal with distress and unemployment. (A Congested Districts Boards was set up and Light Railways were contstructed).
  • 1891 Land Purchase Act -Balfour rewarded the Irish Peasantry with further financial assistance for the voluntary land purchase scheme. By the 1890 prices were rising again, lower rents and more peasant proprietors, conditions were improving in rural Ireland. 
  • 1903 Land Purchase Act - Worked out by a conference of landlords and tenants, they both got a good deal. 

What did the Conservatives achieve? - Irish Countryside far more peaceful, Home Rule dismissed (Archbishop Croke) and Conservatives had made a permenant alliance with Liberal Unionists

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Why did Parnell fall from power?

Part of Salisbury's Irish policy was to discredit Charles Parnell.

  • Parnells time of triumph was short lived.
  • In May 1887, The Times made reference in several articles to Parnell's incolvement in inciting violence in Ireland. They printed a forged letter implicating Parnell in the Phoenix Park Murders, it was not until early 1890's that Parnell was cleared after investigation. 
  • Parnell was named in Captain O'sheas divorce from his wife from his wife Kitty. Parnell and Kitty had lived together discreetly and had children. O'sheas motive appears to have been to get a share of his wifes fortune. 
  • Parnell was ruined due to the scandal. - He died in October 1891
  • The Home Rule campaign was seriously damaged by the scandal. The case upset the Catholic Church and weakened its support for Home Rule. Gladstone refused to work with the Irish Nationalists as long as Parnell stayed on as its leader. 
  • The Irish Nationalist Party was split throughout the 1890's. 
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Irish Home Rule - Political Impact

Short Term

  • Political Instability as IN held the balance of power in parliment. Parnell voted with Salisbury in 1885 (Gladstones 2nd Ministry ended), then switched back to Gladstone in 1886. 
  • The Liberals were in effect held to ransom by the IN and on both occasions when the Home Rule Bill was defeated, Gladstone had no option to resign. (1886 and 1893)
  • Home Rule dictated the frequency and outcome of elections.

Long Term

  • Home Rule dominated the career of Gladstone.It overwhelemed his time as PM. 
  • The issue became part of Liberal creed and diverted them from social reform: the serious problems of poverty that were causing real distress. This damaged Liberals reputation amongst the w/c and encouraged them to look towards the emerging Labour Party. 
  • Irish Home Rule caused a deep and lasting split in the Liberal Party itself and allowed Conservative dominance for 20 years after. 
  • The talent of Joseph Chamberlain was lost and and the party missed the opportunity to evolve into a party capable of winning the w/c vote. Also lost funding from whigs.
  • The support for Irish Home Rule is a factor in the long term decline of support for the Liberal Party and its replacement by Labour as the second party of British Politics. 
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Irish Home Rule - Consitutional Impact

Short Term

  • Gladstones 1893 Home Rule Bill (proposed Irish parliment at Dublin and 80 Irish MP's in Westminster) passed through the Commons but was thrown out by the Lords. 
  • This raised the question of the consitutional position of the House of Lords. Was it right that they could veto a bill passed by the elected commons? Gladstone wanted to dissolve parliment and call an election on this question but he was overuled by his Cabinet. 

Long Term

  • The House of Lords hereditary composition meant that it was dominated by Conservatives. The Questions raised by the rejection of the 1893 Home Rule Bill did not go away. In 1910 the Liberals would successfully challange the House of Lords veto and in so doing, fundamentally change the constitution. Britain consequently moved a step closer to democracy. The marker had been laid down by Gladstone. 
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Irish Home Rule - Social Impact

Short Term

  • The Consistant support for Home Rule from Irish Nationalists regardless of Salisbury's "killing with kindness" policy or Parnells divorce scandal in 1890 demonstrated the struggle for an Irish Identity, which had been ongoing since the Act of Union in 1800. 

Long Term

  • Home Rule issue brought religious tensions between Catholics and Protestants to the surface. This intensified in some areas and left a terrible legacy for the future. 
  • "Bitter Polarisation" between Ulster (protestants) in the North who wanted to remain with Britain and the Catholics in the South who wanted Home Rule. 
  • This culminated in an armed uprising in 1916( Easter Rising) and the permanent division of Ireland into Ulster and the Irish Free State in 1922. 
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British Economy 1886-1901

  • + 1890's onwards, prices pick up - more money in circulation E.g Gold Mining in S.Africa
  • + Price of imports falling faster than the price of exports, profit, net benefit to British Economy, healthy balance of trade
  • + Industrial output continued to grow (coal, iron, steel, textiles, shipbuilding) rate of growth had slowed BUT still substantial growth E.g Coal 1870 - 110.4 mil tonnes 1900 - 225.3 mil tonnes
  • + Rise of real wages people with jobs had more money for consumer goods and luxuries (soap, chocolate etc) this stimulated smaller industries - domestic market
  • + Invisible trade strong - finance
  • - Contemporary view, long term depression, falling prices and profits in industry and agriculture 
  • - Fall in profits leads to cyclical unemployment 1886 - 10%
  • - Economic hardship demonstrates failings of the poor law
  • -Biggest challanges to Britains economy - overseas competition, especially Germany and USA, they had growing populations which provided them with a workforce and market. They were politically stable and had modern technology and new industries. Britain still has free trade, competition had tariffs, this reduced Britains share of global markets. 
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Imperial and Foreign Policy 1886-1901

Britains policy had a higher profile between 1886-1901 this was because:


  • The late 19th century saw a rush by European countries to secure colonies in those parts of the world not yet controlled by Empires. Primarily in Africa (Scramble for Africa). 
  • Reasons for this were both politcal and economic, colonies were a valuable economic assat, both for raw materials and trade. This made more sense in an era of growing protectionism.
  • Also a growing feeling (especially in Germany and Italy) that posession of an overseas empire was the sign of a Great Power.


  • The changing international situation led to increased rivalry with other countries and started to undermine Britains policy of Splendid Isolation.
  • Political and economic developments like the increasing strength of unified Germany and the growth of Imperial rivaliries created tension between the Great Powers
  • By the end of the period, the grave disadvantaged of such isolation became apparent during the Boer War.
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Popular Imperialism

Joseph Chamberlain's vision of Empire caugh the imagination of the people of Britains. Development of existing colonies and expansion into new ones would provide trading opportunities thereby helping Britain out of economic difficulty and creating jobs. 

Liberal Imperialists -

  • A group of Liberals led by Lord Rosebury. 
  • They wanted the party leadership to align themselves with this wave of popular imperialism. Rosebury was Gladstone's foreign secretary 1892-4 but Gladstone could do little to control him as he needed his support for Home Rule. 
  • Rosebury believed in expansion in Africa. He used British troops to subdue a revolt by the khedive in Eygpt and to re-impose British Authority. 
  • Rosebury clashed with Gladstone and traditional Liberals who were against Imperialism. Gladstone believed national groups should determine their own government.This issue further soured relationships in an already weakened party. Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1898 - 1908) hoped that he would be able to unite the party.
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Liberal Imperialism and the Boer War

The Boer war deepened the split. Rosebury's Liberal imperialists sopke up in support of the British stance in the Transwaal whilst anti-Imperialists criticised the morality of Britains response. 

Campbell- Bannerman tried to strike a balance between the two groups and so missed an oppurtunity to impose his leadership on the party. 

The Liberal split encouraged the Conservatives to hold the "Khaki Election" in 1900, which they won with an comfortable majority. 

Liberal Imperialists were the dominant group in the party. They were enchanted with Imperialist adventures abroad whilst there were serious social problems at home. 

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Rivalry from France and Russia


  • Traditionally been the enemy, with memories of the Napoleonic Wars. (ended in 1815)
  • They were also colonial rivals - Scramble for Africa. Ever since Britain had invaded Egypt in 1882, France was seen as a threat to British control of the Nile and the Suez Canal. France was looking to expand towards south of Egypt and the Sudan. 
  • Tensions reached a head in 1898, Fashoda Crisis. Tense stand still when French and British armies met. Howver Britain was reluctant to engage in a war (with any European power)
  • An agreement was reached which would eventually lead to the entente cordiale,1904. 


  • Britain feared Russian naval ambitions in the Mediterranean.(Suez Canal) and Balkans. 
  • Britain also had longstanding concerns about Russia's designs on India
  • Other potential flashpoints in Central Asia, Afghanistan, Far East and North China
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Splendid Isolation

Splendid Isolation - foreign policy pursued by both Disraeli and Salisbury.

  • Britains primary goal was to maintain the balance of power in Europe. (caustious, not getting involved in alliances that could lead Britain into war)
  • Britains secondary goal was to maintain Empire and Trade. (protect its overseas interest in the colonies and dominions as free trade kept the Empire alive. Sea routes to the colonies were vital E.g Britain-India > Suez Canal)

When did it end?

In 1900 Lansdowne became the new foreign secretary from Salisbury. His appointment was to bring a turning point in Britains foreign policy. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance 1902, marked the end of this policy. Main motivations for the alliance:

  • Japan wanted to extend its interests in Manchuria and Korea - direct conflict with Russia, whose possible expansion also worried the British
  • Both Britain and Japan favoured an "open door" policy towards trade with China
  • A Far Eastern ally with a strong navy as Japan had would strengthen British naval power.
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Why did Splendid Isolation end?

  • Other European Alliances - By 1895 Britain was the only European Great Power not involved in a formal alliance. (Triple Alliance- Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Dual Alliance - France and Russsia)
  • Growing threat from Germany - In 1894, Kaiser Wilhelm II took a more prominent role in foreign affairs and took every opportunity to make trouble for Britain and assert Germanys growing power. Kaiser was irritated that Britain would not join the Triple Alliance but rejected an alliance with Britain in 1898. The Kruger Telegram provoked imperial rivalry and the 1898 Naval Laws seemed a threat to Britain's empire and trade routes.
  • Unpopularity due to Boer War - Worldwide opposition to Britain over the Boer War (length of war and tactics used) brought home the dangers of isolation. There was a concern that rival powers could exploit its weakness and attack other parts of the empire. 
  • Doubts about Military Strength - Britain focused on Naval Supremacy. The Boer War also highlighted concerns about the shortcomings of the British Army. It suggested Britain would be in danger if faced with a large army and showed that an alliance with a great power would be an advantage. 

The key reason for the end of Splendid Isolation was the realisation that Britains own foreign policy interests (and Empire and trade) were under threat from a newly agressive and expansionist Germany. This convinced Britain to settle disputes with Russia and France to stabalise the balance of power in Europe. 

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Causes of the Boer War 1899-1902

Britain became involved in "Scramble for Africa" and had ambitions of an unbroken line of territory in Africa. To do this Britain would have to assert influence over Transvaal and Orange Free State > 2 independant states inhabited by Dutch Boers. 

First Boer War (1880-81) Boers inflicted a humiliating defeat over Britain. They gained independance. 

Short Term Cause

  • Discovery of gold in Transvaal in 1886 transformed economy. Prospectors poured into Transvaal - "Uitlanders" - were disproportionately taced and denied political rights. 
  • Cecil Rhodes decided to stir up these Utilanders with the aim of otherthrowing Kruger. He engineered the Jameson Raid - seen as unprovoked invasion of foreign state - Britain condemed and Rhodes resigned.
  • Kaiser Wilhelm added to the tension by seding a telegram to Kruger congratulating him. Kruger continued to stock pile German weapons. 
  • No agreement was reached about the Utilanders(some of which were British from cape colony), British moved troops to Transvaal borders and ignored Ultimatum from Boers.
  • War broke out in 1899, when Boers attacked Cape Colony and Natal. 
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Boer War

Boers quickly launched attacks on British territory and were successful.

However once British reinforcements arrived Britain enjoyed overwhelming superiority in resources and man power. War became popular at this point. 1900 "Khaki Election" in Britain - Patriotism

The Boers resorted to using Guerrilla Warfare. 

To combat this Britain used a scorched earth policy- unpopular at home and abroad. Furthermore Britain invented concentration camps in order to herd civillians to deprive the Boer guerrilas of bases from white to attack. Terrible conditions in these camps - national press campaign and GB condemed. 

War ended in 1902 in defeat for the Boers. British won control of the Transvaal gold mines and Orange free state and Transvaal given to the Empire with a chance to self govern in the future. Very little celebration in GB - war unpopular. 

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Impact of the War

The Boer war carried several important implications for Britain socially, economically and politically. As the war continued, it began to lose public support in Britain.

Cost in Money > 200Mil and Cost in Lives > 20,000 seemed a high price to pay

Many turned away from what they had seen as stability in conservatism and pride in Imperialism > Boer War was a disaster for Conservatives.

The Boer War highlighted Britains isolation. Germany,Austria, Russia and France supported the cause of the Boers. 

Methods used to gain victory - Barbaric and not suited to GB, criticism at home and abroad

The war added to the call for social reform at home. Many volunteers for the army were shown to be unsuitable for service. 2/3 rejected. 

Salisbury resigned in 1902 - now imperative for Britain to seek new alliances - end to splendid isolation. 

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