Section 7 - History

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Britain's Imperial Possessions

  • 19th Century = Age of Imperialism
  • Britain ruled over the largest empire in the world
  • Britain possessed = India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Ceylon, Malta, Mauritius, Seychelles, some Caribbean 
  • Aquired = Singapore, Malacca, Hong Kong, Burma and many more smaller territories
  • Made a mad dash for what was left of vulnerable underdeveloped countries 
  • Bring more resources and markets
  • New outlets for capital investment 
  • Between 1882 and 1900 = most of Africa was divided up among European Imperialist Nations
  • Britain made the greatest gains of all in Africa, controlled Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Egypt, the Sudan ect.
  • Pacfic = Britain took Fiji, parts of Borneo and New Guinea and other Islands 
  • 88 million subjects aded to the empire
  • 1900 = Britain exercised authority oer a fifth of the world's land surface and a quater of its people 
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Britain and the British Empire

  • Salisbury = 'Scramble for Africa'
  • Saw value in possessing colonies, but he did not wish to expand the empire any further
  • Britain occupied Egypt in 1882 to protect British trading interests 
  • Salisbury regarded this occupation as a burden 
  • One serious outcome had been the souring of relationships with France over their interests in the Suez Canal
  • Salisbury = reluctant to spill British blood over any territorial disputes
  • Found it necessary to intervene in order to protect British interests in Egypt and the Nile Valley 
  • Berlin Conference was held to monitor European countries' land aquisitions in Africa - avoid disputes
  • Salisbury was signatory to several crucial agreements 
  • Decided on borders that were often difficult to define because of the inhospitable terrain and remoteness
  • Italians and British = agreed on border between the Sudan and Eritrea 
  • British and the French = agreement on the control of Zanzibar and Madgascar 
  • Germans acknowledged British control of Zanziba, Kenya and Uganda 
  • Exchange for British recognition of the Cameroons, Tanganyika and German South West Africa 
  • European empire building in Africa had begun peacefully 
  • By 1890s = blood was shed to secure what little unclaimed territory remained
  • Salisbury rarely sought confrontation 
  • He agreed to British consquest of the Sudan in order to remove a French threat 
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Britain and the British Empire

  • Sudan = controlled by the Dervishes 
  • Constantly threatened Egypt but Britain was upset by suspected French interest in the Sudan
  • 1898 = General Kitchener defeated the Dervishes at Omdurman and secured the Sudan for Britain
  • Few days = French made claims on the Upper Nile 
  • Kitchener rapidly moved towards the French troops and threatened action
  • French = humiliated and withdrew
  • Russia could do nothing to help and the British navy was in a strong position in the Mediterranean 
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Joseph Chamberlain

  • Salisbury's colonial secretary = Chamberlain
  • Vision of the Empire that was more responsible for the fashion of Imperialism in the last two decades of the 1900s
  • Believed that the way to overcome Britain's economic problems was to build up existing colonies and expand 
  • Increased trading opportunities with the empire = more jobs and less unemployment
  • Encouraged joint-stock companies to invest in underdeveloped areas of the Empire
  • Organised goverment loans to finance irrigation projects and railways
  • Organised a Colonial Conference in 1897 - expressed desire to establish an empire customs union
  • No success - but many of his policies were
  • In tune with public opinion 
  • Inspired a sense of British pride and confidence in the Empire
  • Salisbury allowed Chamberlain considerable freedom in dealing with Imperial issues
  • Chamberlain oversaw the final conquest of the Sudan in 1898
  • As well as expansion of influence in China and the involvement of Britain in the Boer War 1899-1902
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Splendid Isolation

  • Salisbury was responsible for conducting a policy of 'splendid isolation' during time as foreign secretary
  • Expression is misleading
  • Did not set out to separate Britain from any potential allies
  • More to do with cautious policy of not getting involved in alliances that could lead Britain into war
  • Maintaining this position gave Salisbury the reputation of being isolationist
  • Salisbury was aware of Britain's lack of allies when he first entered office in 1885
  • Few friends in Europe as a result of Gladstone's policies
  • Gladstone had alienated France over Egypt, upset Turkey and Austria, and tensions were high between Britain and Russia over Afghanistan 
  • Approach to help mediate between Russia and Britain was turned down by Bismarck
  • Salisbury regarded France as a threat to Britain's vital naval supremacy in the Med and the route through the Suez
  • Suited Bismarck as he aimed to keep France isolated, unable to threaten Germany
  • 1882 = Bismarck formed the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria and Italy
  • Salisbury maintained a good relationship with the Alliance but always distanced
  • Preferred Britain not to be constrained by the opposing interests of any country
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Liberal Imperialism

  • Focus of popular sentiment dring the 1880s 
  • Significant groups of leading Liberals were in favor of aligning party policy with this movement
  • Unhappiness at the Liberal leadership's lack of engagement with the new popular mood 
  • A group within the party, led by Rosebery, styled themselves as Liberal Imperialists 
  • Rosebery believed in Imperial expansion in Africa 
  • Used British troops to subdue a revolt in Egypt by the Khedive and reimpose Britain's authority
  • Became involved in a clash with the French over the annexation of Uganda and over-ruled Gladstone
  • Rosebery's premiership was too short to pursue a strong Imperial policy and the Cabinet argued 
  • Anti-Imperialists were set against further colonial committments, particularly the future level of the British presence in Egypt - the issue soured relationships and created lasting hostilities within the party 
  • Campbell-Bannerman came to office = was hoped that Liberals could set aside their differences and achieve unity
  • Outbreak of the Boer War ended these hopes and the Liberals split over support for the war 
  • Imperalists followed in support of the British position in the Transvaal 
  • Anti-Imperialists spoke out vigorously against the morality of the British response
  • Bannerman missed the oppurtunity to impose firm leadership on his party 
  • Encouraged the Conservatives to hold an election in 1900 - Khaki Election 
  • Conservatives returned with a comfortable majority 
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Challenges posed to Britain by Russia, Germany and

Russia and Germany:

  • Britain distrusted Russian Imperialism and disliked their autocratic government
  • Close relationship was always unlikely
  • Britain remained anxious over Russian ambitions in the Balkans and a possible naval presence in the Mediterranean
  • Continuing issues with Russia over the security of India's North-West Frontier
  • 1885 = Russian troops were gathering near the Zulficar pass in Afghanistan 
  • Salisbury took a firm line with Russia leaving the country in no doubt that Britain would fight to safeguard India
  • Dispute was settled to Britain's satisfaction 
  • A serious international crisis occured within a few weeks in the Balkans that gave scope for Russian interference
  • Eastern Rumelia united with Bulgaria in contravention of the terms of the Congress of Berlin
  • Salisbury maintained a consistent position in support of Bulgaria
  • Firm diplomacy avoided war and won Bismarck's respect
  • Situation developed and Salisbury supported Germany and Austria in forcing Russia to back down from ambitions in the Balkans
  • 1895 = Russia and France had signed a defensive alliance (1894) which was potentially dangerous for Britain 
  • Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy = Triple Alliance 
  • Britain looked isolated 
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Challenges posed to Britain by Russia, Germany and

  • Bismarck = approached Salisbury in 1889 about a formal alliance but it was turned down
  • Relations with Germany remained cordial until 1894 
  • British interests in China were threatened by both Russia and Germany in 1897 
  • Alarmed Britain with the possibility of the weak Chinese Empire being partitioned among the Europeans 
  • Did not wish to disturb 'open door' policy with China
  • Allowed Britain lucrative to trading concessions
  • Russia's bullying behaviour secured the lease of the ice free Port Arthur 
  • Germany obtained a lease of the near-by harbour at Kiao-Chau
  • Britain protested and received ample compensation from the Chinese
  • Salisbury successfully eased tension by making an agreement between Russia, Germany and France to recognise clearly defined spheres of influence in China
  • Nature of Britain and Germany's relationship changed after 1894
  • Kaiser took every oppotunity to make trouble for Britain (Kruger Telegram)
  • Irritated that Britain would not join the Triple Alliance
  • Chamberlain tried to form an alliance in 1898 = came to nothing
  • Germany did not want to risk war with Russia over its trading position in China
  • Drove Britain towards improving relations with France
  • Britain disturbed by Navy Bill and opening of Kiel Canal in Germany - threat to Britain's empire and trading routes
  • Time was coming to find reliable allies
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Challenges posed to Britain by Russia, Germany and

The Boers:

  • Rivalry between Dutch Boers and British Colonists long before 'Scramble for Africa'
  • The Transvaal won independence in 1881
  • Uneasy relationship between Britain and the Boers had continued in spite of this
  • Situation became more complicated with the discovery of gold in the Transvaal in 1886
  • Gold transformed the economy of the Transvaal
  • Gave their president (Kruger) ideas to expand its border
  • Came into direct conflict with Rhodes - PM of Cape Colony (British South Africa)
  • Rhodes had plans for British domination of Africa, with a railway running from Cape Town to Cairo entirely through British territory
  • Prospectors poured into the Transvaal at the discovery of gold
  • Uitlanders (outsiders) were disproportionately taxed and denied political rights by Kruger
  • Rhodes stirred up the Uitlanders with the objective of overthrowing Kruger
  • Kaiser congratulated Kruger in a telegram for defending his country against British aggression
  • Kruger continued to stockpile British amendments 
  • Meeting between Kruger and Milner failed to address Uitlander grievances and British troops moved in 
  • Ultimatum from the Boers for the British to stand down was rejected 
  • Boers attacked Cape Colony and Natal 
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Challenges posed to Britain by Russia, Germany and

  • Boer War lasted from 1899 to 1902
  • Boers were defeated when the British won control of the Transvaal gold mines and absorbed the Boer republics by the Treaty of Vereeniging in 1902
  • Both the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were incorporated into the union of SA in 1910
  • War carried several important implications for Britain
  • Socially, economically and politically
  • Began to lose public support in Britain
  • Cost = £200m
  • 20,000 lives lost
  • Too high a price to pay
  • Many turned away from Conservativism and the pride of Imperialism 
  • Boer War highlighted British isolation 
  • Most European countries supported the Boer cause
  • Salisbury resigned in 1902
  • Imperative for Britain to seek and to be prepared to be committed to new alliances and bring to a close the long period of 'splendid isolation'
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Changes in the British Economy, 1886-1901

  • Occured during the last years of the 19th century
  • Contemporary view = Britain was suffering from a long-term depression from 1873-1896
  • Periods of marked downturns in the economy 
  • Competition from foreign markets 
  • Fall in demand for British goods in the European and American markets
  • Prices and profts tumbled in both industry and agriculture 
  • Eroded confidence in Britain's economy supremacy
  • Prices fell steadily and then picked up again in the 1890s as the gold mining boom in South Africa gave a boost to the economy 
  • Late 1890s = return to economic prosperity and a period of affluence
  • 1885 = Salisbury set up a Royal Commission to inquire into the depression 
  • Concluded that agricultural prices had been falling since 1873 and continued the downward trend - noted an increase in production, but supply often outstripped demand
  • Led to a reduction in profits, a fall in prices and lower rates of interest/capital
  • Issues were related to foreign competition but there were encouraging signs for the future
  • Businessmen were concerned with profits - less money for capital investment
  • Employers had little alternative but to pay off their workforce
  • 1886 unemployment = 10%
  • Much hardship and a sense of depression created 
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Changes in the British Economy, 1886-1901

  • However, for most of the period, unemployment remained at 5%
  • Falling profits and increased competition led to increasing unemployment
  • 1873-1896 = 30-40% drop in price levels of commodities
  • Price of imports fell more than the price of exports
  • Beneficial shift in terms of trade for Britain
  • 1900 = Britain imported 50% of its foodstuffs and much of its raw materials 
  • Benefitted from low import prices
  • Wages did not fall - as long as a man could stay in his jb, he benefited from lower prices
  • Significant rise in the standard of living for Britain
  • Industrial output continued to grow throughout this period
  • Rate of growth did slow - not unreasonable after a long time of economic expansion 
  • Britain still relied heavily on its staple industiries 
  • Output and exports increased in all of these industries 
  • Marked rise in the level of British imports, as a better standard of living led to an increase in the import of foodstuffs from overseas - detrimental effect on Britain's visible trade balance 
  • Apperance of many new, smaller industries - chocolate, soap, tobacco ect.
  • William Lever = started soap manufacturing business in 1886 
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Changes in the British Economy, 1886-1901

  • In order for businesses to grow = capital was needed
  • Men raised capital by offering limited liability shares in companies
  • Led to a rise in the number of large joint-stock companies 
  • Many formed giant corporations like the Imperial Tobacco Company 
  • Led to a change in the market for consumer goods
  • Growing population gave rise to a mass market in consumer goods 
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Overseas Challenges

  • Most crucial change int he economy was economic global expansion
  • 1880s = world economy involved a growing number of countries 
  • Britain was no longer the only industrial economy 
  • Britain was facing stiff competition from Europe and America
  • Britain's two most formidable opponents = America and Germany 
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Overseas Challenges

Population Growth and Immigration:

  • Population expansion of America and Germany gave both countries a large labour force
  • Ready home market for manufactured goods
  • Germany had a larger population than Britain and was growing at a fast rate
  • Germany in 1880 = 45 million
  • Germany in 1900 = 56 million
  • European immigrants flooded into America during this period 
  • America in 1880 = 50 million
  • America in 1901 = 77 million
  • Largely immigrant American population were hard working
  • Many arrived in America with few possessions and seeking a better life
  • Vested interest in building a great nation and threw all of their energy and resources into it 
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Overseas Challenges

Vast untrapped natural resources:

  • America and Germany both possessed vast quantities of coal and iron ore
  • Enabled them to forge ahead of Britain in steel manufacture 
  • 1890 = America had exceed Britain
  • 1896 = Germany had exceed Britain
  • 1899 = America had overtaken Britain in coal output 
  • Competed successfully in engineering and the production of machinery and armaments
  • America = railroads carried raw materials to factories and finish products to towns
  • Diminishing Britain's share of the world export market 
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Overseas Challenges

Political Stability:

  • Germany had become one nation in 1871
  • Grmany unified under the strong leadership of Otto von Bismarck 
  • 1886 = pursuing expansionist policies in industry and empire 
  • America had recovered from the effects of the Civil War by 1865
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Overseas Challenges

  • Britain's response to this new competition was too complacent
  • Perhaps slow to respond and too set in ways to make needed changes
  • Allowed America and Germany to get ahead quickly
  • A number of factors contributed to this
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Overseas Challenges

Britain's outdated equipment and processes:

  • 1880s = machinery and production methods were out of date 
  • Reluctance to invest capital in the new modern machinery 
  • Both manufactured and used in America and Germany 
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Overseas Challenges

British Government's lack of investment in technical education:

  • Germans had invested money in education, especially technical colleges
  • Resulted in better educated workforce with a range of skills
  • Undertook vital research in new fields of electrical engineering, chemicals and motors
  • British government failed to make adequate investment in education and scientific and technological research, and Britain feel behind Germany 
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Overseas Challenges

Introduction of Protective Tariffs by Overseas Competitiors:

  • Europe and America introduced tariff reform
  • Damaging to Britain's export trade and industrial protection
  • 1870 = British goods made 1/3 of the world's manufacturing output 
  • Tariffs imposed made British products more expensive and less competitive
  • Britain's share in the market fell
  • Germany imposed duties of 13% on manufacturing goods in 1879
  • America followed in 1890 and by 1900 their tariffs was raised to 57%
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Overseas Challenges

Britain's Free Trade Policy:

  • Britain stuck with its free trade principles
  • The Fair Trade League formed in 1881 - demands for restructuring trade policy 
  • League was influential but neither Gladstone nor Salisbury would move on the issue 
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Overseas Challenges

  • Britain's balance of payments remained in surplus during the years of the Great Depression
  • Despite a fall in exports
  • Balance of visible trade = value of imports - value of exports
  • Invisible earnings come from services such as shipping, insurance and investments
  • Surplus = thriving economy 
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Overseas Challenges

  • Between 1886 and 1901 = Britain survived the challenge of foreign competition:
    • 1880s = Britain was still the biggest exporter of industrial products and so did not believe it needed to worry
    • The City of London became more important than ever in world economy
    • Britain was the largest exporter of capital and of invisible trade 
    • Maintained surplus trade balance
    • British shipping was still the largest in the world
    • British merchant fleet represented about 1/3 of the total 
    • British ships still dominanted the world's shipping lanes
    • Britain was the largest outlet for primary products such as tea, cane sugar and wheat
    • Bought 50% of the world's meat exports
    • 1900 = half of Britain's food was imprted
    • Bonus = overseas producers like Argentina were happy to take British manufactured goods ine exchange for their primary produce
  • British trade balance remained healthy duing this period
  • Able to maintain dominant position in the world economy 
  • No longer claim supreme power
  • Forced to seek new outlets for industrial goods and turned increasingly towards its empire 
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The Growth of New Unionism

  • The 1880s saw a change in direction in the union movement
  • Beginning of the organisation of unskilled workers
  • Militant approach = striking was first line of attack
  • Direct contrast to craft unions
  • Subscriptions were low to allows for the workers' poor wage levels 
  • Large membership gave the unions funds to support strike action
  • However, their funds did not make provision for welfare payments unlike craft unions
  • Became known as mass unions 
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The Growth of New Unionism

  • Number of reasons for the growth of 'new unionism'
    • Uncertain economic climate of 1870-1880s
    • Unskilled workers were often the first to be laid off 
    • High levels of unemployment made wage bargaining difficult and strikes ineffective
    • Plenty of labour to take over from strikes
    • Many had little choice to accept low pay
    • Spread of education among the labouring class and the right to vote for unskilled workers boosted their confidence 
    • Trade unions achieved legal status in 1876 
    • Inevitable that the unskilled workers would seek the advantages gained by the craft unions by forming their own unions
    • Leading socialists from the SDF held meetings outside factory gates to encourage workers to assert their rights 
    • Few high profile strikes by unskilled labour gave impetus to the new union movement 
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High Profile Strikes

Bryant & May Match Girls Stike - July 1888

  • Female employees 
  • Strike for better conditions 
  • Captured public sympathy and ended in trumph at the end of two weeks
  • Factory was in the London's east end
  • Workforce was pulled from slum areas and was largely young female
  • Enabled Bryant and May to keep down their wage bill
  • Dipping sticks in yellow phosphorous to make matches was highly dangerous 
  • Often resulted in painful, disfiguring and fatal affliction 
  • 'Phossy Jaw'
  • Annie Besant - leading socialist - helped to organise the strike and give it publicity 
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High Profile Strikes

Gas Workers' Union Strike - July 1889

  • Will Thorne - member of the SDF - established a Gasworkers' and General Labourers Union in 1889
  • Organised a strike to reduce the working day 
  • Demanding three 8 hour shifts instead of two 12 hour shifts
  • Southern Metropolitan Gas Company immediately agreed 
  • Success provided an incidentive for other workers to organise unions 
  • Strike resulted in better pay and conditions for all workers in gas, water and electricity
  • Workforce was regarded as specialist 
  • Won union recognition and an ability to pursue collective bargaining 
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High Profile Strikes

Dockers' Strike - August 1889

  • Work was irregular and poorly paid
  • Pay = 5d an hour
  • Too many were avaliable for 'call-on'
  • Hung around for a half a day with no work or a couple of hours
  • Depression in trade caused competition between London dock companies
  • Strike began when bonus' were cut in order to offer a lower rate to ship owners
  • The West India Dock wokers came out on strike
  • No funds to strike pay but were supported by other dock trades
  • Port was brought to a standstill
  • Main strike demand was a wage of 6d an hour - the dockers' tanner
  • Wanted the 'plus' system to be abolished, union recognition and to be taken on for a minimum of four hours a day 
  • Strike committee organised mass meetings and and established pickets outside gates 
  • Strike went on for five weeks and the employers were convinced hunger would bring them back
  • £30,000 was sent by union supporters from Australia 
  • Saved the day for London dockers - able to negotiate the ending of the strike
  • Demands were met 
  • Gerna Labourers' Union was formed with a 30,000 strong membership 
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The Importance of the Strikes

  • Demonstrated that they could no longer be ignored or exploited without a struggle 
  • Public sympathy for strikers 
  • Success gave confidence to other unskilled workers to form unions 
  • Huge boost to the concept of new unionism 
  • Strengthened the position of the trade union movement as a whole
  • Strong message to th establishment and society regarding the right of all workers to fair and decent wages for a job done
  • A long struggle was ahead to gain full acceptance of this concept 
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A difficult decade for New Unionism

  • Respect and sympathy won from the establishment quickly disappeared
  • The union leaders led a number of unsuccessful strikes, mostly among dock workers 
  • Wanted to establish 'closed shop'
  • Employers would not accept the closed shop and organised police protection for non-union labour whom they preferred to employ - Hull docks strike in 1893 
  • Employers' federations were formed 
  • Drew up registers of nn-union workers and coordinated lock-outs to defeat strikes 
  • Blackleg labour was often used 
  • New mass unions had yet the grasp their potential political importance
  • 1900 = trade union membership stood at over 2 million out of 38 million
  • 11% of the total workforce - very few belonged to mass unionism 
  • Marked the beginning of a close alliance between the Trade Union Movement and the Socialist Movement which produced the Labour Party 
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