British foreign and imperial policy: Key issue 1

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KI1: ‘What principles governed foreign and imperial policies from 1856-1902?’


  • Maintenance of BOP
  • Protection of trade and economy
  • Expansion of empire
  • Russophobia
  • Preservation of naval supremacy



The concert of Europe, 1815, a purely European agreement

although Britain’s interests extended far beyond Eur.

- order in Eur. allowed the protection and expansion of the

Br Empire.

-diplomatic and strategic stability in Eur meant Br could

remain a regional and continental power.


From 1846-1902 Br wanted to maintain the BOP – Br was

only involved in the Crimean war (1854-6) in this time, and

this was fought to maintain the BOP.


Preservation of the BOP was so important it was necessary that

this objective in marinating stability was put above the national

interests of individual states.


Any significant change in the distribution of power would threaten Br’s status as a great European power – established & fixed in 1815.

This supported Br’s status as an imperial power, without stability BR would not be able to protect itself as a regional and global power.


Plamerston placed BOP above containment of Russia – the Peace of Paris, 1856  - after the Crimean War, Palmerston wanted to ensure the most severe terms were imposed on the Russians as well as protect the integrity of Turkey in order to preserve the European Balance of Power. Clearly, Palmerston wanted to limit Russian expansionism within Europe; however he only wanted to contain Russia because he felt they threatened the European Balance of Power and therefore threatened Britain’s regional and imperial superiority.




Gladstone believed the Eur BOP to be of less importance (non-interventionist) His inaction during the Franco-Prussian war, 1870-1, allowed Germany to emerge as a great threat to the BOP – economically and militaristically Germany had the capacity and ambition to become even stronger. 

Prussia’s victory


Nessa B

Thank you so much, this has helped me a lot

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