political issues c.1900-14

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what were the significant characteristics of england in 1900?

how britain was ruled

  • a constitutional monarchy- the monarchy chose the leader of the largest political party in the House of Commons to form a government; elections had to be held every 7 years
  • House of Lords had equal rights in the passing of laws and could block any measure
  • a prime minister could sit in the lords
  • no life peers
  • House of Lords was made up of hereditary peers and the bishops of the Church of England
  • women could not vote or sit as MPs
  • many working class men could not vote
  • two main parties were the conservative and unionist party, and the liberals
  • there was also the Irish Nationalists- elected in Ireland but sat in Westminster and policy was self-government for Ireland
  • the labour party had yet to be formed

britain overseas

  • large overseas empire
  • some were self-governing
  • many were ruled by Britain through colonial officials
  • india ruled by British monarch
  • australia and new zealand on the verge of self-government
  • canada ran its own affairs
  • colonial war in South Africa
  • dominated Egypt and the Suez Canal- major routeway to India and Britain's Far East possessions
  • relied on considerable naval power
  • army was small and mostly used for colonial duties
  • only major european power not to have conscription
  • had only fought one european war since 1815- against Russia in 1854-56

british society

  • very strong class distinctions
  • aristocracy maintained large country estates with considerable numbers of servants
  • middle classes expanded as trade, industry and cities grew
  • predominantly urban society
  • minority working on the land
  • industrial working class had grown considerably-had organised themselves more in unions
  • new industrials processes boosted the number of unskilled workers
  • large numbers of very poor people
  • more awareness of the problems of poverty, poor health, sick and undernourished children that a century of economic growth had not been able to overcome
  • increase in urban dwelling led to greater opportunities, more literacy, more consumerism, more entertainment and a greater awareness of political issues

the economy

  • still depended on traditional heavy industries- major employers and big exporting concerns
  • major trading nation
  • london was the commercial and financial centre of the world
  • the pound was the major world currency
  • britain's financial services lead the world
  • very considerable investments worldwide
  • faced growing competition from newer economics with more recent technology
  • growth of world trade since 1870 left its producers at the mercy of fluctuations in world prices

as Britain approached the end of the 19th century and moved into the 20th, people had conflcting views about th country's position in the world and the direction in which Britain was moving.

how successfully did the conservative government deal with the problems that it faced at home and abroad from 1902 to 1905?

  • PM Lord Salisbury resigned in 1902
  • last PM to sit in the House of Lords
  • A.J Balfour replaced him- an academic and intellectual

what defence changes were introduced?

  • ensuring that Britain's armed forces were reformed and modernised
  • potentially hostile Germany, France…

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