Britain and Ireland in the Eighteenth-Century Crisis of Empire


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P. J. Marshall and Alaine Low

Vigorous,protests by American President Woodrow Wilson forced Berlin to abandon unrestricted submarine warfare. With victory over Russia in , the German high command now calculated it could finally have numerical superiority on the Western Front. Planning for a massive spring offensive in , it resumed the sinking of all merchant ships without warning, even if they were flying the American flag. The US entered the war alongside the Allies without officially joining them , and provided the needed money and supplies to sustain the Allies' war efforts. The U-boat threat was ultimately defeated by a convoy system across the Atlantic.

Britain fought the Ottoman Empire, suffering defeats in the Gallipoli Campaign and in Mesopotamia Iraq , while arousing the Arabs who helped expel the Turks from their lands. Exhaustion and war-weariness were growing worse in , as the fighting in France continued with no end in sight. After defeating Russia, the Germans tried to win in the spring of before the millions of American soldiers arrived.

They failed, and they were overwhelmed by August and finally accepted an Armistice on 11 November , that amounted to a surrender. British society and government were radically transformed by the repeated calls for manpower, the employment of women, the dramatic increase in industrial production and munitions, price controls and rationing, and the wide and deep emotional patriotism dedicated to winning the war.

Parliament took a backseat, as new departments bureaus committees and operations were created every week, experts were consulted, and the prime minister's Orders in Council replaced the slow legislative process. Even after peace arrived, the new size and dynamism had permanently transformed the effectiveness of British government. He gave energy and dynamism to the war effort with his remarkable ability to convince people to do what he wanted and thus get ideas put into actual useful high-speed motion. His top aide Winston Churchill said of Lloyd George: "He was the greatest master of the art of getting things done and of putting things through that I ever knew; in fact no British politician my day has possessed half his competence as a mover of men and affairs.

Victorian attitudes and ideals that had continued into the first years of the 20th century changed during the First World War. The almost three million casualties were known as the " Lost Generation ", and such numbers inevitably left society scarred. The lost generation felt its sacrifice was little regarded in Britain, with poems like Siegfried Sassoon 's Blighters criticising the ill-informed jingoism of the home front. The lost generation was politically inert, and never had its chance to make a generational change in political power.

Britain and Ireland in the Eighteenth Century Crisis of Empire

The young men who governed Britain in were the same old men who governed Britain in The war had been won by Britain and its allies, but at a terrible human and financial cost, creating a sentiment that wars should never be fought again. The League of Nations was founded with the idea that nations could resolve their differences peacefully, but these hopes were unfulfilled.


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The harsh peace settlement imposed on Germany would leave it embittered and seeking revenge. They formed the League of Nations as a mechanism to prevent future wars. They sliced up the losers to form new nations in Europe, and divided up the German colonies and Ottoman holdings outside Turkey. They imposed what appeared to be heavy financial reparations but in the event were of modest size.

They humiliated Germany by forcing it to declare its guilt for starting the war, a policy that caused deep resentment in Germany and helped fuel reactions such as Nazism. Britain gained the German colony of Tanganyika and part of Togoland in Africa, while its dominions added other colonies. Britain gained League of Nations mandates over Palestine, which had been partly promised as a homeland for Jewish settlers, and Iraq.

Iraq became fully independent in Egypt, which had been a British protectorate since , became independent in , although the British remained there until In the House of Commons passed a new Home Rule bill. Under the Parliament Act the House of Lords retained the power to delay legislation by up to two years, so it was eventually enacted as the Government of Ireland Act , but suspended for the duration of the war.

Civil war threatened when the Protestant-Unionists of Northern Ireland refused to be placed under Catholic-Nationalist control. Semi-military units were formed ready to fight—the Unionist Ulster Volunteers opposed to the Act and their Nationalist counterparts, the Irish Volunteers supporting the Act.

The outbreak of the World War in put the crisis on political hold. A disorganized Easter Rising in was brutally suppressed by the British, which had the effect of galvanizing Nationalist demands for independence. Historian Arthur Marwick sees a radical transformation of British society resulting from the Great War, a deluge that swept away many old attitudes and brought in a more equalitarian society. He sees the famous literary pessimism of the s as misplaced, arguing there were major positive long-term consequences of the war to British society.

He points to an energized self-consciousness among workers that quickly built up the Labour Party, the coming of partial woman suffrage, and an acceleration of social reform and state control of the economy. He sees a decline of deference toward the aristocracy and established authority in general, and the weakening among youth of traditional restraints on individual moral behavior. The chaperone faded away; village druggists sold contraceptives. Marwick says that class distinctions softened, national cohesion increased, and British society became more equal.

As a leisure, literacy, wealth, ease of travel, and a broadened sense of community grew in Britain from the late 19th century onward, there was more time and interest in leisure activities of all sorts, on the part of all classes. Tourists flocked to seaside resorts; Blackpool hosted 7 million visitors a year in the s. There were class differences with upper-class clubs, and working-class and middle-class pubs.

Participation in sports and all sorts of leisure activities increased for the average Englishman, and his interest in spectator sports increased dramatically. By the s the cinema and radio attracted all classes, ages and genders in very large numbers, with young women taking the lead. They sang along at the music hall, fancied their pigeons, gambled on horse racing, and took the family to Blackpool in summer. The cartoon realization of this life style Andy Capp began in Political activists complained that working-class leisure diverted men away from revolutionary agitation.

The British film industry emerged in the s when cinemas in general broke through in the western world, and built heavily on the strong reputation of the London legitimate theatre for actors, directors and producers. It bought up the top talent, especially when Hollywood came to the fore in the s and produced over 80 percent of the total world output. Efforts to fight back were futile—the government set a quota for British made films, but it failed. Hollywood furthermore dominated the lucrative Canadian and Australian markets. Bollywood based in Bombay dominated the huge Indian market.

There was a revival of creativity in the —45 era, especially with the arrival of Jewish filmmakers and actors fleeing the Nazis. In Liverpool 40 percent of the population attended one of the 69 cinemas once a week; 25 percent went twice. Traditionalists grumbled about the American cultural invasion, but the permanent impact was minor.

In radio, British audiences had no choice apart from the upscale programming of the BBC, a government agency which had a monopoly on broadcasting. John Reith — , an intensely moralistic engineer, was in full charge. His goal was to broadcast, "All that is best in every department of human knowledge, endeavour and achievement The preservation of a high moral tone is obviously of paramount importance. The British showed a more profound interest in sports, and in greater variety, than any rival. They gave pride of place to such moral issues as sportsmanship and fair play. New games became popular almost overnight, including golf, lawn tennis, cycling and hockey.

Women were much more likely to enter these sports than the old established ones. The aristocracy and landed gentry, with their ironclad control over land rights, dominated hunting, shooting, fishing and horse racing. Test matches began by the s; the most famous are those between Australia and England for The Ashes.

As literacy and leisure time expanded after , reading became a popular pastime. New additions to adult fiction doubled during the s, reaching new books a year by Libraries tripled their stock, and saw heavy demand for new fiction. The first titles included novels by Ernest Hemingway and Agatha Christie. They were sold cheap usually sixpence in a wide variety of inexpensive stores such as Woolworth's. Penguin aimed at an educated middle class "middlebrow" audience. It avoided the downmarket image of American paperbacks. The line signalled cultural self-improvement and political education.

Romantic fiction was especially popular, with Mills and Boon the leading publisher. The story line in magazines and cinema that most appealed to boys was the glamorous heroism of British soldiers fighting wars that were exciting and just. Two major programmes that permanently expanded the welfare state passed in and with surprisingly little debate, even as the Conservatives dominated parliament. Act set up a system of government housing that followed the campaign promises of "homes fit for heroes.

The Treasury subsidized the low rents.

In England and Wales , houses were built, and the Ministry of Health became largely a ministry of housing. The Unemployment Insurance Act passed at a time of very little unemployment. It set up the dole system that provided 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to practically the entire civilian working population except domestic service, farm workers, and civil servants. Funded in part by weekly contributions from both employers and employed, it provided weekly payments of 15s for unemployed men and 12s for unemployed women.

Historian Charles Mowat calls these two laws "Socialism by the back door", and notes how surprised politicians were when the costs to the Treasury soared during the high unemployment of The Lloyd George ministry fell apart in Stanley Baldwin , as leader of the Conservative Party —37 and as Prime Minister in —24, —29 and —37 , dominated British politics. Baldwin's political strategy was to polarize the electorate so that voters would choose between the Conservatives on the right and the Labour Party on the left, squeezing out the Liberals in the middle.

Baldwin's reputation soared in the s and s, but crashed after as he was blamed for the appeasement policies toward Germany, and as admirers of Churchill made him the Conservative icon.


  • Conflict and Development (Routledge Perspectives on Development);
  • Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume II: The Eighteenth Century - Oxford Scholarship!
  • From Irish State to British Empire : Reflections on State-Building in Ireland, - Persée.
  • Since the s Baldwin's reputation has recovered somewhat. Labour won the election, but in Baldwin and the Conservatives returned with a large majority. McKibbin finds that the political culture of the interwar period was built around an anti-socialist middle class, supported by the Conservative leaders, especially Baldwin. Taxes rose sharply during the war and never returned to their old levels. Much of the money went for the dole, the weekly unemployment benefits. Taylor argues most people "were enjoying a richer life than any previously known in the history of the world: longer holidays, shorter hours, higher real wages.

    The British economy was lackluster in the s, with sharp declines and high unemployment in heavy industry and coal, especially in Scotland and Wales. Exports of coal and steel fell in half by and the business community was slow to adopt the new labour and management principles coming from the US, such as Fordism , consumer credit, eliminating surplus capacity, designing a more structured management, and using greater economies of scale.

    With the very sharp decline in world trade after , its condition became critical. Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill put Britain back on the gold standard in , which many economists blame for the mediocre performance of the economy. Others point to a variety of factors, including the inflationary effects of the World War and supply-side shocks caused by reduced working hours after the war. By the late s, economic performance had stabilised, but the overall situation was disappointing, for Britain had fallen behind the United States as the leading industrial power. There also remained a strong economic divide between the north and south of England during this period, with the south of England and the Midlands fairly prosperous by the Thirties, while parts of south Wales and the industrial north of England became known as "distressed areas" due to particularly high rates of unemployment and poverty.

    Despite this, the standard of living continued to improve as local councils built new houses to let to families rehoused from outdated slums , with up to date facilities including indoor toilets, bathrooms and electric lighting now being included in the new properties. The private sector enjoyed a housebuilding boom during the s. During the war, trade unions were encouraged and their membership grew from 4. They peaked at 8. Coal was a sick industry; the best seams were being exhausted, raising the cost.

    Demand fell as oil began replacing coal for fuel. The general strike was a nine-day nationwide walkout of 1. The miners had rejected the owners' demands for longer hours and reduced pay in the face of falling prices. To support the miners the Trades Union Congress TUC , an umbrella organization of all trades unions, called out certain critical unions.

    The hope was the government would intervene to reorganize and rationalize the industry, and raise the subsidy. The Conservative government had stockpiled supplies and essential services continued with middle class volunteers. All three major parties opposed the strike. The Labour Party leaders did not approve and feared it would tar the party with the image of radicalism, for the Comintern in Moscow had sent instructions for Communists to aggressively promote the strike. The general strike itself was largely non-violent, but the miners' lockout continued and there was violence in Scotland.

    Most historians treat it as a singular event with few long-term consequences, but Martin Pugh says it accelerated the movement of working-class voters to the Labour Party, which led to future gains. That act was largely repealed in The Great Depression originated in the United States in late and quickly spread to the world. Britain had never experienced the boom that had characterized the US, Germany, Canada and Australia in the s, so its bust appeared less severe.

    At the depth in summer , registered unemployed numbered 3. Experts tried to remain optimistic. John Maynard Keynes , who had not predicted the slump, said, "'There will be no serious direct consequences in London. We find the look ahead decidedly encouraging. On the left figures such as Sidney and Beatrice Webb , J. Hobson , and G. Cole repeated the warnings they had been making for years about the imminent death of capitalism, only now far more people paid attention. In , by which time unemployment was lower, unemployed men made a highly publicized march from Jarrow to London in a bid to show the plight of the industrial poor.

    Although much romanticized by the Left, the Jarrow Crusade marked a deep split in the Labour Party and resulted in no government action. Vivid memories of the horrors and deaths of the World War made Britain and its leaders strongly inclined to pacifism in the interwar era. The League of Nations proved disappointing to its supporters; it was unable to resolve any of the threats posed by the dictators. British policy was to "appease" them in the hopes they would be satiated.

    By it was clear that war was looming, and that Germany had the world's most powerful military. The final act of appeasement came when Britain and France sacrificed Czechoslovakia to Hitler's demands at the Munich Agreement of During the quiet period of " phoney war ", the British sent to France the most highly mechanized army in the world; together with France they had more tanks than Germany, but fewer warplanes.

    The smashing German victory in Spring was due entirely to "superior combat doctrine. Realistic training, imaginative battlefield leadership, and unparalleled initiative from generals down to sergeants. Winston Churchill came to power, promising to fight the Germans to the very end. The Germans threatened an invasion—which the Royal Navy was prepared to repel. First the Germans tried to achieve air supremacy but were defeated by the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain in late summer Britain formed an alliance with the Soviet Union starting in and very close ties to the United States starting in The war was very expensive.

    It was paid for by high taxes, by selling off assets, and by accepting large amounts of Lend Lease from the U. The American and Canadian aid did not have to be repaid, but there were also American loans that were repaid. Britain's total mobilisation during this period proved to be successful in winning the war, by maintaining strong support from public opinion. The war was a "people's war" that enlarged democratic aspirations and produced promises of a postwar welfare state. The media called it a "people's war"—a term that caught on and signified the popular demand for planning and an expanded welfare state.

    They refused to leave London during the Blitz and were indefatigable in visiting troops, munition factories, dockyards, and hospitals all over the country. All social classes appreciated how the royals shared the hopes, fears and hardships of the people.

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    Historians credit Britain with a highly successful record of mobilising the home front for the war effort, in terms of mobilising the greatest proportion of potential workers, maximising output, assigning the right skills to the right task, and maintaining the morale and spirit of the people. Much of this success was due to the systematic planned mobilisation of women, as workers, soldiers and housewives, enforced after December by conscription.

    In some ways the government over-responded, evacuating too many children in the first days of the war, closing cinemas as frivolous then reopening them when the need for cheap entertainment wasbecame clear, sacrificing cats and dogs to save a little space on shipping pet food, only to discover an urgent need to keep rats and mice under control. The British relied successfully on voluntarism. Munitions production rose dramatically, and the quality remained high.

    P. J. Marshall and Alaine Low

    Food production was emphasised, in large part to free shipping for munitions. The success of the government in providing new services, such as hospitals and school lunches, as well as egalitarian spirit, contributed to widespread support for an enlarged welfare state. It was supported by the coalition government and all major parties.

    Welfare conditions, especially regarding food, improved during the war as the government imposed rationing and subsidized food prices.

    Why Ireland split into the Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland

    Conditions for housing worsened of course with the bombing, and clothing was in short supply. Equality increased dramatically, as incomes declined sharply for the wealthy and for white collar workers, as their taxes soared, while blue collar workers benefited from rationing and price controls. People demanded an expansion of the welfare state as a reward to the people for their wartime sacrifices [] The goal was operationalized in a famous report by William Beveridge. It recommended that the various income maintenance services that a grown-up piecemeal since be systematized and made universal.

    Unemployment benefits and sickness benefits were to be universal. There would be new benefits for maternity. The old-age pension system would be revised and expanded, and require that a person retired. A full-scale National Health Service would provide free medical care for everyone. All the major parties endorsed the principles and they were largely put into effect when peace returned. Britain had won the war, but it lost India in and nearly all the rest of the Empire by the s.

    Prosperity returned in the s, and London remained a world centre of finance and culture, but the nation was no longer a major world power. The end of the war saw a landslide victory for Clement Attlee and the Labour Party. They were elected on a manifesto of greater social justice with left-wing policies such as the creation of a National Health Service , more council housing and nationalisation of several major industries.

    Britain faced a severe financial crisis, and responded by reducing her international responsibilities and by sharing the hardships of an "age of austerity". Rationing and conscription dragged on well into the post war years, and the country suffered one of the worst winters on record. Labour Party experts went into the files to find the detailed plans for nationalisation.

    To their surprise [ citation needed ] , there were no plans. The leaders decided to act fast to keep up the momentum of the electoral landslide. They started with the Bank of England , civil aviation, coal, and Cable and Wireless. Then came railways, canals, road haulage and trucking, electricity, and gas. Finally came iron and steel, which was a special case because it was a manufacturing industry. Altogether, about one fifth of the economy was nationalised. Labour dropped its plans to nationalise farmlands. In exchange for the shares, the owners of the companies were given government bonds paying low rates of interest, and the government took full ownership of each affected company, consolidating it into a national monopoly.

    The management remained the same, but they were now effectively civil servants working for the government. For the Labour Party leadership, nationalisation was a way to consolidate economic planning in their own hands. It was not designed to modernise old industries, make them efficient, or transform their organisational structure.

    There was no money for modernisation, although the Marshall Plan , operated separately by American planners, did force many British businesses to adopt modern managerial techniques. Hardline socialists were disappointed, as the nationalised industries seemed identical to the old private corporations, and national planning was made virtually impossible by the government's financial constraints. Socialism was in place, but it did not seem to make a major difference.

    Rank-and-file workers had long been motivated to support Labour by tales of the mistreatment of workers by foremen and the management. The foremen and the managers were the same people as before, with much the same power over the workplace. There was no worker control of industry. The unions resisted government efforts to set wages. By the time of the general elections in and , Labour seldom boasted about nationalisation of industry.

    Instead it was the Conservatives who decried the inefficiency and mismanagement, and promised to reverse the takeover of steel and trucking. As the country headed into the s, rebuilding continued and a number of immigrants from the remaining British Empire , mostly the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent, were invited to help the rebuilding effort. As the s wore on, Britain lost its place as a superpower and could no longer maintain its large Empire.

    This led to decolonisation, and a withdrawal from almost all of its colonies by Events such as the Suez Crisis showed that the UK's status had fallen in the world. The s and s were, however, relatively prosperous times after the Second World War, and saw the beginning of a modernisation of the UK, with the construction of its first motorways for example, and also during the s a great cultural movement began which expanded across the world. Unemployment was relatively low during this period and the standard of living continued to rise with more new private and council housing developments taking place and the number of slum properties diminishing.

    As summed up by R. By the earlier Seventies, however, the UK standard of living was lower than all EEC countries apart from Italy which, according to one calculation, was roughly equal to Britain. In addition, food rations were lifted in while hire-purchase controls were relaxed in the same year. As a result of these changes, large numbers of the working classes were able to participate in the consumer market for the first time.

    National wealth has grown considerably, and although the shareout of this among the social classes has remained substantially of the same proportions, it has meant a considerable rise in the standard of living of all classes. It is estimated that in Britain at the turn of the century average earnings in industry sufficed merely to meet the essential needs of a two-child family, today average earnings allow the industrial wage-earner to spend a third of his income on things other than basic needs.

    By the end of the s, Britain had become one of the world's most affluent countries, and by the early Sixties, most Britons enjoyed a level of prosperity that had previously been known only to a small minority of the population. In , Queen magazine declared that "Britain has launched into an age of unparalleled lavish living. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan claimed that "the luxuries of the rich have become the necessities of the poor. Keynesian economic management enabled British workers to enjoy a golden age of full employment which, combined with a more relaxed attitude towards working mothers, led to the spread of the two-income family.

    In addition, as noted by John Burnett,. What was equally striking was that ownership of such things had spread down the social scale and the gap between professional and manual workers had considerably narrowed. The provision of household amenities steadily improved during the second half of the twentieth century. Between and , however, Britain was overtaken by most of the countries of the European Common Market in terms of the number of telephones, refrigerators, television sets, cars, and washing machines per of the population although Britain remained high in terms of bathrooms and lavatories per people.

    Although the British standard of living was increasing, the standard of living in other countries increased faster. In ten years, from having had a much higher standard of living than the continent, they have slipped right back. Britain's control over its Empire loosened during the interwar period. Nationalism strengthened in other parts of the empire, particularly in India and in Egypt.

    They became charter members of the British Commonwealth of Nations known as the Commonwealth of Nations since , an informal but close-knit association that succeeded the British Empire. Beginning with the independence of India and Pakistan in , the remainder of the British Empire was almost completely dismantled. Today, most of Britain's former colonies belong to the Commonwealth, almost all of them as independent members. There are, however, 13 former British colonies, including Bermuda , Gibraltar , the Falkland Islands , and others, which have elected to continue rule by London and are known as British Overseas Territories.

    His goals were blocked by militant Protestants led by the Rev. Ian Paisley. British leaders feared their withdrawal would give a "Doomsday Scenario", with widespread communal strife, followed by the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of refugees. London shut down Northern Ireland's parliament and began direct rule. By the s, the failure of the IRA campaign to win mass public support or achieve its aim of a British withdrawal led to negotiations that in produced the ' Good Friday Agreement '. It won popular support and largely ended the Troubles. After the relative prosperity of the s and s, the UK experienced extreme industrial strife and stagflation through the s following a global economic downturn; Labour had returned to government in under Harold Wilson to end 13 years of Conservative rule.

    The Conservatives were restored to government in under Edward Heath , who failed to halt the country's economic decline and was ousted in as Labour returned to power under Harold Wilson. The economic crisis deepened following Wilson's return and things fared little better under his successor James Callaghan.

    A strict modernisation of its economy began under the controversial Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher following her election as prime minister in , which saw a time of record unemployment as deindustrialisation saw the end of much of the country's manufacturing industries but also a time of economic boom as stock markets became liberalised and State-owned industries became privatised. Her rise to power was seen as the symbolic end of the time in which the British economy had become the "sick man" of western Europe.

    However the miners' strike of — sparked the end of most of the UK's coal mining. The exploitation of North Sea gas and oil brought in substantial tax and export revenues to aid the new economic boom. This was also the time that the IRA took the issue of Northern Ireland to Great Britain, maintaining a prolonged bombing campaign on the British mainland.

    After the economic boom of the s a brief but severe recession occurred between and following the economic chaos of Black Wednesday under government of John Major , who had succeeded Margaret Thatcher in However the rest of the s saw the beginning of a period of continuous economic growth that lasted over 16 years and was greatly expanded under the New Labour government of Tony Blair following his landslide election victory in , with a rejuvenated party having abandoned its commitment to policies including nuclear disarmament and nationalisation of key industries, and no reversal of the Thatcher-led union reforms.

    From up until , income per head had doubled, while ownership of various household goods had significantly increased. Holiday entitlements had also become more generous. In , nine out of ten full-time manual workers were entitled to more than four weeks of paid holiday a year, while twenty years previously only two-thirds had been allowed three weeks or more. The postwar period also witnessed significant improvements in housing conditions.

    By the s, most homes had these amenities together with central heating, which was a luxury just two decades before. Britain's wish to join the Common Market as the European Economic Community was known in Britain was first expressed in July by the Macmillan government. It was vetoed in by French President Charles de Gaulle. Like the first, though, it was vetoed by de Gaulle. In opposition the Labour Party was deeply divided, though its Leader, Harold Wilson, remained in favour.

    In the General Election the Labour Party manifesto included a pledge to renegotiate terms for Britain's membership and then hold a referendum on whether to stay in the EC on the new terms. This was a constitutional procedure without precedent in British history. In the subsequent referendum campaign, rather than the normal British tradition of "collective responsibility", under which the government takes a policy position which all cabinet members are required to support publicly, members of the Government and the Conservative opposition were free to present their views on either side of the question.

    A referendum was duly held on 5 June , and the proposition to continue membership was passed with a substantial majority. In , the Conservative government under John Major ratified it, against the opposition of his backbench Maastricht Rebels. The Treaty of Lisbon introduced many changes to the treaties of the Union. Prominent changes included more qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers , increased involvement of the European Parliament in the legislative process through extended codecision with the Council of Ministers, eliminating the pillar system and the creation of a President of the European Council with a term of two and a half years and a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to present a united position on EU policies.

    The Treaty of Lisbon will also make the Union's human rights charter, the Charter of Fundamental Rights , legally binding. In July , the Labour government under Gordon Brown approved the treaty and the Queen ratified it. On 11 September , on the th anniversary of the Scottish victory over the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge , a referendum was held on establishing a devolved Scottish Parliament.

    This resulted in an overwhelming 'yes' vote both to establishing the parliament and granting it limited tax varying powers. One week later, a referendum in Wales on establishing a Welsh Assembly was also approved but with a very narrow majority. The first elections were held, and these bodies began to operate, in The creation of these bodies has widened the differences between the Countries of the United Kingdom , especially in areas like healthcare. In the General Election , the Labour Party won a second successive victory, though voter turnout dropped to the lowest level for more than 80 years.

    Bush launching the War on Terror , beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan aided by British troops in October Thereafter, with the US focus shifting to Iraq, Tony Blair convinced the Labour and Conservative MPs to vote in favour of supporting the invasion of Iraq , despite huge anti-war marches held in London and Glasgow. Forty-six thousand British troops, one-third of the total strength of the Army's land forces, were deployed to assist with the invasion of Iraq and thereafter British armed forces were responsible for security in southern Iraq.

    All British forces were withdrawn in The Labour Party won the general election and a third consecutive term. They formed a minority government with plans to hold a referendum before to seek a mandate "to negotiate with the Government of the United Kingdom to achieve independence for Scotland.

    The response of the unionist parties was to establish the Calman Commission to examine further devolution of powers, [] a position that had the support of the Prime Minister. Responding to the findings of the review, the UK government announced on 25 November , that new powers would be devolved to the Scottish Government , notably on how it can raise tax and carry out capital borrowing, and the running of Scottish Parliament elections. Scottish Constitution Minister Michael Russell criticised the white paper, calling it "flimsy" and stating that their proposed Referendum Scotland Bill, , whose own white paper was to be published five days later, would be "more substantial".

    The election saw a decisive victory for the SNP which was able to form a majority government intent on delivering a referendum on independence. In the wake of the global economic crisis of , the United Kingdom economy contracted, experiencing negative economic growth throughout The announcement in November that the economy had shrunk for the first time since late brought an end to 16 years of continuous economic growth. The plan comprised three parts. With the UK officially coming out of recession in the fourth quarter of —ending six consecutive quarters of economic decline—the Bank of England decided against further quantitative easing.

    The United Kingdom General Election of 6 May resulted in the first hung parliament since , with the Conservative Party winning the largest number of seats, but falling short of the seats required for an overall majority. Under the coalition government, British military aircraft participated in the UN-mandated intervention in the Libyan civil war , flying a total of 3, air sorties against forces loyal to the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi between March and October In late October , the prime ministers of the Commonwealth realms voted to grant gender equality in the royal succession , ending the male-preference primogeniture that was mandated by the Act of Settlement On 18 September, a referendum was held in Scotland on whether to leave the United Kingdom and become an independent country.

    Days before the vote, with the opinion polls closing, the three Better Together party leaders issued 'The Vow' , a promise of more powers for Scotland in the event of a No vote. The election was held on 7 May with pre-election polls all predicting a close race and a hung parliament. The other most significant result of the election was the Scottish National Party winning all but three of the 59 seats in Scotland, a gain of This had been widely forecast as opinion polls had recorded a surge in support for the SNP following the independence referendum, and SNP party membership had more than quadrupled from 25, to over ,, meaning that 1 in every 50 of the population of Scotland was a party member.

    The Liberal Democrats lost 49 of their 57 seats, as they were punished for their decision to form a coalition with the conservatives in On 20 February , British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that a referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union would be held on 23 June , following years of campaigning by eurosceptics.

    The British Empire and its Contested Pasts | Irish Academic Press

    Debates and campaigns by parties supporting both "Remain" and "Leave" focused on concerns regarding trade and the single market , security , migration and sovereignty. The result of the referendum was in favour of the country leaving the EU with This started negotiations on a withdrawal agreement that will last no more than two years unless the Council and the UK agree to extend the negotiation period , before an exit from the European Union Brexit intended on 29 March but later extended to currently 31 October From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

    History of the sovereign state of the United Kingdom. Part of a series on the. History of women Military history. Main articles: Early Modern Britain and Georgian era. Main articles: Treaty of Union and Acts of Union Main article: House of Hanover. Main article: British Empire.

    Main articles: Act of Union and Irish issue in British politics. Main article: Victorian era. Main article: International relations of the Great Powers — Main article: Second Boer War. Further information: Gladstonian liberalism. Main article: Edwardian era. Main article: Interwar Britain. Main article: Sport in the United Kingdom. Main article: Great Depression in the United Kingdom. Main article: Beveridge Report.

    Main article: The Troubles. Main article: History of the United Kingdom —present. Main articles: Scottish devolution and Welsh devolution. Main article: Scottish independence referendum, However, the actual name of the new state was Great Britain. However the name was not applied to the state as a unit; both England and Scotland continued to be governed independently. Its validity as a name of the Crown is also questioned, given that monarchs continued using separate ordinals e. To avoid confusion historians generally avoid using the term King of Great Britain until and instead to match the ordinal usage call the monarchs kings or queens of England and Scotland.

    Separate ordinals were abandoned when the two states merged in accordance with the Acts of Union , with subsequent monarchs using ordinals apparently based on English not Scottish history it might be argued that the monarchs have simply taken the higher ordinal, which to date has always been English. Thus the term Great Britain is generally used from A History of Britain. Episode BBC One. Trevelyan, A shortened history of England p. Northern History. Fall , Vol. Oxford University Press. The Rise and Fall of the British Empire. Official year book of the Commonwealth of Australia.

    Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. Ward, The Irish Constitutional Tradition p. Schroeder, The Transformation of European Politics — pp. History Today. Britain and the Americas: culture, politics, and history pp. Woodward, The Age of Reform, — , pp. Merli; David M. Fahey Indiana U. Marshall, ed. Anthony Morris, "Haldane's army reforms —8: the deception of the radicals. Webb, Modern England: from the 18th century to the present 2nd ed. Hexter, "The Protestant revival and the Catholic question in England, — Atlas of the Great Irish Famine presents broad-ranging coverage.

    Guinnane and Ronald I. Ensor, England — pp. Palgrave Macmillan UK. Historical Journal. Lee Gladstone and Disraeli. Psychology Press. Sylvester, "Robert Lowe and the Education Act. Wilfrid Laurier UP. Raugh The Historiography of Gladstone and Disraeli. Anthem Press. Ellenberger, "Salisbury" in David Loades, ed. Matthew, ed. Gladstone Diaries , X, pp. The Oxford Companion to British History. Aspects of British Political History — Was Belgium an issue?

    The Historical Journal. Steiner, Britain and the origins of the First World War pp — Siegel Parliamentary History. Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism. Beckett, The Great War: — 2nd ed. Harvard U. Population Studies. Beck, "Leisure and Sport in Britain. Walton, The English seaside resort. A social history — Walton, Leisure in Britain, — Library Review. Mowat, Britain between the Wars: — pp.

    Taylor , English History, — p. Journal of European Economic History. Journal of Transport History. Mitchell, Abstract of British Historical Statistics p. Mitchell, Abstract of British Historical Statistics pp. Journal of Contemporary History. Journal of Economic History. Leventhal, Twentieth-Century Britain: an Encyclopedia pp. Beer, British Politics in the Collectivist Age pp. Penguin Books Limited, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. Journal of Consumer Culture. A History of the Global Economy. From to the Present.

    Cambridge University Press. The UK and Europe". BBC News. Archived from the original on 25 November Retrieved 30 November The Independent. Archived from the original on 3 December London: Telegraph. Retrieved 9 March Retrieved 20 October BBC, 28 October Retrieved 29 October Association of British Insurers. Archived from the original on 1 March Retrieved 11 August Daily Mail , 28 October National Catholic Reporter , 28 October Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 22 March The New York Times. Retrieved 24 June Retrieved 26 June Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online ; short scholarly biographies of all the major people Addison, Paul.

    Black, Jeremy. A History Of England. A History of England: Period V. Imperial Reaction Victoria — vol 5, ; detailed political narrative; pp; online ; also another copy Brown, David, Robert Crowcroft, and Gordon Pentland, eds. The Oxford Companion to British History , historical encyclopedia; entries in pp excerpt and text search Childs, David.

    Hope and Glory: Britain — 2nd ed. Britons: Forging the Nation, — Yale U. The Economic History of Britain since 1st ed. Gardiner, Juliet. Wartime: Britain — ; pp; social history Gilley, Sheridan, and W. Finding a Role? Modern England, — 2nd ed. One solution was to combine Imperial federation with Irish home rule or even home-rule all round. Federal institutions would no longer be dominated by a single political actor if the United Kingdom were divided into smaller parts.

    This meant that Irish home rule, which was often presented as a potential threat to the British Empire, could be presented as a means to preserving the unity of at least the white-dominated portions of the British Empire. Rhodes made clear that his donation was based on a belief that Irish home rule would increase the prospect of Imperial federation. Yet, it was perfectly possible for an Irish nationalist such as Charles Gavan Duffy to advocate Imperial federation in the late 19 th century. The main reason for the dearth of memory concerning the relationship between Irish home rule and Imperial federation lies in the changed political landscape that emerged after Irish home rule was just one of these proposed reforms but it had deep connections with others such as Imperial federation, home rule all round and the development of Dominion status.

    The unifying feature of these constitutional projects was their use in arguing that Irish nationalism and support for the continued strength and integrity of the British Empire were not necessarily incompatible concepts.


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    • More radical Irish nationalists in this period, for example Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, would have disagreed with such a contention but their perspective would not win mass electoral support until after the conclusion of the First World War. Before it was possible for Irish nationalist politicians to openly support the preservation of the British Empire.

      Examples include Isaac Butt, the founder of the home rule movement, and John Redmond, leader of the Irish parliamentary party from to , who liked to argue that Ireland had played as important a role as England or Scotland in building the British Empire. They also argued that autonomy would reconcile Irish people to the British Empire as had allegedly occurred in Canada.

      Arguments that Irish home rule could facilitate home rule all round and Imperial federation were less prominent but were often used by Irish politicians, especially when speaking to audiences outside Ireland. John Redmond admitted that even if it could be proved that home rule for Ireland would actually injure the Empire, a proposition that he never accepted, his party would still demand it.

      Arguments that Irish home rule would actually strengthen the Empire did succeed in persuading large numbers of British and Dominion politicians who had no connection of any form to Ireland. This is evident in the large numbers of British politicians who were prepared to vote in favour of Irish home rule and in the parliamentary resolutions in support of Irish home rule passed by the Canadian parliament in and and passed by the Australian parliament in In these circumstances, it is important to examine the results of the close relationship between Irish home rule and other constitutional projects such as Imperial federation, home rule all round and Dominion status.

      This demands some assessment of the relationship between Irish home rule and each of these constitutional projects. Campaigns for Imperial federation continued and even reached their peak after the outbreak of war in but events during the war rendered them obsolete. This involved bringing the Dominion Prime Ministers and representatives from India to London to discuss matters of common interest and, in particular, the ongoing conflict.

      Although this was an exciting development for Imperial federalists these meetings witnessed a decisive rejection of Imperial federation by British and Dominion representatives. To attempt to run by a Central Parliament and a Central Executive even the common concerns [of] a group of nations spread over the whole world, speaking different languages, belonging to different races with entirely different economic circumstances … is to my mind absolutely to court disaster.

      None of the organisations that campaigned for Imperial federation ever succeeded in attracting a large membership within Ireland. Devolved assemblies for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were created in the s but were the result of very different political circumstances to those that had existed before Home rule all round helped to support the argument that calls for Irish autonomy were not incompatible with maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom just as they were not incompatible with maintaining the integrity of the wider British Empire.

      Proposals for home rule all round could even be presented as offering a means of reinvigorating the union in providing new means of satisfying local sentiments. They were also seen as a means of freeing up the United Kingdom parliament at Westminster, which was often presented as overburdened with affairs that only related to particular parts of the United Kingdom, to deal with pressing matters of common interest.

      Proposals for home rule all round, like those for Imperial federation, might or might not become reality. Irish nationalists insisted that home rule for Ireland could not wait for the fulfilment of such proposals and had to be brought into being as soon as possible. It had been developed in Canada and was later exported to Australasia and southern Africa in the early 20 th century.

      Dominion status had a profound impact on Irish home rule in two different ways. First, from a strictly legal perspective, Dominion status heavily influenced the drafting of the legislation and proposed legislation containing schemes of Irish home rule. Secondly, it could be used to support the argument that self-government would convert the Irish people away from hostility and into a position of genuine loyalty to the Empire, just as it had allegedly done in Canada.

      Yet Dominion status also proved to be an enduring source of confusion in the debates on Irish home rul e. As mentioned earlier, Irish politicians and political commentators tended to describe Dominion status and proposals for Irish home rule as if they were the same thing when they were not. This persistent confusion may have been based on ignorance and a loose use of language. Nevertheless, it raised suspicions amongst opponents of home rule that many Irish nationalists were actually aiming for a far greater position of autonomy than was strictly contained in the proposed legislation on Irish home rule.

      If home rule was treated as a path to Dominion status could Dominion status set out a path towards an Irish republic that would sever all ties with the United Kingdom and the British Empire? The radicalisation of Irish politics after ensured that such matters would remain forever within the realm of conjecture. In the general election of the once-dominant Irish parliamentary party was reduced a humiliating 6 seats out of a possible available in Ireland.

      Proposals for home rule for Ireland and home rule all round faded into the background as a bitter paramilitary war took hold in Ireland between and Only the institutions in Northern Ireland ever functioned and the conflict continued in most of the island. The new Irish Free State came into existence on 6 December as a Dominion, which meant that although its territory had seceded from the United Kingdom it remained an integral part of the British Empire.

      Such speculation can never be resolved and many would argue that there is little value in contemplating alternative histories. It is quite possible, if we chose to turn our minds back, that if the country had followed Gladstone in this terrible misfortune, for it is nothing less, would have been cured, at any rate a generation ago.

      But is it quite possible … if Gladstone had never raised the question, if it had not become a bone of contention between parties in this country, that just as for three generations there was the same feeling in Scotland against the Union as in Ireland, so in time Ireland, like Scotland, might have been willing to accept our good and evil fortunes as a full partner.

      There is no use thinking of that now. By contrast, Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom with its home rule settlement undisturbed until the eruption of a new conflict brought direct rule from London in Amery, L. Rosenbaum ed. Butt, Isaac, Irish Federalism! Dicey, A. Lectures Introductory to the Study of the Law of the Constitution , 2 nd ed. London, Murray, Hall, H. D thesis, University of Edinburgh, Keith, A.

      Dawson ed. Kendle, J. McIntyre, W. Morgan, Kenneth O. Reflections on Law and History p. Martel, J. London, Murray, , p. See also J. These movements never enjoyed anything close to the electoral success enjoyed by the movement for Irish home rule.

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