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To What Extent Was Disraeli's Imperial Policy Driven by a Vision of Empire?

  • Date Submitted: 03/03/2011 01:37 PM
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TO WHAT EXTENT WAS DISRAELI’S IMPERIAL POLICY DRIVEN BY A VISION OF EMPIRE?

Imperialism is a policy of dominating other nations by acquisition of dependencies or through trade.   Disraeli was viewed as a great defender of the British Empire, a man keen to uphold Britain’s interests overseas.   He put an emphasis on the importance of colonies as being essential for Britain to play a prominent role in global diplomacy.   However, these feelings may have arisen because he felt the previous government was attempting to dismantle the Empire, which was not too popular with the electorate.   Historians such as Blake look towards Disraeli’s speeches at Manchester and Crystal Palace on 3 April 1872 and 24 June 1872 respectively and state that this marked a new direction for Disraeli, as he was showing interest in a policy which he hadn’t previously dedicated much time.   Events in South Africa and Afghanistan led to Gladstone painting a picture of Disraeli as a reckless warmonger in his famous Midlothian Campaign.   It appeared to be the fruits of an irresponsible expansionist imperial policy.   However, historians such as Stembridge and Harcourt have put forward evidence to suggest that Disraeli’s opinion on British colonies and Imperialism in his early years was consistent of a forward imperial policy.   It has been argued by Feuchtwanger, Moneypenny and Buckle, and Smith that during Disraeli’s reign as Prime Minister, it was not in fact he who was responsible for Imperial events, but rather men on the spot. Disraeli was content to simply follow the line of the previous Liberal government.

As a young MP, it has been asserted that imperialism didn’t feature too prominently in his agenda until 1872.   Speeches that were made relating to the subject were largely directed at the government for its failure to uphold the traditions or protect borders of the British Empire.   These criticisms were evident in the 1872 speeches in Crystal Palace and Manchester where Disraeli argued,...

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