In the late 19th Century, following on from the ‘Scramble for Africa’, Britain continued the aim of expanding her empire through the process of imperialism from the period 1880 to 1902. ‘New imperialism’ is an expression used to demote a change in attitudes to empire in the last quarter of the 19th century. However imperialism is said to mean ’the wish to maintain the unity and increase the strength of an empire which contains within its limits various more on less independent states.’
The reason for new imperialism was to reinforce the idea of a white self government; as well as to increase Britain’s empire, by 1900 Britain had taken control over 1/5 of the world’s land. However, it has to be noted that there were significant fluctuations in popularity during this period such as after the outbreak of the Second Boer War. The rapid expansion or empire came of a time when the electorate had been significantly widened. It also came at the time of the revolution of the popular press. Now printing techniques made newspapers, magazines and books cheaper and more commonly available.
90% of the population are illiterate. Since many newspaper owners were staunch imperialists, many newspapers focused on imperial issues, as so many of the population was illiterate it could be argued that the idea of imperialism was mostly for those of the upper and middle classes; this is backed up by the fact that the working class resented the concept of imperialism as it was seen as a distraction from their work and wages. Support was particularly strong in upper-class public elite groups, such as the landed aristocracy, and among middle-class businessmen.
There is, however, a debate about the extent to which the mass of the working class supported imperial ideology. Teaching the values of the empire was not continued. Imperial lessons were taught in the schoolroom, pupils would learn about the supremacy of the royal navy, the name of the colonies and trade routes, schoolboys stressed patriotic themes. Frowning literacy amongst the young ensured that children especially boys – war the targets of a large range of magazines and novels produced in the 1890s and early 1900s.
Many of the stories produced during this period were set in distant parts of the British empire and were designed both to excite the imagination and to reinforce a sense of patriotism and duty, stories like this appeared in magazines such as Boys Own Paper, Chums, Pluck and Union Jack. It was during the 1880s that youth organisations with military style structures and patriotic, imperialistic values were first set up (boys brigade was set up in Glasgow 1883). One of the most popular forms of entertainment in the late Victorian and Edwardian period way the shows put on by music halls.
These shows were designed to appeal to a predominantly the middle/upper class audience and many had a strong imperialistic and patriotic theme (the term jingoism, meaning ‘extreme patriotism’ came from a music hall song). British people living in the late 19th century were subjected to many indirect forms of indoctrination. Towns were full of billboards advertising products and services, which often used imperial images; thus increasing the appeal for the imperial message.
Some of the most enthusiastic of such working-class demonstrations came during the Boer War of 1899-1902, this method of protest was known as mafficking. When news of the relief or Mafeking reached Britain in May 1900, there were huge demonstrations throughout the country. Some historians have argued against the view that the mass of the working class was fervent imperialists. Price, for example, many members of the working class volunteered to fight in the Boer war in an effort to escape poverty rather than because they supported the cause.
Similarly, Peeling, argues that, just because music hall songs were jingoistic, it does not mean the audience fully supported the views expressed as the presence of a product does not presume its acceptance. For some liberals there was the moral issue of using force to spread British international power. It was not until the Boer war the anti-imperialism gained a significant political voice. The Boer war was a turning point regarding support for imperialism as, it was the first time the brutality of Britain had been seen so vividly.
Families were herded into concentration camps and approximately 110,000 were killed; from this we can see that the support for imperialism changed due to the impact it had on other people which ultimately led to a mass of loss support by the British public and politicians. From about 1880, Britain adopted a more aggressive form of imperialism and there was extensive support for this amongst and their extensive support for this amongst the British. Support was particularly strong within the conservative party and amongst the working classes.
The working class was less easily convinced of the benefits of patriotism. The empire may have provided some employment but it did not lead to high pay and increasing prosperity. Economic issues were particularly significant in shaping enthusiasm for imperialism. Many elements of Chamberlain’s vision of a great global empire with Britain at the centre, they were taken up through the media and popular entertainments central to his thinking was the notion that Britain was helping the uncivilised and racially inferior native people this image appealed to the majority of people in Britain.
In 1880 Gladstone became Prime minister; after winning the election in 1879 and therefore replacing Disraeli, the conservative. As Gladstone travelled throughout England highlighting his policies to the public, it is evident that his ambitions were that to be supported by the public. Furthermore we must recognise that Gladstone was one of the first politicians who saw the importance of speaking to the electorate;this was not only because times were changing but also because a higher percentage of the population were getting the vote as a result of the reform acts.
An example of this would be the 1832 act which enabled women to vote. The 1900 general election, (Khaki) resulted in a conservative victory and a continuance of conservative rule. It appeared as I popular support lay with the government that had taken Britain into a war against the Boers. But there was considerable media coverage of the brutality of the war. The extensive international opposition to Britain’s methods weakened support for imperialism at home. Many working-class men volunteered for military service to escape poverty not because they wanted to show their patriotism.
Also, several politicians mainly from the left did not agree with the concept of imperialism as to them it was just the preservation of capitalists. In conclusion, although there was a rapid increase in the support for imperialism due to the several sources such as books, schools and entertainment in facilities such as music halls, from 1880-1902 the policy’s impression on the public began to change due to other factors such as because of the Boer war’s brutality as well as because of capitalists at the time who were seen as draining the countries resources.
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