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Was Gladstone more responsible for the scramble for Africa than Disraeli?

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Introduction

Was Gladstone more responsible for the scramble for Africa than Disraeli? The Scramble for Africa was the process of occupation and annexation of African territory by the European powers. Britain and other European powers had only traded with Africa before the latter half of the nineteenth century where there was transition from the "informal" imperialism of control through military influence and economic dominance to that of direct "formal", political rule. But a question that is often asked is, was William Gladstone more responsible for the scramble for Africa than Benjamin Disraeli? William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli both played a large role in the scramble for Africa but had very contrasting attitudes towards what they wanted to achieve in Africa. Disraeli was very keen to defend the British Empire and British Interests in Africa, but he had a very 'hands off' approach when it came to maintaining the Empire in Africa. Many of the decisions affecting the empire were made by ministers or officials overseas that was criticised by many historians, such as C.C Eldridge, who claimed that Disraeli could never be bothered with details and left it to the colonial Secretary, Lord Carnarvon. ...read more.

Middle

Another event that displays that Disraeli was less responsible for the scramble for Africa than Gladstone was the confederation of South Africa in 1877. The policy of confederating the three British Colonies of Cape Colony, Natal and Griqualand West with the two Dutch Boer republics of the Orange Free State and Transvaal was created by the colonial Secretary, Lord Carnarvon. This was significant in the scramble for Africa as it strengthens Britain's hold on Southern Africa and was able to consolidate its power into one nation. However, Disraeli did not play a part in the confederation policy due to his 'hands off' approach. Hence, from this factor it is clear to say that Disraeli was less responsible for the scramble for Africa than Gladstone. However, in juxtaposition, Gladstone can be seen as being more responsible for the scramble for Africa than Disraeli, most predominantly shown in the event of the annexation of Egypt in 1882. When Admiral Seymour accidentally bombarded Alexandria it sparked off a complete breakdown of law and order in Egypt, and Gladstone reluctantly agreed to send a military expedition to restore order. ...read more.

Conclusion

Moreover it presented weaknesses of the British empire to the native powers of Africa that were restricting Britain from expanding. However, Gladstone was not responsible for the death of General Gordon, as General Gordon deliberately went against the orders of Gladstone and attempted to occupy the capital of Sudan, Khartoum. Hence, this factor clearly shows that Gladstone was less responsible for the scramble for Africa than Disraeli. From analysing the factors above, it is clear to say that both Gladstone and Disraeli played a large role in the scramble for Africa, but overall, Gladstone is more responsible for the Scramble for Africa than Disraeli, mainly due to the outcome of the crisis in Egypt in 1882. The annexation of Egypt is considered as the catalyst for the scramble for Africa by historians, such as Robinson and Gallagher, and although Gladstone may have been reluctant to interfere in Egypt with military force, he was in a position where he had no choice but to interfere. Overall, Gladstone proved to be a reluctant imperialist, reacting to events rather than controlling them, and ultimately caused Gladstone to face events more significant to scramble for Africa than Disraeli. ...read more.

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