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How much did Disraeli contribute to British Imperialism and do you think Gladstone was right to hate him for his Imperial Politics?

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Introduction

How much did Disraeli contribute to British Imperialism and do you think Gladstone was right to hate him for his Imperial Politics? Disraeli is often associated as one of the key drivers of British Imperialism at a time of great expansion, including the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th Century. His speech in 1872 (on the 3rd April in Manchester and on 24th June at Crystal Palace) asserted a need for an active foreign policy, the importance of colonies, and for Britain to continue to play a key role on the world stage. But much of the speech, as with so much of Disraeli's work, lacked both detail and substance, with much devoted to a critique of Gladstone's polices rather than shaping a vision for the future. In 1852 Disraeli had written to his colleague Malmesbury that 'These wretched colonies will all be independent too, in a few years and are a millstone round our necks' which gives some insight as to his early personal views on Imperialism. ...read more.

Middle

For Disraeli, the Empire was a means of spreading the peculiar glories of aristocratic rule and the English constitution, with the Empire as a benevolent despot. But more importantly, Disraeli also used this as a means of attracting working-class voters at home. He knew that the Empire could distract people from domestic issues and that pride in the Empire could act as powerful force for the good, in terms of his own political gain. Gladstone, on the other hand, was a political idealist with strong convictions and a deep rooted respect for religion. Gladstone saw an opportunity to exploit what he saw as a reckless, foreign policy, intent on domination regardless of the cost and irrespective of civil liberties. This, in part, will have contributed to the Liberal victory of 1880. The pre-election campaign focussed on Disraeli's war-mongering expansion of empire, taking issue with what Gladstone saw as the principles of foreign policy: the preservation of peace and justice (with economy), the avoidance of needless engagements, the ...read more.

Conclusion

And it was this that Gladstone loathed the most. The categorisation of opportunist and idealist could be applied to Disraeli and Gladstone respectively. Disraeli as the arch imperialist, who presided over a period of rapid expansion and bloody conflict, but without ever articulating a vision for the future, found himself in a position where the ground work for imperial expansion had already been laid. In this, Disraeli contributed little other than to exploit these circumstances for his own political gain. Gladstone, on the other hand, talked about the fraternity of nation states, the preservation of equal justice and human rights, at a time of great competition and instability. Imperialism was a popular cause and security of our interests abroad, in particular India, could not ignored. And whilst Gladstone's effort to discredit Disraeli was to be expected, it might be unrealistic to expect that Britain could have pursued a significantly different policy during the period 1874- 1880. ...read more.

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