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Victorian England: Aspects of English and Imperial History, 1837-1901

By L. C. B. Seaman | Go to book overview

18


A Clash of Empires

1895-98

Nations may roughly be divided between the living and the dying…. For one reason or another—from the necessities of politics or under the pretence of philanthropy—the living nations will gradually entrench on the territory of the dying, and the seeds and causes of conflict among civilized nations will speedily appear. These things may introduce causes of fatal difference between the great nations whose mighty armies stand opposite, threatening each other. These are the dangers, I think, which threaten us in the period which is coming on. It is a period which will tax our resolution, our tenacity and imperial instincts to the utmost.

LORD SALISBURY,
Speech at the Albert Hall, 4 May 1898

From shortly after the signature of the Anglo-German agreements about Africa in 1890 until the end of the Queen’s reign, the international and world scene seemed to turn to Britain’s disadvantage. The twin bases of British world pre-eminence had been the combination of naval predominance with diplomatic, and in time of war, military alliances in Europe. The former had never sufficed in wartime without the other. But by the end of the century it was being challenged, and throughout virtually the whole decade after 1892 England was, for the first time since the last coalition against Napoleon, unable to rely on the permanent friendship of any continental power.

-375-

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