3JOHN DARWINIn the twentieth century, as in the eighteenth, the cohesion of the British Imperial
system in a highly unstable environment was the central problem of Imperial
politics. Few world empires escape for very long the threat of dissolution from
external attack or internal disruption. The longevity of British imperialism owed
much to the forces of economic and cultural attraction which underpinned its
political expansion as well as to the great demographic tide which had flowed out
from the home islands after 1815. But it also depended upon holding an exceptionally delicate balance between the conflicting interests of what had become by 1914 a
huge and extremely variegated Empire.To survive at all as a political unit, the Imperial system had two fundamental
requirements: an effective means of Imperial defence and the co-operation of
political allies in all its assorted colonial and semi-colonial hinterlands. Without
the loyalty or collaboration of settlers, sultans, sheikhs, chiefs, zamindars, nawabs,
and 'creole' or 'Anglo-Oriental' élites in the Caribbean, West Africa, and South
Asia, the Second British Empire would have suffered the same fate as the First. But
collaboration abroad was only part of the Imperial problem: there also had to be
collaboration at home. Imperially minded interests in Britain needed friends and
allies in domestic politics prepared to meet the costs of Empire—especially its
defence costs. Time and again, they also needed supporters who would accept the
constitutional and ideological flexibility needed in the management of Imperial
politics and for the containment of colonial nationalism. It was for this latter
reason that the 'Dominion Idea' came to play such an important part in the
construction of a Third British Empire in the twentieth century.
A Third British Empire? The Dominion Idea in
|The fullest scholarly treatment of Britain's relations with the White Dominions between the wars is R. F.
Holland, Britain and the Commonwealth Alliance, 1918-1939 (Basingstoke, 1981). The indispensable
account of inter-war Imperial politics is John A. Gallagher, The Decline, Revival and Fall of the British
Empire: The Ford Lectures and Other Essays, ed. Anil Seal (Cambridge, 1982). Some of the ideas in this
chap. can be found in an earlier form in John Darwin, 'Imperialism in Decline?' Historical Journal,
XXIII, 3 (1980), pp. 657-79 and 'Durham in the East? India and the Idea of Responsible Government,
1858-1939', Journal of Canadian Studies, XXV, 1 (1990), pp. 144-61.|
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: The Oxford History of the British Empire.
Contributors: Judith M. Brown - Editor, Wm. Roger Louis - Editor, Alaine Low - AssociateEditor.
Publisher: Oxford University Press.
Place of publication: Oxford.
Publication year: 1999.
Page number: *.
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