British Foreign Policy, 1874-1914: The Role of India

By Sneh Mahajan | Go to book overview

Preface

During 'the age of high imperialism', about one-quarter of the global land surface was distributed or redistributed as colonies amongst half a dozen states. In such an age, for a great colonial power like Britain national security did not imply just the need to take protective measures to ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Great Britain. It implied preservation of its great power status. The framers of British foreign policy linked Britain's continued standing as a great power inextricably with the retention and expansion of its worldwide empire. Nowhere did this symbiosis of world power and empire seem more apparent to them than in the Indian Empire. 1 India remained the centrepiece of their Empire. By the early 1870s, the colonies of white settlement - Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Cape Colony - had been granted responsible government. In 1880, of Britain's global empire still ruled from London, the Indian Empire, covered 85 per cent in terms of territory. Of Britain's Asiatic Empire, it covered about 97 per cent of the total area. In terms of population, even in 1912, i.e., even after all the acquisitions of the age of imperialism, of every 100 persons in Britain and its empire (dependent and self-governing together) 10 lived in the United Kingdom, 5 lived in the self-governing dominions, 12 in all other colonies put together and 73 in the Indian Empire alone. Given the size and the resources of the Indian Empire, the issues relating to this empire could not be peripheral to anything. This empire was jealously guarded. The politico-military exercises carried out by the British government always included issues that might threaten the security of the Raj. There has been an outgoing debate amongst historians on the issue whether the Indian Empire was an asset or a liability. The attitude of British rulers towards India was condescending or patronising, when not contemptuous. But they had no doubt whatever at any stage that control over India had to be maintained. In 1901, in a memorandum on the 'Military Needs of the Empire in a War with France and Russia', the Military Intelligence Division noted:

Speaking broadly as long as the Navy fulfils its mission, the British Empire is impervious to the great land forces of continental nations except in one point - India. Here alone can a fatal blow be dealt us. The loss of India by conquest would be a death blow to our prosperity, prestige and power….

-vii-

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British Foreign Policy, 1874-1914: The Role of India
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • 1 - Constructing Britain's Foreign Policy 1
  • 2 - Flaunting the Indian Empire, 1874-80 33
  • 3 - In the Garb of Moral Imperatives, 1880-5 58
  • 4 - Courting the Triple Alliance, 1885-92 80
  • 5 - Facing the Franco-Russian Combine, 1892-8 101
  • 6 - Seeking Partnerships, 1898-1902 124
  • 7 - Russia: a Friend at Last, 1902-7 145
  • 8 - Nurturing the Entente, 1907-14 168
  • 9 - Conclusion 197
  • Appendix 205
  • Notes 207
  • Bibliography 240
  • Index 257
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