Britain: Commonwealth and Empire, 1901-1955

Britain: Commonwealth and Empire, 1901-1955

Britain: Commonwealth and Empire, 1901-1955

Britain: Commonwealth and Empire, 1901-1955

Excerpt

Apprehension tempered the confidence with which Britons faced the twentieth century. While their country was still rated the strongest in the world, numerous disturbing facts caused disquiet. In a war against two tiny farmer-republics in South Africa, British forces had suffered many humiliating reverses. Public opinion the world over was antagonistic to Britain, and ugly rumour had it that continental powers plotted a hostile move against her. Two new energetic, populous, and rich countries, Germany and the United States, were challenging Britain's industrial and commercial supremacy. A high percentage of the young men volunteering for army service in the Anglo-Boer War were rejected as physically unfit.

Although for a long time Britain had been considered a political democracy, her masses had wielded little influence in politics, and she was far from being an economic, political, and social democracy of the type found in British North America and Australasia. This cleavage between Britain and her daughter nations created mutual distrust, and impeded genuine co-operation in peace and war.

Events during the first thirty years of the new century were far more disastrous for Britain than even the gloomiest of prophets could possibly have foretold. International tension and ruinous armament competition culminated in a world conflict, 1914-18, which revived and intensified the savagery of bygone ages, wasted enormous human and material resources, and dispelled nineteenth- century dreams of steady and orderly progress toward a brighter future for mankind.

In this period of storm and stress, Britain and the British Empire underwent momentous changes. All sections suffered from war's destruction and brutalization, the cynicism and loss of faith in established human values which followed in the wake of the . . .

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