Empire, Welfare State, Europe: English History 1906-1992

Empire, Welfare State, Europe: English History 1906-1992

Empire, Welfare State, Europe: English History 1906-1992

Empire, Welfare State, Europe: English History 1906-1992


In the twentieth century England has lost an empire, built a welfare state, and begun to accept the idea of being part of Europe. Abroad England's relative power has declined; at home life has become more tolerable for the unfortunate and more secure for the majority of the people. This book surveys these two great currents of change and examines their political and economic implications. For this fourth edition of Empire to Welfare State, Professor Lloyd has revised the text and brought the bibliography up to date. He has included a completely new chapter which brings the story right up to the General Election of 1992.


'THE age of chivalry is gone. That of sophists, economists and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of [England] is extinguished forever.' Thus Burke, with only one word changed, might have described the history of England in the twentieth century. In 1900 England stood as the envy of 'less happy breeds', and Englishmen were very conscious of this; history could be told as the history of great men, whether of leading politicians like Gladstone or empire-builders like Cecil Rhodes who, when asked by Queen Victoria what he had been doing since she last saw him, could reply quite truthfully: 'I have added 12,000 miles of territories to your dominions.'

Individual heroes can no longer achieve such feats. In the First World War Lloyd George may have been 'the man who won the war', but in the Second World War Churchill was the man who saved England from losing the war after a crippling defeat--the best that the individual hero can do is to hold back the forces of history and stop their onward march until better times. And those forces more and more take material form: millions of tons of steel, billions of pounds in the balance of payments, hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

But these changes, which rob history of the colour and glamour of kings and queens and heroic charges in battle, are only the reverse of the growth of democracy and of a greater concern for ordinary people--perhaps it should be added that it is the result of a greater capacity to make concern for ordinary people into an effective political force. Building an empire was much easier in the past, when new subjects could be acquired without much resistance. Lord Rosebery once said that if all the Indians in India spat at us, we should drown; and in a way this was what happened. The British Empire was dissolved in a fairly amiable way, without any disastrous wars to try to preserve it, which showed that Englishmen realized that the weight of numbers made it impossible to continue with the old system.

And the same sort of change has taken place inside the country. The dominance of the statesman as an example of Carlyle's hero, which was the way that people saw the late nineteenth-century struggles between . . .

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