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

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

9


Towards a Modern State

1850-85
(1) Social, Legal and Commercial

There are no absolute principles in politics….
In practice everything is done by the arrange
ment and execution of the details.

LORD SALISBURY, 1884

The domination of the political scene by Gladstone and Disraeli in the years after 1867, and the histrionic character of their political behaviour, deepen the impression that the period from 1848 to 1868 was a static time when the process of adjustment to change was almost completely halted. This is untrue. On coming into office in 1868, Gladstone was obsessed with Irish and ecclesiastical affairs; on returning to it in 1880 his mind was so clouded with a messianic desire to purge the land of the evils of ‘Beaconsfieldism’ that he had few clear ideas about anything. As for Disraeli, his arrival for the first time as a prime minister with a majority was less like his own view of himself as one who had at last reached the top of a greasy pole than that of a long distance runner who, having finally breasted the tape, falls in a heap on the ground because he has nothing more to give.

The important domestic legislation of the Gladstone-Disraeli years may therefore be legitimately considered as a whole and to a great extent without reference to either of them. Both have had their names attached to reforms which owed little to their initiative and not much to their encouragement. Entirely without a sense of proportion, Gladstone absorbed himself to the exclusion of all else in whatever at any given time

-168-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - People of the Book 4
  • 2 - Age of Steam 25
  • 3 - Disease and Drudgery 41
  • 4 - Lord John and Sir Robert 62
  • 5 - Patriotism Prevails 82
  • 6 - Lord Pumicestone 103
  • 7 - The People's Darling 124
  • 8 - Leap in the Dark 153
  • 9 - Towards a Modern State 168
  • 10 - Towards a Modern State 189
  • 11 - Beaconsfieldism and Midlothianism 206
  • 12 - Cloud in the West 232
  • 13 - The Great Depression: Fact and Fiction 262
  • 14 - Death of Liberal England 280
  • 15 - Birth of the Twentieth Century 299
  • 16 - Imperial Pre-Eminence 331
  • 17 - African Scramble 354
  • 18 - A Clash of Empires 375
  • 19 - Recessional 397
  • 20 - New Ways for Old 416
  • 21 - Queen and Mother 435
  • Index 463
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