Britain in 1900: Salisbury and Balfour, 1900–05
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As the twentieth century opened, Britain and its Empire arguably remained the largest and most important geopolitical unit in the world. Britain had peacefully transformed itself, during the previous seventy years, into something like a democracy, and was free of much of the internal unrest present elsewhere in Europe; in particular (in contrast to Germany and France) it had no significant socialist party, and there were no domestic threats to the authority of the British government apart from Irish nationalism. Britain’s political system consisted of a seemingly stable two-party system, with the Liberal party (frequently referred to in the press as the ‘Radical party’) and the Conservative party alternating in power after General Elections. Since 1886 the Conservative party had been allied with, and increasingly absorbed, a significant breakaway group from the Liberal party known as the Liberal Unionists. Officially, the Conservative party was, in 1900, known as the ‘Unionists’ in recognition of the end which had brought the Conservatives and the Liberal Unionists together: maintenance of the political union with Ireland and opposition to Irish Home Rule. Popularly, too, the Unionists were also known as the ‘Tories’ as the Conservative party still is.
KeywordsPrime Minister Trade Union Labour Party Liberal Party Conservative Party
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