When the Liberal ministry was formed in December 1905 the ultimate responsibility for the government of nearly a quarter of the world resided in London. The new government found itself in charge of ‘one continent, a hundred peninsulas, five hundred promontories, a thousand lakes, two thousand rivers, ten thousand islands’. At this time, moreover, 7o per cent of all the ships on the seas flew the Union Jack.’ The British empire was at its apogee. True, confidence in perpetual progress and the automatic perfectibility of mankind was much diminished. The rose-coloured spectacles of Macaulay and Palmerston had already been widely exchanged for the blinkers of Milner and Curzon. Britain no longer swayed the fortunes of the greater part of the globe unchallenged or alone. But London was still the most important city in the world. The men who ruled there believed that it was the centre of civilisation. Perhaps also, they were tempted to imagine, the new Jerusalem really had been built in England’s green and pleasant land ? Here, maybe, true wisdom was to be found. ‘The culture of London seemed so polished that it was hard to treat with perfect seriousness the aspirations of Toronto or Auckland, Lagos or Belize’.2


Ultimate Responsibility Liberal Government Important City British Empire Forcible Injection 
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  1. 1.
    See W. S. Adams, Edwardian Heritage (1949), p. 18, quoting St. James Gazette, 1901.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    R. B. Pugh in Cambridge History of the British Empire, iii (1959), 768.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    N. Mansergh, South Africa, 1906–1961: the priceof magnanimity (1962), pp. 65 and 71.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    See R. E. Robinson and J. Gallagher, Africa andthe Victorians (1961), p. 419.Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    Cosmo Parkinson, The Colonial Office from within, 1909–1945 (1947), pp. 34 and 142.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ronald Hyam 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald Hyam
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CambridgeUK

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