The Watershed of the Empire-Commonwealth: The Imperial Policy of the Liberal Government, 1905–1908

  • Ronald Hyam


It could be argued that the years 1905 to 1908 represent a dividing line in the history of several of the main European empires. After parliamentary criticism in Germany, the rejection of the colonial estimates and the Herero uprising in South West Africa, a new era of total reconstruction began with the appointment of Dr Dernburg in 1907 as first colonial minister. From 1906 the French African empire was marked by growing decentralisation and a reaction against further expansion. The theory of assimilation to French civilisation and citizenship was under attack. The administration of French Equatorial Africa was reformed from 1906 and federated between 1908 and 1910. Fresh constructive interest in French African problems developed. In the same period, Leopold’s Congo Free State was under fatal assault. Transfer to the Belgian parliament and people was achieved in 1908. By 1913 the entire Leopoldian system had been completely abandoned; the concessionaire companies had either vanished or been reduced to impotence, and the British government felt able to recognise the Belgian annexation.


Liberal Policy Liberal Government Legislative Council Native Policy Export Duty 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    E. Lyttelton, Alfred Lyttelton (1917), pp. 363–4, Lyttelton to B. Holland 2 Oct 10.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    W. K. Hancock, introduction to K. Sinclair, Imperial Federation: a study of New Zealand policy and opinion (1955).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    H. Tinker, The foundations of local self-government in India, Pakistan and Burma (1954), p. 88.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    A. Briggs in Edwardian England, 1901–14, ed. S. Nowell-Smith (1964), p. 81.Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    J. A. Hobson, The crisis of Liberalism (1909), p. xii.Google Scholar
  6. 3.
    For example, works by Bryce: Impressions of South Africa, and his Romanes lecture on the relations of the advanced and backward races; see also Modem Democracies (1923), chap. lxxi, ‘Democracy and the backward races’. See also Lord Cromer, Modern Egypt (1908) and Ancient and Modem Imperialism (1910), WSC, My African Journey. Of the civil servants, C. P. Lucas had started publishing his Historical Geography of the British Colonies in 1888; he also wrote two books on Canadian history in 1906 and 1909; the first edition of A. B. Keith’s Responsible Government in the Dominions came out in 1909. See also,Google Scholar
  7. G. Lagden, The Basutos (1909), andGoogle Scholar
  8. F. D. Lugard, The rise of our East African empire (2 vols, 1893).Google Scholar
  9. 3.
    The crisis of liberalism, p. 91; nor is there much optimism in J. R. MacDonald, Labour and the Empire (1907), p. 106; nor in Garvin’s contribution to The Empire and the Century (ed. C. S. Goldman, 1905), p. 69.Google Scholar
  10. 3.
    The society presented a petition signed by more than 70 chiefs against municipal house rates and demanding repeal of the Town Councils ordinance. It was agreed that the representative element on the councils might be enlarged when they had gained sufficient experience. Although. the colonial office was not prepared to concede any immediate change, it treated the society with courteous recognition (D. Kimble, Political history of Ghana, (1963),360–1).Google Scholar
  11. 3.
    In Liberalism and the empire, ed. F. W. Hirst (1900), p. 151.Google Scholar
  12. 3.
    L. T. Hobhouse, Liberalism (1911), pp. 43–4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ronald Hyam 1968

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations