The Liberal Ministry and the Empire

  • Ronald Hyam


Most Liberal ministers believed generally in the desirability of maintaining, as far as possible, continuity of external policy through changes of government. By 1905 a `bi-partisan’ foreign policy was virtually established. Shortly before the new Liberal government took office in December 1905, Sir Edward Grey emphasised the need for continuity of foreign policy. He would not say that they were always bound at all costs to advocate continuity, but at that time he thought it important to adhere to the principle, if only to reassure foreign governments that Britain was a trustworthy and reliable friend.1 Shortly after taking office, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman emphatically reaffirmed his adhesion to the policy of the Entente Cordiale.2 Despite his dislike of some features of Unionist foreign policy, particularly the renewed AngloJapanese Alliance (a dislike shared by Ripon and Morley),3 no fundamental changes occurred during his ministry. Indeed the Liberal government actually extended the principles laid down by their predecessors and soon began working for an agreement with Russia, to the disgust of their Radical supporters.


Foreign Policy Unionist Policy Liberal Government Colonial Policy Imperial Policy 
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  1. 1.
    Sir E. Grey, Speeches on Foreign Affairs 1904–1914, ed. P. Knaplund (1931), p. 31. Once in office he did indeed take the principle seriously.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    C. Headlam, ed., The Milner Papers — South Africa 1897–1905 (1933), ii, 187; Haldane to Milner, 31 Mar 01.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    F. Maurice, Haldane (1937), i, 119; Haldane to Rosebery Aug 02.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    S. Gwynn and G. M. Tuckwell, Life of Sir Charles Dilke (1918), i, 68; CB, Speeches, p. 148.Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    H. A. L. Fisher, James Bryce (1927), i, 24;Google Scholar
  6. H. Samuel, Liberalism, its principles and proposals (1902), pp. 323 and 335;Google Scholar
  7. W. S. Churchill, Liberalism and the Social Problem (1909), p. 122, speech, 15 Jul 07.Google Scholar
  8. 2.
    H. Samuel, Memoirs (1945), p. 33.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ronald Hyam 1968

Authors and Affiliations

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

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