The Heyday of Victorianism
Britain was the strongest power in the world by the middle of the nineteenth century. Her economic superiority and strategic location secured her position. Potential competitors, moreover, had counted themselves out or had not yet become principals in the international reckoning. France, torn by dissension, did not fully recover under Louis Napoleon. The Crimean War (1854–56), a product of diplomatic miscalculations, created crises of confidence for Britons at home but eliminated Russia from Europe for a generation. The United States plunged into the bloodbath of its civil war. Between 1864 and 1871 the Germans were unified—or conquered, depending upon one’s point of view—by Prussian power. Palmerston defended the assertion of British power through Europe.1 Proconsuls showed the flag abroad—successfully in Burma, poorly in Afghanistan. Cumulative resentment against British social and political policies boiled over in the Indian mutiny of 1857. A mixture of force and reason re-established British control as “Clemency” Canning laid the foundations for successful imperial development. In Hong Kong, Sir John Bowring, Jeremy Bentham’s literary executor, showed that radicals also had teeth.
KeywordsForeign Policy Free Trade Liberal Party British Subject Judicial Reform
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