At the Crystal Palace banquet in June 1872 Disraeli posed as a defender of the empire which the Liberals had laboured to disband for forty years. In view of the agitation of 1869–70, and in the light of rapidly changing world conditions, it seemed a popular line of attack. But the empire bandwagon proved no asset to the Tory propaganda handcart. The so-called ‘turn of the tide’ was not followed by a wave of popular imperialism. Indeed, in 1880 the Liberals were able to utilise distrust of ‘imperialism’ and policies of intervention in their attack on the government; and Disraeli’s manifesto was to be decisively rejected at the polls. Was there then a vast difference between the parties as Disraeli had tried to suggest? Professor Koebner has asserted that, on the contrary, ‘a distinctive Conservative attitude to Empire questions was scarcely in evidence before the second Salisbury administration’.1 We have already seen that in 1874 the policy of the Conservatives in the tropics differed little from that of their predecessors. What then did the years 1874–80 add to the British outlook on empire ? What exactly was the significance of Disraeli’s impact?
KeywordsPrime Minister Foreign Policy British Government High Commissioner Conservative Party
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