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‘The Business May Seem Prosaic’; Co-operation by Conference, 1887–1911

  • Nicholas Mansergh

Abstract

‘Prodigious greatness’ – such were the terms in which Sir John Seeley wrote of England in the widely read and highly influential published version of his Cambridge lectures of the spring of 1881 on The Expansion of England.1’ We seem,’ he reflected, in one of the most quoted (if more questionable) of his sentences, ‘as it were, to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind.’2 It was the peopling, not the conquest, that appeared to him of first importance. The ‘English Exodus’ had been ‘the greatest English event of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries’.3 It had brought into being a Greater Britain comprising mother country and colonies of settlement. The growth of that Greater Britain was ‘an event of enormous magnitude’.4 Yet associated with Greater Britain were colonies not of settlement but of conquest, India chief among them, not united to Britain by blood – the strongest of ties – and in that and most other respects on quite a different footing. They were by no means necessarily a source of strength – not even the greatest among them. ‘It may be fairly questioned’, observed Seeley, ‘whether the possession of India does or ever can increase our power or our security, while there is no doubt that it vastly increases our dangers and responsibilities.’5

Keywords

Prime Minister Foreign Policy Free Trade British Government Canadian Government 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    J.R. Seeley, The Expansion of England, London, 1883, p. 2. D. Wormell, Sir John Seeley and the Uses of History, Cambridge, 1980, places the book in the context of Seeley’s views on the writing and teaching of history.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    W.F. Monypenny and G.E. Buckle, The Life of Disraeli (6 vols), London, 1910–29, vol. 5, p. 194Google Scholar
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  4. 13.
    Philip Magnus, Gladstone (new ed.), London, 1963, p. 264.Google Scholar
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    W.C.B. Tunstall, The Cambridge History of the British Empire, vol. 2, Imperial Defence, 1815–1870, p. 806Google Scholar
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    C.W. Dilke, Greater Britain (2 vols), London, 1868, vol. 2, p. 151.Google Scholar
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    A.J.P. Taylor, Germany’s First Bid for Colonies 1884–1885, London, 1938, p. 4.Google Scholar
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    Maurice Ollivier (ed.), The Colonial and Imperial Conferences from 1887 to 1937 (3 vols), Ottawa, 1954, vol.1, p. 153 and Cd. 1299, p. 4. No report of the 1902 Conference Proceedings was published in London. Papers relating to the Conference were, however, published there in Cd. 1299 and correspondence relating to the proposed publication of the Report of the Proceedings in Cd. 1723.Google Scholar
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    Richard Jebb, Studies in Colonial Nationalism, London, 1905; see especially the Preface and chapters 6 and 7 on ‘The South African War’ and ‘The Colonial Conference, 1902’, respectively.Google Scholar
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    Keith Sinclair, Imperial Federation. A Study of New Zealand Policy and Opinion 1880–1914, London, 1955, p. 41–4Google Scholar
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  22. J. Marlowe, Milner-Apostle of Empire, London, 1976, pp. 210–12.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Nicholas Mansergh 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas Mansergh
    • 1
  1. 1.St John’s CollegeCambridgeUK

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