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'Splendid Isolation'

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Fabian Pleßmann

on 8 June 2014

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Transcript of 'Splendid Isolation'

'Splendid Isolation'
Britain's foreign policy in the 19th century
Conservative Premierships
Benjamin Disraeli
Lord Robert Cecil
(Marquess of Salisbury)
British colonialism and imperialism during 'SI'
Anglo-Japanese Alliance
1904: Entente Cordiale (France)
1907: Anglo-Russian Entente
European imperialism
colonies in Africa
German Empire after 1871
Otto von Bismarck
German Chancellor
Wilhelm II
German Emperor
concentration on trade with and protection of colonies (e.g. India), dominions and protectorates
expansion of the 'British Empire'
economic strength as a consequence of industrialization and global
military strength:
skilful navy and modern fleets in order to protect the 'British
Empire' and to discourage possible opponents in Europe and

British neutrality as long as the 'balance of power' is guaranteed
and no threats are to be expected
colonies in Asia
(primarily Russia)

balance of power no longer existent and several threats for the colonies
return to defensive alliances
complete abandonment of 'Splendid Isolation'
Dual Alliance
Triple Alliance
Preconditions of 'Splendid Isolation'
balance of power
in Europe
Queen Victoria I
tried to maintain the balance of power by connecting the European monarchies ('Mother of Europe')
she supported Disraeli's foreign policy
the abandonment of the 'Splendid Isolation' is influenced by her death in 1901
The monarchy during the 'Splendid Isolation'
Bismarck was forced to retire in 1890
new foreign policy towards establishing new colonies
Germany as an opponent of Britain in the world trade
construction of a fleet as an expression of claim to power
unchallenged dominance of the 'British Empire'
actions for the expansion of the 'British Empire':
1875: acquisition of shares for the Suez Canal
1876: Victoria I receives the imperial title in India (Empress of India)
1877: occupation of Cyprus
1882: occupation of Egypt
concentration on the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and trade routes to India
continuation of Disraeli's policy:
‘[...] whatever happens will be for the worse and therefore it is in our interests that as little should happen as possible.’
termination of Britain's 'Splendid Isolation'

similar interests:

containment of Russia's occupations in China
and all over Asia
three main reasons:

1. political competition
2. economic interests
3. moral obligation
Suez Canal
import of low priced food and resources for the growing industrial centres in Europe
creation of isolated economic zones
influence on and replacement of governments to use a region as an strategic asset
threat for British colonies (especially India)
defence of own colonial interests
British India
Sources of information
Propyläen Weltgeschichte - Das neunzehnte Jahrhundert; Frankfurt am Main, Berlin 1986

Meyers Enzyklopädisches Lexikon; Mannheim 1974
other sources



concentrated on Britain's national interests
tried to find a balance between cooperation and non-participation in long-term alliances
Origin of the term
'We are said to be isolated, but I say that which I know when I say that we have but to hold out our hands and our isolation will terminate, and we shall receive welcome into several groups of other Powers [other European countries]. In the modern system of European politics we could at any moment, I believe, make such alliances as we chose.
Our isolation is not an isolation of weakness, or of contempt for ourselves: it is deliberately chosen; the freedom to act as we choose in any circumstances that may arise.'
splendid ~ great
isolation ~ separation from sth.
Viscount Goschen, First Lord of Admiralty (1896)
Full transcript