Outline of Events
The years following 1846 were challenging for both William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli, and both experienced setbacks as well as achievements. On balance it was Gladstone who had the best of it. Although an admirer of Robert Peel, Gladstone dwelt in the shadow of the great man, and Peel's death in 1850 freed him to shape his own career. The problem was that, although propelled from the Tories over the issue of Protection, Gladstone retained many Conservative sympathies and still hankered after the liberal Conservatism of Peel's 1841 administration. He was not a Whig, was opposed to further parliamentary reform and had an active distaste for Lord Palmerston's populist and aggressive foreign policy. Rapprochement with a Conservative party on the basis of a shared commitment to free trade seemed the most likely outcome and on several occasions appeared in the offing. But each time something held Gladstone back. Why is not clear. Was it an eradicable aversion to Disraeli? A realization that the Tory backbenchers shared an equal aversion to him? A recognition that the Conservatives would be unlikely to command a majority? Or an instinctive awareness that he was evolving toward Liberalism? Gladstone's response to the uncertainty of his position was to capitalize on his one clear strength: his reputation as a great financier in the tradition of Peel. He had laid the basis for this reputation with his 1853 budget, and following the fall of the Peelite-Liberal coalition in 1855 he bided his time, awaiting the right moment to pledge his support to a government. This moment came in 1859 when Gladstone joined Palmerston's Liberal administration as chancellor of the exchequer. The decision was a happy one: chancellor during the boom years of the early 1860s, Gladstone had the fiscal scope to pursue his agenda of free trade and low taxation, and although his years at the Treasury were not an unblemished success, he established a reputation for financial acumen that has never been rivalled. With this achievement under his belt he was well placed to advance his career once Palmerston died in 1865.
For Disraeli, the middle years of his career were far less prosperous.
Adelman, Paul Adelman studied at the University of Cambridge and taught history at Kingston Polytechnic, Surrey. He is the author of numerous student guides to British nineteenth- and twentieth-century history, including Peel and the Conservative Party 1830–1850 (1989) and The Decline of the Liberal Party 1910–1931 (1982).
Aldous, Richard Having studied for his PhD at the University of Cambridge, England, Aldous is Currently Eugene Meyer Professor of British History and Literature at Bard College, New York. He previously taught at University College, Dublin.
Anderson, Olive Professor Anderson was head of the Department of History, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London. She is the author of Suicide in Victorian and Edwardian England (1987).
Bagehot, Walter Born in Somerset, the son of a banker, Bagehot (1826–1877) attended Bristol College and then the University of London, where he studied Classics. While working in the family bank he founded the National Review in 1855, and in 1861 became editor of the Economist, which had been founded by his fatherin- law, James Wilson, in 1843 to advance the case for free trade. Besides his numerous articles on economic, political and literary subjects, Bagehot authored the highly influential The English Constitution (1867).
Baring, Evelyn, Earl of Cromer A member of the Baring banking family, Baring (1841–1917) began his career in the army (he played an important part in developing the plan to implement Gladstone's policy for abolishing the purchase of commissions in the army), but later entered government service, being appointed British Controller of Egyptian Finance under the Dual Control with France in 1879, and then, in 1883, consul-general of Egypt under the British occupation. He became Baron Cromer in 1892, Earl Cromer 1901, and in 1906 was appointed to the Order of Merit.
Beales, Derek Edward Dawson Beales (born 1931) was educated at Bishop's Stortford College and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he has taught since 1955. He was appointed Professor of Modern History at Cambridge in 1980. He has written on a wide array of themes on European, Italian and British history.
Bebbington, David Having graduated from Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1971, Bebbington (born 1949) completed his doctorate at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, before moving, in 1976, to the University of Stirling in Scotland, where he is currently Professor of History.
Outline of Events
Ireland exerted a pronounced influence upon William Gladstone's political career. It had been one of his first priorities to uphold the status of the Church of England as the official Church of Ireland. Yet his commitment to Anglican exclusivity in Ireland collapsed in 1845 when confronted by Sir Robert Peel's proposal to enhance the state subsidy to the Catholic seminary at Maynooth. Gladstone allied himself with the Peelite project of pacifying Ireland through policies formulated independently (and often at odds with) the views of his party, and this, essentially, was the story of Gladstone's later engagement with Ireland – a story beginning in 1867, when Gladstone responded to Fenian terrorism in England by claiming that the time had come to remove Ireland's legitimate grievances with British rule. To this end he sought to end the status of the Church of England as the official Church of Ireland; amend landlord–tenant relations in Ireland through his 1870 Land Act; and tried (unsuccessfully) to make the Irish University system more accommodating of Catholics. With these measures Gladstone considered he had done enough to pacify Ireland. This was always wishful thinking, and the agricultural depression of the 1870s and 1880s intruded a new bitterness in landlord–tenant relations as farmers struggled to pay what they considered exorbitant rents. Thus, when becoming prime minister in 1880, Gladstone sought to neutralize the land issue by granting the tenants’ demands for the 3F's. It was hoped that by following up this initiative with local government reform, the stabilization of Ireland would be realized. But the devolution of powers to Ireland never came; instead, there were the Phoenix Park murders and a further wave of coercion. Thus by 1885 Gladstone was brought to recognize two facts: first, land reform had not pacified Ireland; second, Irish nationalism, far from being in retreat, had consolidated its grip upon Irish opinion. Gladstone's response was dramatic. Concluding that Ireland would only be a peaceful member of the Empire if it ran its own domestic affairs, he drew up the Irish Home Rule Bill of 1886. Unfortunately, Gladstone's conviction that the concession of a separate parliament for Ireland was a price worth paying for peace was not shared by large parts the Liberal party, let alone parliament or the nation.
Outline of Events
No sooner had Benjamin Disraeli savoured victory over William Gladstone with the passage of the 1867 Reform Act than he was confronted by a resurgent Gladstone formulating plans to heal the wounds of Ireland by disestablishing the Irish Church. Unable to resist a Liberal party reunited behind its leader, Disraeli called a general election – an election which saw Gladstone crush Disraeli's Conservatives and win a hundred-seat majority. The moment was assuredly propitious for the simultaneous apotheosis of those two great forces of the mid-Victorian age: liberal reformism and Gladstone's ethical vocation in the united form of ‘Gladstonian Liberalism’. Yet there in fact was the rub. In 1868 these two great rivers of energy converged, but they did not combine and within a few short years their courses were diverging again. At first Gladstone's government did great liberal work – reforming the civil service, the judiciary, the education system, Irish Church and Land, the armed services and local government. Yet each of these reforms, however meritorious, inflicted a series of cuts upon the body of the Liberal Party – cuts which by 1872 had become seriously debilitating. For the Liberal Party was a coalition of interest groups which, if they agreed on some matters, disagreed on still more. The legislation that emerged from this creative tension increasingly failed to satisfy the full range of Liberal interests. It also failed to satisfy Gladstone, who became more and more detached from the policies being implemented in his name. As the government's tribulations mounted, Disraeli, who had responded to defeat by writing a novel, stirred himself during 1872 to deliver a series of speeches lambasting the Liberals for their dysfunctional restlessness and weakness in international affairs, and staking out a new Tory rhetoric of social reform and imperial prestige. With pressure upon the government intensifying and Liberal divisions widening, the prime minister called a snap election in January 1874 on a platform of abolishing income tax. But far from uniting his party, he only heightened its disarray and played into the hands of Disraeli, who assumed the agreeable Palmerstonian pose of promising to restore Britain's reputation as a major power while bringing stability to a nation harassed by Liberal activism. The result was the first Conservative majority since 1841 and Gladstone's withdrawal from the Liberal leadership – for now.
Outline of Events
The opening of the 1840s saw William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli sitting together on the Tory benches and anticipating the fall of Lord Melbourne's Whig government. It was a brief moment of convergence. Their journeys to Westminster could not have been more different. Where Gladstone had left his mercantile home in Liverpool to attend Eton in 1821, proceeding from there to Oxford and then the House of Commons in 1833 at the age of 23, Disraeli, the baptized son of a literary Jew, had attended neither public school nor university, and had to struggle with debts and public disdain before finally securing a seat in 1837, at the age of 33. From 1841 their careers diverged again. While Gladstone became vice president of the Board of Trade in Robert Peel's Conservative administration, Disraeli languished sulkily on the backbenches. Momentous consequences followed from this. Gladstone, who in the 1830s had made his name as a High Church Anglican bent on raising the Christian tone of political life, now metamorphosed into an accomplished administrator, working closely with Peel to make Britain a land of free trade. Disraeli, by contrast, moved into a position of ever-more barbed criticism of Peelite Conservatism, which he branded an ‘organised hypocrisy’. In 1845 these divergent trajectories collided with a crash that reverberated through the nineteenth century. As famine consumed Ireland, Peel decided to break with established Tory policy and scrap the duty on imported corn – the Corn Laws. Where Gladstone rallied to Peel's side, Disraeli launched a series of scathing attacks from the backbenches that have never been equalled in effectiveness. In 1846 Peel pushed through Corn Law repeal, but in so doing broke the unity of the Conservative Party. Peel, together with around one hundred Members of Parliament (MPs) (including Gladstone) who had supported Corn Law repeal, now broke away from the Conservatives, leaving Disraeli as a prominent figure in the Protectionist Conservative rump. Never again would Gladstone and Disraeli serve in the same party. Here two controversies are considered: why did Gladstone abandon his inflexible High Tory politics for Peel's liberal reformism; and why did Disraeli denounce Peel so vehemently and champion opposition to Corn Law repeal?
Outline of Events
It is natural to assume that the rivalry between William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli reflected not merely a dissonance of personality but also a fundamental divergence in political ideology. To assess this proposition it is first necessary to establish just what, precisely, were the basic political principles of the two men. Predictably, however, there is extensive disagreement as to what Gladstone and Disraeli actually stood for – and indeed, whether either actually stood for anything. The latter possibility is touted much more readily in the case of Disraeli. This, in itself, is somewhat paradoxical, for Disraeli cut his political teeth in the 1840s by championing his Young England brand of true Tory values in contradistinction to Robert Peel's supposedly liberal latitudinarianism, and for most of his life he spoke a recurring language of national unity, patriotism, aristocratic leadership and allegiance to historic institutions. However, contemporary critics and the bulk of subsequent historians have seen Disraeli's rhetoric and practice as two very different things. While Disraeli recognized the importance of ideas, and relished using words and images to convey a political effect, in action he is seen as behaving opportunistically, seizing upon whatever a situation offered to score an advantage. Thus, in each of the major initiatives of his career, from his defence of the Corn Laws in the 1840s to his support for electoral reform in 1867 to his embracing of social reform in the 1870s, Disraeli is portrayed as acting strategically not ideologically. Gladstone, by contrast, is depicted as the conviction politician par excellence, and each of the milestones in his career is regarded as the product of an intense period of internal reflection: if Gladstone advocated a laissez-faire economic policy or the extension of the franchise or Irish Home Rule, he did so because he was convinced that it was the right thing to do – so right, indeed, that it was almost certainly God's will.
Where debate has chiefly arisen has been with respect to what principle guided his behaviour. Was Gladstone guided by a profound liberal instinct? Or was he always really a Conservative, and more particularly a Peelite? Or perhaps he is best seen as an Evangelical struggling against the forces of sin?
Outline of Events
The death of Lord Palmerston in 1865 revitalized British politics. For ten years his charismatic personality had dominated Westminster, and with his demise a host of personalities and issues asserted their claims to attention. First among these was Lord John Russell. Despite having played a prominent part in passing the 1832 Reform Act, and serving as prime minister in the late 1840s, Russell had found his career blocked by Palmerston's popularity, and his hopes of revisiting the subject of reform had been frustrated. Now again the leader of a Liberal government, he moved quickly to bring forward a Reform Bill, the passage of which through the Commons was delegated to William Gladstone. This 1866 Reform Bill was a moderate one, lowering the voting qualification in boroughs from the occupancy of a house commanding a rent of £10 per annum to one liable to an annual rent of £7. It was intended, thereby, to enfranchise the skilled working class, who were not only associated with an estimable sobriety but also had the additional virtue of being expected to vote Liberal. Unfortunately, Russell and Gladstone had not anticipated the emergence of a group of about 40 Liberal MPs vehemently opposed to extending the vote to the uneducated working class. Led by Robert Lowe, these Adullamites were able to defeat the measure by allying with the Conservatives. The government resigned and a Tory administration was formed, with Lord Derby as prime minister and Benjamin Disraeli as leader of the House of Commons. What should this government do about Reform? Disraeli preferred to do nothing. But the emergence of a popular protest movement, triggered by the failure of the Liberal Bill, persuaded Derby that it would benefit the Conservatives to bring forward their own Bill, rather than allow the Liberals to take up reform at the earliest opportunity. The result was a proposal to extend the vote in the Boroughs to all men who personally paid rates (household suffrage). To counterbalance the radicalism of this measure, additional votes were to be given to members of the propertied class (the Fancy Franchises).
If the vigour of the debate generated by a historical subject is testimony to its ability to attract the creative talents of the leading historians of each generation, then the political careers of William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli stand out beyond all others of the nineteenth century. Among the most striking features to emerge from the above survey is that controversy regarding the doings and motivations of these two political personalities was present from the very beginning of their careers and shows no sign of abating. Accounts of historiographical debates often deploy the language of traditional and revisionist viewpoints, but in the case of Gladstone and Disraeli this will not do. While both politicians received ‘monumental’ biographies in the shape of John Morley's Life of William Ewart Gladstone (1903) and William Monypenny and George Buckle's Life of Benjamin Disraeli (1910–20), each of these books was no mere hagiography – both were sophisticated pieces of historical scholarship and set new standards in the writing of political biographies. Accordingly, both books contained complex assessments that did not fit into any simple heroic account of their subject matter. Morley, for example, showed just how slow and tentative was Gladstone's political journey into Lord Palmerston's Liberal cabinet, while Monypenny and Buckle highlighted Disraeli's reticence with regard to the question of parliamentary reform in 1866. Nevertheless, it is true to say that both large books cast a shadow over subsequent writing on Gladstone and Disraeli through into the post-1945 period. Most writers between the wars tended to take the essential outlines of the careers of Gladstone and Disraeli for granted – whether it was accepting that Disraeli took an active interest in social reform in the 1870s or that Gladstone's engagement with Ireland was motivated by a principled determination to alleviate the sufferings of its people. Even then there were occasional questioning voices – such as Carl Bodelsen's critical 1924 study of Disraeli's commitment to imperialism. But it was only in the 1960s and 1970s that something approaching a revolution in Gladstone and Disraeli scholarship occurred, as a series of books and articles appeared re-evaluating one after another of the assumptions hitherto made about their careers.
Outline of Events
The Midlothian election of 1880 signalled Benjamin Disraeli's political destruction as assuredly as the cold winds of 1881 brought his demise, and the way was now clear for William Gladstone, at the head of a large majority, to settle his scores with Beaconsfieldism and perfect his political legacy. Yet it soon became apparent that Gladstone had no idea what to do with this new lease of power beyond undoing the wicked excesses of Disraeli's period in office – especially in the sphere of imperialism. But shifting a nation's foreign policy is no easy business in a world where the Empire created a dynamic of its own, and while in Afghanistan the troops were withdrawn, disentangling Britain's relations with the Transvaal was far more difficult, as the First Boer War of 1881 testified. Yet these foreign policy dilemmas were soon eclipsed by Gladstone's annexation of Egypt in 1882. While the motives for this action are much debated, what is not questionable is that by this dramatic act of imperial expansion Gladstone liquidated the moral basis of his anti- Beaconsfield rhetoric. And Egypt led to the Sudan as Gladstone's imperial story mirrored Disraeli's, from glamorous victories to humiliating disasters – this time as General Charles George Gordon was killed at Khartoum.
In domestic politics Gladstone again found himself drawn into the affairs of Ireland, as the agricultural depression brought that island to the brink of crisis. Preoccupied as he was, and hinting repeatedly of his imminent retirement, the government drifted, being buffeted, almost immediately, by the storm over the atheist MP Charles Bradlaugh's claim that he be exempt from swearing an oath of allegiance to the Queen as a Christian. The Bradlaugh controversy, ruthlessly exploited by Tory dissidents of the ‘Fourth Party’, revealed the splits between Radicals and Whigs on the government benches, and the manoeuvring between these rivals for the post-Gladstone inheritance became a defining feature of the administration. While plans for local government reform were never realized, in 1884–85 long-promised proposals to bring the County franchise into line with that in the boroughs were carried onto the statute book. But with this measure settled, Liberal differences opened still wider, and in June 1885 the government was defeated in a budget vote and resigned.
Outline of Events
‘Power’, Benjamin Disraeli lamented, ‘it has come to me too late.’ He was fortunate that, at the age of 70, it came to him at all. Ironically, it was William Gladstone who made it possible as he disintegrated the Liberal coalition that had dominated politics since 1846. But Disraeli had played some part in his downfall, for with his 1872 speeches at the Crystal Palace and Manchester he had belatedly constructed a serviceable Conservative ideology for the politics of the wider electorate he had brought into being in 1867. The revived One Nation vision had two components: first, an association of the Conservatives with the idea of social reform, in contrast with the Liberal obsession with institutional tinkering, and second, a celebration of the British Empire, as opposed to Gladstone's embarrassed reserve upon colonial issues. These two themes ought to have provided matter enough for a Conservative government. Unfortunately, they were always more rhetorical than practical conceptions, and Disraeli entered office with no programme for either. This fact has fuelled two of the most controversial debates concerning his politics. Was Disraeli a social reformer, and was he ever really an imperialist? The answer to both questions is an equivocal one. Yes, Disraeli was content to see his government associated with social reform and imperial gestures, but this still this leaves the issue of how far Disraeli personally encouraged these developments as elements in a definite strategy of governance. In either case the matter is debatable, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the coherence of Tory policy in both these areas has owed more to the subsequent writings of friends and critics than to the thinking of Disraeli himself. In any case, the narrative of Disraeli's government was shaped more by external events. In 1876 the Eastern Question was reignited by the heavy-handed methods deployed by the Turks to suppress Balkan nationalism. While Disraeli sought to apply the Eastern policy he had learned from Lord Palmerston, the massacre of civilians in Bulgaria provoked a popular outcry that summoned Gladstone from retirement, thereby initiating an exercise in popular campaigning that was to set a new style in politics and, after four years of invective against Disraeli and all his works, carried Gladstone back to power in 1880 and returned Disraeli to the opposition benches (though this time, as Lord Beaconsfield, in the House of Lords).
It is the object of this book to trace the often sharply differing perspectives historians have formed with regard to the key incidents in the careers of the two foremost politicians of the Victorian age – William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. As such, it is a work of synthesis. It seeks to juxtapose the various interpretations of events historians have advocated, rather than arrive at settled conclusions of its own. To aim for any kind of ‘final verdict’ upon the debates under review would not merely be presumptuous but also subvert the book's entire raison d’être. For it is the contention of this study, and of the wider series of which it forms part, that history is a continually evolving subject in which finality is not to be looked for. Every generation poses new questions, or reformulates answers to old ones, and there can be no end to this process. It is this very fluidity and contestability of key historical doctrines that gives the subject its perennial attraction and ensures that every student must confront the issues for themselves, and weigh up the sometimes bewildering array of theories and explanations, so as to come to their own conclusions: realizing, full well, that their own judgement can never be anything other than provisional and that new insights and discoveries will be made that will call for the matter to be re-evaluated by historians. If this book encourages the student to relish the interplay of argument and debate that makes up modern history, and helps them steer their way through the sometimes perplexing world of Victorian politics, then it will have achieved its purpose. To bring more forcibly before the reader the fact that written history is generated by actual historians operating within a particular social and intellectual context, a brief résumé of the career of the chief historians cited is included as an appendix.
‘With each blast, massacre and killing, Pakistan as a state, fails one more time. How many citizens will be slaughtered or blown apart by militants before our delusion gives way to reality? Pakistan stubbornly continues to live in a state of denial, refusing to acknowledge that it is being brutally attacked by a bloodthirsty enemy from within and without. Already driven to the wall, the only mindless response that the state has to offer is yet more barriers, check posts, bunkers, statements and resolutions. To many, it is still not obvious that we are on a suicidal path and unless we can take proactive and radical measures, the violence could only conclude in total collapse of the state.’
‘In the absence of a true national identity, Pakistan defined itself by its opposition to India. It turned its back on all that had been common between Muslims and non-Muslims in the era before partition. Everything came under suspicion, from dress to customs to festivals, marriage rituals and literature. The new country set itself the task of erasing its association with the subcontinent, an association that many came to view as a contamination. In trying to turn its back on its shared past with India, Pakistan turned its back on itself.’
Since the Pakistani state came into being in 1947, it has frequently faced scepticism about its rationale, formation and its future as a nation-state, especially for being located in a testing geopolitical region and frequently stumbling from one crisis into another. The creation of the country – divided into the mainland Indus Valley and the lower Gangetic Delta – accounts for a sizeable number of South Asia's Muslims, themselves making a clear majority of the world's Muslim population, the country has often been seen as a caesarean birth of an otherwise widely assumed united India. Partition was thus viewed as a negative process, with the onus of its responsibility falling upon Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876–1948) and the All-India Muslim League. In the Indian nationalist parlance, other than Jinnah and the Muslim Leaguers and their nostalgic Turk followers, the British imperial interests were also held responsible for this divide-and-quit dictum, nefariously employed by a weakened, opportunistic and receding imperial power.
‘The Americans are about to talk to the Taliban not to get them to lay down their arms and ship them to the Solomon Islands, but as a face-saving exercise. They want to exit Afghanistan sans too much humiliation. In so many words they are telling the Taliban, look we are getting out; make our departure easier. That's it, if only we could read the writing on the wall.’
‘For my father's generation of Afghan men, America was not the land of opportunity but a place to die. Exile was the end.’
The Taliban, like several other Islamist groups, have been a frequent subject of predictable journalistic and academic outpourings often reiterating only a vicious and sexist side of their ideology, which inherently banks on staunch Wahhabi, Salafi and Deobandi postulations. Given the pervasive views on Islam and especially following September 11, such a premise became the dominant and perhaps the only narrative of its type in English and other Western languages. Amidst the longest and the immensely taxing war that more than 30 nations have fought in Afghanistan, any alternative academic or media view of Talibanist views of Islam or their ability to withstand and even embarrass the world's most powerful states has certainly been non-existent. It is only recently that the Taliban have begun to use IT, especially websites, though their usage of mobile phones, pamphleteering and messages through human carriers are still the preferred modus operandi. In addition, sympathetic mosque-based networks and tribal contacts facilitate mutual communications, though their younger supporters in Pakistan and elsewhere have been more IT-savvy than the pioneer generation, who were nevertheless still able to surprise everybody with their rapid mobility, prolonged and even effective campaigns and by their survival against the odds. Soon after September 11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban were subjected to a ‘hammer-and-anvil policy’ based on being squeezed from all sides. Pakistan, which participated in this policy, carried out several military operations in the FATA in addition to rounding up thousands of Afghan, Pakistani and other international Islamists from across its lands. The suicide bombings in Madrid, Bali and London – other than hundreds of such kamikaze onslaughts in Pakistani and Afghan towns and markets – intensified general hostility towards this militancy, which was causing stupendous civilian losses.
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