Disraeli and Foreign Policy

Disraeli and Foreign Policy

Associated with an aggressive and ostentatious foreign policy. Proud of the British Empire and wanted to defend British interests. Genuinely believed that Britain had a duty to spread her values and civilisation to the peoples of the world. (Read more after Break)
How genuinely different Disraeli was to Gladstone is a point of much debate. Gladstone is often portrayed as anti-empire; determined to follow a peaceful foreign policy at all costs. As in other issues, the differences are often over exaggerated and require us to look at the historical context; we should look at their actions and not at their words. Consider the reality and not the rhetoric.

·    Gladstone was more moralistic. Disraeli enjoyed an adventure, searching for imperialistic glory.
·    Gladstone as a liberal supported the principle of self determination. Disraeli was less driven ideologically towards this issue.
·    Disraeli embraced an active foreign policy: Gladstone on the other hand had different priorities. Disraeli saw the opportunity that a successful war or campaign could provide a morale boost a home and increase his party's popularity.

Basic similarities between the two men in relation to their foreign policy initiatives:
·    Both are equally committed to upholding the British empire.  They wish to defend strategic and economic interests.
·    Big issues of the day: Ottoman Empire was seen as the ‘sick man of Europe’. It was falling apart, consequently creating a power vacuum, competition and instability. The greatest threat to this stability was Russia. She wanted to push Britain’s frontiers back in Afghanistan, and possibly challenge for the jewel in Britain's colonial crown, which was India.

·    Gladstone and Disraeli believed in upholding the Balance of Power in Europe: this meant ensuring that no one particular power became more powerful than the others. Creating an equilibrium. Britain’s interests lay largely outside of Europe but she obviously could not ignore the changing nature of power.

·    For all of the criticism that Gladstone made of Disraeli in 1882, when the Egyptians were revolting and causing instability in the Middle East, Gladstone took the decision of invading the country and taking it over; as a result his actions were viewed positively because he was quick to act. Irony; is that Gladstone had in 1875 leveled criticism towards Disraeli for purchasing Suez Canal Shares, which was a way of safeguarding Britain's imperial lifeline to India

Disraeli was critical of Gladstone’s Foreign Policy. Disraeli saw Gladstone's actions over Alabama Arbitration, and Franco-Prussian War as acts of weakness.
In 1872, in his Crystal Palace and Manchester Speeches, Disraeli promised to uphold British interests and he believed that imperial issues could unite all social classes.
Events in South Africa, were to take a turn for the worse and tested Disraeli's resolve towards dealing with distant colonial issues which may have tested Britain's international prestige, but had little impact on the individual voter back at home.
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