The Jameson Raid and the ‘Cheap Extension of Empire’

Empire makers and breakers' - Vanity Fair illustration of the House of Commons inquiry into the Jameson Raid, Nov. 1897. Sir William Harcourt (second from right) sought to use the Raid to attack the position of Cecil Rhodes (centre).
Empire makers and breakers’ – Vanity Fair illustration of the House of Commons inquiry into the Jameson Raid, Nov. 1897. Sir William Harcourt (second from right) sought to use the Raid to attack the position of Cecil Rhodes (centre).

Simon Mackley
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @SimonMackley

What was the nature of British imperial expansion? Did British imperialism constitute a form of globalisation? These were the questions put to the participants at the opening of the 2015 International PhD Forum at Peking University on 10th July, which Simon attended as part of a delegation from the University of Exeter, along with postgraduates from PKU and the University of Durham. Drawing on his wider doctoral research into the British Liberal Party and the South African question in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain, Simon seeks to tackle the first question by analysing the Liberal critique of the British South Africa Company following the Jameson Raid of 1895, and the form of imperialism it was alleged to represent.

The end of 1895 had seen British South African Company (BSAC) forces, under the direction of Cecil Rhodes, launch an attempted invasion and coup against the South African Republic. The action, which became known as the Jameson Raid, was a total failure, but the political fallout in Britain was immense, with a particular focus on the relationship between the Chartered Company and the conspiracy. In seeking to further our understandings of the nature of British imperial expansion, the Jameson Raid might seem like an odd choice of focus by comparison with other episodes in Imperial South African history; although an important precursor to the South African War of 1899-1902, the Raid itself provided no territorial gains for the Empire, and indeed arguably weakened the British position in the region. However, an analysis of the political controversy generated by the Raid in Britain, and particularly the public rhetoric deployed by political actors, provides real insight into how the expansion of the Empire and the forces of imperialism operated as political issues within late-Victorian Britain. Continue reading “The Jameson Raid and the ‘Cheap Extension of Empire’”

Echoes of Britain’s Wartime Past: Gove’s Timeless Rhetoric of Justice and Liberty

world-war-i-british-war-poster-regarding-the-sinking-of-the-lusitania-1915

Simon Mackley

Michael Gove’s recent assault, in the form of an article in the Daily Mail, alleges that the myths of the First World War continue to be perpetuated by an unholy alliance of left-wing academics and television sit-coms. The Education Secretary accused his ideological opponents of failing to recognise that the conflict was a ‘just war’, fought in defence of ‘Britain’s special tradition of liberty’. Since the piece went to press, the myriad problems inherent in Gove’s characterisation have been dissected at great length – including an excellent assessment by Marc-William Palen in this very blog. Yet while we might take particular exception to the tone and context of the Education Secretary’s position, such attempts to deploy the rhetoric of justice and liberty in defence of conflict are nothing new. Indeed, from my own research on the Liberal Party and the outbreak of the 1899-1902 South African War, I would suggest that Gove is merely rehashing the language and rhetoric of pro-war Liberals at the turn of the century. Continue reading “Echoes of Britain’s Wartime Past: Gove’s Timeless Rhetoric of Justice and Liberty”