Front Page Titles (by Subject) Late Liberal Imperialism - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
Late Liberal Imperialism - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Late Liberal Imperialism
“The Liberal Imperialists, 1892–1906.” “The Institute of Historical Research of London University. 52(May 1979):49–82.
Gladstonian Liberalism manifested a decidedly anti-imperialist bent since at least the 1870s, but in the 1890s the Liberal party divided over the issue with a growing faction embracing the previously despised imperialism associated with the Tory party. Precipitated by such issues as the Boer War (1899–1902), the imminent division of China by European powers, and the Spanish-American War, Liberals of an imperialist stripe enjoyed considerable electoral success under the leadership of Lord Rosebery and the guidance of his Liberal Club. From a mere 13.6 percent of the Liberal party in 1892, the imperialists, managed to secure 35.7 percent of the Liberal seats before the 1906 elections.
The Liberal party in parliament during the period from 1892 to 1906 was over-whelmingly middle class, with a smattering of aristocrats and working-class labor leaders. The Liberal Imperialists, however, departed markedly from the occupational and class backgrounds of their anti-imperialist colleagues. Not a single working-class member professed imperialistic leanings, and the strength of Rosebery's faction came from the landowning classes and the wealthier section of industrialists. Curiously, of those Liberal peers who were active in political discussions only two adhered to the imperialist line. Imperialists, in addition to their lofty social backgrounds which set them apart from their antagonists, tended to be younger because of attrition as those adherents of the older laissez-faire liberalism died out and younger more statist liberals succeeded then. Finally, the imperialists tended to adhere to the Anglican and Wesleyan faiths, with the nonconformist seats being represented among the anti-imperialists.
Imperialism as a force within the Liberal party met its demise after the election of 1906, when other issues, of tariff reform and educational policy, took precedence over foreign affairs, and England turned to continental affairs rather than colonial adventurism. The era of Liberal imperialism concluded in 1910 when the Liberal League was quietly disbanded.