Front Page Titles (by Subject) Schooling for Imperialism - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2
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Schooling for 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.
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Schooling for Imperialism
“The ABC's of Imperial Unity.” Canadian Journal of History 14(April 1979):49–64.
Historians of early twentieth century efforts at unifying the British Empire, have focused their attention on constitutional issues. This emphasis is misplaced, since imperial unity was never universally equated with formal political ties. With government encouragement, extensive private programs were undertaken to stimulate emotional and ideological cohesion between Great Britain and her colonies. Prof. Greenlee's article chronicles the work of one of the pioneering organizations in this field: the League of Empire, which sought to promote imperial solidarity through school programs.
In 1901, when the charter members of the League first met at Caxton Hall (London), wrangling over constitutional, economic, and political federation had largely frustrated the movement for greater unity between Great Britain and her self-governing colonies. The Colonial Conferences had faltered, tariff reform roused bitter controversy, while the war in South Africa stirred dissension throughout the Empire. In this atmosphere, the League of Empire was at pains to avoid injuring the sensibilities of colonial nationalists—emphasizing the private nature of the organization and shunning controversy at all costs.
The early leaders of the League concluded that any future unity of the Empire would be linked directly to education, particularly to the study of imperial history. “The only sound and permanent basis for an Empire lies in an instructed people,” declared A.F. Pollard, chairman of the League's history section.
In 1903, Joseph Chamberlain, Colonial Secretary, dispatched a letter to school boards throughout the Empire, warmly recommending the goals of the League. This support encouraged the group to develop a spate of programs aimed at fostering imperial unity and pride: the Comrades' Correspondence Club (a pen pal organization); Empire Day celebrations; patriotic plays for drama clubs; song sheets featuring melodies such as “The Maple Leaf Forever” and “Song of Australia”; Union Jack postcards; patriotic badges and shoulder insignia, etc.
Branches of the League soon sprang up throughout the Empire, and these far-flung bodies quickly organized to compose a reference book on imperial history: The British Empire: Its Past, Present, and Future. Evidently, joint action was proving both possible and popular when tactfully approached.
Early successes, however, emboldened the League to invite colonial school boards throughout the Empire to attend a Federal Conference on Education. The conference was obviously intended to promote the cause of educational federation. The move proved too direct. At the 1907 convention, the plan for forging an educational union met rejection from both British and colonial school boards. The boards would brook no infringement of their autonomy or the individuality of their systems.
It was agreed to continue holding these meetings every four years under the new title of the Imperial Educational Conference. Nonetheless, the drive toward educational federation quickly dissipated. At the time of the 1927 conference, all discussion of union was formally excluded. The meeting dwelt primarily on educational methods and theory.
Despite its seeming failure, Prof. Greenlee concludes, the League did, in fact, do much to stimulate imperial sentiment, even going so far as to produce patriotic films widely distributed in the Empire. Without the League and similar organizations, the splendid dominion response to Britain's call to arms against Hitler would have been, in Greenlee's view, simply inconceivable.