American Pressure on the British Empire for the Independence of India: American Financial Leverage on the Decolonisation of the British Empire.

American Pressure on the British Empire for the Independence of India: American Financial Leverage on the Decolonisation of the British Empire.

Nevertheless, it could be said that in a way Britain’s decline was inevitable. This is to the fact that one should always remember that   “The other countries would not remain permanently retarded by the deleterious effects of those eighteenth century wars, or stay constantly weak by internal conflicts. It was still less to be expected that Britain would remain eternally the only or even the greatest industrialised nation when others, with larger populations, and more resources, took the same path.”10 “As Professor Mathias has put it, ‘when half a continent starts to develop then it can produce more than a small island.’ “11

Around the turn of the century evidence of Britain’s decline became more visible. In 1870, for example, the United Kingdom still contained 32% of the world’s manufacturing capacity, this was down to 15% by 1910; and while its share of the world trade was 25% in 1870, by 1913 this had shrunk to 14%.

However, the political elite did not usually concern themselves in any intimate way with economic trends. Their anxieties in most cases were triggered off by feeling of shock and dismay at political challenges, such as the acquisition of colonies by other powers, or the heightened pace of the warship-building by foreign rivals. But military-political power and industrial wealth are closely connected. The famous editor of The Observer newspaper J. L. Garvin, put the fact this way, that “power was relative, and that such power ultimately depended upon a nation’s resources and industrial efficiency. If, therefore, the period 1870-1910 saw a two-fold British superiority over Germans produced more than twice as much as the British, then it was most surprising that Britain should come under pressure from Germany in the field of power-politics as well.”12

As Britain’s dominance in the world’s industrial output and trade gradually diminished she found it increasingly difficult to keep up with the cost of maintaining a military force at a standard which would be capable of defending the British sea communications and counter-balance forces possessed by political enemies. “The most remarkable feature of the post-1815 Pax Britannica was its cheapness. Apart from several short-lived ‘scare’ periods, the naval budget during the early and middle parts of Victoria’s reign averaged around £7 million to £8 million per annum – a reasonable insurance policy for apposition of unmatched global pre-eminence. The army tended to be rather more expensive (in 1870 it cost £13.4 million as opposed to £9.8 million for the navy), but even in that year the total defence budget worked out at 14s.9d. per head of the British population.”13

However, by the turn of the century, this cheapness turned into a horrifying escalation in costs. “A 90-gun warship of the mid-century could cost as little as £ 100,000; the ‘Majestic’  class battleships of 1893-5 cost around £1 million each; the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ class battleships of 1912-13 cost around £2.5 million.”14 Therefore, the more costly the armaments became, the more countries would be forced to abandon the race of being a great power and Britain was no exception. Having interests in every part of the world, the British government became increasingly under pressure “to consider which region had priority and in which it might be necessary to give way gracefully since it was appreciated that if Britain concentrated too much in one region, she would have no strength to protect the others.”15

This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!