History of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Previous History of Great Britain: History of the Kingdom of Great Britain and History of Ireland

History of Great Britain from 1921 : History of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The history of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland encompasses the history of the territories of England , Scotland and Ireland, which have been united under the rule of the British Crown since the Act of Union 1800 until the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which heralded the independence of Southern Ireland .

Great Britain in the Napoleonic era

Political development

As a result of uprisings in Ireland of 1798, the British government under William Pitt the Younger decided to end Ireland's formal independence for good. With the Act of Union 1800 , Ireland was annexed to the Kingdom of Great Britain , which on the one hand resulted in the loss of the Irish Parliament and on the other hand the legal unity and thus the formal equality of Great Britain and Ireland on January 1, 1801. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was created . Ireland sent around 100 MPs to the House of Commons and 28 peers to the House of Lords . The civic equality of Catholics, which Pitt was also striving for, failed due to the resistance of King George III. , whereupon the Prime Minister resigned.

This version of the Union Jack became the flag of the United Kingdom in 1801.

In 1802, Henry Addington , Pitt's successor, signed the Treaty of Amiens with France. This peace treaty was extremely popular because the war with France and the associated economic crisis had led, among other things, to the first general income tax being levied. However, only about a year of peace followed, which Great Britain used for massive rearmament and a renewed declaration of war on France on May 18, 1803.

In the dispute with Napoléon Bonaparte , the British retained the upper hand in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and with them ended any French ability to act at sea. In the European land warfare, however, Bonaparte remained successful. With the continental lock , France closed all continental ports to British trade in 1806. While this led to unemployment, falling wages and price increases on the island, it did not bring Britain to its knees. The continental barrier was particularly permeable in the Baltic States and Portugal, and France was also unable to bring smuggling under control. To compensate for the continental blockade and also to replace the lost market in the North American colonies, British trade increasingly concentrated on South America. In addition, with the independence of the United States, the sales markets for the slave trade collapsed and an increasingly strong abolition movement emerged, so that the British government banned the slave trade in 1807.

Battle of Waterloo, painting by William Sadler

While Napoleon overwhelmed his forces in the conflict with Russia in 1812 , Great Britain concentrated on an expeditionary campaign to Spain. In 1809, troops under Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington , the most important British military leader of the time, landed on the Iberian Peninsula and, together with insurgents, waged a tough fight against Napoleon's troops and achieved the decisive victory in this theater of war in 1813. After the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, Great Britain and its envoy Castlereagh played a key role in the reorganization of Europe at the Congress of Vienna , but, despite its strong position, renounced any new territorial possession on the continent. British foreign policy was primarily interested in a balance of power on the mainland, in which the powers there should neutralize one another. In addition, the principle of free trade should make the continent a market for British goods.

Cultural development

Like most European nations, Great Britain saw a turn from classicism to romanticism . Shortly after 1700, cultural recourse to the Middle Ages and Shakespeare were intensified, although these had never completely disappeared before. From 1760 the poetry of the alleged Gaelic bard Ossian became very popular, shortly thereafter the horror novel . Both became defining elements of British romanticism. The heroic, pathetic, sublime became the model for artistic forms of expression. Romantic literature in the United Kingdom was primarily historical literature. In painting, the romanticism was mainly expressed in the form of landscape painting in watercolor.

The industrial revolution

Technical innovations

A steam engine designed by James Watt, exhibited in Madrid .

While the domestic political controversy over the modernization of the electoral law relaxed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and a reaction to continental European developments was required in foreign policy, the industrial revolution began to develop.

The decisive technical innovations ( spinning jenny , steam engine ) had already been developed in the late 18th century. In the following decades they were improved and found more and more popular. A proletariat had also developed in the most important industrial locations around 1800 .

Social development

The technical innovations also changed the work process. In the place of independent craft or home work in the publishing system, factory work with its central workplaces, fixed times and increasing child labor took place. The latter was recognized as a problem and from 1819 increasingly restricted by law. In the 18th century, the workers had initially united in combinations , so to speak, craft guilds. These were initially banned. When the number of secret societies increased, the government re-opened in 1824, which quickly took the form of modern trade unions . The struggle of the workers for their own interests initially rarely took the form of organized or spontaneous strikes , but rather expressed itself primarily in the phenomenon of the machine attackers ( Luddites ).

The demands and processes of industrial work led to fundamental social upheavals.

By Thomas Malthus ' font Essay on the Principle of Population of 1798 a scientific and political debate about the demographic trend first emerged. In 1801 there was the first modern census in Great Britain. During this period there was also a massive increase in the population of Great Britain from just over 8 million in 1794 to over 13 million in 1831. Parallel to the growth there was also a regional concentration of inhabitants in the industrial regions in the north and west of England, in Wales Lowlands in southern Scotland and London, which topped the one million mark around 1800. The growth of urban agglomerations resulted in an explosion in the demand for food, which in turn sparked a boom in agriculture. Nonetheless, social problems began to grow, especially among the wage earners, that is, factory workers and agricultural workers.

Pre-Victorian Reforms

George IV

The struggle against Napoleon had masked a number of internal crises in the United Kingdom, including the weakness of the mentally deranged King George III. , for whom his son ruled from 1810, who officially took over the crown as George IV in 1820 . In addition, the peace had largely robbed the war industry and with it the entire heavy industry and shipbuilding of their sales markets and the 300,000 returning soldiers had to be partially demobilized and provided with jobs. From 1815 onwards, the discussion about the basic direction of British economic policy moved into the center of public attention. It was primarily about the Corn Laws , the restrictions on grain imports that directly controlled the price of grain. While the social elites, who were mostly landowners and dominated both houses of parliament, had an interest in high grain prices, both the growing workforce and the new business class demanded lower prices; the latter mainly in order to be able to reduce wage costs.

In this situation, dissatisfaction with the government increased noticeably. Political clubs, petition movements and demonstrations began to form across the country. In 1819 a mass meeting in Manchester was bloodily crushed in the Peterloo massacre . The first economic reforms came in 1822 when a number of direct taxes on goods were reduced. In the following years there were individual trade agreements with other countries that resulted in mutual lowering of tariffs. As a result, the economic situation slowly began to improve.

In terms of foreign policy, Great Britain acted cautiously after the Congress of Vienna. In Europe it intervened by participating in a number of congresses, but militarily only in 1826 in the case of the succession to the throne in Portugal. Russia increasingly ousted France as the power on the continent that was seen as a threat. The Greek struggle for freedom against the Ottoman Empire was more of a phenomenon that attracted the sympathy of the masses than an actual engagement of the government.

In 1827 and 1828 there were several rapidly changing governments as well as division processes within the Tories and the Whigs. In addition, sharp disputes about the emancipation of the religious minorities began again in these years. In 1828 the Dissenters were given equal rights, in 1829 the Catholics. At the same time, the electoral census was massively increased, especially to keep the Catholic farmers in Ireland away from co-determination. Bad harvests and a general economic crisis led to the fact that in many cities the workforce and small self-employed traders came together to demand reforms together. With the new revolution in France, fear of revolution began to spread among the elites of the United Kingdom.

George IV died in 1830, he was succeeded on the throne by his brother William IV , who forced new elections to appoint the reform-minded Whig Charles Gray as Prime Minister. The most important reform project was the redistribution of the constituencies, which often had the size they had inherited from the Middle Ages and which no longer corresponded to the population concentration due to industrialization ( rotten boroughs ). The far-reaching constitutional reform only happened after a dissolution of the lower house and new elections as well as violent riots against reform opponents in parliament in 1832. In it 56 constituencies were dissolved, 30 downgraded from two to one MP and 42 new ones created in the densely populated regions. The census was not abolished, but it was reduced, so that the electorate roughly doubled in England and Wales and more than fifteen-fold in Scotland. In London even individual, high-income workers were given the right to vote. However, the reform made little change to the composition of the House of Commons. The clear majority of MPs continued to come from the landowning class.

Further reform laws followed. The revision of the Poor Law of 1834 was supposed to lower the massively increased levies for poor relief and also to move poor relief from a local and regional to a national basis. The central instrument of the new poor policy were the nationwide furnished workhouses . The social consequences of industrialization had been discussed since the beginning of the 19th century, especially the harsh working conditions for women and children. The Factory Act of 1833 restricted the working hours of children, at least in the textile industry, and above all for the first time set up state inspectors to oversee the private factories. In addition, the political discussion about compulsory schooling began in 1833, but this has not yet been realized. Following the tolerance laws of 1828/29, reforms also increasingly intervened in the Anglican Church itself in the 1830s . From 1836 marriages outside of her were also possible, from 1837 academic degrees were awarded. A commission also met from 1836 to implement cautious administrative reforms in the church. Against this state influence, the Oxford Movement formed an academic-theological counter-movement that wanted to maintain traditions and push back state and lay influence. In 1850 the Catholic Church was allowed to re-establish its diocese structure in England.

The Victorian Age

Queen Victoria

In 1836 the People's Charter was drawn up and the Chartist Movement was founded, giving all men equal suffrage and other political demands. They did not enforce their demands directly, but in the long term a lot was changed in their favor. So were z. B. from 1851 supra-regional professional associations formed. 1846 the Cabinet abolished Robert Peel , the Corn Laws in accordance with the wishes of the workers and the industrialists, and decided to order for free trade . Thereupon a wing of the Tory party split off under Benjamin Disraeli , who represented the interests of the large landowners.

From 1830 an increased emigration to the colonies began, especially to the Cape Colony (South Africa), Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Therefore, the white settlement colonies were given self-government rights in 1865.
The Great Famine ruled
Ireland from 1845–1849 . In 1865/67 there were uprisings in Ireland, led by the Federation of Fenians .
In 1867 Disraeli carried out the second reform of the electoral law, which increased the number of voters from 1.4 to 2.5 million, but continued to deprive rural workers of the right to vote.
In 1869 the Anglican Church was abolished as a state church in Ireland. In 1875 Disraeli bought Suez Canal shares for £ 4 million .

Entry into the phase of imperialism

Benjamin Disraeli

The entry of Great Britain into this new imperialist age can be fixed for the year 1875. At that time the conservative Disraeli government bought the shares of the Egyptian ruler Ismail in the Suez Canal Company for 4 million pounds in order to secure this strategically important trade route to India. The Suez Canal was opened in November 1869. Joint British-French financial control over Egypt ended with the military occupation of Egypt by Great Britain in 1882.

Fear of Russia's southern expansion was another factor in British politics. In 1878 the island of Cyprus was occupied in response to a Russian attack on the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean War (1854-1856). Even Afghanistan was temporarily occupied to push back Russian influence there. Great Britain waged three bloody and unsuccessful wars against insurgents and holy warriors in Afghanistan:

  • The first Anglo-Afghan war ended in one of the most devastating defeats of the Victorian era, when the British army was almost completely wiped out when retreating from Kabul in 1842 by Pashtun tribes armed with Russian weapons.
  • The second Anglo-Afghan war resulted in a devastating defeat at Maiwand in 1880 , the siege of Kabul by the Afghans and the British retreat to India .
  • In the third Anglo-Afghan war of 1919, the British were finally expelled.

The Great Game for supremacy in Central Asia ended with a bloody, unsuccessful and completely unnecessary British invasion of Tibet ( British Tibet Campaign November 1903 to September 1904).

At the same time, powerful interest groups from business and politics came to the view that the formation of a “formal” empire was necessary in order to stop the loss of importance in many world markets (e.g. high industrialization in Germany (1871-1914), History of the United States # Industrialization ).

Above all Joseph Chamberlain advocated vehemently. During the 1890s, the new imperialism became the guiding principle of British politics. Great Britain soon took on the pioneering role in the division of Africa . So the new imperialism did not emerge from a position of strength, but was rather a consequence of fear of economic loss.

On the way to Labor Party and Home Rule

William Ewart Gladstone

In 1884 the third law to amend the electoral law was passed, according to which only one parliamentary seat was allocated in each constituency. William Ewart Gladstone , as leader of the Liberal Party Disraeli opponent, campaigned vigorously for Home Rule , an autonomy of Ireland. This led to the split in the Liberal Party in 1886, the leader of the unionist faction was Joseph Chamberlain . The Fabian Society , formed in 1883, joined forces with the Independent Labor Party, founded in 1893. From 1906 the alliance was called the Labor Party .

In the British general election in October 1900 , the Labor Representation Committee received just 1.8 percent of the vote. The elections took place during the eventful Second Boer War. As a result, a large part of the British population was in a patriotic and partly pro-colonial mood. The representatives of the Labor Representation Committee, most of whom were pro-Boers, suffered from this, but also many liberal candidates who rejected British imperialism, which was quite aggressive at the time.

Way into the First World War

Creeping changes

In 1901 Edward VII succeeded his mother Victoria on the throne. He did not interfere in the affairs of government, so that the late Victorian politics continued largely uninterrupted. Changes only began to emerge in the field of colonial policy: as early as 1880, Great Britain had largely withdrawn from South and Central America in agreement with the USA. While India remained a stable part of the empire, there were repeated minor crises and clashes, especially with France, in the African colonies. Most significant was the Second Boer War (1899–1902), which also exposed the shortcomings of the British colonial system to a broader public: Commanders operated largely independently and displayed great cruelty to the Boer civilian population, without any major military successes being achieved .

In 1902 Great Britain gave up its freedom of association, splendid isolation and concluded a naval alliance with Japan, and in 1904 the entente cordiale with France.

Domestically, the conservatives benefited from their imperial appearance in foreign policy, which was popular with the population. However, this bonus weakened after the Boer War. The Liberals had won a large electorate in Ireland by advocating Home Rule . The most important issue at the turn of the century was trade policy. After free trade policy had dominated since the middle of the 19th century , the most important liberal politician Joseph Chamberlain advocated protective tariffs, which should seal off the entire British empire from the outside and promote trade between the motherland and the colonies. Disputes about the influence of the church on school policy also divided the political actors and the electorate. These tensions led to a conservative, in 1906, a liberal landslide victory in the general election. In response to the vote, the Liberal government under Henry Campbell-Bannerman ran a pro-worker and union-friendly policy with social security such as old-age pensions and an eight-hour day in the mining industry.

Constitutional crisis and constitutional reform

David Lloyd George

From 1908 David Lloyd George was the decisive politician of the United Kingdom, first as finance, later as ammunition and war minister, from 1916 as prime minister. Under him, the German-British naval arms race and a serious constitutional conflict developed: In 1909, Lloyd George tried to implement another comprehensive social security package, which was primarily to be financed by taxing the landowners. After the House of Commons approved the scheme, the House of Lords rejected it, even though it was not entitled to do so in matters of financial policy. With the slogan "Lords against the people", the government called out new elections for January 1910, but these strengthened the conservatives, so that the liberals could only stay in power with the help of Labor and the Irish nationalists. This resulted not only in further disputes about social policy, but also about the renewed demands for Home Rule for Ireland as well as a constitutional reform propagated by Lloyd George with limited powers for the House of Lords.

Edward VII died in this situation. His son and successor George V declared that he would enforce the will of the people by appointing new peers in the House of Lords. When new elections in December 1910 confirmed the January result, the House of Lords approved the Parliament Act , which restricted his rights , in the face of the royal threat . In particular, an upper house veto from 1911 only had suspensive effect on a law that had passed the lower house and the lower house electoral term was shortened from seven to five years. In 1914, the year the World War began, the Home Rule Act was passed.

First World War and Irish Independence

British soldiers of the Royal Ulster Rifles in a trench, autumn 1916
British propaganda poster

Entry into the war was approved by all parties with the exception of a Labor Party group led by Ramsay MacDonald . As in the other European countries, there was a great deal of enthusiasm for war among the population . There was a voluntary enlistment movement ; Hundreds of thousands of men volunteered in September 1914 .

In 1915 an all-party government was formed. At its head was David Lloyd George , who wanted to achieve a broad coalition government by including the conservatives. Asquith's supporters went into opposition, so that the liberal party was split. In the years that followed, Lloyd George achieved an almost dictatorial position in the cabinet and pursued a war policy aimed at the complete defeat of the German Reich. In 1916 compulsory military service was introduced. In addition to the deployment of British soldiers on the continent, the most important contributions made by the United Kingdom to the victory of the Allies at the end of the war were the naval blockade against the German Reich and the deployment of the first tanks - especially the Mark IV . By the end of the war, over 800,000 British soldiers were killed. The fact that the state was dependent on the involvement of the workers and women for the war economy led to the political emancipation of both groups during the war and in the years afterwards ( women emancipation ). From 1917 conferences were convened in London with envoys from the Dominions of the Commonwealth in order to receive greater support from them. This approach strengthened self-confidence in the Dominions and contributed significantly to the independence movement that began after the war (see decolonization and the British Empire ).

Unionists and Irish nationalists began to radicalize and arm themselves at the latest since it became apparent in 1912 that the Home Rule would come into force for Ireland after the two-year postponement due to the House of Lords veto . The outbreak of the First World War and the personal intervention of George V initially prevented clashes. With the war coalition, the Irish nationalists had lost their important position in the House of Commons. When in 1916 the extremely unpopular conscription was introduced in southern Ireland, the situation in Ireland escalated. At Easter 1916 there was an uprising , which was suppressed, but resulted in a guerrilla war lasting several years . Sinn Féin , although only insignificantly involved in the uprising, became the reservoir of the independence movement, which only became a unified front through the tough crackdown by British troops. In the general election of 1918 , Sinn Féin won 80 percent of the Irish seats and formed the First Dáil , the first Irish parliament since 1801. Éamon de Valera was elected President of the Republic of Ireland, and a parallel government and administrative structure began . The British government immediately declared the Dail illegal. The following Irish War of Independence (1919–1921) led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 , which guaranteed independence from Great Britain for 26 of the 32 Irish counties. From the provinces of Munster , Leinster and Connaught , and three of the nine counties of Ulster became the Irish Free State formed. The six northern counties of Ulster formed Northern Ireland and remained part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland .

Ireland's constitutional ties with Great Britain gradually dissolved until the Republic of Ireland was established in 1949 . Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom and the official name was changed to " United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ".

Continuing the History of Great Britain: History of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Literature (selection)

  • Kurt Kluxen : History of England. From the beginning to the present (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 374). 5th enlarged edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-520-37405-6 .
  • Michael Maurer: A Little History of England . New edition Reclam, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-15-009616-2 .
  • Karl Oréans : Modern History of England. Development of his cultural, legal, economic u. State history from the Middle Ages to the World War . Kurt Schroeder publishing house, Bonn 1921 (library for culture and history; 14).
  1. England's rise to world power until the Peace of Paris in 1763. pp. 1–260.
  2. England's decline a. new rise to power up to the Congress of Vienna in 1815. pp. 261–670.
  3. The expansion of the British Empire in the 19th and 20th centuries up to the World War. Pp. 671-1133.
  • Andreas Rose: Between Empire and Continent. British foreign policy before the First World War. Verlag R. Oldenbourg, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-486-70401-3 .

See also

supporting documents

  1. ^ Kurt Kluxen: History of England. From the beginning to the present. 2nd Edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1976, ISBN 3-520-37402-1 , p. 538.
  2. Sascha Henkens: "The whole people is a single will, a single heart" - The "Spirit of 1914" in an international comparison . Master thesis . Grin Verlag, 2010, ISBN 978-3-640-73517-4 , structure and introduction  ; Page 59 ff.