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The Hammer Or The Anvil Essay

2174 words - 9 pages

The Hammer or the Anvil
The 19th Century in Europe was a time of power-balancing, revolution, industrialization, and imperialism. The turn of the century marked the end of French continental domination and the beginning of longest period of European peace in history following the Congress of Vienna. Up until 1848, the delicate balance of European power was maintained from an international perspective, but in that year, domestic uprisings plagued much of continental Europe. Given Britain’s geographical isolation and the success of its early colonies (like Australia), it experienced general domestic and foreign tranquility, as well as economic success and worldwide naval supremacy. ...view middle of the document...

” Imperialism, in many ways, was the inevitable result of such large overseas expenditure, and was initially conducted informally simply by asserting the economic influence of the British Empire and causing a colonial dependence on its commerce. Colonial interests initially didn’t cost British taxpayers much because of this market-dependence, however as competition grew in the late 1800s, more formal methods of influence and rule had to be adopted.
Until 1870, domestic and foreign investment fluctuations were correlative, meaning domestic and foreign speculation expected similar returns regardless of which market; beginning in 1870, however, the relationship became inversed, specifically, foreign investment grew as domestic investment diminished. Over time, the lack of capital in British markets for industry, as well as a misguided attachment to “antiquated traditional ideas,” prevented technological innovation and improvement, eventually causing Britain to be “retrograded” in terms of its proportion of worldwide production across several markets. Whereas colonies used to provide the raw materials for input in British industry, this scheme was no longer viable because technological obsolescence made it so Great Britain no longer produced the best goods. New competition continued absorbing Britain’s market-share, especially in terms of (pig) iron and steel production: by 1890, the United States took an absolute advantage, and by 1900, Germany, too, had superseded Britain. This is not to say that the English Empire stopped growing—rather these data indicate that it just wasn’t growing as fast as these younger industrial giants.
Adding insult to injury, Britain’s persistent free-trade policy was by no means an international norm, and in the years leading up to the 20th Century, the British lost markets due to the protectionist policies of other world powers. Despite there being through schools of thought regarding Britain’s trading policies, including protectionism, liberty of negotiation (retaliation), and free-trade, given the British’s reliance on tradition and key-thinkers of the past, free-trade was there to stay. Despite these commercial inequalities, it is possible that this relative decline was caused more by technological obsolescence than by foreign duties. Regardless, Britain needed markets that would give it preferential access in order to maintain the stability of its empire. The Colonial Conference of 1902 did just that. Britain’s possessions and certain areas of influence would give “unilateral preference” to British goods, thus ensuring markets for British goods, despite the competition. However, with this market access came at a price: Britain had to defend these markets from global competition, both in commerce and in power.
Just before the turn of the 20th Century, Alfred Thayer Mahan’s theory regarding naval superiority as a means of global dominance was gaining notoriety throughout the world. Britain, which...

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