Classic History Books


The History of England by A. E. Pollard

painful organization among the workers, and later on by legislation extorted by their votes. Neither the
Evangelical nor the Oxford movement proved any prophylactic against the immorality of commercial

and industrial creeds. While those two religious movements were at their height, new centres of

industrial population were allowed to grow up without the least regard for health or decency. Under the

influence of laissez-faire philosophy, each wretched slum-dweller was supposed to be capable,

after his ten or twelve hours in the factory, of looking after his own and his children's education, his

main-drainage, his risks from infection, and the purity of his food and his water-supply. The old system

of local government was utterly inadequate and ill adapted to the new conditions; and the social and

physical environment of the working classes was a disgrace to civilization pending the reconstruction of

society, still incomplete, which the Industrial Revolution imposed upon the country in the nineteenth

century.

 

CHAPTER VIII. A CENTURY OF EMPIRE

1815-1911

The British realms beyond the seas have little history before the battle of Waterloo, a date at which the
Englishman's historical education has commonly come to an end; and if by chance it has gone any

further, it has probably been confined to purely domestic events or to foreign episodes of such ephemeral

interest as the Crimean War. It may be well, therefore, to pass lightly over these matters in order to

sketch in brief outline the development of the empire and the problems which it involves. European

affairs, in fact, played a very subordinate part in English history after 1815; so far as England was

concerned, it was a period of excursions and alarms rather than actual hostilities; and the fortunes of

English-speaking communities were not greatly affected by the revolutions and wars which made and

marred continental nations, a circumstance which explains, if it does not excuse, the almost total

ignorance of European history displayed in British colonies.

The interventions of Britain in continental politics were generally on behalf of the principles of
nationality and self-government. Under the influence of Castlereagh and Canning the British government

gradually broke away from the Holy Alliance formed to suppress all protests against the settlement

reached after Napoleon's fall; and Britain interposed with decisive effect at the battle of Navarino in

1827, which secured the independence of Greece from Turkey. More diplomatic intervention assisted the

South American colonies to assert their independence of the Spanish mother-country; and British

volunteers helped the Liberal cause in Spain and Portugal against reactionary monarchs. Belgium was

countenanced in its successful revolution against the House of Orange, and Italian states in their revolts

against native and foreign despots; the expulsion of the Hapsburgs and Bourbons from Italy, and its

unification on a nationalist basis, owed something to British diplomacy, which supported Cavour, and to

British volunteers who fought for Garibaldi. The attitude of Britain towards the Balkan nationalities,

which were endeavouring to throw off the Turkish yoke, was more dubious; while Gladstone denounced

Turkish atrocities, Disraeli strengthened Turkey's hands. Yet England would have been as enthusiastic

for a liberated and united Balkan power as it had been for a united Italy but for the claims of a rival

liberator, Russia.

Russia was the bugbear of two generations of Englishmen; and classical scholars, who interpreted
modern politics by the light of ancient Greece, saw in the absorption of Athens by Macedon a convincing

demonstration of the fate which the modern barbarian of the north was to inflict upon the British heirs of

Hellas. India was the real source of this nervousness. British dominion, after further wars with the

 

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