11 France and Britain in the Belle Epoque: -- Part 3
The Victorian era came to an end a decade before Queen Victoria's death.
She had seen a lot of change in her sixty-four years of rule, from the Chartist and antimonarchical movement in her earliest years as queen, to the sudden death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861.
The death of her at eighty-one was a bit lucky, as the shocks of the twentieth century would have been too much for her.
Victoria was against the idea of becoming the queen of a popular democracy.
As Victoria lay dying, her empire became mired in a war in southern Africa.
A popular democracy was on its way and unstoppable.
The reforms of 1884 made Britain's electorate nearly as broad as those of Germany and France.
By the 1890s, it was thought that all adult males from the lower orders would be allowed to vote.
Britain's governing body was becoming more of a gathering of the rich and well-born and more like the German Reichstag, with its numerous working-class delegates facing their class enemies across the aisles.
It was not until 1911 that members of the British Parliament were paid, making a political career more feasible for someone from the lower ranks of society.
The Labour Party was founded a decade earlier.
Its initial growth was slow and it did not embrace socialism in the sense of collective ownership of the means of production.
Its political stance is simply left-wing liberalism, looking to piecemeal measures that benefited the poor, not to a fundamental transformation of capitalism within any foreseeable future.
The Liberal Party abandoned its long-standing identification with laissez-faire policies and embraced the idea of an active or interventionist role for the state in economic matters.
Retirement benefits, unemployment relief, and health insurance for the poor were some of the legislative measures introduced by the Liberal Party.
In 1909, progressive income and inheritance taxes were called for to help support social-welfare expenditures.
The Liberal Party's leftward shift was troubling for many of its long-time supporters, but a particularly outraged and determined opposition came from conservatives in the House of Lords, with its large contingent of privileged, landed wealthy.
The Parliament Act of 1911 ended the power of the House of Lords to veto acts of the House of Commons because they had been able in the past to block legislation that affected the privileges of its members.
The strikes by coal and railway workers made it clear that the new legislation did not satisfy important elements of Britain's working class.
Conservatives in Britain were growing more concerned about their future, despite the fact that this unrest was not quite the "pillage and massacre" that Victoria had predicted.
There were more than one reason for alarm.
The Irish Question wouldn't go away.
It seemed a "wound that never will stop bleeding" for Britain, even more than the issue of Alsace-Lorraine was for the French.
Home Rule split the Liberal Party in the 1870s and 1880s.
Irish nationalists refused to accept any settlement that did not include northern Ireland.
The majority of the Protestants in the north of the country refused to be part of a Catholic-majority unified state.
After years of fruitless parliamentary maneuvering, a violent confrontation seemed in the making.
The Home Rule Act was passed in the face of civil war.
While the exact terms of the act were still being worked out, war broke out on the Continent.
The patriotic wave that passed over most of Britain's population after the declaration of war left a lot of the Catholic nationalist population in Ireland unmoved.
Irish nationalists staged a violent uprising in Ireland during Easter week of 1916, proclaiming an independent Irish republic.
The response from London to the Easter Uprising was brutal, as the leaders were treated as traitors in time of war.
Worse was to come as the wound in Ireland continued to bleed.
The British faced the most violent and morally distressing crisis before 1914 in the form of the Boer War.
The extent to which a newly literate mass population became engaged in issues of national prestige was urged on by the popular press of the day.
There was a charge that rich Jews played a role in provoking and profiting from the war.
By the 1890s, Britain's empire had become a source of intense national pride.
The acquisition and retention of empire involved appalling brutality by the British.
The "scramble for Africa" began in the late 1890s.
Since only a few decades earlier there seemed to have been a widely shared distaste for colonial holdings, historians have debated European domination.
There are obvious roles played by various trends in encouraging imperial expan sion.
The rapid industrial growth of the period, with its awakened ambitions and perceived needs for various materials and commodities in scarce supply in Europe, was prominent.
The nagging worry that other nations would get ahead in the imperialistic scramble was also a factor.
The imperialist cause was associated with the populist hypernationalism of the day.
The belief that the people of non- European lands were incapable of ruling themselves and needed European assistance was a related factor.
There was a belief that the Christian religion could bring salvation to benighted pagans.
The moral level of Europeans was superior to that of the non- European world, and thus that a beneficial "civilizing mission" justified imperial rule for those who no longer identified with Christianity.
Europe, for over a century growing more rapidly in population, self-esteem, and general power than any other area of the world, experienced a distinct spurt in its ambitions, which were linked to its power to put them into effect.
The previously dominant empires in the rest of the world were in various stages of decline.
There was a push and pull to the spread of European power to the rest of the world.