Britain and the Commonwealth Alliance 1918–1939 by R. F. Holland

By R. F. Holland

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As the Dominions Office was almost entirely the creation of Leopold Amery, it is important to define his motives. His commitment to an ideology of imperial development has already been stressed. This partly arose, no doubt, from the mere chance that in the early 1900s he fell in 42 Britain and the Commonwealth Alliance 1918-1939 with the group surrounding Lord Milner, and shared in their South African apotheosis. More generally, however, Amery developed a keen awareness of resource-supply and its economic ramifications; he saw that the Empire constituted a resource bank whose deposits could be skilfully employed by the UK.

It was not easy, from a British vantage point, to define what all these changes actually amounted to. Perhaps they meant that the long battles for South Africa and Ireland had been lost, and that the central British aim of assimilating diverse societies within the democratic, consensual and pragmatic political culture of modem Britain had been smashed on the rocks of older divisions. Perhaps they meant, on the contrary, that in a transforming world, where the main themes were economic and political interdependence, even Afrikaner and Irish nationalism (let alone the modest dissidence of Canadian liberalism) could be absorbed within the Commonwealth nexus.

In trying to avoid differences among Commonwealth members, or in trying to keep intraCommonwealth issues out of international forums, or just in trying to prove to the Dominions that British diplomacy was vital to their perceived interests, officials inevitably became implicated in the tactics of the white settler communities. But they did not themselves have specifically racial objectives in the making of policy. Their own tactical priorities, indeed, made British officials just as likely to adopt liberal postures on race matters as reactionary ones.

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Britain and the Commonwealth Alliance 1918–1939 by R. F. Holland
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