Type of Document Thesis Author Laffer, Stephanie URN etd-04042005-104955 Title From "Masterly Inactivity" to Limited Autonomy: Afghanistan as a Catalyst for Liberal Imperialism Degree Master of Arts Department History, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Charles Upchurch Committee Chair Jonathan Grant Committee Member Peter Garretson Committee Member Keywords
- Benjamin Disraeli
- William Gladstone
- Eastern Question
Date of Defense 2005-03-25 Availability unrestricted AbstractAfghanistan was both the site of an experiment in traditional imperialism, as well as the first area where the concept of Liberal imperialism was introduced. The end of the Second Afghan War was a catalyst for British foreign policy. The aftermath of this war would lead to a reassessment of the goals of British imperial policy, including the eventual changes in the definition of imperialism.
This thesis seeks to establish the role of the British experience in Afghanistan in the creation of Liberal imperialism. The personal beliefs and experiences of the most important figure of the Liberal Party, William Ewart Gladstone, the Prime Minister of Britain at the conclusion of the Second Afghan War (1878-1881), will be used to examine the moral values espoused by the Liberal Party in Afghanistan.
These values can be seen in many contemporary sources, such as newspapers and Gladstone’s personal correspondence and diaries. As this thesis intends to prove the British experience in Afghanistan served as a catalyst for Liberal imperialism, the term must first be defined by a study of the historiography of British imperial policy. To further this understanding of the British policies, attention will be paid to contemporary newspapers’ portrayal of Afghanistan and Gladstone’s actions concerning the country. In addition to papers from Britain, one newspaper from India, The Times of India, will also be consulted to gain local citizens impressions on the war. Although newspapers serve as an excellent source of contemporary opinion, letters written by and to Gladstone show another side of the issue. In his personal correspondence and diaries, Gladstone reveals his own opinions on Afghanistan, and how his policies in the country are a part of the overall moral foreign policy he advocated for Britain.
The changes in British imperial policy initiated by the Liberal Imperialists would last until the end of the British Empire. Although most historians see the beginnings of Liberal imperialism with the struggle for African dominance in the late 1880s and 1890s, the role of the Second Afghan War and the resulting changes in foreign policy marked this turn towards a new imperialism. The impact of the British experience in Afghanistan is overlooked in the historiography of liberal imperialism, yet its role as a catalyst for new ideas of imperialism for both the Conservative and Liberal parties is not one which can be forgotten.
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