In part one of our blog on Victorian Politics, we saw how the dominance of the Conservative Party during the early parts of Queen Victoria’s reign slowly was ousted by more liberal thinking. And one of the greatest political battles of all time was between Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.
Disraeli vs Gladstone
In the 1860’s, Benjamin Disraeli led the Conservative Party back into the limelight. The dominance of liberal thinking in the decades before was gradually ousted by Disraeli’s ability to change his Conservative Party from the inside. He was instrumental in persuading his Party into more forward thinking and to accept the ideas of greater parliament reforms. His nemesis at the time was the great liberal politician William Gladstone, and between the two of these great thinkers and reformists a two party system developed in Victorian politics.
Their spats in parliament at the Dispatch Box are renowned as some of the greatest ever in the House of Commons. And this political sparring for power continued until finally Disraeli was defeated in 1880. But just six years later a bitter dispute within the Liberal Party over Irish Home Rule, split the party which opened the doors once again for the Conservatives to rule until the end of the 19th Century.
The Turbulent Times of Victorian Britain
During these tough political times in Queen Victoria’s reign, we have to understand exactly what was going on within the British Empire. Trying to reform Britain from the inside whilst keeping the expansion of Britain further afield was a difficult thing to achieve. Victorian Britain was the greatest power in the world at the time but surprisingly so, as it had one of the smallest standing army among the great powers of the time; Russia, Austria, France and Prussia. Eventually Britain’s military weaknesses were found out in the Boer and Crimean Wars, which eventually led to the decline of the Empire.
The Victorian European War
There was only one war that was fought in Europe during Victoria’s reign. This was during 1854 to 1856 and was the Crimean War. This war highlighted the decline of British military strategy, tactics and thinking. The officers were mainly to blame for thousands of soldiers dying of neglect and disease. This outrage was not well received back at home, and the political parties at the time vied to take advantage of the situation. Military reforms were slow in coming, but as British industry was becoming dominant, the army started to take advantage of newer technologies.
In 1879 there were new army reforms which introduced higher and more professional standards of training. But still the upper classes dominated the officers and the elite military decision makers. Just because they were born aristocrats, it was assumed they were the best at leading men and controlling common soldiers.
This thinking gradually progressed as the Victorian era came to a close, and military thinking reformed just as the internal politics of the country did. A new political way of thinking was now in the air, and that was one of the workers of Britain called the Labour Party.