Single-issue extra-parliamentary groups and liberal internationalism, 1899-1920

Dackombe, Barry Patrick (2008). Single-issue extra-parliamentary groups and liberal internationalism, 1899-1920. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis provides an analysis of liberal internationalism at a critical point in its development, as manifested by the single-issue extra-parliamentary groups: the South Africa Conciliation Committee, the League of Liberals Against Aggression and Militarism, the Balkan Committee, the British Armenia Committee, the League of Nations Society and the League of Nations Union. They operated in a period of heightened international tension, beginning as it did with the capitalist inspired war in Southern Africa and culminating with the hopes for a new international order to supersede the 'international anarchy' of the pre-1914 years.

They advocated an ethical foreign policy where the individual could play an important part in its advancement. Consequently, the 'scratch crowd' or 'stage army of the good' attracted to such groups serve as an important indicator of public attitudes to British foreign policy and international relations. Enthused with a belief in a world united in peace and co-operation they were primarily a combination of radical parliamentarians, journalists, academics and lawyers such as Lord Bryce, Noel Buxton, Aneurin Williams, J. A. Hobson, H. N. Brailsford, and Arnold Toynbee.

In studying these groups collectively, the development of liberal internationalism from a post-Gladstonian moralist attitude derived from an evangelical religious sentiment, to an institutionalism of an entirely secular character becomes apparent, as does the centrality of the Eastern Question to their understanding of the international system and the policies they advocated for the rights of oppressed peoples to self-determination and the league of Nations. The effective use of insider/outsider strategies enabled the liberal internationalists to manage the interaction of British public opinion, international affairs and foreign policy at a significant juncture in the development of domestic and international politics.

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