Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Farrell, Sean

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of History


This dissertation examines the imperial rhetoric and ideologies articulated during the tariff reform controversy in Edwardian Britain. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the British statesman Joseph Chamberlain organized a new movement, dubbed tariff reform, to enact a series of commercial policies that would integrate the British and colonial economies and, he argued, lay the foundation for the development of a unified imperial federation. Chamberlain’s proposals were controversial and divisive, resulting in years of political debate over the merits of tariff reform. While the tariff reform campaign has been studied in numerous histories, its imperial dimensions have been ignored in favor of its impact to the development of domestic British politics. This study argues that the tariff reform campaign reflected an ideological struggle about the future development of British society. The controversy involved a debate about the meaning of empire, and forced the people of Britain to consider both Britain’s place in the world and the importance of the British Empire in shaping their identity as a nation. It uses the papers of prominent politicians, press accounts, scholarly and popular publications, and propaganda materials to chart the many facets of the tariff reform debate and the diverse expressions of British imperial sentiment and ideology that underpinned it. They reveal that, while the people of Britain recognized the empire as central to the nation’s identity, they bitterly disagreed among themselves as to the future course the British Empire would take.


320 pages




Northern Illinois University

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