chapter  5
40 Pages

The framework of the executive

Of the many momentous changes that took place in Britain between 1760 and 1848, some had a particularly significant impact on the framework and practice of government. It may therefore be helpful to introduce them briefly here, starting with Britain’s standing in the world order. The period begins with the conclusion of the Seven Years War (1756-63) which led to Britain acquiring French Canada and breaking French power in India. The Treaty of Peace signed between Britain, France and Spain in Paris in 1763 confirmed Britain’s status as one of the pentarchy of major European powers and established her as France’s most formidable rival overseas. This had two effects. On the one hand, it did not weaken and may have strengthened the priority that governments traditionally gave to European diplomacy over all other matters of state. And on the other, it led to initiatives designed to strengthen the influence government had over its scattered empire – in India, Ireland and the American colonies. This was to lead to the revolt and cession of the colonies (1775-83) and a major reverse to Britain’s growth as a world power.