Gladstone’s ‘Greater World’: Free Trade, Empire and Liberal Internationalism
American Review (in 1878), Gladstone himself could memorably describe his own society as ‘the head servant in the great household of the world’.
However, despite being the leader of one of the major great powers of the day, Gladstone appeared at times to be a ‘Little Englander’, one who argued that the strength of England was essentially in England.5 Gladstone was certainly the most reluctant of foreign interventionists or unilateralists. He confessed himself uncomfortable with military ventures (though he could evince a righteous fervour when assaulting wrong-doing states). He vehemently opposed Disraeli’s ‘new imperialism’ from the 1870s.6 In his passion for a Victorian version of individual human rights – from Italians to Cretans to Bulgarians to Armenians – he called for international humanitarian action.7 Even in his most inflammatory anti-Turkish language (over the Bulgarians), Gladstone developed no ‘axis of evil’ to shape a crusading global foreign policy.8