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Extra info for Britain, Egypt and the Middle East: Imperial policy in the aftermath of war 1918–1922

Sample text

For the military power which had secured victory in Europe and underwritten the expansion of British influence in the wide region between Greece and Afghanistan was founded upon a system of conscription the extension of which into peacetime seemed likely to rekindle the controversy which had attended its inception in 1916; and to force ministers into early decisions about the scale and nature of Britain's post-war military resources. The first signs of this occurred immediately after the German armistice in November 1918, when, to the horror of Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, recruitment to the army under the Military Service Acts was halted.

56 But although a respect for the shibboleths of Liberalism, and a desire not to drive the coalition Liberals into resignation and reunion undoubtedly had some influence on the political stance and policies of the Lloyd George Cabinet, the real issue in the internal politics of the coalition after the honeymoon year of 1919 was the assuagement of anti-coalition feeling among Conservatives in Parliament and in the constituencies. At the heart of Conservative dissidence 5 7 lay the conviction, fortified by the electoral failures of coalition Liberalism, that partnership with Lloyd George and his followers as a means of staving off radical reform and the dominance of the Left was an asset of steadily diminishing value since Lloyd George's ability to manipulate working-class opinion seemed increasingly doubtful, especially after January 1920.

New items of social expenditure which it was inexpedient to abandon in the disturbed political conditions of the aftermath, and, above all, the inescapable requirements of debtservicing, which absorbed a third of gross expenditure in 1922, 41 inevitably focused attention upon the armed services, and upon overseas military spending, as sectors where major savings could be made without serious repercussions for the government's domestic popularity. In 1921, the onset of economic depression, for which Chamberlain's plans had made no allowance, intensified all these pressures, since it appeared to substantiate the claim that the weight of taxation was bearing too heavily upon incomes and profits.

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