British nationalism, imperialism and the City of London 1880-1900
Based mainly on the records of the London Chamber of Commerce, the study explores the role of the City in the promotion of a form of British nationalism and the pressure for an expansion of the British Empire and navy in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. In its propagation of a free-trade form of imperial federation, the City struggled with protectionists within the Imperial Federation League, at the Congresses of the Chambers of Commerce of the Empire convened by the London Chamber of Commerce, and by forming the British Empire League. The City's concern to consolidate the existing Empire, together with a demand for its expansion, was presented as a 'National Commercial Policy' and justified with rhetoric which included economic nationalism, the civilising mission of the British, and free trade. The close relationship between the City and the State is revealed to have had two aspects: the one consciously kept hidden and which admitted the political and specific economic realities involved; the other publicly performed, which denied the hidden aspect and was played in general language to various audiences at home and abroad, who were composed of interests which competed politically or economically with the City. The activity of committee members of the trade sections of the London Chamber of Commerce for West Africa, South Africa, and East India and China provide examples of this relationship, and details of the economic interests of those City businessmen involved are recorded. The City's often-ignored, leading role in the pressure for a continuous and rapid expansion of the navy during this period is demonstrated, in particular by the activities of the Naval Defence Standing Committee of the London Chamber of Commerce which brought together the politicians, naval officers and businessmen who formed the centre of the movement in the 1890s.