The British Empire - Imperial Attitudes 1900-39

Robert Pearce looks at a turning point in the history of mentalities, when the way Britons perceived themselves and others changed forever.

The men who governed Britain and the Empire – ministers, members of parliament, colonial governors, home and imperial civil servants – were all unique individuals. No two were identical in their psychological make-up any more than in physical appearance. Yet they had much in common, in terms of social back- ground, education, conscious beliefs and unconscious assumptions. They are often said to comprise a relatively homogeneous governing class which, around 1914, shared an 'imperial mentality', a common core of values and attitudes derived from the British Empire. This article seeks to identify the content and the origins of their 'world view' and to establish how far, if at all, it changed under the onslaught of the First World War.

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