British Governments, War and Society, 1793-1918
Graham Goodlad examines the management of public opinion by British governments between the French Revolutionary conflict and the Great War.
Britain’s ‘long nineteenth century’ was bounded by wars with revolutionary France and the Kaiser’s Germany. In between these two major conflicts, British armed forces were engaged in a variety of theatres: against Russia in the Crimea at mid-century, and in numerous colonial land campaigns and naval policing operations to protect their country’s global possessions and interests. These events coincided with a number of developments which made public opinion an increasingly important factor for governments to consider: the first steps towards mass democracy; improved communications, with the introduction of the telegraph and steam power; the beginnings of state primary education and increased literacy; and the rise of a cheap daily press. This article considers two related issues. It discusses the nature of British public attitudes towards war and the armed forces in this period, and it assesses the attempts of governments to shape public opinion.
Public Attitudes and Expectations