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Extra info for Britain and the Commonwealth Alliance 1918–1939

Sample text

Both the Foreign Office and the Committee for Imperial Defence, for example, were involving themselves with Dominion matters, and by 1913 the Dominions Department was beginning to be lampooned as merely a 'sorting office' for others. 3 This was inaccurate, but war organisation between 1914 and 1918 further cut into the Colonial Office monopoly of Dominion business. Direct communication was arranged between the Prime Ministers of the Empire. In actual fact this did not reverberate very much on Colonial Office authority because Lloyd George practised his direct communications with the Dominions through the Colonial Office.

But if we should be wary of rigid divisions between Continentalists and isolationists, it can be positively asserted that British opinion as a whole after 1918 was deeply equivocal on European matters. Such equivocations frequently hardened into isolationism, and the Commonwealth idea was able to breed off this psychology of doubt and anxiety. It will have been noticed that, in the evidence so far presented, several references have been made to racial factors. Did racism, like isolationism, constitute a strand in the formulation and working of Commonwealth?

He told them that the new Office's role was that of 'chief of staff's work' and he described the Office personnel as 'Dominions "General Staff" '. 14 The use of terminology indicates his sense of the Commonwealth relationship as one concerned with the organisation of force in an age of conflict, and his belief that with shrewd management the Dominion auxiliaries could be woven into an Empire-wide strategy. Indeed, looked at in a larger context the new DO could be seen as part of a general attempt to reinforce Government machinery in the mid-1920s, along with, for example, the setting-up of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in 1923 15 and the establishment of the Civil Research Council as a domestic policy counterpart to the Committee of Imperial Defence.

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