Historical Aspects of British Foreign Policy

Britain’s external relation in this period has been quite interesting and people have conflicting views about the policies in this period. This period has also been of significance for historians because of the role of the Foreign Secretary in the making of British foreign policy.Secrecy has been a key characteristic of foreign policy in the late nineteenth century. A small number of ministers and officials have been known to play crucial roles in the formulation of foreign policy. Those were the times when the press had its limited presence and it was not considered an important driver in the policymaking. Also, public opinion about different issues related to the external relations of a country was not given any importance. Even among the government circles, a selected elite group made key decisions. Prime Ministers directly controlled the affairs of the Foreign Office.If we look at the background history of foreign policy in Britain then we get to know that Benjamin Disraeli from 1874 to 1878 intervened constantly in the affairs of his Foreign Secretary. During the 1902 to 1905 period, Arthur Balfour gave some respite in the direct intervention culture set by his predecessors but still kept a close eye on the developments in British foreign policy. Sir Edward Grey took the Foreign Office in 1906 and was given more independence in the foreign policy area. After Herbert Henry Asquith assumed office in 1908 Grey got even more freedom in the affairs of his department as other ministers and cabinet members got busy with their own domestic affairs. Foreign affairs got restricted to selected people. This scenario changed with the war in 1914 and foreign policy was criticized by all sundry. Different governments also started making comments about the way the foreign policy was being tackled. President Wilson of the United States became the biggest critic of covert ways of foreign policy dealings and demanded that the democratic process should be involved in the affairs.