Gentlemen's diplomacy: the foreign policy of Lord Lansdowne, 1845-1927
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As British Foreign Secretary from November 1900 to December 1905, Lord Lansdowne operated on a long-held coherent body of principles on which he based his foreign policy. Throughout his political life, in fact, he pressed for the renewal of an enlightened—if informal—‘Concert of Europe’ which he hoped could be implemented worldwide. His ‘policy of the entente,’ which reflected his belief in the efficacy of reasonable and ‘gentlemanly’ diplomacy to settle outstanding disputes, left him illsuited, however, to manage Britain’s position as a world power during this period of perceived relative decline. If Lansdowne did indeed have some innate talent for diplomacy, he aspired not to be the next Talleyrand, of whom he was reputedly a descendant, but to become an appropriately detached liberal-minded arbiter. He was the true gentleman-diplomat who, as enlightened reason dictated, always wished to play cartes sur table. In these waning years of the supremacy of British power, the marquis believed in an empire forged no longer through fire and sword, but through the example of free institutions, just administration, and the influence of English culture. He certainly believed that foremost it was these aspects of Western civilization that brought Pax Britannica to the Khyber Pass. In pursuing his ‘policy of the entente,’ Lansdowne presumed initially at least that his fellow European gentlemen would aid him in the higher mission of preserving civilization, and consequently, although secondarily to the Foreign Secretary, the status quo. This, however, proved not to be the case. Lansdowne was perhaps the right man to administer the empire, in much the same manner he dutifully tried to look after and maintain his great estates and care for his many tenants and servants. He was, however, not the right man to charge with its preservation and defense. Fortunately, his policy proved impossible to carry out fully. He received little cooperation from the leadership of other great powers, and in the end the path of British foreign policy was impossible to guide or engineer in the direction he wished.
Winters, Frank Winfield, IV (2006). Gentlemen's diplomacy: the foreign policy of Lord Lansdowne, 1845-1927. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from