Who is to pay?

This image is taken from an 1878 issue of punch. It shows the period of 'The Great Game' in full swing. With Britain eagerly casting its eye over Central Asia in order to protect her Indian Empire from the Russians. 1878 represented a year of forward expansion in the Empire as Prime Minister Disraeli became the first leader for years to actively seek to increase the size of the Empire. His populist, imperialistic activities were intended to appeal to the newly enfranchised middle class voters of Britain. However, he soon found out that imperial activities were fraught with dangers and most importantly of all, expenses! Military expeditions were being , or had just been, dispatched to West Africa, South Africa and were now preparing to go into Afghanistan. All of this cost the British exchequer money, which in turn left less money for Disraeli to conduct his socially radical policies in Britain. Likewise, in India, the civil service did not want to shoulder the costs of Britain's strategic defences; new taxes would have made administration even more difficult than it already was. This image shows how they are trying to resolve these financial matters. Everybody wanted a more secure empire, but nobody wanted to actually pay for it.

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by Stephen Luscombe