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Under Napoleon's leadership, the French political, education and legal systems were fundamentally remodelled. Despite the reappearance - for a time - of the French monarchy, the Revolution reconfigured not only France but also the political contours of Europe as a whole.
While the entire authority structure in France was overturned, the heady ideals of 'liberty, equality and fraternity' - proclaimed by the French revolutionaries and drawn from the European Enlightenment of the 18th century - seemed to offer a template for change across the whole of the continent, and beyond. Britain, however, seemed impervious to revolutionary change.
Though every other aspect of British life in the 19th century was transformed by industrial, social and cultural development, the country's rulers seemed somehow to avoid the mistakes of their continental counterparts.
When Britain was at the peak of its imperial power at the end of the 19th century, historians charted the country's rise to greatness over the preceding hundred years or so.
They were inclined to stress British genius for avoiding fundamental conflict between classes and social groups, and the country's ability to manage evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, political change.
On this analysis Britain's transformation was a major force for good. Its commercial and industrial revolutions offered the country's increasing population jobs and greater prosperity. In an age of widespread religious belief, many discerned the hand of God directing the progress of the British nation, first protecting it from invasion and then helping with its commercial and territorial expansion.
In , the famous imperial politician, Lord Curzon, could claim that Britain ruled, under God, over 'the greatest empire for good that the world has seen'. Did it avoid revolution by divine intervention, by good management and wise statesmanship - or simply by luck? Historians nowadays are far less likely to ascribe Britain's largely peaceful progress in the 19th century to divine intervention. Some have argued that the threat of violent revolution was indeed real and that Britain escaped it, not by the hand of God but by the skin of its teeth.
The French Revolution inspired reformers in Britain as much as it frightened the British Crown and landowning classes. It is worth remembering that the Hanoverian dynasty, which provided Britain with its monarchs from to , was only rarely popular, and was frequently criticised for its lack of understanding of the British people. Anti-government cartoons in the s often included the most scabrous, even treasonable, representations of King George III.
In that decade, a number of political movements emerged to press for parliamentary reform. Some, like the London Corresponding Society, were organised and directed by skilled craftsmen and depended on the support of working people.
They embraced political objectives drawn directly from French examples. They wanted to replace royal and aristocratic rule with representative government based on the Rights of Man - the influential political pamphlet by Thomas Paine.
The government of William Pitt the Younger, already at war with revolutionary France, was thoroughly alarmed by the prospect that revolutionary ideas might be exported to Britain, and it responded to these ideas with political repression. From , radical political leaders could be arrested without trial. In , during a period of high food prices and severe public agitation, stones were thrown at the King's carriage as he went to Westminster to open a new session of parliament.
In the fevered atmosphere of the time, such actions could easily be interpreted as portending revolution. Within weeks, a parliament dominated by fearful landowners had passed legislation that redefined the law of treason, and that made it almost impossible to hold public meetings in support of reform.
Throughout the remainder of the wars with France, which went on until , support for reform never again approached the heights of Support among all ranks in society for what was increasingly seen as a patriotic war also boosted the government. However, the most determined of the disaffected radicals were merely driven underground, and in the years government spies found evidence of revolutionary conspiracy. Much of this evidence centred around Irishmen.
Radicals in fact attempted revolution in Ireland in , against British domination of their lands. Had the hoped-for substantial French support for the insurgents been forthcoming, the endeavour might have come much closer to success. In the event, the most important consequence was the creation of a new 'United Kingdom' of Great Britain and Ireland in , to which substantial numbers of Irish folk were never reconciled.
The Society of United Irishmen was undoubtedly a revolutionary organisation, whose objective was the forcible overthrow of the British government, linked through a series of secret networks to cells of English revolutionaries.
No doubt the numbers of such revolutionaries were small. However, few, if any, revolutions succeed because of weight of numbers - whatever the new revolutionary regimes might claim after they have installed themselves securely in power. Neither the Bolshevik revolution of in Russia, nor the Chinese revolution of , could plausibly claim to have a democratic mandate. Assassins and revolutionaries may fail many times against superior forces.
If they succeed once, however, they have achieved their objective. British politicians were well aware of this. A painting of the Peterloo Massacre by George Cruikshank, A crowd of 60, had gathered in St Peter's Fields, Manchester, to hear speeches supporting parliamentary reform.
Eleven were killed and injured after a Yeomanry charge. The authorities hastily assembled an extensive spy network. Both the Irish-inspired Despard Conspiracy of and the so-called Cato Street Conspiracy of to blow up Lord Liverpool's cabinet - to take only the best-known examples of revolutionary activity in the period - were forestalled.
Their leaders were executed amid a blaze of publicity designed to confirm the government's control of the situation. Beneath the surface, however, and despite overwhelming evidence of support from the propertied classes, politicians were more concerned than they could admit.
This was because support for radical parliamentary reform never disappeared. During periods of economic turbulence, such as and during the so-called Reform Act crisis of , masses of people could appear on the streets in support of either democracy or republicanism. The most famous such occasion was in August when a large crowd assembled at St Peter's Fields in central Manchester to hear a pro-reform speech from Henry 'Orator' Hunt, the most gifted radical speaker of his day.
Fearing uncontainable disorder, and perhaps even revolution, the Manchester authorities over-reacted. They sent in troops to disperse the crowd by force. Eleven people were killed and the radicals were given a huge propaganda boost by referring to the event as 'Peterloo', in a grim analogy with the Duke of Wellington's famous victory over Napoleon at Waterloo four years earlier.
During the European revolutionary wars of the s British government propaganda could - just about - confect George III as the symbol of the nation. Shortly before the United Kingdom general election of , Maxwell Fyfe caused a stir when he appeared to hint in a radio interview that a Conservative government might legislate to curb the power of trade unions.
When the Conservative Party was returned to power in the election, Churchill thought it unwise to appoint him Minister of Labour, and Maxwell Fyfe became both Home Secretary and cabinet minister for Welsh affairs. He was responsible for guiding several complicated pieces of legislation through the Commons, in particular those that established commercial television.
He gained a reputation as a hard-working, thorough and reliable cabinet member. Given this novel responsibility, Maxwell Fyfe issued the Maxwell Fyfe Directive which became the de facto constitution of the Security Service until the Security Service Act set it on a statutory basis.
Maxwell Fyfe endorsed the committee's preference for White, observing to Churchill that an internal appointment would be good for the morale of the service. Fyfe's assumption of office as Home Secretary heralded a reign of fear for male homosexuals. During his tenure as Home Secretary, he was embroiled in the controversy surrounding the hanging of Derek Bentley.
Maxwell Fyfe remained ambitious and a Daily Mirror opinion poll in , on the popular favourite to succeed Churchill as Party leader and prime minister , had him behind Eden and Butler but well ahead of Macmillan.
However, once it was clear that Eden was to be Churchill's successor, he sought the office of Lord Chancellor. In he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Kilmuir , of Creich in the County of Sutherland, and moved to the House of Lords and the " woolsack ".
Lord Kilmuir was a political Lord Chancellor, not restricting himself to his judicial role. He worked on many government issues including the constitution of Malta , which he wanted to become part of the UK, and the creation of the Restrictive Practices Court. In his eight years in the post he only sat as a judge on 24 appeals to the House of Lords. Lord Kilmuir opposed Sydney Silverman 's private member's bill to abolish capital punishment. He described it as "an unwise and dangerous measure, the presence of which on the statute book would be a disaster for the country and a menace to the people".
However, Kilmuir chaired the cabinet committee that recommended limiting the death penalty's scope and which led to the Homicide Act He feared the consequences of immigration to the United Kingdom and presented a report to the cabinet in Lord Kilmuir contended that the military intervention in the Suez Crisis was justified under the self-defence provisions of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
A conservative on the death penalty, Kilmuir was likewise conservative on the issue of homosexual rights, and led the opposition in the House of Lords to the implementation of the Wolfenden Committee report, which had recommended the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults.
This was ironic, says Geraldine Bedell, since it was he, while Home Secretary, who had set up the committee to consider whether the law should be changed. Perhaps he assumed Wolfenden would find against, in which case, he chose a curious chairman, because Wolfenden had a gay son, Jeremy. After government, Kilmuir joined the board of directors of Plessey but his health soon declined.
He died at Withyham , Sussex , on 27 January and was cremated. His titles, which could pass only to sons, became extinct, as he had fathered only daughters. He married Sylvia Harrison in and they had three daughters, one of whom pre-deceased him. His brother-in-law was the actor Sir Rex Harrison. Kilmuir was a formidable parliamentary presence on behalf of his party, and his remarkable memory compensated for a dull speaking style, though he was capable of passion when the circumstances were right.
In appearance, "His body was pear-shaped, and beneath a large square bald head there were dark heavy eyebrows and a face of middle-eastern pallor and swarthiness".
As Home Secretary, he often travelled to Wales , and in the valleys of South Wales he was nicknamed Dai Bananas , Fyffes being, then as now, one of Britain's major importers of the fruit. Among his honours were: David Maxwell Fyfe has been portrayed by the following actors in film, television and theatre productions; . From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Redirected from David Maxwell-Fyfe. The Earl of Kilmuir in the Lord Chancellor's robes. Viking, , p. Archived from the original on 4 October The London Gazette Supplement.
Quoted from Gwyn A. Williams, When Was Wales? A History of the Welsh Penguin, p. Archived from the original on Retrieved 20 May Archived from the original on 9 November Retrieved 1 June Archived copy as title link. Home Secretaries of the United Kingdom.
Clarke Howard Straw Blunkett C. Lord Chancellors of Great Britain. List of Lord Chancellors and Lord Keepers. Cabinet of Sir Winston Churchill — Sir Winston Churchill —
Britain, however, seemed impervious to revolutionary change.
Clarke Howard Straw Blunkett C.