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LiBRI: “A Splendid Isolation?” The Rise of a Concept in Victorian Identity

Mihai Vişoiu from the University of Bucharest develops a study upon the phase that the Victorian society went through, entitled by the press: ‘splendid isolation’.

The article: A Splendid Isolation? The Rise of a Concept in Victorian Identity seeks to explain the concept in the account to the historical and geographical context of Great Britain. The author provides the necessary background to analyse closely the impact of political solitude that Great Britain has surpassed in the nineteenth century, by defining specific concepts such as: ‘conceptual history’ or history of ideas.

Victorian-Era

The sociological implication of the semantic concepts describing communities bears meanings which are tightly related to the national attitude towards an object, phenomenon or feeling. For example, the pair is given by Koselleck ‘Helene’ (Greek civilisation) -‘Barbarian’ does not represent the fact that all the inhabitants outside Greek realms were uncivilised nomad people. By contrast, the semantic range of the word ‘Barbarian’ is wider, whereas ‘Helene’ bears a specific temporal and geographical meaning; evolution of language and of the semantic aspect is moulded by the sociological and historical context.

An intriguing aspect of the history of Great Britain is the media scandal lured by the phrase ‘splendid isolation’ – phrase describing the dangerous state of Great Britain in 1894, meaning vulnerability and lack of power. Yet, the isolation was intentionally chosen as a way of protection from issues that may arise in Europe.

The political powers of Great Britain, including the queen, were well-aware of the alarming situation, therefore they began taking in consideration agreements which could support the stability of the country.

The end of the political solitude of Great Britain arose in 1902 – the alliance with Japan, and it was consolidated in 1904 with the signing of Entente Cordiale. The policy of solitude was abandoned as Japan became a rising power in the Pacific and, thus, securing the British territories. And the alliance with France was the only option after the alliance with the rising German armed force was abandoned.

Consequently, the phase of ‘splendid isolation’ of Great Britain was necessary; in order to secure a good political system and it represents the pragmatic attitude of the people in the account to creating a viable alliance. The concept has become through time a traditional way of the Victorian society, symbolic for the second half of the nineteenth century.

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Andreea Toma