The 1870s is a key decade in the evolution of British thinking about the nature, purpose and future of empire. Increasing economic competition began to disturb the complacent assumption about Britain's leadership in technology and in the world economy. The growth of other countries, most notably the United States and Germany (who had both displayed a fearsome military might), also put a question mark over Britain's survival as a great power. These changes set in motion a reappraisal of Britain's empire and its importance to the motherland, and a heated debate as to whether colonialism and imperialism were a burden rather than a benefit to Britain. The discussion on the 1870s set the agenda for the debates of the next half-century. This volume documents the writings that were central to this debate. It includes contributions by leading British thinkers, statesmen and officials such as J. A. Froude, Robert Lowe, Edward Dicey, Frederic Seebohm, Lord Carnarvon, Gladstone, Julius Vogel and Lord Blachford.