Splendid Isolation

Also found in: Wikipedia.

Splendid Isolation


the term used to describe the general course of English foreign policy in the second half of the 19th century, exhibited in a refusal to conclude long-term international alliances. Great Britain’s insular position, vast colonial territories, the strongest military fleet in the world, and, most important, its industrial and financial supremacy over other powers allowed it to maintain freedom of action in the international arena. Making use of the conflicts among European states, Great Britain tried to broaden and strengthen its international influence. The policy of splendid isolation did not interfere with the conclusion of temporary agreements which aided the realization of Great Britain’s expansionist goals.

With the onset of the age of imperialism and the rapid economic development and strengthening of the military might of other powers, Great Britain’s position became more vulnerable, as was especially clear in the course of the Boer War of 1899–1902. The abrupt sharpening of relations with Germany and other European powers threatened Great Britain with forced isolation. In 1902, England concluded a long-term alliance with Japan, directed against Russia, and, in 1904, an agreement with France, which marked the end of the policy of splendid isolation.


Temperley, H., and L. Penson [eds.]. Foundation of British Foreign Policy .... Cambridge, 1938.
References in periodicals archive ?
A foreign policy of "splendid isolation" may have been a good idea when you were the planets only global superpower, but perhaps not so pragmatic in the 21st century.
As Brexit has shown, Britain - or at least its elderly voters who increasingly dominate elections - wants to go back to the world of Splendid Isolation, Britain Ruling the Waves and the Yellow Peril.
Splendid isolation Surrounded on pretty much all sides by stunning fells, you only have to stray a few yards off the beaten path to get a sense of the splendid isolation that made the poet - and thousands more since him - fall in love with the place.
The Brexiteers' fantasy of splendid isolation does not seem quite such a clever idea any more does it?
At the end of the second of his three look-back documentaries, the man in the fetching parka said: "I think it was in the 1980s that we at last understood that the days of splendid isolation, of holding out against the tides of change, were over."
The 69-year-old plays - although he doesn't seem to be acting - an aged rock star living in splendid isolation with his much younger and sexually voracious wife (Grange Hill's Kacey Clarke).
Quitting the European Union would leave Britain in dangerous "splendid isolation" and could lead to the break up of the United Kingdom itself, former Prime Minister John Major said on Wednesday.
We may think we can ignore conflicts in distant countries, but the idea that we can live in splendid isolation is an illusion.
WATCHING the amazing scenes at the Calais end of the Channel tunnel, I think back to those people who argued against its construction on the grounds that this would militate against our national security and that Great Britain's days of "splendid isolation" would be over.
That left Grate Fella, who had hit a high of 38 on the exchanges despite leading, in splendid isolation.
Project leader Prof Vincent Gaffney, of the University of Birmingham, said: "Stonehenge sits there in splendid isolation but the area around it is teeming with unseen archeology."