Milner, Alfred Milner, 1st Viscount

Milner, Alfred Milner, 1st Viscount, 1854–1925, British statesman and colonial administrator. He distinguished himself as a student at Oxford and was briefly a journalist in London. He became (1887) private secretary to George Goschen, chancellor of the exchequer, and served (1890–92) as undersecretary of finance in Egypt. His England in Egypt (1892) effectively argued for greater British involvement there. In 1897, Milner was appointed high commissioner for South Africa and governor-general of Cape Colony. His efforts to gain political rights for British settlers in Boer territories heightened growing tension between the rival groups and helped precipitate (1899) the South African War. After the war, Milner's financial policies aided economic recovery, but his importation of indentured Chinese laborers raised strong opposition. He remained in South Africa until 1905, working for the assimilation of the Boer territories into a South African federation firmly linked to Britain. During this period he gathered around him a group of able young administrators, including Philip Kerr, later marquess of Lothian, who became known as “Milner's kindergarten.” Milner was one of the Conservative lords who opposed the revolutionary budget of 1909 introduced by David Lloyd George, but in 1916 Lloyd George appointed him to his war cabinet. After serving (1918) as secretary of war, he was (1919–21) colonial secretary and in 1920 led a commission to Egypt that recommended Egyptian independence. He was created viscount in 1902.

See C. Headlam, ed., The Milner Papers, 1897–1905 (1931–33); biography by J. Marlowe (1988).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: British and Irish History: Biographies