1902 Colonial Conference

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1902 Colonial Conference
Dates 30 June–11 August 1902
Cities United Kingdom London, United Kingdom
Heads of Government 7
Chair Joseph Chamberlain
(Secretary of State for the Colonies)
Follows 1897 Colonial Conference
Precedes 1907 Imperial Conference
Key points
Imperial defence, imperial council, customs union, Imperial Preference

The Colonial Conference of 1902 followed the conclusion of the Boer War and was held on the occasion of the coronation of Edward VII. As with the previous conference, it was called by Secretary of State for the Colonies Joseph Chamberlain who opened it on 30 June 1902.[1]

Chamberlain used the occasion to resubmit his earlier proposals made at the 1897 Colonial Conference for an Imperial Council made up of colonial representatives which would act as a quasi-Imperial Parliament and make decisions for the colonies on imperial policy. This proposal, along with Chamberlain's idea for a unified imperial defence scheme, was rejected by most of the colonial prime ministers. While New Zealand proposed that each colony provide a special force for imperial defence in the case of war, Canada and Australia both believed this idea undermined self-government.[2]

Chamberlain also proposed an imperial economic union or customs union with free trade within the empire and tariffs against goods from outside of it. The colonies, however, passed a resolution rejecting imperial free trade. A resolution in favour of imperial preference as proposed by Canada was approved and Chamberlain agreed to bring the idea to the British government. However, this plan was not implemented until the British Empire Economic Conference in 1932.[2]


The conference was hosted by King Edward VII, with his Colonial Secretary and the Premiers of various colonies or their representatives and members of their cabinets:

Nation Name Portfolio
United Kingdom United Kingdom Joseph Chamberlain Secretary of State for the Colonies (Chairman)
Lord Selborne First Lord of the Admiralty
Rear Admiral Wilfred Custance Director of Naval Intelligence
Lord Onslow Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
Gerald Balfour, President of the Board of Trade
Sir Montagu Ommanney Permanent Under-Secretary for the Colonies
Sir Francis Hopwood Permanent Secretary to the Board of Trade
Sir Thomas Holderness Secretary of the Revenue, Statistics and Commerce Department, India Office
Sir John Anderson Secretary to the Conference, of the Colonial Office
Australia Australia Sir Edmond Barton Prime Minister
Sir John Forrest Minister of Defence
 Canada Sir Wilfrid Laurier Prime Minister
William Stevens Fielding Minister of Finance
Sir William Mulock Postmaster General of Canada
William Paterson Minister of Customs
British Cape Colony Cape Colony Sir John Gordon Sprigg Prime Minister
Thomas Fuller Agent-General
BlueEnsignNatal.png Natal Sir Albert Henry Hime Prime Minister
Dominion of Newfoundland Newfoundland Colony Sir Robert Bond Premier
New Zealand Colony of New Zealand Richard Seddon Prime Minister


See also[edit]