British Foreign Policy 1815-65
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General comment on the Crimean War
This document has been copied from its primary location on
The Victorian Web.
So far as Britain was concerned, the end of Crimean War had
a number of results that were little to do with the war itself.
- foreign policy brought down another British government - this time that
of the Earl of Aberdeen - and
gave Palmerston a platform on which
to rise to PM, a post from which he was to dominate English politics for ten
years because he brought 'peace with honour'. It enhanced Palmerston's reputation.
- in 1854, the likelihood of an Allied victory were very high: they had well-equipped,
sophisticated, professional western European armies. By December 1854/January
1855 the odds were against them: the roles were reversed. By Christmas 1854
the Czar offered to supply one three-decker
ship to send the Allies home. The Allies stared defeat in the face, with the
potential consequences thereof. The massive public outcry in Britain was led
by Roebuck, the MP for Sheffield and caused Aberdeen's
downfall. In February 1855 Palmerston came to office and the odds
swung back to the Allies.
- it was an apparent, rather than a real victory for Britain. There were no
lasting gains and no end to the Eastern
Question; it was more of a truce and proved to be temporary
- for Britain, the war proved to be a very expensive mistake although initially
it was popular and involved the public. Even Gladstone
felt that it was a 'just war'. However, it cost 25,000 lives and £76
million which had to be met out of increased taxation. Income tax had to be
increased and this wrecked Gladstone's plans to abolish it.
- the Indian Mutiny of 1857 was caused partly by Britain's poor record of
blunders, mismanagement and inefficiency in the Crimean War.
- the war highlighted the need for massive army reforms. Cardwell's reforms
finally took place between 1870 and 1872; they began updating the army
- nursing as a vocation for ladies was enhanced
- the importance of public health and
hygiene was elevated
- the power of the press was demonstrated
- Napoleon III's prestige was enhanced. France became directly involved with
Italian Unification by sending troops, to repay Piedmont. However, this lessened
French awareness of Prussia's expansion
- Russia escaped quite lightly, mainly because of the sheer size of the country.
Russia also got a new Czar, Alexander II, who acknowledged Napoleon III. He
was a liberal-minded Czar who undertook some domestic reforms. There was a
temporary halt to Russian ambitions in the Middle East, but Russia turned
her attention to Afghanistan
- Austria-Hungary emerged from the
war diplomatically isolated. This was of vital importance over the next 50
years or so because it determined the course of European history and was partly
responsible for the First World War.
Austrian neutrality upset Russia, Britain and France because they all anticipated
Austrian help. Her isolation subsequently led to Italian and German Unification
because no-one would aid Austria-Hungary in her time of need. These two new
nations upset the balance of power in Europe
- the Crimean War was the end of an era. Warfare in the future would be one
of new technology, precluding the need for big armies and fleets. Britain
concentrated on the navy, becoming isolated from Europe
- the opening of the Suez Canal in 1868 expanded Britain's eastern interests.
The Peace of Paris did not solve the problem
The war was important for Britain's domestic affairs because a variety of issues
were highlighted by the incompetence of the government and army during the war
- the Crimean War and the conduct thereof eventually led to a professional
civil service and reforms in army organisation under Gladstone
- the importance of public opinion
which had begun to make its mark in the 1760s finally came to fruition
- newspapers were using the new technology of the telegraph and were as yet
- it demonstrated that the old diplomatic world of Vienna
was at an end, and marked the emergence of a new European balance of power
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12 January, 2016