What Were the Short-Term Significances of the Crimean War of 1854-1856 in Terms of Foreign Policy?

Topics: Crimean War, William Howard Russell, British Army Pages: 7 (2561 words) Published: November 11, 2012
What were the short-term significances of the Crimean War of 1854-1856 in terms of foreign policy?

The Crimean War was a momentous event in the amendment of foreign policy. Several short-term significances stemmed from the war shaping Britain’s global position, alongside initiating a new aggressive policy led by Palmerston[1] and creating the ‘world power’ ideology. Faults in the military mismanagement, and the failure of Aberdeen’s government led to the realization of the need for reform. Depicted as having caused the army to “change more in those two years than in the previous two hundred,”[2] it is clear that the Crimea influenced a series of short-term significances in the successive twenty years.

The change from Aberdeen’s[3] diplomatic government to Palmerston’s aggressive ministry resulted from growing patriotism in the Crimea. Aberdeen’s cautious attitude towards war was highlighting and became increasingly unpopular as it “lacked Palmerston’s ‘manly vigour”.[4] Aberdeen distaste for war was emphasised when he wrote to Peel[5] “war in order to preserve peace is entirely inapplicable to… the Great Powers”.[6] His involvement in the Napoleonic Wars[7] influenced this attitude as he was less naïve to war conditions than others. Sourced from a letter between Aberdeen and Peel, he was defending his anti-war stance. His belief that peace was not achieved in this way was supported by the Congress System which had held peace without war for 30years. Peel’s attitude differed, believing in “Bellum para, pacem habebis”, [8] - that peace was obtained through war preparation. Peel compared how equipped France[9] was making Aberdeen seem unprepared. Moreover, Aberdeen was blamed for issues raised in Russell’s[10] war reports such as the military mismanagement and unsanitary conditions[11]. This negative publicity influenced John Roebuck[12] to enquire into the management of war. Public opinion contrasted Aberdeen’s approach which John Lowe described as a “conciliatory disposition to the point of whimpishness.”[13] Instead, they supported Palmerston’s “zealous defence of British interests.” Palmerston, unlike Aberdeen did not have the support Queen Victoria[14], and therefore gained support through co-operation with the public. Stuart confirmed his popularity saying, “Wherever I go… one opinion has been pronounced in a single word –Palmerston.”[15] Said in the throes of war, it was a current, credible description and being a politician, Stuart was able to gauge public opinion on Palmerston so was competent to make judgements. However reliability is affected as Stuart was likely to show support towards the popular government at that time, in this case, Palmerston. The Crimean had highlighted flaws in Aberdeen’s hesitant diplomacy and brought the significance of a new confrontational approach. Under Palmerston’s governance, Britain was presented with a stronger image than it ever had been under Aberdeen. ‘Gunboat diplomacy’[16] allowed him to create the illusion that Britain was the world power. Evidence of his aggressive ‘gunboat diplomacy’ was the Indian Mutiny [17] in which he forcefully suppressed mutinies to insure British power was not threatened. Palmerston’s illusion was further supported when the diplomatic situation in Europe was shaken by the collapse of the Congress of Vienna;[18] a consequence of the Crimean war. For British foreign policy, this was vastly significant because the suppression of Russian influence[19] in the region due to the Treaty of Paris[20] allowed Britain to temporarily become the dominant power on the continent, projecting their power and reinforcing Palmerston’s illusion.

Media became a new phenomenon in the Crimea and Russell’s reporting effectively caused many alterations to foreign policy. As the first on-the-spot reporter, he exposed the true conditions of war to a naïve country[21]. Although, many aspects of foreign policy were in need of much change, the war reporting brought them...
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