Castlereagh's Catechism: A Statesman's Guide to Building a New Concert of Europe

By Simms, Brendan | Foreign Affairs, March/April 2013 | Go to article overview

Castlereagh's Catechism: A Statesman's Guide to Building a New Concert of Europe


Simms, Brendan, Foreign Affairs


Castlereagh: A Life by john bew . Oxford University Press, 2012, 752 pp. $39.95.

"The past," the novelist L. P. Hartley wrote, "is a foreign country; they do things differently there." There is certainly much that is alien about the world of Robert Stewart, better known as Lord Castlereagh (1769-1822), who helped usher in a new European order as British foreign secretary during and after the Napoleonic Wars. Nowadays, for example, one would not expect two senior politicians from the same party, both cabinet ministers, to fight a duel in the middle of a war, as Castlereagh and then Foreign Secretary George Canning did in 1809. And of course, there were some more fundamental differences: the British government of Castlereagh's day was elected by a narrow, all-male franchise determined by property ownership, and King George III, in his saner moments, was no mere constitutional figurehead but a power in his own right. Outside Great Britain, continental Europe would seem stranger still, with systems ranging from the Napoleonic tyranny in France to absolute monarchies in Austria, Prussia, and Russia. In international politics, wars of aggression and territorial annexation were still the norm.

But there is also much that is familiar about this world. Castlereagh's career played out in a parliamentary setting of intrigue and political maneuvering not dissimilar to those found in Washington and London today. In the international arena, Castlereagh confronted a landscape fractured by diverging national interests and profound ideological cleavages that would be recognizable to any modern diplomat. Given these resemblances, Castlereagh's successful management of competing great-power aspirations continues to resonate, inspiring statesmen such as former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who wrote his doctoral dissertation at Harvard on the subject; the former British foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, who wrote a book that favorably contrasted Castlereagh's careful diplomacy with the more unilateralist tendencies of his contemporaries and successors; and the United Kingdom's current foreign secretary, William Hague, who wrote a 2005 biography of Castlereagh's boss, Prime Minister William Pitt, the Younger. What draws modern statesmen to Castlereagh, Hurd wrote, is a shared belief "in quiet negotiation, in compromise, [and] in cooperation with other countries . . . which could span an ideological divide." The followers of Castlereagh distinguish themselves from proponents of "a noisier foreign policy," based on unilateral action, liberal sympathies, and a penchant for intervention.

In a new biography, the historian John Bew revises this classic view, presenting Castlereagh as more ideological and less realist (but no less realistic) than the conventional portrait. The result is a magisterial guide to Castlereagh's life that should inform the general understanding of international politics today. Even among highly educated people, few remember more about Castlereagh than his name. But one can draw direct links between his ideas and many features of contemporary world affairs, including institutions such as the United Nations, disputes over sovereignty, humanitarian interventions, and wars of preemption and prevention. Castlereagh's career also offers many enduring lessons for Europe in its current time of crisis: that the United Kingdom must play an active role on the continent, that Germany is the focal point of the European system, and that Europe should strive toward ever-greater unity in order to master its internal and external demons.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BALANCE

At the heart of Bew's narrative is a masterly account of Castlereagh's diplomacy, which was based on an unshakable belief that maintaining a balance of power in Europe was central to the United Kingdom's security. Like most members of the British political class, Castlereagh was deeply concerned about the growth of France's power: 20 years after the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792, Napoleon Bonaparte controlled the vast majority of continental Europe outside Russia. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Castlereagh's Catechism: A Statesman's Guide to Building a New Concert of Europe
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.