Austria, Great Britain, and the Crimean War: The Destruction of the European Concert

Austria, Great Britain, and the Crimean War: The Destruction of the European Concert

Austria, Great Britain, and the Crimean War: The Destruction of the European Concert

Austria, Great Britain, and the Crimean War: The Destruction of the European Concert

Excerpt

The events of the Crimean War served to destroy for a significant period the existing international system in Europe and the prevailing rules by which foreign policy was conducted and peace maintained. The war undermined the Concert of Europe, the complex of practices and arrangements whereby the five great powers cooperated to settle dangerous European problems and to avoid great-power confrontations. It broke up the so-called Holy Alliance (the conservative front of Austria, Prussia, and Russia) and isolated Austria. It created a major new alignment (Britain, France, and Sardinia), and raised the possibility of others (France and Russia, Prussia and Russia, or a combination of all three). It paved the way for the unification of Rumania, the Polish revolution of 1863 and the attendant European crisis, and the wars of Italian and German unification. Above all, it changed the spirit and style of European diplomacy. As Gordon Craig writes, "National self-restraint, respect for the public law as defined in treaties, and willingness to enforce its observance by concerted action were, then, the conditions which made possible the maintenance of peace and the balance of power in the period 1830-1854. The most notable thing about the Crimean War which broke out in 1854 was that it destroyed these conditions."

The main purpose of this book is to indicate to what extent these results were unforeseen and unintended, or anticipated and even deliberate, and to show that, whether intended or not, they flowed naturally from the kind of diplomacy practiced during the war, particularly by the Western powers. I have concentrated on Austria . . .

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