Disraeli, Gladstone, and the Eastern Question

Disraeli, Gladstone, and the Eastern Question

Disraeli, Gladstone, and the Eastern Question

Disraeli, Gladstone, and the Eastern Question

Excerpt

The present volume forms a sequel to a book (still unpublished) entitled Britain in Europe, in which I attempt to give a connected survey of British foreign policy in the nineteenth century: and the germ of both is to be found in a course of lectures delivered at the University of London, King's College, in 1927 and again in 1930. When I reached the year 1874, a double motive led me to adopt new methods and an altogether larger scale. In the first place, the Eastern crisis of the seventies, to an even greater degree than the Crimean War, illustrates the essential interaction of home and foreign policy, the bearings of remote happenings in eastern Europe upon British party government, and the resultant dangers for the peace of the nation and the world: and yet its history has remained unwritten for over fifty years. In the second place, a happy chance enabled me to obtain access to a mass of unpublished Russian correspondence and thus to study those innermost secrets of the Tsar, his Chancellor and his Ambassadors, which were denied to contemporary Englishmen. The Disraeli and Salisbury Papers have already been made accessible, but in each case the aim was to interpret the standpoint of a single man and a single country, rather than to correlate or compare that standpoint with foreign sources. And yet it may reasonably be claimed that if Lords Beaconsfield, Salisbury and Derby could in 1875-8 have seen into the cards which I am now placing upon the table for the first time, their outlook towards Russia, and so towards the Eastern Question, would have been radically different.

I was thus led by gradual stages to attempt to construct a narrative in which not only the statesmen in whose hands British policy lay, but also their political opponents, the diplomatists with whom they had to deal and the foreign statesmen whose policies they sought to counter or whose alliance they courted, would all figure, and their relative importance at each stage of the crisis would be revealed, so far as possible from their own words or from the comments of their contemporaries. The major parts in the drama belong as of right to Disraeli and Gladstone, to Derby, Salisbury and Queen Victoria, but the key to the plot will often be found to lie with Shuvalov and Gorchakov, with Bismarck and Andrássy, with Elliot and Layard . . .

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