'I WISH indeed', Sir Arthur Nicolson, the Permanent Undersecretary (PUS) at the Foreign Office, wrote in April 1914, 'that we could bring the feelings of the public in this country into a similar state towards Russia as they are towards France, but this will take some time to effect as there is so much misrepresentation in regard to Russia being circulated through many circles in this country and also such complete ignorance of Russia herself.'1 Nicolson then went on to outline his optimism about the future:
Englishmen are going more frequently to Russia and British capital is very largely invested in various Russian enterprises, while, you may laugh at me for saying so, both the Russian ballet and Russian opera have done good. Knowledge of Russian literature too is tending to show that the Russians are not such barbarians as most people tend to think.
But he concluded his letter pessimistically: 'To change the present attitude of mind prevalent in this country towards Russian affairs will take a long time, and until such a change is produced I very much fear that it would be difficult for any Government to enter into closer and more precise and definite relations with Russia.'
Nicolson's remarks make evident the need to consider a range of matters wider than what one clerk said to another when discussing Anglo-Russian relations. Foreign policy is not made in a vacuum; those who make it are not divorced from the currents of thought in their society. While diplomats, with their long years abroad, their fluency in foreign languages and their specialized knowledge, were perhaps something of an exception to this generalization, others were not.2 The views held of Russia by the wider public exerted a definite, if subtle and hard-to-quantify influence on the general relations between the two____________________