The Results of the Crimean War
Robert Pearce asks whether Britain benefited from the 1853-56 contest.
According to Sellar and Yeatman, in 1066 And All That, the Crimean War, as well as being caused by a number of causes, was ‘exceptionally inevitable’. The muddled thinking here nicely matches the muddle that was the war – though the first was humorous, the second horrendous. In fact, the war should never have happened. No one wanted it or knew exactly what it was about. In considering its results therefore, although we should ask the obvious question – what were Britain’s aims in entering the war and how far were they achieved? – a more fruitful area of study focuses on its unsought effects, its byproducts, in terms of journalism, political change, medicine and army reforms.
War Aims and Results
The Crimean war, one of the bloodiest and most mismanaged contests of the 19th century, was, ostensibly, a holy war. The conflict began with a dispute over the ‘Holy Christian Places’ in the Ottoman province of Palestine. In 1852 France had won special rights for the Roman Catholics, including control of the keys to churches in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, much to the dismay of Greek Orthodox monks. The Russian Tsar then made demands of the Muslim Sultan on behalf of the Orthodox Church. That this quarrel was not the real cause of the war is shown by the way that, once the fighting had started, the issue ceased to be of real significance – so that many textbooks fail even to mention that, in the 1856 Treaty of Paris, the rights and privileges of the Christians in the Ottoman Empire were to be guaranteed by the Sultan.