On the other hand, historians have criticised Gladstone for failing to stop Bismarck in the Franco – Prussian war. This indecisiveness on Gladstone’s part resulted in Prussia having the ability to tip the balance of power in Europe. Some historians have taken their criticism of Gladstone’s lack of action further, arguing that Gladstone’s apparent success in Europe depended largely on Bismarck’s pressure on Russia. In addition Gladstone failed to appreciate the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian war as being a significant shift in the balance of power. However, Disraeli’s eastern policy can equally be criticised for its brinkmanship and failure to secure a permanent settlement at Berlin.
To conclude, Gladstone and Disraeli’s relative success in Europe could be assessed both in terms of their moral and practical approach to policy. Both Gladstone and Disraeli sought to involve Britain, to a greater extent, with European affairs. Disraeli’s focus was to pursue Britain’s traditional imperial foreign policy, he began to outline in his speeches in 1872, though not always with success, especially towards the end of his second ministry. This was because Disraeli did not want to tie Britain down to European affairs, which did not concern or relate to the British’s interests, namely the Empire and it’s maintenance. Gladstone however, was the greater advocate of British involvement in European affairs, as he sought European harmony via Concert diplomacy, which was regarded as a far more multilateral approach. Gladstone’s spectacular intervention in foreign affairs in 1876 over Bulgaria, served to raise the political temperature between Gladstone and Disraeli. Finally, Gladstone also believed that Britain had a significant role to play in European affairs, a role that would work in concert with other major European powers. However, ultimately when involved with dealings in Europe, both Gladstone and Disraeli were simply reacting to circumstances that were largely beyond their control.
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