Friday, 18 May 2012

Evaluate the view that Gladstone did more than Disraeli to involve Britain in European affairs during the period 1868 to 1880? Part 2



Further evidence of Gladstone’s support for further British involvement in European affairs can be seen in the Eastern question. Gladstone protested over Disraeli’s lack of action in uniting the great European powers to deal with the Bulgarian atrocities that saw 12,000 Christians massacred. Ever since the Crimean War Gladstone felt that Britain had a responsibility for the fate of Christians in the area, Britain unlike other countries wanted to abide by the Treaty of Paris 1856. Gladstone’s outrage and desire to intervene was in his eyes justifiable. However, Gladstone was not without his opportunism. As Gladstone had done very little politically for the previous two months. It was only when protest meetings occurred in August that Gladstone felt something if a morale crusade could be launched. Despite his absence from politics at the time, Gladstone had touched a chord in the British publics’ psyche, which as a result shocked the populace to the very core as revelations that the Bulgarian massacres were on a scale that had never been seen before, started to emerge. Gladstone’s efforts resulted in embracing Disraeli; it also should Gladstone to be far more interested in European affairs. Disraeli’s embarrassment was brought about by his dismissal of the early reports of the massacre.

In contrast to Gladstone’s move towards multilateralism, Disraeli favoured a far more unilateral approach to foreign affairs especially in terms of Europe; Disraeli was therefore unwilling to provide any concessions. Disraeli was therefore determined to stand up to Russia and his triumph in Berlin might serve to support his success. Disraeli was determined to pursue a traditional British foreign policy; one that was empire centric, Disraeli thus believed that the Turks would serve as a useful bulwark for British interests. Disraeli’s policy would involve Britain more in European affairs, but the reason for this, it can be argued was to provide greater protection for the British Empire, by propping up Turkey in order to ensure British trade routes to Asia.  When Russia began to attack Turkey and the Turkish Empire appeared on the verge of collapse. British public opinion began to swing back to the idea that Britain should be involved in preventing Russian expansion in Europe. Therefore, ever the political opportunist Disraeli seized the initiative in an attempt to gain greater public support. As a result Disraeli took the decision to move a British fleet into the eastern Mediterranean in January 1878, the fleet would act as a deterrent to any further Russian expansion.
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