Palmerston and the politics of foreign policy, 1846-1855

Brown, David Stuart (1998) Palmerston and the politics of foreign policy, 1846-1855. University of Southampton, Faculty of Arts, School of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis , 355pp.


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This thesis considers the career of Lord Palmerston during the important, but
hitherto rather neglected, period of his political career immediately preceding his
accession to the premiership in 1855, in a broader context than has previously been
attempted. By combining a high political, that is governmental, approach to the
question with what might be termed a low one - essentially all non-governmental
factors - the reasons for Palmerston's supposed political invincibility, or at least
longevity, can be more clearly understood. Such a focus simultaneously reveals a
great deal about the nature and working of the Victorian constitution and the
political influence of parts of the population traditionally regarded as falling beyond
its pale.
Through an examination of political manoeuvring in government, making
extensive use of private papers, this thesis demonstrates the extent and ways in
which Palmerston was able to exercise an influence over and manipulate his Cabinet
colleagues, thereby securing their approbation for his foreign policy at a time when
there were great pressures from the Crown and Parliament to remove him. The
analysis is followed though to the history of the Aberdeen Coalition (1852-55) to
explain why Palmerston came to be allied with many of his former adversaries in the
first place and secondly how he managed, from his official post at the Home Office,
to continue to wield great influence over the conduct of foreign policy - a question of
special importance given that it was this government which was faced with the
problem of managing the Crimean War.
It is clear, however, that personal and party political relationships are
incomplete means by which to explain Palmerston's career and elucidate the general
theme of the politics of foreign policy. Palmerston's political strength rested to a
large extent on the rather nebulous perception that he was 'popular', carrying with
him the support of the country and embodying the mood of the nation. Public
opinion, generally conceived, had a profound and complicated impact on politics
during this period, particularly on Palmerston, yet this is an aspect of Palmerston's
political life rarely examined by historians. It is in this thesis' attempts to underpin
an account of political life at the centre with an analysis of political forces and
influences beyond that a great deal of the work's originality is to be found.
Examination of the role of the press, various forms of extra-parliamentary opposition
(and support) across all social classes, and parliamentary opposition, including not
only on what grounds were attacks made but why and with what effect, add a unique
contribution to our understanding of Palmerstonianism and demonstrate the success
and considerable good fortune Palmerston enjoyed in manipulating political life to
his own ends.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Digitized via the E-THOS exercise. Subsequently published by Palgrave, 2003, ISBN 0-7190-6199-7
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Humanities > History
ePrint ID: 42314
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
1998Made publicly available
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2006
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014 18:27

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