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Disraeli vs Gladstone: foreign policy

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Compared to Gladstone, Disraeli's policy in the East seemed ill thought out, immature and brash. How far do you agree? Disraeli and Gladstone were both politicians of extraordinary ability - but their personalities clashed and they heartily loathed each other. There is no doubt of this. Disraeli referred to his rival in a letter to Lord Derby as '...that unprincipled maniac Gladstone - extraordinary mixture of envy, vindictiveness, hypocrisy and superstition'. And Gladstone more moderately said of his Disraeli, 'the Tory party had principles by which it would and did stand for bad and for good. All this Dizzy destroyed'. Preceding both Disraeli and Gladstone was Lord Palmerston, and it is widely viewed that it was during Palmerstone's prime ministry that the table was effectively set for the foreign policy of the next few decades. Palmerston was greatly interested by the diplomatic questions of Eastern Europe. From 1830, the defense of the Ottoman Empire became one of his key policy features. ...read more.


Disraeli accepted, although perhaps not to a realistic scale, that the Turks must enforce reforms on the treatment of their people after the Crimean War. He sent Lord Salisbury to the conference of Constantinople, and signed the "London protocol", which all show his acceptance of Turkeys problems, yet the reforms proposed were weak, and in April 1877, the Ottomans refused. As Disraeli feared most, Russia thus invaded Turkey probably to force the London protocol onto the Turks. However, Disraeli was certain the Tsar wanted to capture Constantinople for himself, which would in result endanger British trade routes, and so in return sent the entire British Mediterranean fleet to Constantinople. The result was a tremendous victory for both Disraeli and Imperialism, as the Russian army halted. He scored another success in the 1878 Congress of Berlin, by preventing Bulgaria gaining full independence, thus limiting the growing influence of Russia in the Balkans. In return, the Sultan gifted Cyprus to Britain, another gain for an imperialistic Disraeli. ...read more.


After Disraeli's bad decisions lead to the slaughtering of 12000 Bulgarian Christians, Gladstone published his pamphlet on "the Bulgarian horrors and the question of the east" which was very critical of the prime minister, highlighting how the sultan interpreted Disraeli's decision to not sign the Berlin memorandum as effectively giving the go ahead for the massacres. In essence Gladstone's principles were to foster the strength of the empire by well thought legislation and economy at home . It is fair to call Disraeli's foreign policy brash and ill thought out especially in comparison to Gladstone. Disraeli's focused on more spur of the moment issues, and although these often paid off like with the acquisition of Cyprus, they often went wrong. Gladstone was certainly more of a textbook politician, and approached his challenges with caution and detail. Despite his respect for freedom of rule, there was actually more imperial expansion under Gladstone than Disraeli, showing that Disraeli's methods of foreign policy were not just ill though out, but also less effective, despite the fact that much of the Gladstonian expansion was not necessarily his doing, and often unavoidable in Gladstone's eyes. ...read more.

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