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Which was more important in British Foreign Policy – Personality or Policy – between 1815 and 1851?

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Introduction

Michelle Clarke 12MA 4/20/2007 History Essay: Which was more important in British Foreign Policy - Personality or Policy - between 1815 and 1851? The years between 1815 and 1851 saw many changes in terms of British foreign policy, and also saw many different political figures at the top of the British democratic system. These leading politicians included: - Lord Liverpool - Prime Minister 1812 - 1827 Viscount Castlereagh - Foreign Secretary 1814 - 1822 George Canning - Foreign Minister 1822 - 1827 and Prime Minister in 1827 Robert Peel - Prime Minister 1834 - 1835 and 1841 - 1846 Lord Palmerston - Foreign Secretary 1830 - 1831 and 1846 - 1849 These five men had different personalities and introduced contrasting polices during the 36 years in question. It is difficult to say whether one of personality or policy was important without assessing each case separately. Lord Liverpool was often seen as a committed politician and was respected by some of his fellow politicians, Gladstone said of him that "England had never been better governed than between the years 1822 and 1830". ...read more.

Middle

Castlereagh had believed that Britain had an international responsibility, Canning on the other hand campaigned for a more isolationist Britain because he did not want Britain to pay for foreign wars. This, along with their domestic attitudes meant Castlereagh was unpopular with the people of Britain and Canning, being more moderate was liked. This shows that personality had a major effect on the running of the country and was an important issue in foreign affairs. In terms of policies themselves, they never changed, the congress system continued with Britain directly involved, particularly when it involved the access to British colonies and the expansion of the British Empire. In international meetings such as the congress of Vienna Castlereagh's main priority was to create peace in Europe, in both the short and long term, he did not want Britain to be dragged into European wars but did not want to completely exclude Britain from Europe. ...read more.

Conclusion

Palmerston had a very different attitude towards European affairs than his earlier predecessors. In conclusion I feel that the personality of the Foreign Minister did have a major influence on the way that Britain acted towards foreign affairs between 1815 and 1851. On the other hand I feel that the policies also played a very important role. Particularly during the time of Canning and Castlereagh the ideas behind the policies did not change all that much, but Canning was much less sympathetic than Castlereagh and was more willing to stress the difference between liberal Britain and the conservative powers of Europe. Policy changed very little but personality did affect it, not directly but in the way that the policies were carried out. This therefore means that both were very important in 19th Century affairs but I would say that Personality made a big difference in the three men's approaches toward foreign affairs, and was therefore more important than the policies themselves. ?? ?? ?? ?? Michelle Clarke Page 1 4/20/2007 ...read more.

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