Page 76. " citizens of France, displaced by the revolutionary upheavals "

 

 

From the time of the French Revolution in 1789 until the outbreak of the First World War, France suffered a prolonged period of internal unrest. The Revolution led to the Napoleonic Era, with more than a decade of war; this in turn was followed by the restoration of the monarchy which lasted from 1815 to 1830, when the July Revolution erupted, bringing in a form of constitutional monarchy under Lafayette and King Louis-Philippe. This survived various coups d'etat and worker uprisings until 1848, when revolutions swept through much of central Europe, and ushered in the Second Republic in France.

Given these troubles, it is not surprising that, by 1853, many French people would have sought shelter in England, as the French Huguenots had done in the previous centuries. Many famous Brits are descended from these French immigrants, such as Joseph Bazalgette, Augustus Pugin, Hilaire Belloc and the modern comedians Eddie Izzard and Noel Fielding.

Page 78. " Lajos Kossuth, the rightful regent-president of Hungary "

Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894) was a Hungarian lawyer and politician. Hungary, at this time, was very much the junior partner in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, subject to the rule of the Habsburg emperors in Vienna.

In 1848, after hearing of the revolution in France, Hungary was also ready for change, and Kossuth seized the moment, calling for parliamentary democracy. However, many of his speeches and actions inflamed tensions within multi-ethnic Hungary, and soon he was forced to defend himself not only against the Austrians, who were reluctant to cede power to Hungary, but also against ethnic minorities in his own country, who were seeking autonomy for themselves. By August 1849 Austria was back in control, and Kossuth fled to the Ottoman Empire, and from there to Britain and America.

In Britain, attitudes to Kossuth varied. Many establishment figures were wary of anyone associated with the widespread revolutions of 1848, in case they encouraged such unrest in their own country; conversely, those who sought change were keen to promote figures such as Kossuth as heroes. Lord Palmerston's support of Kossuth led to a serious political crisis in Britain, as Queen Victoria was furious that a member of the Cabinet could publically support a republican. The Prime Minister Lord John Russell's inability to control Palmerston over his recognition of Kossuth and of the revolution in France led to the fall of the Russell government in December 1851. (See also the bookmark to Page 28, " Lord John Russell, scourge of the Catholics, was no longer Prime Minister, but Leader of the House, whatever that meant ".)

Page 79. " as the guest of a chapter of Chartists "

 The Chartists were a reformist organisation in Britain and Ireland, active from 1838 to 1850. This working class movement produced the People's Charter in 1838, with the aim of promoting voting and Parliamentary reform which would create a much more representative government. Unsurprisingly, given the times, their movement was largely unsuccessful, though it created more interest in politics among the working class.

The People's Charter contained the following reforms:

1) a vote for all men over the age of 21

2) the secret ballot

3) payment for members of parliament (to enable people from all backgrounds to stand)

4) no requirement for MPs to be landowners

5) equal constituencies

6) annual elections.

By 1918, five of the six points on the People's Charter had become law.

Page 79. " you are aware of the ever-increasing belligerence between Russia and Turkey "

 Despite its grand size, nineteenth century Imperial Russia was a constantly expanding enterprise, always seeking to further its influence in the world. One theatre of expansion was the Balkans, where Russia sought control over the Slavic, Orthodox population, as well as access to the sea. This brought them into conflict with the Ottoman Empire, which was losing control over its possessions in Greece and the surrounding area. Russia fought the Ottoman Empire from 1828 to 1829 and forced them to surrender. This made other European powers nervous, as they did not want Russia to gain naval access to the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits. Tensions mounted until October 1853, when the Ottomans declared war on Russia. After a series of misunderstandings, Britain and France joined on the Ottoman side, leading to the Crimean War, which lasted until 1856.

Tolstoy fought in the Crimean War, and was present at the Siege of Sevastopol. It was also during this time that Florence Nightingale pioneered new nursing techniques. The Crimean War is the setting for Matthew Plampin's first novel, The Street Philosopher.

Page 89. " He's a whip on the Liberal side "

The Liberal Party, also known as the Whigs, was one of the two main political parties in nineteenth century Britain, the other being the Conservatives, or Tories. Broadly speaking, the Liberals stood for classical liberalism, supporting free market economics but also social and political reform, while the Tories defended the status quo, emphasising continuity and stability.

In a political party, a whip is a person responsible for party discipline, making sure that individual party members vote and act in accordance with party policy. The term comes from hunting, where 'whipping in' means keeping control of a pack of hounds, preventing any from straying.

Page 89. " a tin-pot Machiavelli "

 Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) was an Italian Renaissance political philosopher, famous for his book The Prince (written 1513, published 1532) which was intended to advise the Florentine ruler Lorenzo de Medici. His political thought emphasised practical rather than moral actions, believing that the end (a stable political state) justified any unpleasant means adopted in its fulfilment. Because of this rather ruthless approach, his name has become synonymous with an amoral, manipulative kind of politics.

Page 90. " The famously brazen Lord Palmerston "

Lord Palmerston (1784-1865) was a British politician who twice became Prime Minister, once from 1855 to 1858 and then again from 1859 to 1865. He caused a political crisis over his support of Louis Napoleon and Lajos Kossuth (see bookmark to page 78, "Lajos Kossuth, the rightful regent-president of Hungary"). Palmerston was also 'brazen' in his position on other international issues, from Belgium to Afghanistan.

He was a Liberal who supported the idea of interventionism, that is influencing events in other countries in order to bring about a desired change. This led him to make controversial decisions, the legacies of which are still being debated today. He was the last Prime Minister of Britain to die in office: he succumbed to a fever, aged 80.

Page 93. " The Righteous One takes note of the house of the wicked, and brings the wicked to ruin "

This is a Biblical quote from Proverbs 21:12.

Page 93. " the upright deportment and sober clothing of city Evangelicals "

The Evangelicals are a branch of the Protestant Church dating back to eighteenth century England. In the nineteenth century a large number of missionary societies flourished, with the aim of converting people to the faith, and more generally of promoting social reform in line with their beliefs.

In England, these societies were particularly active from 1790 to 1830, when organisations such as the Clapham Sect, of which William Wilberforce was a prominent member, fought for the abolition of the slave trade.

Page 96. " the musicians struck up a brisk version of 'Hail Columbia' "

Until 1931, when it was replaced by 'The Star Spangled Banner', 'Hail, Columbia' was considered to be the national anthem of the United States. It was originally composed for the inauguration of the first President of independent America, George Washington.

 

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Page 97. " the cheap etching of Turner's Temeraire "
Turner's The Fighting Temeraire
Public DomainTurner's The Fighting Temeraire

The Fighting Temeraire, or more fully The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up, 1838, is a famous oil painting by the English Romantic painter J. M. W. Turner (c.1775–1851).

HMS Temeraire was a British navy warship that had served at the Battle of Trafalgar. The painting now hangs in the National Gallery in London; in 2005 it was voted the greatest painting in any British museum.

 

Etching of the Turner painting
Public DomainEtching of the Turner painting