The Crimean War (1853-56) between Russia, Turkey, Britain, France and the Kingdom of Sardinia was the biggest international conflict of the European powers in the century between the Napoleonic Wars and the World War I. When it was over, 800,000 soldiers had died in an obscure corner of the map in a war that could easily have been prevented. How did it happen? David Goldfrank shows how, though the war was fought in the distant Crimea, its origins lay in the pressing domestic concerns of the belligerents. His study moves across Europe through London, Paris, St Petersburg, Turin, Vienna and Constantinople to show how the conflict involved all the major political stresspoints 19th-century Europe: the 'Eastern Question', British and French imperial rivalry, the move for national self-determination in Italy against their Austrian occupiers, Russia's Mediterranean ambitions, and the struggle of all the imperial powers for influence over an unstable Middle East as the Ottoman Empire seemed to be collapsing.
The book offers a case study of 19th-century power-politics, which exposes not only the deep-seated and enduring concerns of the belligerents bot also the very nature of 19th-century Great Power diplomacy itself. It argues that responsibility for the Crimean War lies firmly with the individual political leaders who could have prevented it; but the author also shows how economic factors and the breakdown of the Concert of Europe after 1848 created a climate favourable to the outbreak of international conflict.