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British policy towards the French republic in 1848

Petler, David Neil


David Neil Petler


Bernard Porter


The revolutions of 1848, which were sparked off by the overthrow of Louis Philippe and the establishment of the Second French Republic, destroyed the existing balance of power in Europe, increased the likelihood of a major war, and exacerbated the uncertainty and tension on the continent. During this critical period the British Government took a close interest and played a prominent role in European affairs. This thesis examines the formation and execution of British policy towards the French Republic between the February Revolution and the election of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.
Distrust of France as a potentially disruptive force in Europe played a prominent part in British thinking, and consequently the British Government sought to moderate the Republic's conduct and limit its opportunities for an aggressive foreign policy. This study shows how the British Government pursued this conservative objective whilst working with the Republic and encouraging some of the liberal movements on the continent. The domestic repercussions of the French revolution are also examined. The Government's response to the challenges of the Chartists and the Irish Repealers reveals the determination with which it tried to avert revolution and offers a significant contrast with its "liberal" foreign policy. Moreover, the danger of domestic upheaval and the worrying events on the continent enhanced the conservatism of the Court and the opposition parties, and this hampered the Government's ability to pursue the foreign policy it preferred.
This study offers a fresh interpretation of a significant aspect of British foreign policy in the mid-nineteenth century. It reveals that the British Government pursued its conservative objectives by "liberal" policies, and that those policies were modified by domestic opposition. It also challenges the assumption that British policies were decisive in averting a European war. It seeks to demonstrate that peace was maintained by factors beyond the control of the British Government and that the course of the revolutions remained largely unchanged by its actions.


Petler, D. N. (1984). British policy towards the French republic in 1848. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 6, 2023
Publicly Available Date Oct 6, 2023
Keywords History
Public URL
Additional Information Department of History
University of Hull
Award Date Jan 1, 1984


Thesis (14 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 1984 David Neil Petler. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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