The Crimean War


In 1853, the Crimean War broke out between the Russian and Ottoman Empires to determine whether the Eastern Orthodox or the Roman Catholic Church should possess sovereignty over Christians in the Holy Land. While Queen Victoria initially hoped to keep Britain out of the conflict, growing concerns that Russia might use Black Sea access to claim India and other parts of the British Empire ultimately motivated her to join with France and the Ottoman Empire in 1854. The war lasted another two years, and while Britain and her allies won, the country exited combat humiliated. Around 20,000 of the nearly 100,000 British troops sent over died, with more soldiers dying from Cholera than military action. The most famous British battle took place at Balaklava, and it proved an infamous blunder when misunderstood commands sent soldiers running directly into enemy fire. Tennyson immortalized the battle in his poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” Though many British citizens supported the war at the outset, the British public worked to forget it afterward. The war is now remembered as perhaps the first “modern” war with its use of the telegraph, rail travel, and trench warfare. Florence Nightingale remains the central British figure associated with the war effort. While Morris did not participate in the war, he certainly discussed it with his friends and saw essays on it published in his own periodical, the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine. Further, his poetry of the period features numerous depictions of war, suggesting his own idiosyncratic engagement with the conflict.

Associated Place(s)

Artist Unknown