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HIST1113 The Crimean War

Module Overview

The Crimean War (1853-56) was the most important Great Power conflict fought between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the outbreak of World War One in 1914. Yet its causes are uncertain and the way it was fought was often paradoxical: modern techniques of warfare, media reporting and medical care did not prevent this being a war characterised by blunder and incompetence, all played out in the glare of public scrutiny. Reputations were made and broken, Great Powers were humbled; we might ask did anyone win this war? Yet on the battlefield and beyond the implications and lessons of the war were wide-reaching for societies, economies and governments. This module therefore asks why did the war break out and how was it fought, while also examining its impact and legacy beyond the battlefield.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

- Introduce you to selected approaches that historians have used to interpret the impact and significance of the war in the Crimea (1853-56) and to place that conflict in its wider historical context. - Develop awareness of some of the approaches and source materials that can be used in the study of history. - Augment and refine the range of skills useful in life after university.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The key features of the history of the Crimean War
  • Selected historiographical debates related to the study of war, politics, diplomacy, society and culture in this period
  • The ways in which historical understanding is informed both by different interpretations of source materials, political perspectives, and by different and changing methodological approaches to the study of the past
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify and describe the key characteristics of debates about the Crimean War
  • Explain historical controversies and disagreement and evaluate competing interpretations
  • Identify and explain certain approaches and methods that historians have used to study the history of the Crimean War from differing perspectives
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Engage in a programme of independent reading guided by the module tutor
  • Think analytically about the material you have located and read
  • Share your thoughts about your reading verbally and in writing, constructing arguments based on evidence
  • Manage your own learning and your time effectively, meeting deadlines
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Engage with a range of approaches to understanding an historical problem
  • Interpret, analyse and evaluate historical arguments and source materials


The Crimean War was the most important Great Power conflict fought between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the outbreak of World War One in 1914. Although relatively short-lived (1853-56) its impact on international relations and on the domestic histories of those countries involved (Russia, Turkey, Britain, France, and Sardinia) was far-reaching. The war was itself a product of the Eastern Question – the much discussed issue of how the Powers would deal with the anticipated collapse of the Ottoman Empire – and as well as representing a valuable case-study in international relations and the diplomatic origins of war, also provides an opportunity to examine the importance of cultural and religious dimensions to a conflict apparently fought just as much for ‘civilisation’, and the protection of Christians (one recent author describes it as ‘the last crusade’), as for territory and strategic influence. This was a war of paradoxes: it was the first media war, played out in graphic detail in the pages of the press, and was fought using a variety of new technologies; yet militarily it was poorly executed, characterised by blunders and inflexibility. Florence Nightingale, among others, famously highlighted medical shortcomings in the war and while her efforts achieved mixed results, this case study also offers an opportunity to examine war from a medical point of view. It is arguable that no-one ‘won’ the war: in its aftermath Russia, Britain and France all had cause to reflect on their status as great powers and it was the spur to a wide range of ‘modernising’ programmes in those countries. This is perhaps in part why it was often commemorated on a modest scale, but from Alma Road in Portswood to the Boulevard de Sébastopol in Paris the war has left its mark on the landscape and the module will therefore look at issues of memory and commemoration. This module, then, will examine the Crimean War from a number of perspectives: diplomacy, military history, religious history, cultural history, medical history, media history, social history, and memory and commemoration.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - Short Lectures - Seminar Discussions Learning activities include - Independent reading using resources available in the library - Note-taking in lectures - Active participation in seminars You will use reading lists provided by the module convener to guide your reading and preparation for weekly seminars. You will be expected to make contributions to seminar discussions based on your preparatory reading.

Independent Study130
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Resources. The Hartley Library, including the Archives and Special Collections, offers a rich resource to support this course. Further materials (images, films, etc) will be made available through a dedicated class website (Blackboard).

M.S. Anderson (1966). The Eastern Question, 1774-1923. 

D. Wetzel (1985). The Crimean War: a diplomatic history. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (1 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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