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26 October

HP101 – Byzantine Empire


The Byzantine Empire, a request form John Birkhead via email. John is also a podcaster. You can listen to his podcast at

This is a very big topic and this episode is just an introduction to this vast subject. Please see the links below for more information about the Byzantine Empire. To find out how to can help those in Southern California currently battling the fires, please visit the Red Cross.

Web Links:

Wikipedia article

Online class on this subject open to the public via Boise State University

Lots of resources listed here via Fordham University

Downloadable lectures from

Books from

The Byzantine Empire

History of the Byzantine Empire: Vol. 1, 324-1453

A History of the Byzantine State and Society

19 October

HP100 – Happy Birthday History Podcast


A big, big thank you to all the listeners for making today possible. Today is the day we release our 100th episode! No history in this episode, just a little talk between Michelle (my wife) and I about History Podcast and what it means to us. I hope you all enjoy this episode and stay tuned for HP101, where I promise we will get back to the history.

Show Notes:

Lab Rats Episode 45 – Watch Jason be interviewed at the Portable Media Expo in 2006.

Podcasting For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech)) – History Podcast is mentioned on page 291..”History Podcast is completely devoted to history for the lovers of history. This is a feed you will want to subscribe to.”

People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present (P.S.) – One of Jason’s favorite history books. The prefect holiday gift.

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your History Textbook Got Wrong – A fascinating tour through history’s greatest lies. I recommend it!

Michelle’s Favorite Books:

Matisse and Picasso: The Story of their Rivalry and Friendship

Uffizi: The Great Masterpieces

Vatican Museums by Inglese (Sorry, there is not listing in Amazon for this title)

12 October

HP99 Podcast & New Media Expo 2007


This episode is a little different. No specific history topic this time, but we do have some great history talk recorded right from the floor of the Podcast & New Media Expo. I sat down with Gregory Lemon from the Myth Show and Bob Wright from Baseball History Podcast and talked history and podcasting. I hope you enjoy this episode, please leave your feedback in the comments. To listed to more from the OC Podcasters at the Expo check out our page on Podango. To hear last years podcast at the expo go to the episode list and download number 80.

NOTE:  A mistake in last weeks episode date makes episode 99 appear before episode 98 in iTunes, so make sure you download this episode.

05 October



I love top secret CIA stories. This one was a lot of fun for me to do.

See more youtube videos on MKULTRA

Who is Donald Ewen Cameron?

Wikipedia article on MKULTRA

Mulroney government

28 September

HP97 Philippine-American War


Listen to the latest installment of History Podcast. This episode is a request from Andrew Turnier via email.

More Information: 


06 September

HP96 – Spanish Armada

Spanish Armada

Spanish Armada

Welcome to episode 96. This episode was a request from Jonathan Grunert via email.

The Spanish armada also called just armada or the invincible armada. The Spanish Armada was the great fleet sent by Philip II of Spain in 1588 to attack England in conjunction with a Spanish army from Flanders (present-day Belgium). England’s attempts to drive back this fleet involved the first naval battles to be fought entirely with heavy guns, and the failure of Spain’s venture saved England and the Netherlands from possible assimilation into the Spanish empire.

Philip had long been considering an attempt to re-establish the Roman Catholic faith in England, and English piracies against Spanish trade and property gave him that opportunity. The treaty of Nonsuch (1585) which England undertook to support the Dutch rebels against Spanish rule, along with damaging raids by Sir Francis Drake against Spanish commerce in the Caribbean in 1585-86, finally convinced Philip that a direct invasion of England was necessary. He decided to use 30,000 troops belonging to the veteran army of the Spanish regent of the Netherlands, the Duke de Parma, as the main invasion force, and to send from Spain sufficient naval force to defeat or deter the English fleet and clear the Strait of Dover for Parma’s army to cross from Flanders over to southeastern England.

After nearly two years’ preparation and extended delays the armada sailed from Lisbon in May 1588 under the command of the Duke of Medina-Sidonia, a replacement for Spain’s most distinguished administrator who proved to be resolute and capable in action but he had relatively little sea experience. The Spanish fleet consisted of about 130 ships with about 8,000 seamen and as many as 19,000 soldiers. About 40 of these ships were line-of-battle ships, the rest being mostly transports and light craft. The Spanish were aware that even their best ships were slower than those of the English and less well armed with heavy guns, but they counted on being able to force boarding actions if the English offered battle, after which the superiority of the Spanish infantry would prove decisive.

The English fleet was under the command of Charles Howard, 2nd Baron Howard of Effingham; he was no more experienced an admiral than Medinoa-Sidonia but was a more effective leader. His second in command was Sir Francis Drake. The English fleet at one time or another included nearly 200 ships; but, during most of the subsequent fighting in the English Channel, it numbered less than 100 ships, and at its largest it was about the same size as the Spanish fleet. No more than 40 or so were warships of the first rank; but the English ships were unencumbered by transports, and even their smallest vessels were fast and well armed for their size. The English placed great dependence on artillery; their ships carried few soldiers but had many more and heavier guns than the Spanish ships. With these guns mounted in faster and handier ships, they planned to stand off and bombard the Spanish ships at long range.

Gales forced the armada back to the port of La Coruna (in northern Spain) for refitting, and it finally got underway again in July. The Armada was first sighted by the English off Lizard Point, in Cornwall, on July 29. The larger part of the English fleet was at Plymouth, dead to leeward, but by a neat maneuver was able to get to the windward, or upwind, side of the enemy (west of the Armada, given the prevailing west winds) and hence gain the tactical initiative. In three encounters (off Plymouth, July 31; off Portland Bill, August 2; and off the Isle of Wight, August 4) the English harassed the Spanish fleet at long range, easily avoided all attempts to bring them to close action but were unable of inflict serious damage on the Spanish fleet.

The Armada reached the Strait of Dover on August 6 and anchored in an exposed position off Calais, France. The English also anchored, still to windward (west of the armada), and were reinforced by a squadron that had been guarding the narrow seas. The first certain news of the armada’s advance reached Parma in the Flanders the same day, and he at once began embarking his troops in their invasion craft; but the process required six days, and the armada had no safe port in which to wait for him, nor any means of escorting his small craft across the costal shallows where Dutch and English warships patrolled to intercept them. This defect in Spanish strategy was to prove disastrous.

At midnight on August 7-8, the English launched eight fire ships before the wind and tide into the Spanish fleet, forcing the Spanish fleet to cut or slip their cables (thus losing the anchors) and stand out to sea to avoid catching fire. The Spanish ships formation was thus completely broken. At dawn on the 8th the English attacked the disorganized Spanish ships off Gravelines, and a decisive battle followed. The English ships now closed to effective range and were answered largely with small arms. The Spanish ships’ heavy guns were not mounted, nor were Spanish gunners trained to reload in action; and they sustained serious damage and casualties without being able to reply effectively. Three Spanish ships were sunk or driven ashore, and other badly damaged. At the same time the English were forced by shortage of ammunition to break off the action and follow at a distance. By the morning of August 9, the prevailing westerly winds were driving the Spaniards toward the shoals of the Zeeland banks. At the last minute however, the wind shifted and allowed them to shape a safe course to the northward. Both the west wind and the English fleet now prevented the armada from rejoining Parma, and it was forced to make the passage back to Spain around the northern tip of Scotland. The English fleet turned back in search of supplies when the armada passed the Firth of Forth and there was no further fighting, but the long voyage home through autumn gales of the North Atlantic proved fatal to many of the Spanish ships. Whether through battle damage, bad weather, shortage of food and water, or navigational error, some ships foundered in the open sea, while others wrecked. Only 60 ships are known to have reached Spain, many of them too badly damaged to be repaired, and perhaps 15,000 men perished. The English lost several hundred, perhaps several thousand, men to disease but sustained negligible damage and casualties in action.

The defeat of the Armada saved England from invasion and the Dutch republic from extinction, while dealing a heavy blow to the prestige of the greatest European power of the age. Tactically the armada action had enduring historical significance as the first major naval gun battle under sail and from that moment, for over two and a half centuries, the gun-armed sailing warship dominated the seas.

20 August

HP95 – Reformation


ReformationWelcome to episode 95. This episode was a request via email from Jonathan Grunert.

The reformation was a religious revolution that took place in the western church in the 16th century; its greatest leaders where Martin Luther and John Calvin. Having far-reaching political, economic, and social effects, the Reformation became the basis for the founding of Protestantism, one of the three major branches of Christianity.

The world of the late medieval Catholic Church from which the 16th century reformers emerged was a complex one. Over the centuries the church, particularly in the office of the papacy, had become deeply involved in the political life of western Europe. The resulting intrigues and political manipulations, combined with the churches increasing power and wealth, contributed to the bankrupting of the church as a spiritual force. Abuses such as sale of indulgences (or spiritual privileges) and relics and the corruption of the clergy exploited the pious and further undermined the churches spiritual authority.

The Reformation of the 16th century was not unprecedented. Reformers within the medieval church such as St. Francis, Peter Waldo, John Huss, and John Wycliffe addressed abuses in the life of the church in the centuries before 1517. In the 16th century, Easmus of Rotterdam, a great Humanist scholar, was the chief proponent of liberal Catholic reform that attacked moral abuses and popular superstitions in the church and urged the imitation of Christ, the supreme teacher. These movements reveal an ongoing concern for reform within the church in the years before Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses on the door of All Saints Church, Wittenberg, on October 31, 1517, the eve of All Saint’s Day—the traditional date for the beginning of Reformation.

Martin Luther claimed that what distinguished him from previous reformers was that while they attacked corruption in the life of the church; he went to the theological root of the problem—the perversion of the church’s doctrine of redemption and grace. Luther, pastor and professor at the University of Witenburg, deplored the entanglement of God’s free gift of grace in a complex system of indulgences and good works. In his 95 Theses, he attacked the indulgence system, insisting that that the pope had no authority over purgatory and that the doctrine of the merits of the saints had no foundation in the gospel. Here lay the key to Luther’s concerns for the ethical and theological reform of the church; scripture alone is the authoritive, and justification is by faith, not by works. While he did not intend to break with the Catholic Church, a confrontation with the papacy was not long in coming. In 1521, Luther was tried before the Imperial Diet of Worms and was eventually excommunicated; what began as an internal reform movement had become a fracture in western Christendom.

The Reformation movement within Germany diversified almost immediately, and other reform movements arose independently of Luther. Huldrych Zwingli built a Christian theocracy in Zurich in which church and state joined for the service of God. Zwingli agreed with Luther in the centrality of the doctrine of justification by faith, but he espouse a much more radical understanding of the Eucharist. Luther had rejected the Catholic churches doctrine of transubstantiation, according to which the bread and wine in the Eucharist became the actual body and blood of Christ. According to Luther’s doctrine of consubstantiation, the body of Christ was physically present in the elements because Christ is present everywhere, but Luther was not willing to go as far as Zwingli, who claimed that the Eucharist was simply a memorial of the death of Christ and a declaration of faith by the recipients.

From the group surrounding Zwingli emerged those more radical then himself. These Radical Reformers, part of the so-called left wing of the Reformation, insisted that the principle of scriptural authority be applied without compromise. Unwilling to accept what the considered violations of the biblical teachings, the broke with Zwingli over the issue of infant baptism, thereby receiving the nickname “Anabaptistis” on the grounds that they rebaptized adults who had been baptized as children. The Swiss Anabaptist sought to follow the example of Jesus found in the gospels. The refused to seat oaths or bear arms, taught the strict separations of church and state, and insisted on the visible church of adult believers—distinguished from the world by its disciplined, regenerated life.

Another important form of Protestantism (as those protesting against Rome were designated by the Diet of Speyer in 1529) is Calvinism, named for John Calvin, a French lawyer who fled France after his conversion to the Protestant cause. In Basel, Calvin brought out the first edition, of his Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536, the first extensive, systematic, theological treatise of the new reform movement. Calvin agreed with Luther’s teaching on justification by faith. However, he found a more positive place for the law within the Christian community than Luther did in his concern to distinguish sharply between law and gospel. In Geneva, Calvin was able to experiment with his ideal of a disciplined community of the elect. Under Calvin’s forceful leadership, church and state were united for the “glory of God.”

The Reformation spread to other European countries over the course of the 16th century. By mid-century, Lutheranism dominated Northern Europe. Eastern Europe offered a seedbed for even more radical varieties of Protestantism, because kings were weak, nobles strong, and cities few, and because religious pluralism had long existed. Spain and Italy were to be the great centres of the Counter-Reformation and Protestantism never gained a strong foothold there.

In England the Reformations roots were primarily political rather than religious. Henry the VIII, incensed by Pope Clement VII’s refusal to grant him a divorce, repudiated papal authority and in 1534 established the Anglican Church with the king, as it’s supreme head. In spite of its political implications, Henry’s reorganization of the church permitted the beginning of religious reform in England, which included the preparation of a liturgy in English, The Book of Common Prayer. In Scotland, John Knox, who spent time in Geneva and was greatly influenced by John Calvin, led the establishment of Presbyterianism, which made possible the eventual union of Scotland with England.

03 August

HP94 – Vannevar Bush


This request is from David Potesta way back in July 2005. You may remember some of David’s other requests, such as Bobby Fischer, episode 29 and John Hanson, episode 11.

Vannevar Bush

Born: March 11, 1890

Died: June 28, 1974

US government official and electrical engineer who developed the differential analyzer, the first electronic analogue computer.

Bush was born on March 11, 1890, in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He had two sisters. His father was a Universalist minister.

What is Universalism?

In Christianity, Universalism, Universal reconciliation, or universal salvation, is the doctrine that all people will eventually be saved and go to heaven at some point after they are dead. This is based on the belief that a loving God would not submit any person, regardless of their sins, to everlasting torment, but would instead reform them.

As a child, Bush was sickly and was occasionally bedridden for long stretches of time. Still, he was self-confident and sometimes got into fights with other boys. He once said, “all of [my] recent ancestors [before my father] were sea captains, and they have a way of running things without any doubt. So it may have been partly that, and partly my association with my grandfather, who was a whaling skipper. That left me with some inclination to run a show once I was in it.” (Zachary, 23).

Bush did well in school where he showed an aptitude for math. When he graduated he went off to Tufts College to study engineering. Half of his expenses were paid by a scholarship. He worked as a tutor and aid in the math department to pay the other half. Bush studied earnestly and earned a master’s degree in the time it usually takes to earn a bachelor’s degree. His academic success fueled his desire to do things his way not depending on others’ rules. This trait would become increasingly evident later in his life.

While at Tufts Bush enjoyed his first experience as an inventor. His invention was a land surveying device he called the profile tracer. It looked something like a lawnmower. As it was pushed over land it automatically calculated elevations and drew a crude map. It allowed one man to do the work usually done by three. Bush thought it would be commercially successful, but it never caught on. He learned from this failure. He learned that to become a real engineer he needed to learn more than math and physics. He needed to learn how to effectively deal with people.

After graduation from Tufts, Bush went to work for General Electric testing electrical equipment. He was laid off after a fire broke out in his plant.

Bush taught at Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, from 1914 to 1917. After conducting submarine-detection research for the US Navy, he joined the facility for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at Cambridge in 1919. In the late 1920s he devised the network analyzer to simulate the performance of large electrical networks. In 1930 he worked with a team at MIT to build the differential analyzer for solving differential equations. The finished machine, which could handle up to 18 independent variables, foreshadowed the electric computers developed after World War II. Bush’s other developments included the Rapid Selector, a device using a code and microfilm to facilitate information retrieval.

In 1940 Bush was appointed chairman of the National Defense Research Committee. The following year he became director of the newly established Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), which coordinated the nation’s weapons-development research for World War II and advised the government on scientific research and development. Many useful innovations resulted from OSRD research and development including improvements in radar, the proximity fuse, anti-submarine tactics, and various secret devices for the OSS (the precursor of the CIA). Bush was also very closely involved in the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb. After the war he served as chairman of the Joint Research and Development Board and was a member of the Research and Development Board of the National Military Establishment. Bush also served as president of the Carnegie Institution from 1939 to 1955.

In the article “As We May Think”, published in Atlantic Monthly in 1945, he described a theoretical machine called a “memex.” It was an obvious extension of Bush’s earlier work with the rapid selector. The memex was also to be a storage and retrieval device using microfilm. It would consist of a desk with viewing screens, a keyboard, selection buttons and levers, and microfilm storage. Information stored on the microfilm could be retrieved rapidly and projected on a screen. The machine was to extend the powers of human memory and association. Just as the human mind forms memories through associations, the user of the memex would be able to make links between documents. Bush called these associative trails. Sound familiar?

This system is remarkably similar to modern hypertext. In fact, Ted Nelson, who coined the term “hypertext” in the 1960’s, acknowledges his debt to Bush.

Vannevar Bush died on June 30, 1974, years before the Internet became widely popular or the World Wide Web even existed. With the growing popularity of the Internet many now look back through its history and see Bush as a visionary.


Encylopaedia Britannica

26 July

HP93 – Pope Joan


pope joan

Welcome to history podcast number 93. This episode is a request via email from Ruth Campbell. Ruth wants to know more about Pope Joan.

Joan, Pope, legendary female pontiff who supposedly reigned under the title of John the VIII, for slightly more than 25 months, from 855 to 858, between the pontificates of Leo IV (847 – 855) and Benedict III (855 – 858). It has subsequently been proved that apocryphal.

One of the earliest extant sources for the Joan legend is the De septem domis Spiritu Sancti (“The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit”) by the 13th century French Dominican Stephen of Bourbon, who dated Joan’s election c. 1100. In this account the nameless pontiff was a clever scribe who became a papal notary and later was elected pope; pregnant at the time of her election, she gave birth during the procession to the Lateran, whereupon she was dragged out of Rome and stoned to death.

The story was widely spread during the later 13th century mostly by friars and primarily and primarily by means of interpolations made in many manuscripts of the Chonicon pontificum et impertorum (“The Chronicle of the Popes and Emperors”) by the 13th century Polish Dominican Martin of Troppau. Support for the version that she died during childbirth and was buried on the spot was derived from the fact that in later years papal procession used to avoid a particular street, allegedly where the disgraceful event had occurred. The name Joan was not finally adopted until the 14th century; other names commonly given were Agnes or Gilberta.

According to later legend, particularly by Martin (who dated her election 855 and who specifically named her Johannes Angelicus), Joan was an Englishwoman; but her birthplace was given as Mainz (now in Germany), which some writers reconciled by explaining that her parents migrated to that city. She supposedly fell in love with and English Benedictine monk and, dressing as a man, accompanied him to Athens. Having acquired great learning, she moved to Rome, where she became a cardinal and pope. From the 13th century the story appears in literature, including the works of the Benedictine chronicler Ranulf Higden and the Italian Humanist Giovanni Boccaccio and Petarch.

In the 15th century Joan’s existence was regarded as fact, even by the council of Constance in 1415. During the 16th and 17th centuries the story was used for protestant polemics. Such scholars as Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, afterward Pope Pius II, and Cardinal Ceasar Baronius regarded the story as unfounded, but it was the Calvinist David Blondel who made the first determined attempt to destroy the myth in his Elaircissement familier de la question: Si une femme a ete assie au siege papal de Rome (1647; “Familiar Enlightenment of the Question: Whether a Woman Had Been Seated on the Papal Throne in Rome”). According to one theory, the fable grew from widespread gossip concerning the influence wielded by the 10th century Roman woman senator Marozia and her mother Theodoria of the powerful house of Theophylact.

The second edition of J.J.I. von Dollinger’s Die Papstfabeln des Mittelalters (“Fables about the Popes of the Middle Ages”) was published in 1890. Another study of the Pope Joan question is contained E. Vacandard’s Etudes de critique et d’histoire religieuse, 4 vol. (1909-23; “Studies of Criticism and of Religious History”).

30 May

HP90 – Crimean War


Crimean WarCrimean War (October 1853 – February 1856), war fought mainly on the Crimean Peninsula between the Russians and the British, French, and Ottoman Turkish, with support, from January 1855, by the army of Sardinia-Piedmont. The war arose from the conflict of great powers in the Middle East and was more directly caused by Russian demands to exercise protection over the Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman sultan. Another major factor was the dispute between Russia and France over the privileges of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in the holy places in Palestine.

This war gave the world:

  • Raglan sleeves (named after the 1st Baron Raglan, probably because it was designed to fit his coat for the arm lost in the Battle of Waterloo),
  • The cardigan sweater (named after James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, a British military commander, during his service in the Crimean War.),
  • The balaclava cap (The name “balaclava” comes from the town of Balaklava in Crimea. During the Crimean War, knitted balaclavas were sent over to the British troops to help protect them from the bitter cold weather.),
  • Florence Nightingale (her most famous contribution came during the Crimean War, which became her central focus when reports began to filter back to Britain about the horrific conditions for the wounded.),
  • The “Charge of the Light Brigade” immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (a disastrous cavalry charge led by Lord Cardigan during the Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854 in the Crimean War. It is best remembered as the subject of a famous poem entitled The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose lines “Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do and die” have made the charge a symbol of warfare at both its most courageous and its most tragic.)
  • And the epic novel War and Peace by Count Leo Tolstoy who was there as a young Russian artillery officer, and who’s experiences in Sevastopol did much to shape War and Peace.

Why this war was important

Changed the balance of power in Europe, weakening Russia, strengthening the imperiled Ottoman Empire, and leaving France the greatest military force in Europe, while Britain remained the greatest naval power. Austria gained strength both Germany and Italy achieved long-awaited unification, and the US, hardly an innocent bystander in this conflict, used its friendship with Russia to take possession of Alaska and Hawaii. Also, despite what American Civil War historians have said, it was the first war to be reasonably well documented by photographers, the first to take place in the age of the telegraph, the railroad, and steam-driven ships, the first in which mines played a significant role in naval warfare, and the first to propose a major use of chemical warfare. There were even war plans for a submarine and a proto-tank.

Because the British allowed newspaper correspondents to witness what went on and to write about it without censorship, the British public and later much of the world knew what was happening as in no previous war ever fought. The French imposed strict censorship during the war, but later a number of French officers managed to write about their experiences, as did the Sardinian’s, who joined the allied cause later in the war. The Turks wrote little, but the Russians wrote much.

How and why the war started

Tsar Nicholas I (who by the way was 6’ 4” tall) needed Mediterranean access. To do so he would have to reach an agreement with the Turks, but that would be meaningless if Britain’s powerful navy chose to block the way. The tsar tried to ally himself with the British but they refused.

Frustrated by his failure to convince the British to join him, as well as by the Turkish inflexibility, the tsar next sent Prince Alexander S. Menhikov to convince the Turks to accept Russian rule over the holy cities, a role that singularly ill suited the acid-tongued elderly nobleman, who hated the Turks. Menhikov did a horrible job. He offended the Turks often and threatened war whenever the Turks were difficult.

To deter Menhikov’s threats France and Britain responded with a threat to occupy Moldovia and Wallachia (now Romania) if the Turks did not give into Menhikov’s demands. The Turks ignored this. The tsar was not bluffing. On July 3, 1853, Russian troops marched into Moldiva and Wallachia heading for the Danube River. This area was under a kind of joint rule. The Turks had governors there, but no troops. The Turks did not receive tribute from the 2.3 million residents of this area.

Russia’s invasion was clearly provocative. Russia now claimed the tribute for itself, but no fighting was involved.

Austria called for a conference in Vienna. It was attended by Britain, France and Prussia but not Turkey or Russia. The conference produced an agreement acceptable to all parties in attendance.

The Turks were sent the agreement. They made some minor changes. Russia would not accept these new changes. The Turks responded with an ultimatum. When Russia did not responded by withdrawing its troops, Turkey declared war on October 5, 1853, sending 90,000 troops toward the Danube and 75,000 East toward the Caucasus.

Supported by Britain, the Turk’s took a firm stand against the Russians, who occupied the Danubian principalities (modern Romania) on the Russo-Turkish border July 1853. The British fleet was ordered to Constantinople (Istanbul) on September 23. On October 4 the Turks declared war on Russia and in the same month opened an offensive against the Russians in the Danubian principalities. After the Russian Black Sea fleet destroyed a Turkish squadron at Sinope, on the Turkish side of the Black Sea, the British and French fleets entered the Black Sea on January 3, 1854, to protect Turkish transports. On March 28 Britain and France declared war on Russia. To satisfy Austria and avoid her also entering the war, Russia evacuated the Danubian principalities. Austria occupied them in August 1854. In September 1854 the allies landed troops in Russian Crimea, on the north shore of the Black Sea, and began a yearlong siege of the Russian fortress of Sevastopol. Major engagements were fought at the Alma River on September 20, at Balaklava on October 25, and at Inkerman on November 5. On January 26, 1855, Sardinia-Piedmont entered the war and sent 10,000 troops. Finally, on September 11, 1855, three days after a successful French assault on Malakhov, a major strong point in the Russian defenses, the Russians blew up the forts, sank the ships, and evacuated Sevastopol. Secondary operations of the war were conducted in the Caucasus and in the Baltic Sea.

The war ends

The fall of Sevastopol ended the major fighting. For the warring countries and world opinion, Sevastopol was the key to victory; soon after its surrender, Austrian threats to enter the conflict, probably to be joined by Sweden and perhaps Norway, led Russia to negotiate, and peace followed. Russia accepted preliminary peace terms on Feb. 1, 1856. The Congress of Paris, a long discussion between French, British, and Austrian dominated peace conference, worked out the final settlement from February 25 to March 30, 1856, guaranteed the integrity of Ottoman Turkey and obliged Russia to surrender southern Bessarabia, at the mouth of the Danube, which was opened to the shipping of all nations. Russian dominance in Eastern Europe would end, and all the European powers guaranteed the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey was left deeply in debt to France and Britain, but the peace treaty meant having twenty years of breathing room before another war with Russia began the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The Crimean War was managed and commanded very poorly on both sides. Disease accounted for a disproportionate number of the approximately 250,000 men lost by each side.

Total Casualties of the war are probably over one million, in addition to an untold number of men, women, and children left permanently disabled by wounds or debilitated by disease.

  • ½ million deaths = Russian
  • ½ million deaths = Turkish
  • 100,000 = French
  • 25,000 = British
  • 2,000 = Italian

The war did not settle the relations of the powers in Eastern Europe. It did awaken the new Russian emperor Alexander II (who succeeded Nicholas I in March 1855) to the need to overcome Russia’s backwardness in order to compete successfully with the other European powers. A further result of the war was that Austria, having sided with Great Britain and France, lost the support of Russia in central European affairs. Austria became depended on Britain and France, which failed to support her, leading to the Austrian defeats in 1859 and 1866, which in turn led to the unification of Italy and Germany.

America’s Involvement

Few accounts of Crimean War mention the involvement of America, but American interest in the war was intense. Major newspapers throughout the country carried hundred of articles. The newspapers in America began to take Russia’s side. After all the French and other European governments had recently criticized American aggression in their war of expansion against Mexico. This hardened American attitudes toward France. As soon as the Crimean War broke out American Colonel Sam Colt went to Moscow to sell his famous revolvers and rifles. Other arms merchants followed his example. 15 American mechanics arrived to help with Russian railroad development. The US minister to Russia Thomas Seymour adored Tsar Nicolas I. 30 American surgeons (20 of who trained in Paris) volunteered to go to Sevastopol, where they were welcomed enthusiastically; half of them would die of disease before the war ended. 300 Kentucky riflemen asked the US government for permission to fight for Russia, but their request was denied.

Russia would later express its gratitude. Including approval of the Annexation of Hawaii by the US and support for the Union during the American Civil War. Perhaps most important, first leased then later sold, Alaska to the United States. Rather than risk its seizure by Great Britain.



Encyclopedia Britannica Vol. 3 p.737