Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Odd Tidbits Of History

     From Friendly Fire (in the comments) over at Today in Iraq I read...

As Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill wrote to Lloyd George on September 1, 1922, arguing that Britain should prepare to
clear out . . . we are paying eight millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having.
Lloyd George rebuked him for being insufficiently far-sighted:
. . . if we leave we may find a year or two after we have departed that we have handed over to the French and Americans some of the richest oilfields in the world.

     During the period of the outbreak of the Crimean War (an interesting war in its own right, being one of the only major inter-European wars that wasn't started by O Bismarck during the period between the Congress of Vienna and the first World War), I read about this happening

The catalyst for war was a growing dispute from 1840s over the religious custody of Christian Holy Places in Palestine. Catholic monks under French protection had tended the Jerusalem and Bethlehem holy places since the sixteenth century, and this had been guaranteed in perpetuity by the Ottoman capitulations of 1740. These privileges, as well as French pilgrimages, lapsed during the turbulent anticlerical French revolutionary and Napoleonic era. Louis Napoleon, seeing the possibilities for political influence, sought reinstatement of the capitulations in 1852, and, after his coronation as Emperor, his concern about religion in the East became a rallying cry for French Catholics. The Sultan supported French claims of jurisdiction. Tsar Nikolai I objected that Russia was the true defender of Christianity in the East, that such a protectorate existed by the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji (1774), and that Greek Orthodox were by far the majority Christians (ten million) in the East. The dispute broke into violence in Jerusalem between Catholic and Orthodox monks, and the Muslim governor intervened in 1847 to prevent Christian killing Christian. More importantly, French imperial intrigues revived Russian proposals for dividing the Ottoman empire. The tsar secretly sounded out the British about dismembering the Ottoman empire, but the British, continuing Palmerston's policy of containing Russia, indicated they would do all they could to keep the dying empire alive.

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