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Palmerston and Anglo-French relations, 1846-1865

Brown, David (2006) Palmerston and Anglo-French relations, 1846-1865. Diplomacy and Statecraft, 17 (4). pp. 675-692. ISSN 0959-2296

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Conventionally, it was Palmerston's political nemesis, Lord Aberdeen (foreign secretary 1841-46), who brokered an entente cordiale with Fran ois Guizot and France in the early 1840s, which the belligerent and unequivocally 'English' Palmerston then systematically destroyed when he returned to office in 1846. However, not only is this a distortion of the relationship between Britain and France prior to 1846, it also fails to appreciate the nuances of Palmerston's approach to Anglo-French politics. Naval scares and rhetorical constructions of English and British identities certainly drew Palmerston to adopt aggressive positions towards France on occasion, but against this must be set his close personal ties with leading French statesmen, not least Napoleon III himself, and his desire to maintain peaceful harmonious relations with France in order to free Britain's diplomatic hand elsewhere in the world. Although superficially swinging between extremes of amity and enmity, therefore, Anglo-French relations under Palmerston's guidance were in fact far more cordial and close than has sometimes been allowed.