At the end of the Napoleonic Wars Anglo-Russian relations were relatively cordial. The Polish Revolution of 1830 that was brutally put down by Russia marked a turning point. After this the two countries were constantly at loggerheads. They were only once at war, the Crimean War, but were several times on the brink of hostilities. From the 1890s Britain sought to improve relations with Russia, but Russia’s expansionist involvement in the Far East in the late 1890s precluded any agreement being reached. This changed in the early 1900s with Russia’s defeat in the war with Japan, the 1905 revolution and in Britain the coming to power of a Liberal government determined to end the acrimonious relationship. Sir Edward Grey and Alexander Izvolsky were the major players in the negotiations that led to the signing of the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 that resolved long standing disputes in Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet but which also had repercussions in Europe.
Barbara Emerson read PPE at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford. She later spent a year as an associate at the Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, and was Sackler Fellow at St. Hilda’s in 2001. She has published work on 19th century diplomatic history and has now completed a book on Anglo-Russian relations in the 19th century, having had access to the Russian Imperial Foreign Ministry Archives in Moscow. Among recent talks she has given was one to The Great Britain-Russia Society on Russian and British attitudes to Decipherment in the 19th century and last July she gave a paper on Gladstone and Russia at the Gladstone Library in Hawarden.