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Presentation #1 Title

"May God Defend the Right!": The Idea of Just War and British Sermons on the Crimean War

Presentation #1 Abstract

This paper seeks to examine the notion of just war in religious sermons of Anglican and Presbyterian ministers, as well as of Nonconformists, in the context of Britain’s involvement in the Crimean War (1854-6). The historiography on the Crimean War is very rich, but little attention has been given to the idea of just war. This paper will study the language used in sermons preached (and later published) across Britain during the war to examine the extent to which the just war doctrine informed religious thinking; to analyse important debates between pacifist Quakers and ministers of religion who believed in the justness of Britain’s war; and to offer fresh perspectives on mid-nineteenth century questions regarding the complex interplay between religion and the nature of, and justifications for, war. The paper will highlight the centrality of just-war thinking in Victorian religious discourse. Especially during days appointed for national prayer and humiliation, as well as days for thanksgiving, religious ministers proclaimed in their sermons the justness of Britain’s war against what was perceived to be the wrongdoing and aggression of Russia against Turkey. The main argument they put forward was that the criteria for a just war had been met and that God was fighting on Britain’s side to defeat the Czar. By drawing on recent scholarly literature on religious sermons and their significance in the cultural and intellectual life of Victorian Britain, this paper aims to shed light on an important topic that has only received cursory attention.

At-A-Glance Bios- Presenter #1

I am a first-year doctoral student in History at the University of Oxford funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. My research project is on the notion of just war and Britain's involvement in the Crimean War. I hold an undergraduate degree in Modern History from the University of St Andrews, and a Master's degree in British and European History (1500-present) from the University of Oxford.

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"May God Defend the Right!": The Idea of Just War and British Sermons on the Crimean War

This paper seeks to examine the notion of just war in religious sermons of Anglican and Presbyterian ministers, as well as of Nonconformists, in the context of Britain’s involvement in the Crimean War (1854-6). The historiography on the Crimean War is very rich, but little attention has been given to the idea of just war. This paper will study the language used in sermons preached (and later published) across Britain during the war to examine the extent to which the just war doctrine informed religious thinking; to analyse important debates between pacifist Quakers and ministers of religion who believed in the justness of Britain’s war; and to offer fresh perspectives on mid-nineteenth century questions regarding the complex interplay between religion and the nature of, and justifications for, war. The paper will highlight the centrality of just-war thinking in Victorian religious discourse. Especially during days appointed for national prayer and humiliation, as well as days for thanksgiving, religious ministers proclaimed in their sermons the justness of Britain’s war against what was perceived to be the wrongdoing and aggression of Russia against Turkey. The main argument they put forward was that the criteria for a just war had been met and that God was fighting on Britain’s side to defeat the Czar. By drawing on recent scholarly literature on religious sermons and their significance in the cultural and intellectual life of Victorian Britain, this paper aims to shed light on an important topic that has only received cursory attention.