Wednesday 16 June 2010

The Duel for Europe, 1800-1830

FCO historian Dr Isabelle Tombs introduces the FCO's first online exhibition, 'The Duel for Europe, 1800-1830'.

by Isabelle Tombs,

This online exhibition, mounted by FCO Historians, charts both the personal duel fought between two of Britain’s top politicians and the national duel between Britain and France for supremacy in Europe in the years 1800-1830. Eventually, Britain won a historic victory over Napoleon’s empire. It covers the efforts of the Foreign Secretary and his staff to keep Britain and her Allies together and bring lasting peace to Europe, after a century of war across four continents and Napoleon’s universal threat. Britain was simultaneously seeking to stamp out the transatlantic slave trade.

The exhibition also highlights the personal rivalry between War Secretary Lord Castlereagh and Foreign Secretary George Canning who, in the midst of war, fought a duel on Putney Heath. The two men embodied differing approaches to foreign affairs but both went on to become great Foreign Secretaries - Castlereagh played a key role in ending the Napoleonic Wars and establishing peace for a century, whilst Canning put his imprint on the liberation of Latin America.

Period artefacts, pictures and manuscripts are on show, including a silver-mounted pistol and the major treaties that sealed Britain’s victory.

William Heath, Wellington entering Toulouse (National Army Museum, London).

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