UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Bulgarian Horrors : culture and the international history of the Great Eastern Crisis, 1876-1878 Whitehead, Cameron Ean Alfred


In the wake of alleged Ottoman atrocities in Bulgaria, the new geopolitical order created at the 1878 Congress of Berlin was demarcated largely along Western cultural prejudices. Using a cultural approach that appreciates both “macro” material structures and “micro” cultural processes in Bulgaria, Britain, and the Ottoman Empire, this study offers an alternative framework for understanding this period. It employs community-level evidence (petitions, public meetings, provincial journalism) alongside the diplomatic record; moreover, it uses the diaries, writings, and the marginalia within the personal readings of important policy-makers as pivotal intermediaries between cultural discourses, material structures, and individual agency. Diverging from previous narratives, which hold that the Great Powers altruistically responded to barbaric atrocities perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against their European Christian subjects, I argue that solidifying conceptions of racially-based national self-determination and nonconformist evangelicalism were crucial within humanitarian protest, the diplomatic decision-making process, military objectives during the Russo-Turkish War, and the resolution of the Great Eastern Crisis. Western cultural preconceptions, propagated, negotiated, and reified throughout this process, were thus transformative in the construction of the new, unstable Balkan geopolitical order that contributed to the outbreak of the First World War and the remaking of the modern world.

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