CRIMEA: Analyse the probable effect of “participatory journalism”

Here’s your essay title.

1. Read the article below on the Crimean War and the Freedom of the Press It includes the concept of “participatory journalism”. This phrase simply denotes the way that the Victorian public joined in the
publication of information about the war and reaction to it, from their own perspectives, in private correspondence that was published by the British newspapers.
2. Write on your blogs a few incisive paragraphs in a brief analysis of this concept. How did the “particpatory journalism (including private correspondence, official war correspondent reports and the photography of Fenton and Robertson) affect (a) the government’s role in the war (b) the participants of the war themselves and (c) the readers of the various reports.

In a nutshell, I believe that the freedom of the press was increasingly curtailed. Far too much information was being published. Consequently, in the Boer war and in the First World war, much more stringent steps were taken to prevent the leak of information.

Curiously, we now live in a world where information can be published internationally without any censorship at all. It’s probably the first time for about a century and a half.

The Crimean war and the Freedom of the Press

The Crimean War produced the first generally acknowledged war correspondent:The Times’s William Howard Russell. But perhaps more importantly, the war also changed the way journalism itself functioned during wartime and the way readers participated in its reportage. Newspapers like The Times provided a public forum for the expression of private experiences of the war—a forum in which public and private voices mixed, as official “despatches” were printed alongside personal letters from soldiers at the front. In addition, institutionally backed editorials and articles from the papers’ “Own Correspondents” surrounded an unprecedented barrage of letters to the editor from civilians weighing in on the Crimean campaign. These unofficial contributions suggest that the world fashioned by the mass media during what was dubbed “the people’s war” functioned as a genuine public sphere. Read More

Fenton and Robertson: Crimean Photographers

This is Roger Fenton’s mobile dark room. His Crimean War photographs represent one of the earliest systematic attempts to document a war through the medium of photography. Fenton, who spent fewer than four months in the Crimea (March 8 to June 26, 1855), produced 360 photographs under extremely trying conditions. While these photographs present a substantial documentary record of the participants and the landscape of the war, there are no actual combat scenes, nor are there any scenes of the devastating effects of war.

Fenton’s familiar photo of Cornet Wilkins of the 11th Hussars suggests something of the arrogance of British command. For some of the combatants, the commitment to the ideals of honor and glory outweighed their preparation for the realities of war. By 1854 the British army had experienced close to forty years of relative peace. Consequently, there were few battle-hardened veterans among the British forces in the Crimea. During this time, drastic measures were taken to reduce the cost of supporting a standing army. Most of the British army’s commanding officers last saw action during the Napoleonic Wars, in particular, at Waterloo (1815), or had since purchased their commissions. Some British units, at their commanding officers’ expense, adopted flashy, brightly colored uniforms. The officers of these units seemed to enjoy the pomp-and-circumstance of the parade-ground more than they understood the mechanics of war. The troops were, nonetheless, highly disciplined units. Overall, the successful battlefield tactics of the Napoleonic Wars were still the focus of the soldier’s training. While the technology of weaponry was improving, the standard conduct of war was slow to evolve. Recent engagements involving the British in India, Afghanistan, and South Africa and the French in Algeria had done little to alter the typical battle plan, although the French were better prepared as a result of their campaigns in North Africa.

As the war got underway in the Crimea, the Times war correspondent, William Howard Russell, sent home dispatches about the glorious victory at the Battle of the Alma (Sept. 20, 1854). However, the combined allied forces, comprised mainly of French, British, and Turkish troops, were unable to completely subdue a strategically positioned, albeit archaic, Russian army. To the dismay of some, the invading armies failed to immediately pursue the retreating Russian forces. It quickly became evident that the failure to achieve the anticipated swift conclusion to the fighting in the Crimea was not for lack of bravery. Rather, mismanagement and disease, chiefly among the British forces prevented the swift resolution of the war. Casualties in the aftermath of Alma were due more to disease and the treatment of wounds than to mortal wounds suffered during combat. And soon Russell’s reports were tempered with criticism.


As the landscape of war shifted from engagements on open battlefields to the entrenchment of the siege of Sevastopol (Oct. 1854-Sept. 1855), war correspondent William Howard Russell began a relentless attack on the official conduct of the war. His accounts of the difficulties of the soldier’s life in Balaklava struck a responsive chord with readers on the home front. The photo of Russell shows him in a somewhat belligerent pose in semi-military uniform, dressed presumably for the camera.

This photo depicts an Officer of the 57th Regiment resting in his billet.Whether there was an explicit directive from the British government to refrain from photographing views that could be deemed detrimental to the government’s management of the war effort, perhaps in exchange for permission to travel and photograph in the war zone, or whether there was merely an implicit understanding between the government, the publisher, and the photographer is not known.
Fenton photographed the leading figures of the allied armies, documented the care and quality of camp life of the British soldiers, as well as scenes in and around Balaklava, and on the plateau before Sevastopol, but refrained from images of combat or its aftermath. This tactic may have given him access to information and views that were otherwise off-limits to artists and war correspondents, like William Howard Russell, who had become increasingly critical of the British government’s leadership and military officers’ handling of the war. In any case, while personally witnessing the horror of war, Fenton chose not to portray it.Valerie Lloyd says, “…the photographs demand to be ‘read’ for the detailed observations they provide. The Literary Gazette, virtually alone, read the evidence most accurately: […] it is obvious that photographs command a belief in the exactness of their details which no production of the pencil can do….”

It is interesting, however, to make a comparison with the photos of James Robertson whose photos have a grittier, more realistic quality.When Roger Fenton had to leave the Crimea in 1855, Robertson and his partner Felice Beato replaced him in Sevastopol, taking pictures of battlefields, the Balaklava harbor and the army over the next year. It was Robertson and Beato, not Fenton, who documented the actual fall of Sevastopol, the resulting devastation and the final battles that actually ended the war.

The Crimean War gave the pair an experience that would aid them in their documentation of the Indian Mutiny, the Opium War in China in 1860 and the Sudanese colonial wars in 1885 (the latter two only covered by Beato). In these later conflicts, gruesome dead bodies would litter the images–a photographic first not portrayed in the Crimean coverage. Robertson died in 1881.

Generally speaking, Robertson seemed to have less reserve in his choice of subjects. Some are posed in a similar fashion


But other examples tend to show a gloomier, less pompous view of the war. 7102langlois

Notes on Cardwell’s reforms (Effects of the Crimean War)


Arguably, the greatest effect of the Crimean war came not from the advancement of new military technology, nor from medical or nutritional reforms but directly from the incredible inefficiency of its military organization. The failures of the army started to become apparent during the Crimean war, when WH Russell of The Times reported extensively and critically on the poor logistics and command system, led by many aristocratic officers who were completely inept. Read More

Alexis Soyer: the Jamie Oliver of the Crimean War

Alexis Soyer was a celebrity chef in the midst of the Crimean War

Napoleon emphasized an important fact when he said that an army marched on its stomach; he took good care that his armies should feed upon the plentiful food of the land which he was invading. When, as in the invasion of Russia, the inhabitants destroyed all remaining food as they retreated, the invading army simply perished. In the Crimean War the authorities at home and in the field either did not understand this principle or neglected to see that it was practised. Read More