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Victoria and Albert collected works documenting political and military events

Crimea

On 28 March 1853, Britain declared war on Russia, marking the beginning of the Crimean War, which saw British, French, Sardinian and Turkish troops allied together against Russia’s attempt to expand its influence into European territory in the Ottoman empire. Photographer Roger Fenton (1819-69) was sent by the publishers Agnew’s to photograph the war. A selection of Fenton’s photographs of the conflict are shown here.

Fenton arrived after the major battles were fought in 1854. He concentrated on creating portraits of the troops and capturing the empty battlefields on which so many lives were lost. Published in contemporary newspaper reports, Fenton’s highly influential photographs showed the impact of war to the public for the first time. The principal aim of the Crimean campaign was to capture Sevastopol (traditionally Sebastopol), the most important naval base in the region. Sevastopol fell on 8 September 1855 after the French assault on Malakoff. The Russians abandoned the town that night, with much of the town left in ruins. Peace was finally declared in April 1856, and on 27 April 1856, The Treaty of Paris came into effect, declaring the Black Sea a neutral space. The Crimean War indelibly marked public consciousness during the Victorian era, as illustrated by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s (1809-92) famous poem The Charge of the Light Brigade (1854).