EUROPE: THE ROLE OF
Lecture 2 Stephen Evans
Who was Bismarck?
Born in 1815 into a wealthy land-owning
1862: Chief Minister of Prussia.
Mirabeau Prussia was 'not so much a state with
an army as an army with a state'.
Secured the UNIFICATION OF GERMANY
1871: Imperial Chancellor of the German
What was the position of the
German Empire in 1871?
The greatest military power.
Major industrial power.
Other nations expected Germany to follow an
aggressive foreign policy.
Bismarck aimed to reassure leaders of
Europe that he was a man of peace.
Rule: authoritarian, militaristic.
Kaiser: chose the Chancellor.
What was the position of the
German Empire in 1871?
The unification had led to rapid industrial
There was a growing pressure for overseas
WHY ARE COLONIES IMPORTANT ?
New markets to sell products to
To compensate for wounded national pride – France
Relations with France
France was a key enemy ever since the 1871 Franco-Prussian
War. France lost Alsace-Lorraine and had to pay Germany
equivalent of £200 million in reparations.
Bismarck did not fear France alone, but feared
an alliance of another major power with France
would leave Germany vulnerable to attack.
Fear of a war on two fronts.
AIM: To deprive France of allies.
Austria-Hungary and Russia would be logical
allies, but they opposed one another and this
made the situation complex for Bismarck.
Rivalry in the Balkans
Russia: wanted influence in the Balkans to have
access to the Mediterranean. They wanted the
Turkish Empire to break up.
Austria-Hungary: wanted the Turkish Empire to
remain strong. They feared NATIONALISM would
spread into Austria-Hungary and cause the break
up of Austria-Hungary.
BISMARCK: WISHED TO MAINTAIN
RELATIONS WITH BOTH EMPIRES. WHAT DID
Three emperors. Franz Joseph (Austria-
Hungary, Tsar Alex II of Russia and William
I of Germany.
General agreement of solidarity against
What is the
meaning of this
The Balkans Crisis 1875-1878
Serbians revolted against Turkish rule.
Russia moved to help Serbia and this led to war
between Russia and Turkey in 1877.
Austria-Hungary and Britain demanded a Congress
of Powers and this led to the CONGRESS OF
BERLIN in 1878.
The fate of Turkey was a matter of concern to all
Russian domination was checked without war.
Some states gained independence from Turkey.
Bismarck and Austria-Hungary
Bismarck backed up Austria-Hungary over Russia
(why?) and this ended the Dreikaiserbund.
In 1879 the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary was
formed. (support one another in the event of an
attack from Russia).
Why? Bismarck wanted to avoid Austria-Hungary
forming an alliance with Britain and France.
“I wanted to dig a ditch between her and the
Renewal of Dreikaiserbund 1881
Bismarck hoped to rebuild relations with Russia.
June 1881 the League of the Three Emperors was
If one of the three powers was at war with a
fourth power then the other two would stay
Enabled Austria-Hungary to expand into Bosnia and
Herzegovina and Russia to infleunce Bulgaria and
The treaty meant Russia would not join France
Why? Dreikaiserbund 1881
It bound Austria-Hungary and Russia in an
Bismarck would now not have to choose which of
the two nations to support.
Try to be one of three, so long as the world is
governed by an unstable equilibrium of five great
The Triple Alliance
Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy.
Negotiations began in 1881 and the agreement
finalised in 1882.
Italy were a mutual enemy of
France, although not
a “great” power.
Bismarck runs into problems
Bismarck's alliances began to contradict one
1883 Austria-Hungary and Germany promise to
defend Romania if ever attacked BUT this clashes
with agreement with Russia. The “Triple Alliance”.
The Triple Alliance assumes a war with Russia, yet
the League of Three Emperors is based on Austria-
Hungary and Russia co-operation!
The Balkans (again!) 1885
Bulgaria did not want to be under Russian influence.
They wanted to form an alliance with Eastern
Britain and Austria-Hungary support Bulgaria.
Russia kidnap the Bulgarian prince! He is forced to
Bismarck is now forced to choose sides.
He backs up Austria-Hungary and the League of
Three Emperors ends (again!).
Mediterranean Agreements 1887
Italy, Britain and Austria-Hungary.
Mutual support against a fourth power.
The agreement was altered and the focus was
Bismarck: relief that the burden of opposing Russia
was now a shared concern.
The Reinsurance Treaty 1887
Bismarck still wished to win back Russian support
This Treaty had to be worded to fit around all of his
other agreements. This was a secret treaty.
Neutrality if either country was attacked by a third
BUT.....this agreement did not hold if Germany attacked
France or Russia attacked Austria-Hungary. (How does
this cause problems with the Dual Alliance?).
In 1888 published the terms of the Dual Alliance
Bismarck's Europe by 1890
Russia had not formed an agreement with France.
Period of peace.
In 1888 Kaiser William II became ruler of
Bismarck resigned in 1890 due to clashes with the
Bismarck was credited with keeping peace in Europe
for two decades.
• Bismarck’s successful domestic policies allow
Germany the stability to pursue a robust foreign
• He prefers diplomacy to war but not afraid to
wage war when necessary – Denmark, Austria
and France - “blood and iron” speech.
• Creates fear but also the respect of the other
• He gives Germans in the newly unified
Germany a sense of pride, identity and raises
their expectations re their destiny in Europe
and in the world.
He helped create a country that was modern and
powerful but ruled by people with the mind-set
of the 19th
Prussia and the military hold too much power.
The Reichstag (German parliament) weak despite
universal suffrage for all German men.
It could not control the Chancellor or the army.
When the tensions between the Great Powers
escalate in the early 20th
Century Germany and
Europe lack a skilled statesman like Bismarck .
The Iron Chancellor embodied and manifested the greatness of
His image hung in every schoolroom and over many a hearth.
Germany had to have a genius-statesman as its ruler but this was
impossible – he was “one of a kind” – yet has consequences in
seeking this in Wilhelm II and later Adolf Hitler.
The First World War destroyed much of Bismarck’s Germany and
defeat ended the monarchies in all the many German states.