The Great Powers in 1815:
France: defeated but still regarded as a front rank military power.
Britain: the dominant industrial, economic and naval power.
Russia: economically backward, but a great power by virtue of the sheer size of her armies.
1814-15 conference to determine the nature of post-Napoleonic Europe.
Key territorial and political issues:
- Containment of French Power
- Russia desired an independent Poland. Congress decided for a partition.
- What system for managing the relations and conflicts of Europe's great powers would be put in place?
1818: Aix-la-Chapelle conference restored France's great power status. 5 great powers now sought to maintain international peace and stability through conference diplomacy.
Principles of the Concert System:
- Powers should work together to maintain post-1815 status quo
- Respect for treaties
- Willingness to enforce decisions of the majority by group action.
1820/22: France and Austria suppressed revolts in Spain, Naples and Piedmont.
1821/29: Greek Revolution or War of Independence.
Russian-Turkish war initially averted by British-Austrian-led conference diplomacy and Russian restraint.
Revolutions across Europe, powers agree to the establishment of an independent Belgium with implications for Britain and Prussia (Germany) in 1914.
Metternich was committed to a conservative order where intervention in the domestic affairs of other states was justified to defend monarchy and oppose liberalism and nationalism.
Created a pressure cooker of tensions across Europe.
A wave of lieral, nationalist revolutions swept across Europe.
Divisions between middle and working class reformers allowed a revival of conservative elites.
Russian, Austria and Prussian monarchies combine to crush the revolutions between 1848-51
The concerts effectiveness diminished in the second half of the 1800s. The fall of Metternich as the European revolutions of 1848 marked a failure to contain nationalism and liberalism.
- The Eastern Question, the 'Sick man of Europe'
- The Crimean War.
- The Unification of Italy.
- The Unification of Germany.
What would happen to the balance of power if the Ottoman Empire collapsed?
Potential for Great Power conflict caused by the decline of Ottoman power in the face of European (especially Russian encroachment).
1853-56: Crimean war, Britain and France joined forces in a war to prevent the growth of Russian influence in the Balkans.
1878: Congress of Berlin to determine the future of the Balkans.
Only multilateral Great Power conflict between 1815 and 1914.
Brought about by the breakdown of the Concert System.
500,000 to 750,000 dead.
French army the only one to perform relatively well. Russian army beset by equipment failures.
Ends in financial exhaustion without decisive victory.
Russian expansionist ambitions were checked for the next 20 years.
Italian nationalist movement - the Risorgimento.
1859: France and Piedmont evicted Austria from Lombardy.
Garibaldi's 1860 victories in the south established a new Kingdom of Italy.
1866: Italy seized Venetia.
1870: Rome incorporated.
"Since the treaties of Vienna, our frontiers have been ill-designed for a healthy body politic. Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided - but by iron and blood" (Bismarck, 1862).
1866: North Germany Confederation.
1870-71: Franco-Prussian war led to Prussia's Wilhelm I becoming the first German Emperor (Kaiser).
“That noble, patient, deep, pious and solid Germany should be at length wielded into a nation and become Queen of the Continent instead of vapouring, vainglorious, gesticulating, quarrelsome and over-sensitive France, seems to me the hope fullest public fact...
“This war represents the German Revolution, a greater political event than the French Revolution of the last century. Not a single principle in the management of our foreign affairs any longer exists...
- Prioritised a European balance that ensured German security.
- Little interest in colonial expansion.
- Fear of Franco-Russian alliance against Germany and a two front war.
- Bismarck was ousted by Wilhelm II in 1890 as the new Kaiser looked to pursue a more ambitious, global foreign policy (Weltpolitik)
Demographic: German population rose from 49.2m in 1890 to 66.9m in 1902 (French population went from 38.3m to 39m in the same period).
Military: the German army was 2,398,000 strong by 1914 and it's general staff was viewed as a model for other nations.
Sense of injustice: Britain and France owned huge colonial empires while Germany left with relatively insignificant territories in Africa, the Pacific and China.
Economic Imperative: access to colonial resources and markets.
1898: Germany's seizure of Kiaochow sparked the 'scramble for China.'
1898: Kaiser makes a high profile visit to the Middle East.
1911: Second Morocco Crisis (Agadir) further intensified Anglo-French suspicions about German ambitions.
1896: Kruger Telegram, German bid to support anti-British elements in South Africa.
1898: Kaiser's visit to Damascus & the Berlin to Baghdad Railway project.
1908: Daily Telegraph Affair - ill-advised anti-British interview by Kaiser Wilhelm II.
In 1898, German began a major programme of naval expansion. Britain now began to see Germany as a strategic threat and a potential enemy. Britain and Germany embarked upon a naval-arms race.
1894, the Spencer Programme aimed to match foreign naval growth at a cost of over £31 million.
Both failed as deterrents to naval expansion.
By 1890 this had changed to 190,000 & 679,000 respectively.
On the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 the two navies weighed in at 1,305,000 & 2,714,000 tonnes respectively.
1882: Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy formed the Triple Alliance.
1890: with Bismarck no longer in office, Germany allowed it's treaty with Russia to lapse.
1894: Franco-Russian alliance.
1904: Anglo-French Entente.
1907: Anglo-Russian Entente.
The old Concert of Europe had been replaced by a destabalising system of competing alliance Blocs.