Attitudes Toward the War in Europe

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What were the geopolitical realities of Europe at the end of the 19th century? What alliances were the result? What destabilized the alliance system? Between 1870 and 1914, European states were locked in a competition within Europe for territorial dominance and control. In the years 1871 to 1914, European diplomacy involved an increasingly precarious balance of power. The politics of geography combined with rising nationalist movements in southern Europe and the Ottoman Empire to create an increasingly confrontationist mood among Europe’s great powers. The European balance of power, so carefully crafted by Bismarck, began to disintegrate with his departure from office in 1890. By 1914, a Europe divided into two camps was no longer the sure guarantee of peace that it had been generation earlier. By 1871, Europe consisted of five great powers, knows as the Big Five; Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, as well as a number of significant lesser powers, such as Italy. National boundaries appeared fixed, with no great power aspiring to territorial expansion at the expense of its neighbors. But the unification of Italy and Germany had legitimated nationalist aspirations of many European peoples and minorities. The two great unifications had also legitimized the militarism needed to achieve national self determination. The newly unified Germany, under Bismarck, led the way in forging new alliance system based on a realistic assessment of power politics within Europe. in 1873, he joined together the three most conservative members of the Big Five; Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, into the Three Emperors’ League. The key features of the Three Emperors’ League were consultation over mutual interests and friendly neutrality. One of Bismarck’s goals in forming this alliance was to banish his worst military and diplomatic nightmare, which was a two front war that was directed against Germany. The League would help do this by isolation France...
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