International relations, 1871-1918

International relations, 1871-1918

The Creation and Collapse of the Bismarckian System

  • Otto von Bismarck, German chancellor, creates a system of alliances to isolate the French and maintain peace amongst major powers.
  • The Three Emperors’ League (1873) - Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary agreed to consult each other on matters affecting the Eastern Question.
  • The Dual Alliance (1879) between Germany and Austria-Hungary, promising mutual support if Russia attacked.
  • The Triple Alliance (1882) brought Italy into the Dual Alliance to counterbalance the strong French influence in Italy.
  • The Reinsurance Treaty (1887) between Germany and Russia ensured neutrality in the event of an attack. Bismarck keen to prevent a Franco-Russian alliance.
  • The collapse of this system of alliances was largely due to Bismarck’s dismissal by Wilhelm II in 1890 and refusal to renew the Reinsurance Treaty.

The New Alliances and the Arms Race

  • Franco-Russian Alliance (1894) forms due to the isolation of both countries after the collapse of the Bismarckian system.
  • Entente Cordiale (1904) - Agreement between Britain and France, solidifying relations after long-standing colonial disputes.
  • Anglo-Russian Entente (1907) completing the Triple Entente with Britain, France and Russia.
  • Intense naval arms race between Britain and Germany, with Germany seeking a navy “second-to-none” while Britain maintained its policy of ‘splendid isolation’.

Crises in Europe Pre-WW1

  • First Moroccan Crisis (1906) - Germany challenges France’s influence in Morocco, testing the strength of the Entente Cordiale.
  • Bosnian Crisis (1908-1909) - Austria-Hungary’s annexation of Bosnia increases tensions with Serbia and Russia.
  • Second Moroccan (Agadir) Crisis (1911) - Further escalations in Morocco lead to German and French brinkmanship.
  • Balkan Wars (1912-1913) - Nationalistic wars increase instability in the Balkans, and escalating tension among Austria-Hungary, Serbia and Russia over influence in the area.
  • Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1914) in Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist ignites a chain reaction leading to World War I.

Outbreak of WW1

  • In reaction to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Austria-Hungary delivers an ultimatum to Serbia; Serbia’s response is viewed as inadequate.
  • Mobilisations and declarations of war follow a complex web of alliances: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, triggering Russian mobilisation, German declaration of war on Russia and France, and Britain’s declaration of war on Germany.

World War I (1914-1918)

  • Characterised by trench warfare, particularly on the Western Front between Germany and the Allies.
  • USA enters the war in 1917 after unrestricted German U-boat warfare.
  • The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (1918) ends Russia’s involvement in the war, due to the Bolshevik Revolution.
  • Armistice signed on 11th November 1918 after four years of brutal warfare.
  • Significant implications for the post-war world, particularly in relation to the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations.