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Discuss the importance of two of the following in European diplomacy between 1870 and 1914 Essay

The years between 1870 and 1914 were very important when it came to European diplomacy. During these years, tensions built up and due to the formation of alliances, beginning with the Three Emperors’ League, two allied blocs were formed, defining the ally system before the world war. In addition, there was a substantial change in the balance of power within Europe with the decline of the Ottoman Empire and its eventual fall in 1909 and the colonial and military desires of nations such as Germany. Both of these elements of European Diplomacy were important, as both aspects resulted in a buildup of tension before the eventual breakout of the First World War.

Alliance system:

-Germany was the primary power that manipulated the alliance system from 1870, as the German chancellor at the time, Otto van Bismarck, believed in a concept of alliances in “a world with five great powers.” This led to the formation of many alliances, which was of paramount importance as the alliances formed the initial bloc of allies as well as further tensed the situation and the rivalry between the main powers of Europe. -Began with the Three Emperors’ League (1873) – Dreikaiserbund. Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary.

It had vague terms, however it increased France’s isolation and this was important because the fear of isolation by several countries, including France, prompted a world war, as well as being the first major alliance in the period. -Dual Alliance (1879) – AH and Rus. conflicted over the Balkans and their previous alliance fell.

This was of importance, particularly to Germany, as this allowed them to make another alliance with AH in order for one to protect the other if Russia attacked. In addition they agreed to remain neutral if another country was involved. Secret treaty – instilled fear and suspicion. Led to Russia’s isolation and hence the Three Emperors’ Alliance. -The Three Emperors’ Alliance (1881) – Result of the dual alliance making Russia feel isolated.

Turned back to Germany and edited the Dreikaiserbund. This meant that if Rus. Ger. or Austria were at war with another power the others would remain neutral. Results: prevented a two sided war and this was important because it tried to resolve Austro-Russian Balkan disputes which lowered tensions. -The Triple Alliance (1882) – Other methods Germany attempted to form allies, this time including Italy – Germany, AH and Italy signed this.

If they were attacked by two or more powers, others promised to assist. This added Italy to Germany’s list of allies – this was important because Italy could prove a useful ally over France and made France feel further threatened and isolated. -The Reinsurance Treaty (1887) – brought about by the demise of the Three Emperors’ Alliance – fell apart due to Balkan issues. Thus Germany had to ensure friendliness with Russia – allowed Russia’s role in Germany money markets.

This was important because it strengthened Germany’s alliance system further with Russia however this meant the exclusion of Austria from Russia’s perspective – Germany was still tied to them through the dual alliance. -They were all important however the Dual Alliance was possibly one of the most important as it made other countries suspicious and increased tensions and strengthened ties between AH and Germany, who were eventual allies during war – Germany ended up providing AH with the ‘blank cheque’ which was a main trigger for WWI.

Changing balance of power:

-In addition to the treaties and alliances formed, another major change in European diplomacy was due to the changing balance of power. While Britain had the strongest navy, iron and steel production and income due to trade, Russia had the largest regular army in terms of people, yet Germany had been rapidly industrializing and stood as an industrial power.

This Europe of many powers meant that if the balance were to be tipped, if one nation gained more power, the results would be disastrous. -Britain’s naval fleet was powerful, while Russia had the greatest number of men in the army. -Britain held power in many areas – not only naval but in production of steel and iron and value of foreign trade. This held them at an advantage.

However they believed in Splendid Isolation – withdrawn foreign policy, which showed them as less of a threat to disrupt the balance of power. -AH were losing the support of their ethnic minorities and were therefore losing power. This was important because the minorities and the Slavs felt they must take advantage of this – Serbia was seen as a threat by AH. This increased tensions.

-Russia saw itself the protector of the Slavs, as the Balkans were of strategic importance – allowed access to the straits of Constantinople. This meant that Russia would support the Slavs if they were to attempt to tip the balance of power against AH. -Alliance blocks led to countries’ support of one another, so they were important, and hence the weakening of certain powers such as Germany in the Moroccan crisis. It was a German failure, a loss of support and a blow for German pride. This was important as Britain now lent its support to France against Germany. -In addition, the Balkan war caused a huge issue when it came to powers. All countries had motives when it came to protecting the Ottoman Empire as it meant that no other country could gain control of the Balkans.


-In conclusion, European diplomacy held great importance, as both these aspects were major factors when it came to later events – for example the buildup in tensions between the powers all trying to tip the balance in their favor, as well as the alliances proving it necessary for nations to be dragged into the war, such as with Germany’s offer to Austria-Hungary of a ‘blank cheque.’ Germany and Italy’s entering the race for colonization late as well as their attempts at this as well as the Ottoman Empire’s weakening power led to a third conflict over the Balkans, which in turn spread till it turned into a full-scale war.

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