Ap european History Unit 8 – Age of Realpolitik, Mass Politics, La Belle Êpoque



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  • AP European History

  • Unit 8 – Age of Realpolitik, Mass Politics, La Belle Êpoque and the Age of Progress and The “New” Imperialism

  • Age of Realpolitik

  • refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic or ethical premises.

  • Failure of the Revolutions of 1848

  • Germany

  • Nationalists and liberals of the Frankfurt Parliament failed to get the support of Prussian king Frederick William IV for a unified Germany

  • Frederick William refused to “accept the crown from the gutter” and instead claimed “divine right”

  • Humiliation of Olmutz”: Frederick William IV proposed a plan for German unity.

  • Austria would accept a plan for German unity only if Prussia accepted the leadership of the German Bund (which Austria dominated)

  • Prussia could not accept its loss of sovereignty and stepped back

  • Italy

  • Austrian forces were driven out of northern Italy while French forces were removed from southern Italy and Sicily.

  • Mazzini (with the protection of Garibaldi) established the Roman Republic in 1849

  • Failure of Italian revolutionaries to work together effectively resulted in Austria and France forcefully taking back control over Italy.

  • Austrian (Hapsburg) Empire

  • Hungarian forces led by Louis Kossuth went to war against Austria and penetrated to the very gates of Vienna.

  • The Austrian army, with the help of ethnic minorities in the empire, defeated the Hungarians and preserved the empire.

  • France

  • The February Revolution resulted in the overthrow of King Louis Philippe and established the Second French Republic led by Alphonse Lamartine

  • The “June Days” Revolution pitted the bourgeoisie against the working class and conservatives (supported by the army) restored order.

  • Louis Napoleon (a conservative) was elected president overwhelmingly

  • Emergence of “Realpolitik” after 1848

  • Failure of the Revolutions of 1848 for liberals and romantics demonstrated that strong idealism was not enough to accomplish revolutionary goals.

  • The “age of Realism” replaced Romanticism as the dominant philosophy after 1850.

  • A political outgrowth of realism was the notion of realpolitik: the accomplishing of one’s political goals via practical means (rather than having idealism drive political decisions)

  • A new political era emerged where nationalist goals were achieved step-by-step in Machiavellian fashion (e.g. German unification, Italian unification, and Hungarian autonomy)

  • In France, emperor Napoleon III (Louis Napoleon) would have to cater to liberals in order to maintain effective control.

  • Crimean War (1853-56)

  • Failure of the Concert of Europe

  • Its credibility was undermined by failure of the Great Powers to cooperate during revolutions of 1848-49.

  • Between 1848 and 1878, peace in Europe was interrupted by the Crimean War and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.

  • Causes of the Crimean War

  • Major cause: dispute between two groups of Christians over privileges in the Holy Land (Palestine)

  • 1852, Turks (who controlled Palestine) agreed to Napoleon III’s demands to provide enclaves in the Holy Land for the protection of Roman Catholic religious orders.

  • This agreement seemed to jeopardize existing agreements which provided access to Greek Orthodox religious orders (that Russia favored)

  • Czar Nicholas I ordered Russian troops to occupy several Turkish-controlled provinces on the Danube River.

  • Russia would withdraw once Turks had guaranteed rights for Orthodox Christians

  • Turks declared war on Russia in 1853, when Nicholas refused to withdraw from Danubian provinces

  • 1854, Britain & France declared war against Russia

  • To some this was a major surprise as the Turks were not Christians, yet were supported by Britain and France who were Christian countries.

  • Four Points” included the following provisions:

  • Russia had to renounce claims to the occupied principalities on the Danube

  • Navigation in the mouth of the Danube River (on the Black Sea) was internationalized.

  • Russia had to renounce its special role of Greek Orthodox Christians within the Ottoman Empire

  • 1855, Piedmont joined in the war against Russia

  • Austria agreed to the “Four Points” and gave Russia an ultimatum to comply or Austria would join the war

  • The new czar, Alexander II, agreed to accept the Four Points and end the war

  • Unlike Czar Nicholas who had died in 1855, Alexander was opposed to continuing the war.

  • Fighting the war

  • Most of the war was fought on the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea

  • Over 50,000 British and French troops fought in the Crimea against Russian forces, seeking to take the Black Sea port city of Sebastopol

  • Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)

  • British nurse who became a pioneer in modern nursing

  • During the Crimean War more men died of disease rather than by combat wounds.

  • Nightingale’s “Light Brigade” superbly tended to wounded men during the war, although fatalities due to disease remained high.

  • Peace of Paris: Russia emerged as the big loser in the conflict

  • Russia no longer had control of maritime trade on the Danube, had to recognize Turkish control of the mouth of the Danube, and renounced claims to Moldavia and Wallachia (which later became Romania)

  • Russia renounced the role of protector of the Greek Orthodox residents of the Ottoman Empire.

  • Russia agreed to return all occupied territories to the Ottoman Empire.

  • The Black Sea was made neutral

  • Independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire was recognized and guaranteed.

  • Aftermath of the war

  • Russia was shocked that it had fallen so far behind in military power

  • Russia began its move toward industrialization and modernization of its army.

  • France

  • Second French Republic (1848-1852)

  • Constitution: unicameral legislature (National Assembly); strong executive power; popularly-elected president of the Republic

  • Universal male suffrage

  • President Louis Napoleon: seen by voters as a symbol of stability and greatness

  • Dedicated to law and order, opposed to socialism and radicalism, and favored the conservative classes—the Church, army, property-owners, and business.

  • Had lived much of his life outside France and thus had little political baggage to rally opponents

  • Voters perhaps swayed by the Napoleonic legend of greatness and stability and desired to have another Bonaparte in control

  • In return for support of conservatives, Louis Napoleon had to make concessions

  • Falloux Laws: Louis Napoleon returned control of education to the Church (in return for its support)

  • Minimized influence of the Legislative Assembly

  • Supported policies favorable to the army

  • Disenfranchised many poor people from voting

  • Destroyed the democratic-socialist movement by jailing or exile its leaders and closing down labor unions.

  • The Legislative Assembly did not grant Louis Napoleon either payment of his large personal debt or allowance for a 2nd presidential term.

  • In response, Louis Napoleon plotted a coup to become emperor

  • The Second Empire (or Liberal Empire)

  • Emperor Napoleon III: took control of gov’t in coup d’etat (December 1851) and became emperor the following year

  • Restored universal suffrage in 1852 and 92% of the people voted to make him president for 10 years

  • France was the only country in Europe at that time to provide universal suffrage

  • 1853, 97% of voters agreed to make him hereditary emperor

  • 1851-1859: Napoleon III’s control was direct and authoritarian.



  • Strengthened centralized power

  • An imperial aristocracy emerged consisting of wealthy businessmen

  • Censorship of the press

  • The gov’t sponsored “official” candidates in elections


  • 1859-1870: Napoleon III set out to build the “liberal empire” by initiating a series of reforms.

  • Napoleon III’s rule provided a model for other political leaders in Europe.

  • Demonstrated how gov’t could reconcile popular and conservative forces through authoritarian nationalism.

  • Economic reforms resulted in a healthy economy

  • Infrastructure: railroads, canals, roads; Baron Georges von Haussmann redeveloped Paris

  • Movement towards free trade

  • French exports doubled between 1853 and 1864.

  • Signed a liberal trade treaty with Britain in 1860.

  • Perhaps the first time that any modern state had played such a direct role in stimulating the economy.

  • Banking: Crédit Mobilier funded industrial and infrastructure growth

  • France’s metallurgical industry rivaled Britain’s

  • French investors financed large infrastructure projects in Russia, Spain and Italy.

  • Suez Canal in Egypt was completed in 1869

  • Political reforms

  • Extended power of the Legislative Assembly

  • Members elected by universal suffrage every 6 years

  • Opposition candidates had greater freedom

  • Returned control of secondary education to the government (instead of the Catholic Church)

  • In response, Pope Pius IX issued Syllabus of Errors (1864), condemning liberalism.

  • Permitted trade unions and their right to strike (1864)

  • Foreign policy struggles resulted in strong criticism of Napoleon III and demonstrated his weakness as ruler

  • Sent French troops to Italy to rescue and restore Pope Pius IX (troops remained between 1849-70)

  • Act condemned by republicans (though supported by conservatives and moderates)

  • French involvement in the Crimean War angered republicans and liberals (although much of Europe saw Napoleon III as the victor in the war).

  • Issue of colonialism in Algeria and other colonies in Africa, Indochina and Mexico became a contentious political issue with anti-imperialists

  • Napoleon’s liberal reforms were done in part to divert attention from unsuccessful foreign policy

  • Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and capture of Napoleon III resulted in the collapse of the 2nd French Empire

  • Italian Unification

  • After collapse of revolutions of 1848-49, unification movement in Italy shifted to Sardinia-Piedmont under King Victor Emmanuel, Count Cavour and Garibaldi

  • Replaced earlier leaders Mazzini, the once-liberal Pope Pius IX, and Gioberti.

  • Realpolitik instead of romanticism for unification: Machiavellian approach—practical politics

  • Count Camillo Benso di Cavour (1810-1861) of Sardinia-Piedmont led the struggle for Italian unification

  • Served as King Victor Emmanuel’s prime minister between 1852 and 1861

  • Essentially a moderate nationalist and aristocratic liberal

  • Replaced the earlier failed unification revolutionaries such as Mazzini and the Young Italy Movement.

  • Did not employ romantic illusions of a unified Italy (such as those of Mazzini) but rather carried out realpolitik

  • Editor of Il Risorgimento, a newspaper arguing Sardinia should be the foundation of a new unified Italy.

  • Guided Sardinia-Piedmont into a liberal and economically viable state

  • Modeled on French constitution of 1830: some civil liberties, parliamentary gov't with elections and parliamentary control of taxes.

  • Reformed the judicial system

  • Built up infrastructure (roads, canals, ports)

  • The Law on Convents and Siccardi Law sought to reduce the influence of the Catholic Church.

  • In response, Pope Pius IX issued his Syllabus of Errors (1864) warning Catholics against liberalism, rationalism, socialism, separation of church and state, and religious liberty.

  • Also a response to France’s secularization of education during the same period

  • Cavour sought unity for the northern and central areas of Italy

  • 1855, joined Britain and France in the Crimean War against Russia (as a result, gained France as an ally)

  • Plombiérès (1859)

  • Cavour gained a promise from Napoleon III that France would support a Sardinian war with Austria for the creation of a northern Italian kingdom (controlled by Sardinia)

  • Sardinia would annex a number of Italian states such as Venice, Lombardy, Parma, Modena and part of the Papal States

  • In return, France would get Savoy and Nice

  • Austria declared war on Sardinia in 1859 after being provoked

  • Unification

  • Sardinia-Piedmont gained Lombardy (but not Venetia) as a result of its 1859 war with Austria

  • France briefly came to Sardinia’s aid in 1859

  • Yet, France soon backed away from Plombiérès agreement: fear of war with Prussia, Austria’s strength in military power, revolutionary unrest in northern Italy, and French public's concern over a war with Catholic Austria.

  • 1860, Cavour arranged the annexation of Parma, Modena, Romagna, and Tuscany into Sardinia

  • France supported Cavour in return for receiving the territories of Nice and Savoy

  • Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) liberated southern Italy and Sicily.

  • Garibaldi exemplified the romantic nationalism of Mazzini and earlier Young Italy revolutionaries.

  • May 1860, Garibaldi and his thousand Red Shirts landed in Sicily and extended the nationalist activity to the south

  • By September, Garibaldi took control of Naples and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies

  • Although Cavour distrusted Garibaldi, Victor Emmanuel II encouraged Garibaldi’s exploits in the south of Italy

  • Cavour insisted that Sardinia be the foundation of the Italian nation.

  • Garibaldi thus allowed his conquests to be absorbed into Sardinia-Piedmont

  • February 1861, Victor Emmanuel declared King of Italy and presided over an Italian Parliament which represented all of Italy except for Rome and Venice.

  • 1866, Venice was incorporated into Italian Kingdom as a result of an alliance with German chancellor Bismarck

  • Sardinia had agreed to open up a front against Austria during the Austro-Prussian War (1866) in return for its annexation of Venice.

  • 1871, Rome captured by Italian troops and became capital of Kingdom of Italy

  • France had just been defeated by Germany in the Franco-Prussian war and could no longer defend the Papal States

  • Though politically unified, a great social and cultural gap separated the progressive, industrializing north from the stagnant, agrarian south

  • German Unification under the Hohenzollerns

  • After 1815 Prussia emerged as an alternative to a Habsburg-based Germany

  • 1849, Austria had blocked the attempt of Frederick William IV of Prussia to unify Germany “from above”

  • This was known as the “Humiliation of Olmutz”

  • Age of Realpolitik

  • Thus, the "grossdeutsch plan" failed: plan for unified Germany including Prussia and Austria.

  • Zollverein (German customs union), 1734: biggest source of tension between Prussia and Austria.

  • Excluded Austria; Austria thus tried unsuccessfully to destroy it

  • "Kleindeutsch plan": a unified Germany without Austria was seen as the most practicable means of unification among various German states, particularly Prussia.

  • Otto von Bismarck (1810-1898) led the drive for a Prussian-based Hohenzollern Germany

  • Army Bill Crisis created stalemate between king & legislature over reforms of the army.

  • Bismarck insisted Prussian constitution contained a “gap”: did not mention what was to be done if a stalemate developed.

  • Since the king had granted the constitution, Bismarck insisted he ignore liberals (middle class) in the legislature and follow his own judgment.

  • The great questions of the day will not be decided by speeches and resolutions—that was the blunder of 1848 and 1849—but by blood and iron.”

  • Gov’t continued to collect taxes even though the parliament refused to approve the budget.

  • Voters countered by sending liberal majorities to the parliament between 1862-1866.

  • Oversaw a number of reforms that improved the Prussian military

  • Prussian-Danish War, 1863

  • Germany & Austria defeated Denmark and took control of the provinces of Schleswig and Holstein

  • The provinces were jointly administered by Prussia and Austria but conflicts over jurisdiction would lead to a major war between Prussia and Austria

  • Austro-Prussian War (7 Weeks’ War) or (German Civil War), 1866

  • Bismarck sought a localized war

  • Made diplomatic preparations for war with Austria by negotiating with France, Italy, and Russia for noninterference

  • Prussia’s use of railroads to mass troops and use of the breech-loading rifle proved superior to Austria’s military efforts.

  • Prussia’s victory unified much of Germany without Austria.

  • The “kleindeutsch plan” prevailed

  • Austria was given generous peace terms

  • Italy received Venice from Austria

  • 1867, the North German Confederation established by Bismarck with King William I as president.

  • Included all the German states except Baden, Wurttemberg, Bavaria, and Saxony

  • The federal constitution allowed each state to retain its own local government

  • The parliament (Reichstag) consisted of two houses that shared power equally.

  • The upper house (bundesrat) included representatives from each state

  • The lower house (bundestag) had representatives elected by universal male suffrage

  • The new gov’t structure gave Bismarck the ability to circumvent the middle-class by appealing directly to the working classes (as Napoleon III had done in France)

  • Thus, the German middle class did not regain its influence until World War I

  • Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871)

  • Ems Dispatch

  • Bismarck sought to provoke a war with France in order to further unify Germany and annex Alsace and Lorraine

  • Thus, Bismarck boasted that a French diplomat had been kicked out of Germany after asking William I not to interfere with the succession to the Spanish throne.

  • The alleged snub was exaggerated by Bismarck intentionally in order to provoke France.

  • An infuriated France declared war against Germany

  • Bismarck used the war with France to bring 4 remaining southern German states into the North German Confederation

  • Bavaria, Baden, Wurttemberg, and Saxony

  • The apparent ease with which Prussia defeated France sent shockwaves throughout Europe.

  • Paris fell to the Germans in January, 1871: Napoleon III was captured

  • The battles of Sedan and Metz were particularly decisive in Prussia’s victory.

  • Treaty of Frankfurt (May, 1871): Alsace and Lorraine ceded to Germany

  • The German Empire was proclaimed on January 18, 1871 (Germany now the most powerful nation in Europe)

  • William I became Emperor of Germany (Kaiser Wilhelm)

  • Bismarck became the Imperial Chancellor.

  • Bavaria, Baden, Wurttemberg, and Saxony were incorporated into the German Empire

  • The German Empire’s government was essentially the same federal structure established in 1866.

  • In reality, the Reichstag had little power as the German Empire became a conservative autocracy with the nobility allied with the monarch.

  • The Austro-Hungarian Empire

  • After the Austro-Prussian War the Austrian gov’t had to address national aspirations of its ethnic groups:

  • The Hungarians and Czechs continued to demand self-determination, or at the very least, for a semi-autonomous state.
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