Chapter 18a – alliances, war, and a troubled peace

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AP European History Chapter 18a Summary



This chapter discusses Europe’s alliance system in the late nineteenth century, the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the uneasy peace that returned to Europe in 1918. While Europeans built empires overseas (see Chapter 25), at home they created new systems of alliance. Bismarck wished to stabilize the new international situation that had arisen from the establishment of the German Empire in 1871 and avoid war. Bismarck declared Germany a satisfied power and he meant it. Between 1871 and 1890, he dominated Europe’s diplomacy, successfully weaving a web of alliances to protect Germany and to isolate France—ever anxious to avenge the Franco-Prussian War. Bismarck managed to maintain a defensive alliance with Austria and a neutral agreement with Russia.

Bismarck made Germany a force for European peace. His successor at the helm of German foreign policy, however, undid his work. Emperor William II preferred the glories of colonial and naval expansion to Bismarck’s limited continental policy. The chapter goes on to explain William II’s diplomatic maneuvering that resulted in close relations among England, France, and Russia. This Triple Entente was now ranged against the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria, and Italy. Given Italian unreliability, Germany really had only one ally. The country was faced with the nightmare of a two-front war, against both France and Russia.

The exceedingly complex and tense Balkan situation (which is related in detail) provided the spark for war. On June 28, 1914, a Slavic nationalist under Austrian rule assassinated the heir to the imperial throne. His action brought on the last Balkan crisis, which resulted in the mobilization of European armies and led to world war. The text continues to recount the strategies and events of World War I, giving special emphasis to the impact of new military technology and to developments on the home front.

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