* war and social upheaval: Bismarkian Diplomacy and Wars

War and Social Upheaval: Bismarkian Diplomacy and Wars

Figure 1.--The future of Germany and Europe looked bright when the liberally minded son of Kaiser Wilhelm I who became Frederick III married the British Crown Princess Victoria. Bismarck from an early stage courted their son Wilhelm, incouraging him to reject their liberal views. When Frederick died only months after becoming kaiser, it looked like Bismarck had won. Only Wilhelm II who had ebthusiastiaclly adopted Bismarck's natiinalism, rejected his careful, cautious diplomacy and not only immediated moved to dismiss him, but declined to renew treaty arrangements with Russia. These actions would in many ways determine the history of the 20th century. Herev we see Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia with his wife, British Crown Princess Victoria, and their two older children, Prince William and Princess Charlotte. The portrait was painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in 1862.

Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the famed Iron Chancellor, and King Wilhelm I completed the work of nearly four centuries of Hohenzollern expansion. They were intent on unifying Germany for the first time since the Holy Romman Empire (the First Reich). There were only two countries that had the power to oppose this which could opppse this--Tsaeist Russia and Napoleon II's French Empire. (Britain before Germany started building a High Sea Fleet, saw Prussian as more of an ally than a threat. For centuries, it was France that was the threat.) Therefore he orcestrated a strategy to placate Russia and isolate France. Prussia had stayed out of the Crimean War which poisoned relations with France, Austria, and Britain. He helped engineer the Franco-Austrian War (1859). This meant that France would be unable to negotiate an alliance with Austria. Next came the Danish War (1864), eliminating a possible adversary to the north. He adroitly gave Austria a piece of the spoils to ensure there would be no interference. After the Napoleonic Wars, German unification was inevitable and only delayed by a struggle beteen Austria and Prussia over who would unify the country. Finally Bismarck and King Wilhelm believed the time was right to strike, especailly as a result of the Franco-Austrian War, French interference was unlikely. The Austro-Prussian War (1866) settled which royal house would unite Geramny. This left only an isolated France to oppose Prussia. All this was possible only because Bismarck kept Russia placated. Unfortunat Amazingly when Welhelm II became Kaiser (1888), his first two major actions were to dismiss Bismarck and allow the treaty relatiionship with Russia to lapse. These actions in many ways determine the history of the 20th century. The young man who Bismark groomed to replace King Wilhemn I's liberal son would reject his carefully calculated diplomacy. He plunged Germany and all of Europe into the disaterous Great War--the kind of conflict that as Bismarck understood, Germany with all its power was ill-equipped to win.


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Created: 2:37 PM 5/20/2020
Last updated: 2:37 PM 5/20/2020