War enthusiasm before and during the start of WW1?

One could also say it was Bismark's fault in the first place that turned Europe into the powder keg it was...[and he] gets all the credit for the system breaking down.

This is hilariously, ineptly wrong.

Bismarck was not the one who started concern with 'the balance of power' in Europe, which goes back to the 16th century, e.g. it was of great concern to Metternich after Napoleans adventurism.

Historically France has been the traditional the aggressor in Europe (at least probably since Charlemagne or the Normans), and during the 15th century William III had to lead a coalition of European powers to blunt Louis the XIVs ambitions (these included the invasion and large scale devastation of the Palatinate, annexation of Alsace and invasion of Lorraine, none of which were historically part of France).

Bismarch also was not the first Statesman to realize Germany has multiple borders in the center of Europe, most had good maps.

Virtually his entire foreign policy was simple

  • keep France isolated and remain on good terms with both Austria and Russia

thus securing Germanys southern and Eastern borders and guarding against the traditional regional aggressor, her enemy to the West. It was not a delicate balance. If he was afraid of angering the French, he tried to enlist the British and Russians and so on.

The specific problems with Austria were entirely about who was going to dominate a greater Germany, Vienna or Berlin. The French had historical ties, i.e. family with the Austrians, which is why their defeat at Sadowa was catastrophic to them. The French went into the Franco-Prussian war partly to revenge Sadowa, and then the first world war partly to revenge themselves again their defeat at Sedan.

Bismarck nearly left his post was because Wilhelm was antagonizing Russia which was against 40 years of his German foreign polity. Read about the Dreikaiserbund and the congress of Berlin.

As for 'secret treaties' his were hardly the first and far from the worst. In fact his last masterpiece was the reinsurance treaty to ensure if France and Germany went to war, Russia would remain Neutral (providing Germany was Neutral if Austria and Russia went to War). He famously publicized that 'secret' treaty to keep Austria in line, so that it knew if it provoked Russia it would be fighting alone, keeping the peace.

Sadly when he resigned the first thing Wilhelm II the refused to renew it, and this allowed the rapprochement between France and Russia (since the former was funding the latters industrialization) making a two front war a possibility.

Britains treaty with Belgium was a far more flimsy pretext, probably only to preserve their dominance in Europe (which was very doubtfully threatened), in case Germany prevailed over France too easily again and became a potential rival. Not likely since Bismarck wasn't very interested in colonialism for example.

In short Wilhelm II and that the Germans no longer pursued Bismarcks conservative and prudent polities (which helped them create an empire in the first place, and kept Europe peaceful for much of the 19th Century) might be to blame, but it is historically ignorant to suggest what he actively planned and acted to avoid, was caused directly by him, i.e. his fault. He would have been the first to be distraught at the state of Germanys foreign policy on the eve of World War I.

One of the things you might be able to say about him, Roon and Moltke is that maybe their successes made their successors complacent and overconfident of similar, without all their work.

Bismark's system of diplomacy ... was highly temporary and, further, only really workable under him. That's not smart diplomacy that's a bandaid on a bullet wound.

Just no... I don't know what history you have been reading, but you might try looking at others.

/r/history Thread