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Europe 1871-1914

Important Terms, People, and Events

Context

Timeline

Terms

Balance of Power -   · The European geopolitical system based on the assumption that nations are inherently expansionist, which maintained peace by pitting various camps or alliances of equal power against each other, thereby minimizing one nation's ability to conquer and disrupt the peace. The system originated after the defeat of Napoleon, continued throughout the nineteenth century in Europe and succeeded at promoting peace. The balance of power collapsed in 1914 under the pressure of the arms race, a shift in the criteria of power, and the mistaken expectation of a short war rather than the World War that seized Europe.
Scramble for Africa -   · 1875-1912; the term used to describe Europe's rush to colonize and divide up the African continent in the latter part of the nineteenth century; this coincided with imperialism throughout Asia.
Three Emperors' League  -   · 1873; an alliance coordinated by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck between the three most conservative powers in Europe--Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. Each nation pledged to consult the others on matters of mutual interest and guaranteed that in case one went to war with a nation in western Europe, the other two would remain neutral. The league showed Bismarck's plan to eliminate the threat of a two-front war for Germany; also suggests the prevalence of the balance of power.
Labour Party -   · A British political party that first gained prominence in 1892 with the election if its first representative to the House of Commons; represented the interests of British workers and called for the beginnings of socialist platform, and generally advocated the welfare state, government intervention in the economy, protection to workers, a short work day, et cetera.
Congress of Berlin -   · 1878; the peace conference concluding the First Balkan Crisis, in which Russia supported the nationalist revolt of Bosnia-Herzegovina against the Ottoman Empire. Bosnia and Herzegovina were turned over to Austria-Hungary and Russia pledged to abandon its support of Serbia nationalism--all in the name of the balance of power.
Kulturkampf -   · Literally, "struggle for civilization"; the name given to Germany's campaign against Catholics and the influence of Catholics in government in the name of loyalty to the German state; included barring priests from government office, restricting religious education, and instituting civil marriage. Eventually the policy caused such concern from the general population that the Catholic Center party gained a substantial showing in the Reichstag, forcing the government to back down from its repression.
Triple Alliance -   · 1882; the alliance as it stood after Italy was asked to join; this maintained the balance of power in Europe in the face of the Triple Entente.
Triple Entente -   · 1907; informal alliance between France, Russia, and Great Britain; France and Russia had maintained an alliance since 1895. Great Britain joined in reaction to ominous developments on the Continent, especially the formation of the Triple Alliance.
Social Democratic Party -   · By 1914, the largest single party in the German Reichstag; represented the left of the political spectrum, held a Marxist political and economic philosophy, and adapted to cooperation within the democratic system. Socialist democrats advocated a state socialist system--welfare state, union power, unemployment insurance, worker protection, et cetera--within the government. Unlike the violent revolutionaries, this party supported a gradual development from capitalism to socialism by making changes beneficial to the worker within the capitalist government.
Afrikaners -   · The mostly Dutch descendant of whites who had settled in South Africa over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries before British imperialists came. Virulently racist, with strong notions of racial superiority, they came into conflict with the British when gold deposits were discovered in the Afrikaner province of Transvaal.
Treaty of Nanking -   · 1842; the first of the "unequal treaties" between China and the European powers that gave the west important inroads and economic dominance in China's port cities and trade. An utter humiliation to the Chinese, the treaty forced the Chinese to pay huge indemnities to the British and grant large spheres of influence to its conquerors.
Spheres of influence -   · Territories, ports, shipping lines, rivers, et cetera in which one nation held exclusive rights to profits and investment; granted to most European states by China after numerous military defeats throughout the second half of the nineteenth century.
Extraterritoriality -   · The policy that foreigners were exempt from Chinese law enforcement and that, though on Chinese land, they could only be judged and tried by officials of their own nation who generally looked the other way when profit was the goal; contributed to considerable indignation on the part of the Chinese.

People

James Kier Hardie -  The first representative of the Labour Party in the British House of Parliament, elected in 1892, and the first real working-man to sit full time in the Commons.
Otto von Bismarck -  Chancellor of the German Empire; a keen political operative who understood the geopolitics of modern Europe and worked to change the balance of power to Germany's favor; his main goal was to isolate his strongest enemy, i.e. France, from any other state on the Continent, thus his alliances with Austria-Hungary and Russia prior to 1895. A pragmatist above all else, he was known for his practice of realpolitik, or politics of self-interest.
Menelik II -  Emperor of Ethiopia and a skillful politician; realized that his country could only defeat the European imperialists by playing them off one another, therefore, he made small concessions to each in return for weapons. These weapons kept pouring in as numerous nations feared increased influence on the part of their enemy. When Italy did invade Ethiopia to take control on 1 March 1896, Menelik II used all the modern weaponry he had obtained to defeat the Europeans.
Cecil Rhodes -  British investor, politician, and imperial boss who envisioned a railroad connecting all British territory from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa. He was the major investor who, after the discovery of gold in Transvaal, brought the British in to mine the mineral, sparking conflict with the Afrikaner government. He orchestrated an overthrow of the government that failed and ruined his reputation.

Events

Boulanger Affair -  1889; the attempt by General Georges Boulanger to orchestrate his election to the presidency of France and establish a military dictatorship. He skillfully manipulated the press and photo opportunities to endear himself to the agrarian poor of France, while maintaining his base of support among conservatives. Still, the coup attempt failed when he did not receive enough votes.
First Balkan Crisis -  1874-1878; Bosnia and Herzegovina rebelled against Ottoman rule, leading to Serbia declaring war on the Ottoman Empire on 30 June 1876. Russia, based on its foreign policy of pan-Slavism, declared war on the Ottomans in due course. Britain, interested in maintaining the balance of power and protecting its Mediterranean holdings that depended upon the status quo, nominally supported the Turkish sultan. Sultan Hamid II of Turkey sought peace in January 1878.
Second Balkan Crisis -  1885; conflict between Bulgaria and Serbia over territory; Russia warned it was ready to occupy Bulgaria if it did not yield to Serbian claims, at which point Austria-Hungary stepped in to support Bulgaria; Germany supported Austria- Hungary and the Russians backed down; led to the breakdown of the Three Emperors' League because Russia felt betrayed by Germany.
Third Balkan Crisis -  1912-1913; Italy in conflict with the Ottoman Empire over holdings around the Adriatic Sea; Serbia takes advantage of weakened Ottoman Empire to attack Bulgarian lands for her own sea port; Russia supports Serbia and Austria-Hungary supports Bulgaria, while Britain and Germany urged peace; this crisis enraged Serbs against Austria-Hungary for its support of Bulgaria and its continued occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina
Dreyfus Affair -  1894; Alfred Dreyfus, an Alsatian Jew, was tried and convicted of treason for selling French military secrets to the Germans. The media went on extensive investigations to discover the truth and when conclusive evidence emerged to prove his innocence, the entire French nation became caught up in the issue. Conservatives generally supported his conviction in the name of national unity and anti-Semitism, while liberals and supporters of the government demanded his exoneration in the name of liberty and truth; he was eventually exonerated.
Berlin Conference -  1884; conference held to legitimize the Belgian King Leopold II's claim to control the Congo Basin. The conference granted him recognition and set out formal requirements for future international recognition: "effective occupation" designed for economic development would be required, meaning that no longer did plunging a flag into the ground mean it was occupied.
Boer War -  1899-1902; a conflict between the British and the Afrikaner population of South Africa caused by British interests in mining gold out of Afrikaner land. The war progressed rather poorly for the better-equipped, better-trained, and larger British army. Under inept leadership and harassed by effective Afrikaner guerrilla tactics, the British were forced fight the Boer War for three years. In 1902, the British accepted the conditional surrender of the Afrikaners in which the entire colony was united under British rule; however, the British promised the Afrikaners that no decision to include the black majority in government would be made before rule was returned to the Afrikaners.
Opium Wars -  1839-1842; conflict between China and Britain over Britain's illegal trading of opium in the Chinese market. The British blockaded Chinese ports, besieged Canton, and occupied Shanghai before the Chinese sought peace in the Treaty of Nanking.
Boxer Rebellion -  1900; with secret encouragement from the Chinese empress, the Boxers, dedicated to ending foreign exploitation in north China, killed scores of European and seized the large foreign legation in Beijing. Reacting immediately, an international expeditionary force of Japanese, Russian, British, American, German, French, Austrian and Italian troops sacked Beijing to protect the interests of their respective countries. Afterward, the European powers propped up a weak central government for their own economic benefit.

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