Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The 19th Century Roots of the Great War,
Part I

1. Napoleon Bonaparte Defeated at Waterloo 18 June 1815

Facts: The murderous ardor released with the French Revolution seemed spent with Bonaparte's final defeat. The concurrent Congress of Vienna gave the traditional powers, the "old order," a chance to reestablish authority and a balance of power.

Importance: Over the next 99 years the forces of urbanization, science, economic growth, and modernism undermined that "old order."

2. Revolutions Terrify the European Ruling Class,  1848–1849

Facts: Revolutionary fervor reappeared in 1848. The old order restored its primacy, but many concessions had to be made: a Third Republic est. in France; nationalities legitimized; some freedoms granted.

Importance: Rulers more closely monitored their publics; "professional" revolutionaries emerged; middle classes were encouraged as a bulwark against disorder.

European Officer/Observers 
Meeting with General Stoneman of the Union Army

3. American Civil War Shows the Potential of Industrialized War, 1861–1865

Facts: Arguably the first "total war," the U.S. Civil War drew observers from all
the major powers. Reports were compiled on the battlefield efficacy of rifled artillery, armored ships, observation balloons, telegraph, and other technologies.

Importance: The use of railroads to move troops and provide logistical support was especially influential on Europeans.

4. Franco-Prussian War Gives Birth to a German Empire and the Lasting Enmity of France,  1870–1871

Facts: Provoked by Bismarck, the war resulted in the rout of France, the taking of Alsace-Lorraine, and the birth of the German Empire.

Importance: A triumph for Prussian militarism, the war shifted Europe's balance
of power and led to lasting enmity between France and Germany. Bismarck became Europe's "Honest Broker."

See Part II

Sources: Over the Top Magazine,  May 2008 and January 2014

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