The Struggle for Mastery in Europe

Suggested by Kung Fu Zu • This book deals with the diplomatic history of Europe from 1848 — when Europe and European powers held primacy in world affairs — through 1918, by which time Europe had receded into secondary or tertiary importance in world politics.
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24 Responses to The Struggle for Mastery in Europe

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    The revolutions of 1848 effectively brought about the end of the Continental System which had been maintained by Metternich since 1822.

    Taylor takes the reader through the incredibly complicated diplomacy resulting from the mass ardor for liberal politics and growing nationalistic fervor, both unleashed by the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.

    These new political realities combined with geopolitics and colonialism made for a (mostly) nerve-wracking period in European diplomatic history.

    The book is not for the average reader, rather it is for the serious student of history, especially the student who wishes to understand how WWI was years in the making and with it, the demise of European supremacy in the world. (Imperial Russia and its follow-on the Soviet Union were as much Asian as European and the United States of America was totally removed from European geopolitical concerns.)

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      “The revolutions of 1848 effectively brought about the end of the Continental System which had been maintained by Metternich since 1822.”

      The strength of that system continued to keep Europe at nominal peace until 1914. I think it could be argued that at least until the revolution of 1905 Europe had an opportunity for a continued balance of power. The 1905 revolution in Russia unmasked the weakness of imperial power, not only in Russia but Germany, Austria, and the UK.

      Had Germany been willing to initiate a war in 1905 the results might well have been another German victory similar to the 1871 Franco-Prussian war. An ascendant Germany and a complacent France would be balanced with an alarmed UK could have achieved a balance of power without Imperial Russia in the mix. The entire tragedy of the Great War parts 1 and 2 could have been avoided.

      Not to say that Europe would be the better for it, but millions of people might not have suffered and died for the socialist/communist utopia they have today.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        An interesting theory. So your contention is that the diplomatic and military aspect of the Metternich system more or less remained in place even as the governments liberalized internally. Well, one can note that Bismarck operated on a limited war basis, that the Russian effort to massively reorganize the Balkans was reduced to much more modest results by the Congress of Berlin, and that another congress managed to allocate African colonies to the powers with a good bit of success. I think you have a very good case.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        One could make the case that the coalition between the Russian Tsar, Austrian Emperor and Prussian King (later Emperor of Germany) went a long way to keeping what peace was achieved.

        I think this was a coalition which was based on an aversion to liberal politics as emerging in Western Europe. Unfortunately, that unifying principle was not enough to maintain the coalition as time went on. Relations between the Russians and Austrians gradually worsened due to problems in the South Balkans, but also because of geopolitical realities in and around Romania and Bulgaria and the Black Sea.

        The relations between Prussia/Germany and the Russian Empire were on a firmer basis as Germany, under Bismarck, had no imperial designs and was a buffer between Russia and Western Europe. More importantly, both Russia and Germany had a very strong common goal of keeping Poland from emerging again as a nation-state. As long as this state of affairs remained stable, Russia and Germany would never go to war with each other.

        Apparently, what upset this balance was Germany’s push into the Ottoman Empire. Given Russia’s dependence on the Straits, Germany became a direct threat to Russia’s economic well being. I believe something like 40% or 60% of all Russian exports were shipped out of the Black Sea through the Bosporus and Dardanelles. That percentage was higher for products from the Southern part of the Empire, especially grain from the Ukraine.

        We would do well to remember this fact today. Russia will never give up Black Sea ports, including those in the Crimea, without a fight. They depend on these ports for not only military reasons, but reasons of economy.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Let’s see. Aside from the Crimea (which has no direct links to the rest of Russia, but does have 2 good ports in Sevastopol and Kerch), they have Rostov, Novorossiysk, Tuapse, and possibly (by way of Georgian rebels) Sukhumi. But they all still have to go through the Straits.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Here is the latest attempt to connect the Crimea with Russia.


            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              A very interesting curvy bridge. I hadn’t heard about this. Bridges always impress me as amazing feats of engineering.
              Here’s a nice glamour shot of it. Maybe we could consult Putin on how to build a southern wall.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Maybe we could consult Putin on how to build a southern wall.

                Not a bad idea.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Oooh, neat. I remember my father taking me to some engineer who had a model of the Mississippi basin showing the various fancy bridges (including a couple in Louisville). I had become somewhat fascinated by bridges by a covered bridge we occasionally used going from Fort Leavenworth to Topeka.

                Elizabeth and I once followed the Natchez Trace parkway (in a couple of places you can stop and see parts of the original Trace) from Jackson to Nashville. We crossed one bridge across a wide valley, and there was an overlook on the other side so you could look at it. Probably the most awesome bridge I’ve ever seen.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                I had not heard of The Natchez Trace Parkway. Map. Holy smokes, 444 miles long. And apparently full of many picturesque bridges.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                The Natchez Trace is one of the journeys I would like to make before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            We used to take material out of the Sea of Azov, particularly out of Mariupol, but as I recall the Sea of Azov is not terrible deep thus the draft of ships which had to call at Azov ports had to be fairly shallow. Such ports would be of limited value.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              So among the Russian ports I listed, Rostov is of limited value, and likewise the Crimean port of Kerch. But the others are directly on the Black Sea, though I don’t think they’re all that large.

        • Steve Lancaster says:

          Of course, Russia will never give up its Black Sea ports. It was daylight madness to surrender Odessa in the first place. The Georgian war and the incursion into Ukraine coupled with the involvement in Syria effectively surround Turkey and imply the use of Russian force should Turkey ever take it into their heads to close the Bosperous to Russian ships. This also plays into the status of the Kurds and why no one desires to recognize a state of Kurdistan.

          As for Otto, don’t forget he was out of German government in 1890. I believe his influence was weakening and actually by 1885 he was more a figurehead than an effective leader.

          Germany had ample cause for war with France over the problems in Morraco in 1905. The UK and France had signed a mutual defense pact in 1904, but I doubt that the UK would have followed through if Germany had declared war.

          The problems in Russia in 1905 would have prevented the tenuous nature of the Franco/Russian alliance from actually happening. France would have been alone, again, against a superior German army. The end result would have been German hegemony over all of western Europe. Again, I’m not implying this is a perfect world, but German success in 1905 would have dramatically changed Europe and might have prevented WW I and II.

          As historians, we have the clarity of perfect rearview vision. It did not happen, it might have happened, but real-world decisions are not always perfect.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    Of course, in the end the revolutions largely failed outside of France. In Germany, they offered the crown of a united Germany to Frederick William IV of Prussia, who rejected it (partly because he didn’t consider an offer from the rabble legitimate, and no doubt also because they were offering what they didn’t really have).

    The Austrian revolt led to the fall of Metternich and his tame monarch, but Habsburg continued under Franz Josef and even recovered Lombardy-Venetia (thanks to the genius of Marshal Radetzky, one of the two greatest figures in Austrian military history, along with Prince Eugene of Savoy) and Hungary (with Russian help).

    The Italian effort to eject Austria and unite the peninsula also ended up a failure, as noted above. Even in France, the republic soon stampeded for Louis Napoleon, and then to the Second Empire, which ultimately led to Sedan, where General Ducrot made the famous observation the night before the battle (when he noticed Prussian campfires extending all around the French army), “Nous sommes dans un pot-de-chambre, et nous y serons emmerdés.

    In the end, the main “accomplishment” of the Year of Revolution was the Communist Manifesto. But that’s Europe for you.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      In the end, the main “accomplishment” of the Year of Revolution was the Communist Manifesto. But that’s Europe for you.

      Europe has been trying to have their “high culture” cake and sort of eat it too by adopting many half-baked theories that only go to undermining that culture, if only by leading to war.

      VDH has an article that intersects with the general subject at hand: The Post-War Order is Over. I think his most clarifying thought is:

      There is also nothing sacred about the European Union. It certainly is not the blueprint for any continental-wide democratic civilization — any more than Bonaparte’s rigged “continental system” (to which the EU is on occasion strangely and favorably compared to by its proponents). The often-crude imposition of a democratic socialism, pacifism, and multiculturalism, under the auspices of anti-democratic elites, from the Atlantic to the Russian border, is spreading, not curbing, chaos. The EU utopian mindset has altered European demography, immigration policy, energy production, and defense. The result is that there are already four sorts of antithetical EUs: a renegade and departing United Kingdom, an estranged Eastern European bloc worried over open borders, an insolvent South bitter over front-line illegal immigration and fiscal austerity, and the old core of Western Europe (a euphemism now for German hegemony).

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Very nice article by Hanson. I would note that Turkey is actually worse than Pakistan. I see the Paki military as more like Egypt’s — autocratic and with Islamist elements, but not itself Islamist. The difference between them is that the Paki military (perhaps under the influence of their Islamists) considers the Taliban useful to them. But the Turks are full Islamists edging increasingly into jihadism.

        Not only will most Sunni nations in the Levant favor Israel over Shiite Iran (or should that be Shite Iran?), but they will support it covertly — and if enough time passes before that way, maybe even overtly. Modernizing Arabs seem to be getting sick and tired of those worthless POS Palestinians, who deserve every bit of it.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Very nice article by Hanson.

          Every man is allowed to grow in wisdom. Perhaps VDH gains stature by staying the same while all those around him give in just a bit to the silliness. But I do think VDH has “progressed” from his strictly Democratic orientation (old school though it arguably was) to an even more robust view of politics and society. (Egad, the man has seen firsthand what illegal aliens and libtard Californians are doing to his beloved state.)

          Interesting that VDH sees the most likely war between Iran and Israel with the Sunni nations (if only silently) cheering Israel along. Israel is probably the one arguably good and decent nation on this earth who will not flinch from nuking Tehran if need be. Not that I disagree but there seem to be a plethora of options in regards to that region regarding who will fight whom.

          What’s the defining principle of America (at least traditionally)? To form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

          I don’t believe that is true any more as we corrupt ourselves to be more like Europeans for whom you could say the defining principle is: “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow’s children will pay for our benefits.” Now that Ireland has voted pro-death, it’s clear that a vision other than this is gone from the European conscience, such as it is, Eastern Europe perhaps notwithstanding.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            It is interesting to note that the Elder von Moltke war-planned to act defensively on the French-German border and attack and defeat Russia before turning to take on France. With Russia defeated, there would have been a good chance that France would have stayed neutral.

            The mad man von Schlieffen turned this plan on its head and it might be said that his plan had as much to do with the start of WWI as mobilizations/etc.

            Some believe that Germany should have attacked Russia in 1905. With her defeat in the Russo-Japan war of that year and 1905 revolution, Russia would likely have collapsed and WWI, the Bolsheviks and WWII might just have been averted.

            People today don’t understand that Germany in 1905 was still admired as a somewhat liberal power and the Russian Empire was considered a retrograde establishment. Few would have shed tears for the fall of the Tsar and the Russian Empire.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Schlieffen’s plan had many flaws. He assumed a larger army than he had available, and he not only planned for an invasion of Belgium, but he forced it to happen — once activated, the invasion was inevitable because it was now necessary due to their mobilization and deployment schedules. In 1914 this would prove to be a fatal error.

              But one can also point out that the younger Moltke weakened the main attack, which may have been a fatal error in itself (with a stronger force, the BEF’s attack between the First and Second Armies might not have encountered the gap that forced them to fall back to the Aisne). And in 1913 he dumped the alternative plan for concentrating against Russia. A year later, he wished he had it (though other staffers thought it could have been done anyway, so Moltke may have wanted it that way).

  3. Steve Lancaster says:

    yes, yes, yes do the trace either way. My preference is from Nashville to Natchez starting with a day at the Hermitage. Not only can you see large sections of the original trace but there are numerous Indian mounds and the last home and a monument to Meriweather Lewis.

    The trace is access controlled with a 45 MPH speed limit. In Natchez there are dozens of homes dating to the 1830s very much worth the seeing. Don’t miss a meal at Mammy’s cupboard.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      One year when Elizabeth and I went to an SF convention in Nashville, we did a couple of days of touristing. On the first, we toured the Hermitage (I believe the film they had on Jackson didn’t mention his most amazing achievement, getting rid of the national debt in 1835) in the morning. In the afternoon, we visited the Parthenon, luckily arriving just in time for a lecture on the statue of Athena, then went to one of the old plantation mansions, Belle Meade.

      This had strong Civil War connections (the husband was wanted by the feds, and his wife denied them entrance at gunpoint — hers — when they came to lynch him, and after the war the manager was former Confederate cavalry general William H. Jackson). They also noted that the handling of windows and doors was based on property taxes which charged depending on such features. It also got an extra-large bathtub after President Taft got stuck in the old one.

      The next morning, we went to Murfreesboro and visited the Stone’s River battlefield before lunch (which we ate, appropriately, at a Hardee’s) and Fort Rosecrans afterward.

      As for the Natchez Trace, we didn’t tour the whole thing. We may have missed the house where Lewis died, because I think I’d recall it, that being such a famous murder vs. suicide case. We hoped to see more another time, but I think that was our last visit to the JABAS reunion due to physical decline.

  4. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    By coincidence, Victor Hansen Davis wrote the following article at NRO.

    He is one of the few who appear to understand what has been happening since 1989. More importantly, he is putting in down in black and white.

    That opportunist Francis Fukuyama was about the worst as regards to totally misunderstanding what was happening in the world when he wrote his infamous, “The End of History.”

    From the moment that I saw that, I pointed out that only someone who had no understanding of history could assert such nonsense. Unfortunately, most of the pin-heads in D.C. and NYC seemed to lap up such rubbish.

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      Douglas Murray, “The Strange Death of Europe”2017 publication covers much of the same territory. Murray is a Brit and does not have much use for the mandarins and lotus eaters in Brussels.

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