Managing conflict in Europe in times of change

Timeline developed for Historiana by the Historical Content Team.

•To show how and why ideas and approaches to managing conflict in Europe have varied and changed over time. ;xNLx;;xNLx;•To show how Post-War developments towards greater stability in Europe have been different in terms of economic cooperation, political structures and pooled sovereignty.;xNLx;

1648-05-15 23:08:33

Peace of Westphalia

The Peace of Westphalia treaties of Münster and Osnabrück ended 30 years of European wars. In 1648 the religion of the ruler was still very important. The wars had partly been about who should have power and control; Roman Catholic or Protestant Christians. To try to bring peace to the German lands, it was agreed that Protestant German rulers would be protected by Sweden (a Protestant power) and Roman Catholic German rulers would be protected by France (a Roman Catholic power). It was hoped that these guarantees of protection would prevent religious conflict between German states and the persecution of Roman Catholic people by German Protestant princes and vice versa. This then would help to keep the German lands peaceful and stable. The rulers of the many independent German lands would decide what type of Christianity there would be in their land. Westphalia marks the beginning of the view that the most powerful countries in Europe should balance power in Europe between them and avoid one country having supreme power. French power grew as a result of Westphalia, and was agreed on condition that Catholic Europe recognised the independence of the Protestant Dutch Republic. In the Peace of Münster the Lords States General of the United Netherlands and the Spanish Crown, agreed on 30 January 1648 to end the 80 years of war between them. The Peace of Münster formed part of the Peace of Westphalia.

1648-05-15 23:08:33

System of Guarantees

Westphalia marks an important ideological milestone in the way the Great Powers managed Europe. They agreed to the importance of working to avoid the supremacy of one power. The Thirty Years War had made the Powers realise that such a large territory in the hands of one of the powers would have damaged the interests of the others. A 'balance' had not yet been written down. Nevertheless, the system of guarantors was in reality peace with an agreement to guard against power becoming imbalanced, because France or Sweden would intervene if any religious (or political) abuse took place against the German territories under their protection. Such an important diplomatic gathering (100+ parties were represented) fixed the norms and customs of diplomacy in Europe. The principles of sovereignty, non-interference in another country's internal affairs, and the respect of countries' established boundaries also find their legal basis in Westphalia.

1648-05-15 23:08:33

Religious divisions

The breakup of the western branch of Christianity is symbolically placed in time in 1517 - the year the German monk Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses. This began a century of terrible infighting between christians in Europe. For the previous two-centuries there had already been religious tension with roots in the Hussite and the Lollards movements. While rebellion to papal authority had punctuated Christianity all through its history, the 16th century's Schism (division) was only the second great one after the first Schism between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches in 1054. The reasons why Luther, and then Calvin, Zwingli and others, were able to shape Christianity deeply with their teachings were many and diverse. One reason was political division in the Holy Roman Empire, for example enabling some princes to show their power by protecting Luther. Another reason was the rise of a more educated, more aware, class of towns people who were attracted to what the Reformed Churches required and offered, for example, the necessity for the individual to read the Bible him/herself: this needed widespread literacy and accounts for the subsequent education policies in Reformed States. In turn, this was fuelled by the technological development of printing. In the German territories there was less princely control of what was printed. In summary, Christian Western Europe was suddenly stricken by fierce religious division, which combined with pre-existing political ambitions and gave way to bloody conflicts and revolts. In the 1550s attempts to end violent conflict had produced the idea of 'cuius regio, eius religio' principle: that is, each territory would follow the religion of its ruler. In the peace of Westphalia this principle was finally applied.

1650-10-20 18:58:28

The age of absolute monarchy

During the period of the later 17th and most of the 18th century much of Europe was ruled by absolute monarchs. The term 'absolute monarch' is much debated, but certainly most people in Europe had no choice about who ruled them, and in most cases they were ruled by a hereditary monarch with great powers.

1665-09-15 18:24:02


Mercantilism was the most important economic school of thought between the 15th and the 17th century in Europe. Mercantilist theory expected that in a transaction between two parties one would gain only if the other lost (a zero-sum game). This concept was applied for example in international trade, where individual countries were supposed to carefully watch over the amount of foreign goods they imported, which had to be always less than the country's exports. The theory said that a country could not afford to spend more money on imports than what it would gain on exports (as one country's loss was their competitor's direct gain). Mercantilism was born in England and had been applied under Elizabeth I, and was generally applied by most states in Europe. The most famous example of the application of the theory was 1665-1680s France, under the government of Jean-Baptiste Colbert. This concept had a direct impact on the way countries saw international free trade, on the way they saw the role of colonies (which were often prevented from trading with foreign or certain countries), and on the reason why a country would wage war. Other aspects of the theory concerned maximisation of profits and production - which suggested using the largest amount of land for those ends. This idea of 'maximisation' inevitably meant that workers had to be subjected to 'economic oppression' and had to live on minimal subsistence levels, with no space for education or free time: the more they worked, the more they would produce. In effect, some mercantilists also believed that economic growth could be infinite, by bettering production systems.

1675-05-15 10:58:41

Armed forces

In the later 17th century armed forces were still essentially part of the royal household. In most of Europe, the ruler of a territory would raise fighting men for their own personal political aims. These men were not necessarily from the territory of the ruler. Men known as mercenaries sold their fighting ability for money. The concept of a national army did not develop until the later XVIII century.

1694-09-15 18:24:02

The founding of the Bank of England

Banking is concerned with lending money, creating deposits, and (in the past) creating common enterprises, and has a long history. Modern banking developed in the 14th century. Rich banking families have marked Europe's history: the Medicis' rule in Florence, and the central role of the Fuggers in the elections of the Holy Roman Emperors (for instance, Charles V's) are examples. The role of banks was central to the political and economic policy choices of governments and rapidly evolved throughout the centuries. In the 17th century, banks' 'notes' (promissory notes) had become essential in economically advanced countries, especially England. In London, these notes became very trustworthy as they contained London goldsmiths' promise to pay (which allowed loans to be advanced with reasonable safety). While banking was born in the rich city States of Northern Italy and in Germany, its turning point took place in England. Towards the end of the 17th century, after a series of naval defeats at the hands of the French crown, William III's government found itself with no funds and no credit to rebuild its naval power. The government then decided to attract funds by establishing the Bank of England and having public subscribers incorporated (i.e., they would have guaranteed shares in the Bank). The Bank of England thus became effectively a central and public Bank, at the service of the State, and also started issuing banknotes. The action was successful, and the English, then British (once the Act of Union of 1707 united the crowns of England and Wales and Scotland) government was able to rebuild a strong navy which was instrumental in Britain's rise to be the major world power of the 18th-19th century. In addition, the efforts needed for such a huge undertaking prompted a radical industrial development, which in turn laid the seeds for the Industrial Revolution.

1701-01-01 05:35:10

The War of Spanish Succession

The War of Spanish Succession was a fight about whether the next Spanish king should be a relation of the King of France or of the Holy Roman Emperor. This was an important question as both France and the Holy Roman Empire had been rivals for years. If the Spanish king was connected to the Holy Roman Emperor, then France would be encircled by enemies. If the Spanish king was connected to the French king then the Holy Roman Empire would lose power to France. The two sides, led by the rulers, fought a war to decide who should dominate Europe.

1701-01-01 05:35:10

Religion as part of power politics

Religion continued to be an important part of political strategy in Europe. For example, Great Britain as a Protestant power became involved in the War of Spanish Succession in part to defend the interests of the protestants in the Low Countries.

1713-05-01 12:32:36

The Treaty of Utrecht

The Treaty of Utrecht brought to an end the Spanish Wars of Succession with a compromise that prevented either France or the Holy Roman Empire becoming supreme in Europe. The idea of a balance of powers was now applied to the whole of Europe and not just the German lands. The Treaty of Utrecht is seen as a further development of the international rule of law. It is significant as it introduced a century of shifting alliances and incidental wars of succession which further altered the geopolitics of Europe. Whereas no ruler in the main powers abandoned the dream of continental supremacy, none managed to replicate Charles V's or Louis XIV's exploits.

1713-05-01 12:32:36

Balance of power

The treaty of Utrecht extends the principle of the balance of power wider in Europe. The earlier Peace of Westphalia had focused on avoiding imbalance of power in Germany. Whereas Westphalia had established the use of 'guarantors', that is, foreign powers were given the authority to protect religious groups within the Holy Roman Empire, Utrecht aimed at splitting blocks of powers into smaller entities, thus making it less likely that any one could hold supremacy over the continent. The rationale of this settlement is clearly that of avoiding a bigger grouping becoming the power that could dictate European affairs. A rough balance of power was born.

1717-01-01 12:32:36

The Wars of Succession

Between these years there were several more wars about the succession to various thrones in Europe, including those of Spain, the UK and Austria. The other European powers took a keen interest in these and made shifting alliances when any one power (or royal house) tried to become too powerful.

1717-01-01 12:32:36

Shifting alliances

Alliances often shifted during the 18th century, and especially so in its middle. What can we learn from this? Blocks and alliances were not built around a common vision or ideology; they were temporary and served the aim of avoiding one side's supremacy on the continent. Although short term tactical reasons continued to influence governing countries' foreign policies for many years to come, ideology increasingly started playing a role in deciding diplomacy. Since the 16th century, Protestant British public opinion had supported alliances with the United Provinces and Prussia, who were seen as allies in Protestant resistance to Roman Catholic tyranny. However, these kinds of considerations did not always prevent governments from striking different deals. Nevertheless, by the end of the 18th century ideology increasingly became an influential factor in the policy choices that were made. This was more or less true in different European countries, but it soon became a general trend that European policy makers had to reckon with. Public influence on foreign policy was everywhere indirect; nonetheless, where the middle-classes were stronger and could gain roles in a country's civilian and military management, for example in Britain, its influence could be felt quite strongly. In a Parliamentary system such as the British one, although still very elitist, unhappiness about foreign policy could even bring governments' down.The dramatic expansion in the printing of pamphlets could also now also lead to the mobilisation of mobs and catalyse demonstrations on foreign policy issues.

1721-01-01 12:32:36

End of the Great Northern War

The Great Northern War resulted in Sweden no longer being a major European power. Instead, Russia became a new major power in Europe.

1760-05-31 07:30:48

Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution started in Europe (firstly in Great Britain and secondly in Belgium) in the late second half of the 18th century. In the following century it spread to other countries of Europe and to the USA. Accounting for the causes of the revolution is indeed hard; in fact, it consisted of a series of gradual technological improvements which impacted production efficiency, increased trade, benefited income and generated more production and, thus closing the circle, more technological improvements. Certainly the more efficient banking system allowed for a smoother loan circulation, while the raise of the middle class and its increased literacy and education facilitated a different approach to economy and land management. The industrial revolution in itself is usually classified in two phases: the first revolution was technology based, and impacted a wide array of sectors (from textiles to metallurgy); the second phase took place around the 1840s and was prompted by the latest developments in steam powered transportation.

1763-05-16 01:58:51


The Prussian government introduced the first modern compulsory education system. Empress Maria Theresa implemented a similar reform in her Austrian, Hungarian, and Bohemian lands. This trend then spread in Northern Europe, and, later in the 19th century, across the rest of Europe, including France and the United Kingdom.

1772-01-01 12:32:36

The Three Partitions of Poland

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been unstable throughout the 18th century. Between these years Prussia, Russia and Austria worked together and made a pact to carve up these lands between them.

1776-01-01 12:32:36

New economic theory

Adam Smith published 'The Wealth of Nations'. 'The Wealth of Nations' became almost instantaneously an indispensable reference and marked the beginning of a new phase in economic policy. In the context of the Enlightenment and of the Agricultural Revolution, the great economist Adam Smith was a fierce opponent of mercantilism (a term that he invented as a perjorative), which he regarded as a shortsighted and obsolete. While mercantilists advocated for protected trade and for a firm government hold over the markets, Smith built a very complex and organic theory which revolutionised economic thinking. 'The Wealth of Nations' launched a new set of economic assumptions which revolved around the concept of free trade and the free market. His theory attacked State intervention in the economy (through, for instance, the imposition of protectionist tariffs). In Smith's mind, the State should intervene in other sectors (notably public and accessible education and a standing army). Smith dismissed other bases of mercantilism besides protectionist tariffs: the bullion (in short, the value of gold or other metal's reserves) was another; but perhaps the most revolutionary was his critique of the concept of foreign trade in the mercantilistic theory, according to which the State had to limit its importation as much as it could to maintain a positive commercial balance (within the zero sum game international trade was believed to be). According to Smith, free trade enriched the individual and ended up benefiting the entire society, through what he called 'the invisible hand' of the market. This meant that prohibition of trade with foreign countries was detrimental to the individual and hence to the society at large. This applied to colonies too - and is one of the main reasons that pushed the New England colonies to rebel, in 1776. (They could only trade in primary goods, and only with Britain, and on fixed, low prices). However, this coincidence of opinion did not prevent early American statesman Alexander Hamilton expressing his disagreement with Adam Smith's new theory.

1776-01-01 12:32:36

The US Declaration of Independence

With the help of the French government, 13 of Britain's colonies in North America fought free of British control and became the USA. The French king was pleased to see Great Britain lose power and influence, but the great cost of the war, and the model of the new USA, were to be direct causes of the French Revolution. As a result of financial bankruptcy, the French king was obliged to call a meeting of the Estates-General. Some of these men then led a revolution which demanded that the government of France should be more like that of Great Britain and the USA.

1776-01-01 12:32:36

Ideas of Liberty

The principle of liberty was key to the US Declaration of Independence (1776) and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789). Both Declarations set the standards of a new, universal concept of the relation between fellow human beings. The rights set by the Declarations were deemed universal, regardless of their approval by foreign governments, and all human beings were considered as equals. The US Declaration was mainly drafted by Jefferson and announced that the Thirteen Colonies officially considered themselves as sovereign States, while the French Declaration was drafted by Lafayette and Mirabeau within the context of the French Revolution. Lafayette was directly influenced by the work of his friend Thomas Jefferson. The American Declaration in itself also owed part of its concepts to the 1689 English Bill of Rights, which itself drew upon the much earlier English Magna Carta of 1215. Both documents referred (understandably so) to the right to revolt against an unjust government (a right already admitted by the 17th century philosopher John Locke), and were part of the general enlightenment intellectual climate of the time. While the American Declaration accuses the British crown of a series of crimes which justified their secession, the French Declaration draws on Montesquieu's principles of division of powers. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen lists a series of universal human rights and bestows upon them the definition of citizen (instead of subject), with annexed rights and duties. Notwithstanding the pivotal role of women in the Revolution, the Declaration only discussed the rights of citizens (who could only be male), thus inducing Olympe de Gouges to draft a Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, which underlined the equality between genders. In addition, both Declarations side-stepped the question of slavery; ensuring its survival. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the CItizen, together with the American Declaration of Independence, had a huge impact on the minds and plans of all subsequent liberal generations. The two Declarations are still the basis of the US' and French Constitutions, and inspired countless democratic revolutions and democratic settings. They notably provided the conceptual basis for the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

1792-01-01 12:32:36

The French Revolutionary Wars

The new revolutionary governments of France were faced with very hostile neighbours and went on the attack to protect themsleves. They were also pushed by their own ideology and public opinion to undertake campaigns 'against tyranny' in Italy and towards Germany. These wars were fairly successful for France and were instrumental in the rise to power of Napoleon.

1792-12-05 19:26:01

The first national wars?

Some historians argue that these wars are the first time in history when the idea of the 'nation at arms' was born. Instead of the ruler calling up his own personal army, men went off to fight for their nation too. These wars are also remembered for their huge impact upon civilians, in terms of the sacrifices of lives, of labour and of material goods required from the people to sustain the war effort. Many regions of Europe had previously experienced such destruction, for example the French lands in the 14th/15th centuries, the German lands and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, however, these wars were experienced on a continental scale as never before; destruction occured from Lisbon to Moscow. When the wars ended there was, for the first time, widespread memorialisation of liberation and also of soldiers, sometimes regardless of their rank. The invading power had been felt to be unduly imposing its power on a foreign land: in other words, for the first time an invading country was rejected by the population because of its foreignness and its ideology. This helped to elevate the dead soldiers to the position of national heroes.

1803-12-05 19:26:01

The Napoleonic Wars

When Napoleonic France invaded other lands, an aim was to bring the ideology of the French Revolution as interpreted by Napoleon to those lands. Napoleon sought stability in Europe by bringing much of it under his control. He was opposed at various points across these years by the other powers, in particular Great Britain.

1815-01-01 12:32:36

The Congress of Vienna

After Napoleon's defeat, the Great Powers gathered in a Congress to try to restore the previous form of stability in Europe. Led by the Austrian Chancellor, Metternich, the aim was to go back to the balance of power system that the French Revolution and Napoleon had disrupted. The powers would act as the Concert of Europe and try to prevent any local conflicts spreading across Europe by balancing power. The Concert did not set out to punish France, as it saw the ruler and not the people as important. In the view of the men at Vienna, people were subjects once more and not citizens. The French ruler and not France had been defeated. The Bourbon monarchs were restored to the throne of France.

1815-09-15 13:58:07

The Concert of Europe

The Congress System, or the Concert of Europe, ensured a more or less stable Europe for at least half a century. There were differences of opinion about how it should operate and its ethos. It could not prevent the rise of nationalist and democratic movements, which periodically brought periods of revolution to parts of Europe; the most powerful being in 1848. Nor could it avoid the nationalist wars for the creation of Italy and Germany in the middle of the century. However, it managed to contain most of the wars to a local scale: no war of this century, with the exception perhaps of the Crimean War, saw the participation of all European great powers at once.

1815-09-15 13:58:07

Elite diplomacy

In contrast in to the Paris Conference a century later, the men at the Congress of Vienna did not have to pay close attention to widespread public opinion. The majority of European people did not have the vote, were not educated to a high level, and were therefore were not directly involved in plans for the future of Europe in 1815. In this way the Congress negotiations had more in common with the diplomacy of the past than the future. There is, for example, no discussion about holding Napoleon responsible for a concept such as war crimes.

1821-01-01 12:32:36

People's revolutions

Most of these failed, but they were attempts to develop democracy. In some countries governments brought in some reforms as a result, for example in the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Sardinia. In France Napoleon's nephew, Louis Napoleon, was elected as first President of the Second Republic. He then staged a coup d'etat, destroyed republican government and set up the Second Empire. Despite this upheaval, the balance of power was maintained.

1821-03-18 21:05:28

Greek Uprising and Independence

The 1821 Greek uprising for independence from Ottoman rule, although initially successful, was failing by 1827. However, the European Great Powers had agreed to home rule for a Greek state as part of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans were not prepared to accept this ruling and so fighting broke out. The Ottomans lost and Greek independence was recognised in 1830. Greece was set up with a President, but fighting broke out again, and in 1832 the National Assembly of Greece drafted a constitution for a monarchy and this was protected by Britain, Russia and France. This is an example of the Concert of Europe effectively managing poltical instablity in Europe.

1848-01-01 12:32:36

Kingdom of Italy and German Empire

TheBattle of Sedan in 1870 was a total defeat for France which led to the fall from power of Napoleon III, the setting up of the German Empire, and also the final stage of the unification process in Italy. The Concert of European powers was in decline. Two young, assertive, and (in the case of Germany) powerful states had come into being. This changed the balance of power in Europe that especially Great Britain and Austria had sought to maintain after 1815. The Concert of Europe would survive until the new century, but only in tatters, and would be overtaken by an old-new way of conducting diplomacy: secret alliances.

1850-01-01 12:32:36

Faster communication

The first telegraph cable was laid down between Britain and France. Telegraphic communication had been developing since the early 1800s and was rapidly spreading. Systems such as the Morse code were developed in order to be able to communicate at great distances. By the end of the century, the entire world was connected by the telegraph network (the 'Victorian internet'). The impact on world affairs, from military to politics to trade, was immense. It increased the sense of common national identities. The development of railways, state-sponsored education, the extension of franchise, provision of state welfare programmes, the militarisation of society and the, (re)invention of ceremonials also played key roles in developing the sense of nationalism as an identity in Europe in the second half of the 19th century.

1851-01-01 12:32:36


The populations of many European countries began to increase dramatically in the latter half of the 19th century, in some cases even earlier. Related to this was a huge increase in urbanisation. For example, by 1851 50% of British people lived in cities. This was made possible by increased industrialisation. Increased urbanisation brought different social identities. There were less peasants in some European socities and an increased number of urban working classes, and even middle classes. These groups tended to be more economically and poltically aware and engaged. It was usually harder for elites to exercise influence over urban people than rural people.

1853-01-01 12:32:36

The Crimean War

This was a local war, fought between the Ottomans and the Russian Empire, with the participation of Britain, France, and the Kingdom of Sardinia who were allies on the Ottomans' side. This event illustrates once more how the containment policy worked. In this case, the very existence of the terminally ill Ottoman Empire was endangered by Russian victories. This could not be tolerated if the balance of power was to be kept intact.

1863-01-01 12:32:36

Founding of the International Committee of the Red Cross

This organisation works to provide care and support for men wounded in battle. It's role has expanded to the protection and care of civilians affected by war and prisoners of war. Their work helps to record the impact of war on all people.

1870-01-01 12:32:36

Ideas about Germany

After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire by Napoleon I, Prussia and Austria had become fierce competitors over the leadership of this territory. Fuelled by the rising liberal-nationalism, talks about a united Germany became more and more common. But what would a united Germany include? The debate became known as Kleindeutschland vs Grosse Deutschland (Small Germany vs Big Germany). Prussia and its supporters claimed that a united Germany would include all German States with the exclusion of Austria (small Germany). Vienna, instead, advocated for a big Germany, effectively a pan-German State. With Prussia's victory at Sedan, the discussion was settled, and Austria did not bcome part of the new German Empire.

1875-01-01 12:32:36

Nationalism vs internationalism

The second third of the 19th century is sometimes refered to as the heyday of nations in Europe. Resources, power and ideas were organised along distinct national borders more than ever before. However, many European countries were still ruled by monarchs and royalty generally allied with other royalty rather than marry within the nation. There were also celebrations of the idea of common humanity, internationalism and harmony, for example the 1851 Great Exhibition in London celebrated the wide travel and cross-border communication of the business and merchant classes.

1878-01-01 12:32:36

The Congress of Berlin

The other European powers sought to limit Russia's expansion into the Balkans while supporting the survival of the weak Ottoman State. There was less consensus about balancing power than in 1815 and more a sense of each state pursuing their own agendas and allying with others when it suited them. Nevertheless, this is regarded as a successful meeting, as it succesfully settled the conflict between the Ottoman and Russian Empires.

1882-01-01 12:32:36

The Alliance System

Alliances were not new to European diplomacy. However the alliance systems set up between these years were a change from the shifting alliances of the 18th century and the coalitions that had been set up against Napoleon. They were not alliances put together to meet an immediate threat, but were meant to be more strategic and longer-lasting. The Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy was set up in 1882. In 1894 the Franco-Russian alliance led to German fears of encirclement by enemies. In 1904 a looser alliance was made between France and Great Britain. It was known as the Entente Cordiale. France was concerned to gain allies and avoid a repeat of the defeat by Germany in 1870. Britain was concerned to gain allies to counter the German naval threat. Following the defeat of Russia by Japan in 1905, it was clear to Britain that Russia was no longer a threat to British India. In 1907 Britain and Russia agreed to end their rivalry in central Asia. This series of agreements was interpreted by Germany as an alliance which encircled and threatened it.

1884-01-01 12:32:36

The Conference of Berlin

The European powers settled disputes over their colonial territories by coming to agreements about how to divide up the rest of the world between them. Whilst successful from the point of view of stability in Europe, because issues were settled by consensus, this reveals much about European attitudes to the rest of the world at the time. It also did not stop the 'Scramble for Africa' between Britain and France over the course of the next decade.

1899-01-21 08:20:23

The Hague Conventions

In the midst of the rapid setting up of military alliances, an alternative view of diplomacy was emerging. Developing from the idea of the Congress System, the Conventions aimed at systematising such a system and eventually putting in place a 'world government' or 'world management' which would pre-empt any threat to peace. The Hague Convention of 1899 its treaties and declarations regulated the conduct of war, by laying down a set of commonly agreed rules on warfare. Despite the developing opposing alliances, it was successful, both in its outcomes and in the participation of all the Great Powers of Europe. It was followed by another less successful convention in 1907. Most of its rules were violated by the Powers in WWI, but it did set out ideas for the future for example, an international court of justice and trials for war crimes. This sort of international convention also paved the way for the League of Nations and then the UN.

1900-01-01 12:32:36

USA and Germany become Great Powers

In the second half of the 19th century, the USA and Germany experienced rapid economic growth, industrialisation and population increase. Both became economic rivals with each other, and with Great Britain. Great Britain was still a larger economic power, but her economy was no longer growing so quickly. Germany also had political and military ambitions.

1901-01-19 19:47:11

Nobel Peace Prize

As a result of the will of the scientist who invented dynamite, Alfred Nobel, several prizes for human achievement were set up. The peace prize is awarded annually to people or organisations who have: "have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations." It continues to be a prize of very high standing.

1904-01-01 12:32:36

Fear of German power

Britain started being concerned by Germany's increased power on the Continent towards the end of the second half of the 19th century. France and Britain were major rivals in the scramble for African colonies at the end of the the 19th century. However, by 1904 they were to agree an Entente based on fear of Germany. Wilhelm II's accession as Kaiser in Berlin prompted a rivalry between Britain, which had been the leading European power since the Napoleonic Wars, and Germany, which was now searching for its 'place in the sun'. A dangerous naval arms race became an important part of the competition between the two powers. Informed opinion in Europe feared that a European war could be triggered by a dispute over an imperial colony. Empires were often regarded as extensions of the territory of the nation, for example by France and Portugal.

1905-01-01 12:32:36

1905 Russian Revolution

A non-European power, Japan, defeated a European power, the Russian Empire, in a war for the first time and it triggered revolution, which broke out in all Russia's territories, first in Europe and in the Caucasus, then beyond the Urals. This moderate revolution asked for a constitutional monarchy, and despite bloody repression, it had some success. Under pressure, Tsar Nicholas II agreed to a Parliament (the Duma) and a Constitution. They did not, however, significantly alter the power of the Tsar and did not fulfil the revolutionaries hopes. Discontent had not gone away in Russia.

1905-05-20 02:50:28

Alliances loosen and strengthen

The annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary in 1908 and Germany's actions in Morocco in 1905 and 1911 angered Italy. According to the Triple Alliance treaty Italy should have been compensated for what had happened in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This caused much anti-Austrian feeling and weakened the Triple Alliance. This act also caused international outrage because it ignored the Berlin agreement. German diplomatic actions in Morocco were aimed at expanding its influence in North Africa and the Mediterranean while at the same time causing tensions between France and Britain. However, the result was to bring France and the UK closer together and Morocco came further under French influence. The Italians were also angry that Germany had acted without consulting them. The opposing alliances grew more entrenched.

1905-07-21 21:27:59

Three colonial crises

These three crises aggravated the tensions between Austria-Hungary and the rest of the European powers (over Bosnia), and the tensions between Prussia and Britain and France (over Morocco). These crises increased the view among some politicians that a European war could be triggered by a dispute over colonies. These colonies might well be outside Europe and yet still affect the stability of Europe itself.

1911-07-12 13:50:15

The Libyan War

Italy attacked Ottoman Tripolitania in North Africa 1911 and took part of its territory in 1912. This was an attempt to regain power in the Mediterranean, following the French gaining the protectorate of Morocco. This action further destabilised the already weak Ottoman Empire and raised the tension between major European powers over colonies.

1912-12-10 23:32:06

Military aviation

The newly invented aeroplane was used first used for military reconnaissance by the Italians in north Africa 1911-12. They were used for the same purpose in World War 1 and their use was also extended to bombing. This new type of warfare developed further between the First and Second World Wars. War in the XX century was to be felt more keenly by civilians far from the battlefields because of the development of bombers.

1914-01-01 12:32:36

The First World War

A regional conflict turned into a Europe-wide and, in fact world-wide, war in 1914. The next four years became a battle for supremacy to decide the future of Europe between the Great Powers, with most European people caught up in the conflict in some way. The First World War was a total war. The two largest industrial powers of Europe, Great Britain and Germany, mobilised all the human and material resources at their disposal to fight each other and supply their allies with the means to keep fighting. Rapid developments in weaponry, logistics and medicine took place as each side sought to out-manoeuvre the other on land, sea and in the sky. Meanwhile, soldiers and civilians from many nations suffered, and many died, in the conflict. Crude calculations from the time exist showing that the greater resources of the British Empire would eventually overwhelm that of the German Empire given time. When the USA became active in the war on the same side as Great Britain in 1918, Germany was rapidly overwhelmed.

1914-01-01 12:32:36

Unexpectedly long war

The First World War was triggered by mutual fear that one of the rival alliances would dominate the continent. Actually many commentators were not expecting a major and long-lasting European war. Norman Angell wrote a popular work arguing that modern industrial nations would not want to, or be able to, sustain the incredible costs of modern warfare and the damage it would do to their economies. Many socialists argued that working people would not fight for their nations as they had more in common with each other than with the people who ruled them. The idea of the nation was also still quite weak in many parts of Europe. For example, in 1914 less than 5% of Italians used standard Italian for everyday purposes, and even in France almost half of schoolchildren had French as a foreign language. All these commentators, and others like them, were proved wrong as the war became a long and painful struggle between European nations.

1914-01-01 12:32:36

First World War was a total war

The two largest industrial powers of Europe, Great Britain and Germany, mobilised all the human and material resources at their disposal to fight each other and supply their allies with the means to keep fighting. Rapid developments in weaponry, logistics and medicine took place as each side sought to out-manoeuvre the other on land, sea and in the sky. Meanwhile, soldiers and civilians from many nations suffered, and many died, in the conflict. Crude calculations from the time exist showing that the greater resources of the British Empire would eventually overwhelm that of the German Empire given time. When the USA became active in the war on the same side as Great Britain in 1918, Germany was rapidly overwhelmed.

Managing conflict in Europe in times of change

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