Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Towards 1914: Bismarck's Europe

For the complicated politics of the European alliances before 1914, I have been especially indebted to J. M. Roberts Europe 1880-1945, 2nd edition (Longman, 1989) and to Michael Rapport, Nineteenth-Century Europe (Palgrave, 2005).

'In the approach to the outbreak of the First World War, four factors were crucial: first, the ambitions and strategies of the great powers; second, the system of alliances, the danger of which was less to drag allies into the abyss than to make them concerned lest their opposite numbers renege on their commitments at the last moment; third, the balance of power in the decision-making process between military men and civilian politicians; last, the pressure of both nationalist and socialist anti-militaristic opinion, and the opportunity offered by the war to achieve the ultimate in national integration'. Robert Gildea, Barricades and Borders: Europe 1800-1914, 3rd edn. (Oxford, 2003), 429.

Between the Berlin Congress of 1878 and 1900 the Concert of Europe in effect came to an end as new occasions of conflict arose.

The condition of the military
Among the great powers of 1880 only Britain was not a land power. To continental countries armies were more important than navies. Military thinking was still obsessed with the idea of winning a decisive battle soon after the outbreak of war. It was assumed that wars would be short (as they had been in 1866 and 1870) and the five year experience of the American Civil War was discounted.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Feminism, socialism, anarchism

For this post I have used Michael Rapport's Nineteenth-Century Europe (Palgrave, 2005) and A Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century History, ed. John Belchem and Richard Price (Penguin, 1994). I have found the latter a very useful work of reference though the entry on Bismarck is disappointingly short.

The nineteenth century saw the advancement of political rights for men but the emancipation of women was hampered by the doctrine of separate spheres and by the double standard of sexual morality. This was attacked in John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women (1869), the key feminist text of the 19th century.

However, in many parts of Europe women gained more rights in the family. The Custody of Infants Act in Britain (1839) allowed a separated wife to claim custody of a child under seven. From 1857 women in England and Wales were allowed to divorce their husbands, though not for adultery alone. From 1870 a series of Married Women’s Property Acts recognized the independent legal existence of married women. Similar laws were passed in France and Germany. From 1912 French women were able to sue fathers for financial support.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Mass politics and democracy

A democratic world?
The later 19th century has been seen as a period of modernization in which, according to the sociologist Max Weber (left), traditional authority increasingly gave way to legal-rational authority organized bureaucratically through impersonal institutions. In 1885 Sir Henry Maine pointed out in his book Popular Government
‘Russia and Turkey are the only European states that completely reject the theory that governments hold their power by delegation from the community.’
In other words, they were the only large states that did not have some kind of parliamentary institutions.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Religion and secularisation

The Church of Sacré Cour, Montmartre
Historians and sociologists have been interested in the phenomenon of ‘secularization’, which had usually been linked with ‘modernization’. The nineteenth century saw a continuous conflict (and sometimes attempts at reconciliation) between the forces of religion and those of ‘modernity’.