halialkers: Raven from Teen Titans cartoon caption "I'm surrounded by idiots." Grey skin, purple hair/eyes (Idiots. I am surrounded by them.)
The first years of the 1880s were a sign of how the Great Powers' relationships were altering. In a bizarre twist the closer things got to WWI, the closer-related all the sovereigns and autocrats of Europe got. But in 1881 as the British succeeded in defeating the Egyptian resistance, they were defeated in turn by the Boers in the First Boer War. There the Boers set up for a time states of their own. It was during this same phase that the French took control of what was later dubbed French Indochina. At the time of colonial control being established there was no consistent sense of "Vietnam" "Cambodia" or "Laos" any more than Germany in the 1830s was a singular "Deutscher Nation." In another bizarre, ironic twist of French military-cultural dominance the French did succeed in defeating the Qing Empire in the Sino-French War. Their legacy, however, provided the seedbed of nationalism from which flowered the three Indochina Wars, including the first war that the United States would lose since Red Cloud's War.

It was in Africa, however, that following the British seizure of Egypt, and seeking to one-up his parliament, thereby assuring for Belgium an empire. Even then the Belgians had problems with functional governance (durr a herp derp). This triggered in turn the moment where the Second Imperialism entered treacherous waters. In the 1880s at the Congress of Berlin, Belgium's claim on the Belgian Congo, a region larger than the entirety of Western Europe triggered the Scramble For Africa. Thereafter the European states such as Italy, the German Empire, Britain, France, and Portugal began a string of wars to be covered in their own rights, of which the Second Boer War and the First Italo-Ethiopian War offer the ironic twists of a European state being stomped by black Africans while white Africans in the future Dominion of South Africa were in turn stomped by the white supremacist British Empire. This same Second Imperialism led Japan toward ultimately the Second World War.

However the most ominous developments of this phase which portended the future of the European Wars was the collapse of Otto von Bismarck's Dreikaiserbund which linked the huge, autocratic, and reactionary German, Austro-Hungarian, and Tsarist Empires in a single bloc. Instead Germany formed an uneasy alliance with Italy and Austria-Hungary, the uneasiness related more to the Italian desire for Austro-Hungarian territory. This Triple Alliance of three Central European states marked a dramatic escalation of things, though it would not be until the 1890s that things began to turn darker for the future of the Second Imperialism at its high tide.

The subseries shortly to be updated in a running sequence is that subset where things like the conquest of Indo-China, consolidation of the Raj over India, Burma, and Ceylon (using the imperial terms deliberately here, it is, after all, the time of the conquest not the later independence wars), and the Scramble for Africa that left only Japan and the United States as non-European powers, and Japan the only non-white and non-Christian world power. Ethiopia was a non-white Christian regional power

One reason that I am covering the rise of *all* the Empires, Empire by Empire, is because the Belgian Congo was no different than any of the others, it's just for whatever reason attracted greater horror than the others.

halialkers: Raven from Teen Titans cartoon caption "I'm surrounded by idiots." Grey skin, purple hair/eyes (Idiots. I am surrounded by them.)
One of the forgotten causes and influential effects on both world wars was the rise of the New Imperialism. As more of Europe began to industrialize, the spread of a Second Industrial Revolution led to the spread of cheap steel and more modern military technology. It was summed up in a poem by one anti-imperialist:

Whatever happens we have got
the Maxim gun and they have not.

The social shift to the New Imperialism was caused by the onset of the Long Depression (which originally had Great Depression applied to it the same way that the Napoleonic Wars were originally known as the Great War). I referenced this in the Reconstruction series because it more than anything else killed Reconstruction. Prior to the 1850s and the 1860s imperialism's direct effects on Africa and Asia had been relatively limited. The peoples and states there had been strong enough to meet Europeans on an equal basis. But when European armies had Gatlings and later the Maxim gun things got very, very unpleasant in a hurry. It was during this time that Shaka Zulu's creation of a Zulu Empire occurred. Shaka had developed one of the most formidable existing African military machines of his day, though his successor Dingane tried to stop the encroaching of the Boers on the Voortrek and got the bloodbath along Blood River for his trouble.

Decades later the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 saw the British outthought and outfought by the Zulu in the first stages. It was really, really embarrasing for the British though not half as bad as the Second Boer War proved to be. However the true trigger of the Second Imperialism's direct rule in Africa was the crisis in Egypt. There starting in 1805 a visionary ruler named Muhammad Ali Pasha had begun to modernize Egypt. His successor Ismail Pasha had allowed the French to construct the Suez Canal. His legacy, however, was to increase dramatically the influence of colonial authorities there.

The Egyptians, however, made the reasonable if foolish assumption where the empires were concerned that if the Suez Canal was on their land they should have control of it. The Khedives, as Muhammad Ali Pasha and his successors were known, did not want this as a potential threat to their political power. But when the Egyptians began large truly democratic  uprisings against an increasingly unpopular ruler with backing from the superpower of the day (sound familiar?) the British army invaded Egypt which became a de facto colony of the British Empire (while still de jure being ruled by an Ottoman vassal).

This in turn led King Leopold III of Belgium to decide on getting Belgium an empire, which in turn will lead to all that follows in the next entry in this subseries.

halialkers: Genghis Khan frontal view in feathered headdress, red robes (Ashari)
After this entry the rest of the Road to Hell (as in lead-in to WWI) subseries will include parts of The Call by Rupert Brooke as their titles. There is a reason for this. The shape World War I took required three wars to ensure that when it came, it came as it did. The first war, the Austro-Prussian War set in motion an impending trainwreck where a political structure grew that was over-complicated in one of the biggest minefields of Europe, where two feuding elites played cats-paws with mice that were secretly carrying a hantavirus that finally undid the Habsburg state.

The second was the Franco-Prussian War, where the Prussian-led alliance created the German Empire, a Kleindeutsch federal state. The German nationalism of the era had two variants. The one that went into making Germany was Kleindeutschland where Germany would be dominated by Protestant, over-militarized (to its and ultimately also to Germany's detriment), spartan Prussia. The other was Grossdeutschland, the ideology that would later typify the Volksgemeinschaft envisioned by the Nazional Sozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiter Partei that would start the war that once more split Germany. Imperial Germany, it must be said, was very much not Nazi Germany in embryo. The Small-Germany ideal and the influence of Prussia prevented it from this fate. So also did the realities of the 19th Century, where as will be detailed the German Empire was very much the opposite of the Nazi regime in a lot of ways, though ironically there are also very real continuities between the two, not necessarily where 21st Century US citizens would expect them to be.

The third was the war here: the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8. In the aftermath of the Crimean War a generation earlier, the Russian Tsardom had abolished slavery with a simple proclamation (it was technically serfdom but Russian serfdom doesn't have too much to distinguish it from cotton slavery to me) in 1861. By 1867 this process was complete across the entire vast domain of the Russian Empire. There is another subseries that will be beginning detailing the events in Russia at this same point, the first entry to be noted after it. But suffice to say that Russians felt extremely militarily confident, and they launched a great war against the Ottoman Empire.

Due less to Russian skill in arms than Ottoman overconfidence and underestimation of the Russians this war turned into a string of Russian lopsided victories, as while the Ottomans had the ability to defeat the Russians handily, they made no use of it in any degree of effectiveness to stop them. Like Barbarossa on paper it should have been a smashing Ottoman victory. Like Barbarossa in reality it was an epic curbstomp. The victorious Russians had made political hay out of Ottoman massacres of Slavs, but ignored entirely simultaneous massacres and ethnic cleansings throughout the Balkans which increased Anatolia's Muslim population at the expense of its Christian, a practice which had ominous consequences in 1915.

This Treaty of San Stefano was then immediately and peremptorily negated by a German-led Conference of Berlin in 1879 where Russian power was knocked down a peg and unusually for Great Power conventions the Ottomans regained, as opposed to losing territory. It was this convention which gave Austria-Hungary administrative rights over Bosnia-Herzegovina, the infamous decision which would come back to haunt Europe.

halialkers: (Default)
It is this war, the one of 1870, where the lead-in to the general European war is first seen. While the Prussians did defeat the Austrians in the Austro-Prussian War, this was less impressive than it seems. Austria had never been taken seriously as a military power since the 18th Century. Prussia, by contrast, was taken seriously....as a middling power. In 1870 the Second Bonapartist Empire was seemingly at the height of its power. It should be noted that the French Empire in this war was the more technologically advanced of the two societies. It had machine guns (the mitralleuse), it had the more esteemed record of the 19th Century (there's a reason people in the US Civil War despised German units, the idea then was that Germans were good poets and composers, shitty fighters). Too, there was the one French Empire, but multiple German states.

Yet Otto von Bismarck outmaneuvered the French. The war was in one sense the last succession war in European history. The cause of the war was a conflict over who was and who wasn't to succeed to the throne of Spain. The French preferred one candidate, and were extremely offended at the idea a Hohenzollern (the royal house of Prussia and later Imperial Germany) could possibly control France, and it also sparked fears of encirclement, and this was played up by Otto von Bismarck in his Ems Telegram. Thus on 19 July began the fateful war. Ironically given the jingoism in the US that's shown up since the Bush Administration as regards France the expectation was a lopsided Persian defeat. The French made the first move, occupying Saarbrucken.

Then the Prussian-led alliance of German states struck, and at Wissembourg, achieving a 60,000/8,000 lopsided superiority which led the French garrison there, naturally, to fall back. In the second battle, at Spicheren, 27,000 Prussians forced  24,000 French to retreat toward Metz. This battle was not planned, but a result of an overzealous attack by the Prussian general, Steinmetz, against the French general, Frossard. Ironically the very Prussian inferiority in guns meant that they took very high casualties in this battle despite winning it.

It was the Battle of Worth, where a German alliance army of 75,000 defeated a French army of 32,000, with the Prussian superiority in both quantity of artillery (300 guns to 101) and quality of artillery led them to a decisive victory over the French army. This battle is known as the cradle of Germany because it was the first instance of the Imperial-era "German" military where troops from the individual German states fought as one army. The French were soundly thrashed and forced to retreat yet again.

At the Battle of Mars-La-Tour an intended French move to Verdun was thwarted by von Bredow's death ride, the last instance of a successful cavalry charge in Europe. The French army, despite outnumbering the Prussia 127,000 to 30,000 was soundly whupped and forced to into the Siege of Metz, a major tactical and strategic victory (and one instance where this war resembled the Civil War). Similarly at Gravelotte a Prussian army under Helmuth von Moltke forced them altogether into Metz, this despite being as usual the side with the greater casualties.

From August into October of 1870 Metz was besieged by Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia, who captured 186,000 troops under General Bazaine.

It would be at Sedan that a French army under the direct command of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte numbering 120,000 was attacked by a Prussian army of 200,000 with as usual a decisive superiority of artillery. Louis-Napoleon had lost an earlier battle against the Prussians, but here the German-led alliance soundly defeated the French due both to superiority of numbers and especially in quantity and quality of artillery. The victory was decisive, marked the end of France's second experiment with Bonapartist rule, while Paris was besieged from September 1870 to January of 1871. Despite valiant and heroic efforts to break the siege, which also included deliberate firing on civilians by the Prussian-led alliance, Paris surrendered.

In January of this year, this happened:

German particularism was effectively dead. The German Empire was proclaimed in the Hall of Mirrors in the former palace of the Sun King, at Versailles (the very same place where the infamously botched treaty that dictated Germany's peace terms at the end of WWI was signed). With his son, the future (very short-lived) Kaiser Friedrich III behind him, and the noble von Bismarck in white in front of him, the King of Prussia who'd taken over from a deranged older brother had become German Emperor.

The war finally ended in 1871, with the fledgling German state taking Alsace-Lorraine from the French Third Republic and forcing on it a punitive indemnity. If this sounds familiar, Versailles was this dialed up to 11. Somehow the French overlooked that it hadn't worked very well with them, and was even less likely to do this with the Weimar Republic. The German Empire now existed, and one of Europe's potentially largest and richest states had been born. But from the harsh peace of 1871 came the future seed of which the French desire for an alliance with Russia was sown. Yet early on the German Empire signed the Drekaiserbund with the Russian Empire.

For a time the Russia of Alexander II, Tsar-Liberator, the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy of Franz Josef, Emperor crowned during the year 1848, and the new German Empire were all allies. Yet six later this went horribly wrong.

halialkers: (Default)
This is the first part of a subseries that unlike the ones in the Civil War-Reconstruction-Redemption era will be interspersed. It is my conviction that one of the key driving forces of the lead-in to World War I, during World War I, and up to 1945 was the sequence of decisions made by Japanese military and political leadership. I will even go a bit further and say that up to 1941 Japan was a much more important determiner of events in several ways than the US itself was. This is not the excessive admiration seen by some anime-fanboys who overlook the darker side of Japanese culture, that very much did exist and was as much a determining factor in the career of the Empire of Greater Japan as the rest of it. However Japan's rise is inseparable from this entire era and it must be given emphasis proportionate to that which it deserves, especially in the age of the Second Imperialism.

Japan in the 1850s was ruled by an ossified Tokugawa Shogunate, whose Seclusion Policy (really a precocious appearance of economic protectionism more than North Korea Early Modern Style) was leaving Japan behind the new industrial European states, militarily and technologically. The arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry in Edo (later renamed Tokyo) Bay and his forcing the first of the Unequal Treaties on Japan started the decline of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the rise of Imperial Japan. In Japanese history the era that followed this is termed the Bakumatsu. In the late 1850s US influence, the US at the time one of the only non-European powers that had the kind of autonomy the Great Powers took for granted, had reached a peak with regard to Japan, but the outbreak of the Civil War put the kibosh on that for a time.

In the 1860s, a xenophobic movement arose with the phrase Sonno Joi! as its slogan. "Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians." This in turn led to a string of naval fighting where Europeans overshadowed the forces of the Shogun. Ironically this at first strengthened the Shogunate against the new liberal advocates of what would become Imperial Japan. But by 1867, a group of oligarchs who were the successors to the alliance of the Daimyos of the Satsuma and Chosu domains, Saigo Takamori and Kido Takayoshi had successfully outmaneuvered the Shogunate, defeating it in the Boshin War, a civil war where the proto-IJA, a Western-style army of conscripts organized along contemporary European lines defeated the Shogunate.

So at the very time that Prussia's defeat of Austria and the signing of the Ausgleich, as well as the successful secession of Serbia from the Ottoman Empire marked the first steps of the road to 1914 in Europe, the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate marked the first stage in Japan's rapid and unprecedented rise in global power and influence, the very rise which made possible the course of events with both world wars.

I might note that I believe Japan's role gets less credence than it otherwise would partially because US history is Euro-centric, and partially because Japan was the only non-white, non-Christian *and* non-European power to put a real scare into all the Great Powers. It should be noted by the start of World War I that the only non-European states to have any autonomy at all were the USA, Japan, and Ethiopia. And of the three the USA was a typical Europeanish state of the time.

halialkers: (Default)
I choose to start my World Wars series here with this war, four years earlier than most people do, for a reason. The 1870 war is the lead-in to the general European War and how it would shape up among the Great Powers. This war is why the war began where it did, when it did. In the 1840s King Wilhelm had become the King of Prussia, establishing a strongly conservative monarchy that continued the Prussian reality of being an army with a state to support it. To secure this after the 1848 Revolution, however, he had to turn to the Prussian Otto Bismarck, who for his services to King Wilhelm became known as the founder of the unified German Empire.

In 1866, the rising strength of Prussia relative to that of Austria had become a concern for the Kingdom of Franz Josef. Prussia had developed a strong railroad network, with an army that had breechloading rifles (the Dreyse Needle-Gun), however Wilhelm's army had the weaker artillery relative to Franz Josef (ironically in WWI Austria-Hungary would *still* have better artillery than anyone else in the war). The Austrian armies were equipped with the Lorenz Rifle, which was the third-most-common rifle used in the US Civil War by both the Union and the Confederacy. Thus this was a war in Europe fought with in the main the same logistical and technological abilities available to the armies of the US Civil War.

These armies, like their Civil War counterparts, were supplied by rail, had much lesser logistical requirements than modern armies, thereby enabling the greater possibility of the decisive single battle, and were rather smaller than later modern armies, hundreds of thousands instead of millions.

In this war, too, Austria like the Confederacy had all the advantages for a defensive war. It had interior lines, it had the advantages of defending on a war fought on one's own home soil, it had the knowledge of terrain, and it had better artillerymen (E. Porter Alexander is one of the under-appreciated leaders of the Army of Northern Virginia). It had one advantage even that the Confederacy never had, superiority of numbers relative to the Prussians. Prussia was in the position of the Union, underestimated, much more well-coordinated armies and plans, troops moved by rail. and like the Union had to conquer and win the war where Austria had merely to not lose it.

Prussia had as an ally the Kingdom of Italy, seeking to expand at Austrian expense. This same motivation led Italy in WWI to enter the war on the side of the Allies. In the first battle between the two sides in this war at Custoza the Austrians defeated the Italians. At Trutnov the Austrians checked a Prussian advance, but did so with extremely heavy losses. At Langensalza, the Hanoverians defeated the Prussians. But at Jicin and then at Konniggratz the Prussians won the great and decisive victory of the war, as three weeks later the Austrians had to sign an armistice and later a peace treaty that recognized the Prussian victory.

At Lissa during this war there was the first battle of one ironclad fleet against another. It must be noted that the British and the French had invented the first seagoing ironclads, but the two projects were experimental. It was in the Battle of Hampton Roads where the Confederate Navy showed Ironclads really did end war as it was, and where the first ironclad ships fought each other directly. The Europeans, however, had the first fleet-on-fleet engagement.

This war, however, set the tone for what became World War I in the specific events of 1914 with two contemporary events the year after. In 1867 after almost an entire decade of pressure the Ottomans withdrew from Serbia, which had a Gemanophone appointed as its king, while in 1867 Austria was forced to dicker the Ausgleich. Austria as a multi-ethnic power in the center of Europe was one of the first to run aground the issue of nationalism. In 1848, the Hungarians under Kossuth had nearly overthrown Austrian rule, and it had taken aid from Tsar Nicholas I to fully secure Hungary as a Habsburg domain.

The Ausgleich began the process which handicapped the Habsburg Empire from thereon out, by setting one of the most dangerous precedents possible, yet the only one that actually could and did resolve the problem. While Austria retained its own administrative apparatus, by the late 19th Century known as Cislethania, Hungary became a semi-autonomous region with its own separate local-civil-political administration, but under the overall sovereignty of the Habsburg Emperor and with no true military freedom of action. In a sense like the Dominion policy Britain was pursuing in Canada at that time. However with nationalism showing up, this precedent led to an over-complicated mixture of political struggles, which increasingly neutered the Habsburg state politically. By 1914 the only part of the state that worked partially was the military, and the key word is "partially'.

Yet it was the precedent that led Archduke Franz Ferdinand to propose Trialism, as opposed to Ausgleich dualism. This precedent would come into conflict with the people seeking "Greater Serbia" (also known as Yugoslavia) and would be the reason that the grilled cheese sandwich of doom ensured two gunshots which set the world on fire.

I should note that this war is why when the general European war came it came in Sarajevo with two gunshots. The 1870 and 1877 wars were why the war became the general European war as opposed to Austria smashing up Serbia. While the latter two ensured general European war would happen the moment any Great Power conflict was not resolvable via diplomacy, this war is why the specific area was Sarajevo, June 28th as opposed to say, Russia and the Ottomans being a war-starter or the renewal of the Ausgleich being a war-starter.

I should note here, too, that it was not the multi-ethnic nature of Osterreich-Ungarn itself that did it in, it was the problem created by the Ausgleich of autonomy for one ethnicity and the irreconcilable claims of others for autonomy that could not be met by the Habsburg Dynasty, nor in truth were they met by the new nation-states.


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