When Diplomacy Fails

By Zack Twamley

On Going since May 2012 • Updated weekly

A weekly podcast covering the build up to, breakout of and consequences of various conflicts in history.

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  Direct Link   Download 77 Minutes 07 May 2020

Want to skip the queue and access all episodes of BismarckRise right NOW? OF COURSE YOU DO! Click here for moreUnsure of what's going on? Read this blog post for more information on BismarckRise.When we last left Bismarck, he had established himself in Frankfurt, and prepared to meet the challenges which Prussia faced, following several years of bungled, humiliating foreign policy. The constraints upon Bismarck seemed obvious, the greatest restriction by far being the Austrian domination of the German Confederation. This domination, an established fact since 1815, was to Bismarck the greatest flaw in Prussian diplomacy – made worse by the fact that few in Berlin, if any, seemed willing to contest this domination. Should we just let Austria have all the benefits of this Confederation, even if it was to Prussia’s detriment? Yet how could Austria even be combated? Bismarck had an idea, spending the next few years making his name as Vienna’s primary opponent in Frankfurt. ‘When Austria hitches a horse in front’, Bismarck proclaimed, ‘we hitch one behind!’ It was as plain a manifesto as the mad Junker could give us, but beneath this declaration was a man undergoing a remarkable transformation. Bismarck had gone to Frankfurt an untested commodity, and he would leave it a force to be reckoned with. But first he would have to reckon with the status quo, and this status quo, Bismarck insisted, meant that Prussia would never reach the heights of its power. Very well then, it was plain that nothing, not the ideal of German unity, not the tradition of Austrian power, not the fact of Prussian isolation should stand in the way. It was all to play for, and Prussia should look wherever it could to find potential friends, even in revolutionary France. These ideas stunned and horrified his traditionalist superiors, but they also gave us a hint of the kind of principles which Bismarck possessed. He was unrestricted by old assumptions, no matter how ingrained, and he was adamant that unless Prussia thought outside the box (or outside of Germany) she would never be supreme. A supreme Prussia was the only thing Bismarck could accept. Impossible, said his superiors, Austria is Berlin’s friend and ally, and besides, Vienna has the power of Russia behind her – we cannot contest those two powers together! No matter, said Bismarck in effect, we should wait and see whether circumstances might change. And change they soon did. Bismarck would be rewarded for his patience, because with the eruption of the Crimean War, everything was about to change. 
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