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 105 Minutes 28 May 2020

Want to access these episodes all at once? Patreon is where you go my history friend!What were my five favourite moments from this series? Read this new blog post to find out...Episode 5 – Power at Last: 1861-62.Years of struggle and disappointment had finally led to this moment. On 22 September 1862, a fatalistic and hesitant King Wilhelm finally did it, he finally agreed to appoint Otto von Bismarck as Prussian Minister President, or Prime Minister. It was a decision which Wilhelm felt forced to take in the heat of the moment, what with those darned liberals still refusing to relent and give Prussia the military reforms she needed. Yet it was a decision which was to have profound consequences for Prussians, Germans, and the world. Bismarck’s career was made that day, but as we’ll see in this episode, it took some time for the nightmare to be over, and for confirmation of this appointment to filter into Bismarck’s anxious mind. As he waited for news, throughout late 1861 and much of 1862, Bismarck sought to make himself both scarce and somehow useful. He went on holiday to London, then to a seaside resort in Biarritz. Yet he kept his toe in the water, insisting on retaining the position of ambassador to France, a post which would have suited him very well, we imagine. But Bismarck felt deep down that this French posting wasn’t long for this world. So long as the crisis in Berlin continued to escalate, and so long as Bismarck’s superiors couldn’t make up their mind as to what they all wanted, Bismarck was left adrift. Very well, he said, in effect, if I am not needed, I will retire from public until I am. Over the course of the fateful six-week holiday which Bismarck enjoyed in the summer of 1862, he fell in love, met with future Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, and felt his former optimism return. A rejuvenated Bismarck then began to respond to his mail, and before long, found that he was to go to Berlin after all. What happened next soon entered into legend. The King couldn’t stand his subject, but also couldn’t afford to ignore him. He didn’t trust him, but he distrusted the liberals all the more. One choice was abdication, the other was Bismarck, and with Roon there to push him onward, King Wilhelm went with Bismarck. The decision may have been regretted by Wilhelm years later, when he realised what kind of monster he had just employed. Yet Wilhelm must also have realised something else – that Bismarck was utterly unlike any Minister President which any Prussian king had ever had. Now that he had been given power, Prussia was never to be the same again… 
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