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 135 Minutes 11 Jun 2020

Get your tickets to Intelligent Speech online! Only $10 until 16 June, and catch your faves including me, as I do a Q&A!Make sure you head over to Patreon if you want more podding goodies, and to stamp your ticket for more Bismarck!Episode 7 – Domination and Manipulation: 1863-64.He had made his fair share of errors, but it was fair to say at the same time that Bismarck wasn’t going anywhere. By the summer of 1863, the Polish business was mostly forgotten, and Bismarck could look further afield and see what developments in foreign affairs provided an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. He didn’t have to wait long. The Austrian Emperor Franz Josef claimed to desire a new constitution, one which all Germans should cooperate in crafting. To learn more, my fellow Germans, I wish to summon you to Frankfurt, where we can discuss the pending unification of Germany under Austrian control in more detail. This initiative had been on the cards for some time, but once it was announced, it was obvious to Bismarck what he had to do. Over the course of August 1863, Bismarck worked on the King. To Bismarck’s horror, Wilhelm saw no issue with the fact that he had been summoned, and his sense of tradition and pride at being summoned first meant that Bismarck would have a real fight on his hands. If Your Majesty went to Frankfurt and kowtowed to the Austrians, Bismarck insisted, then Prussia would be forever ruined, and forever viewed as little more than a vassal state. Furthermore, your army would be placed at Austria’s command, your soldiers would become cannon fodder, your legacy would be destroyed, and your kingdom subordinated to Vienna. It was a concentrated and detailed verbal attack, launched against the exhausted king who lay on a sofa and just absorbed it all for nigh on three hours. By the time Bismarck was finished, he was in tears, at the height of nervous anxiety, and ready to walk out of the door and into the Prussian wilderness. But Bismarck’s state was nothing compared to the King’s – Bismarck had broken the poor man, and within hours, it was plain that Prussia would not in fact be attending the Congress of German Princes which the Austrians had intended to host in Frankfurt.Wilhelm could lament that he was missing out on a great honour, but Bismarck proved correct – the Frankfurt meeting was little more than Austria’s last effort to unite Germany under its aegis, with Austrian rules, Austrian soldiers, and Austrian predominance guaranteed. The realisation of the dream of national German unity was intoxicating for some, but not for Bismarck. If Germany was to be unified, then it must be under Prussia, and if the King of Prussia couldn’t see this, Bismarck would make him see it. All in all, it was a merciless campaign of bullying and persuading by Bismarck, yet if he hadn’t engaged in it, history would have turned out very differently indeed. Here, not for the last time, Bismarck changed history, and set Prussia on a course which was to end in triumph. 
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