History As Nemesis: Britain, German Unification and the European State System, 1870-1875

Fishman, Edward

"But in acknowledging Disraeli’s foresight we ought not assume that either he or any other British statesman was confident that the newly unified Germany would be a menace to England, much less that British diplomacy should aim to counterbalance the fledgling central European empire. It was only after a long series of disturbing German actions, culminating in the “war-in-sight” crisis of 1875, that the British fully came to view the “German Revolution” as hurtful to their interests. In fact, for decades educated English opinion had favored the emergence of a unified German state, and from the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War British sympathies tended toward the Prussian side. It is not difficult to see why such sentiments prevailed. Reared in the tradition of Britain as a world power, British statesmen of the era were more concerned with Russian advances into Central Asia and French designs in the Mediterranean than alterations in the continental balance of power. Moreover, a strong and united Germany, situated between Russia and France, would distract England’s two great rivals and deter them from extra-European adventures. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Lord Palmerston became the chief British proponent of German unity, believing that Britain and the German states faced common threats in Russia and France. “England and Germany therefore,” Palmerston avowed, 'have mutually a direct interest in assisting each other to become rich, united and strong.'"--from page 12

Geographic Areas


Also Published In

The Journal of Politics and Society

More About This Work

Academic Units
Helvidius Group
Helvidius Group of Columbia University
Published Here
February 11, 2014


The Peter and Katherine Tomassi Essay