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European History


Alliances 1873–1914

  • 1873: Germany, Austria, Russia form Three Emperor’s League

  • 1878:Berlin Congress puts Russia at odds with Germany, Austria

  • 1879: Germany and Austria form Dual Alliance

  • 1882: Italy joins Germany and Austria in Triple Alliance

  • 1890: German king William II dismisses Bismarck, architect of peace and alliances

  • 1894: France and Russia agree to defend each other, facing Germany with possibility of two-front war

  • 1890s–1900s: German and British naval arms race

  • 1904: Britain and France sign agreements

  • 1907: Britain and Russia sign agreements


Scientific Reason & Irrationality 1815–1914

Scientists make great discoveries in the 1800s, but these are often applied to serve irrational, hostile purposes

Positivism: Belief that world is improving through science; most associated with French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798–1857)

1859:Charles Darwin‘s (English, 1809–1882) On the Origin of Species argues that organisms fittest for a given environment survive

Social Darwinism: Modification of Darwin’s theory to belief that individuals, societies, nations become dominant through struggle to be the fittest; argument against helping poor or weak

Scientific racism: Belief that races have biological, intellectual, moral characteristics that make white races superior to others; race also defined by nationality (e.g., French race vs. German race)

  • 1899: Englishman H. S. Chamberlain’sFoundations of the 19th Century advocates racial purity

Anti-Semitism: Belief that Jewish people are inferior due to race, not just religion (change from previous prejudice)

  • 1894–1899:Dreyfus Affair: French Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus wrongly jailed for treason; legal battle for retrial divides society

  • 1896: Austro-Hungarian Theodor Herzl publishes The Jewish State, launching Zionist movement for separate Jewish nation

  • 1905:Pogroms (violent attacks on Russian Jews) intensify

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) praises irrationality, criticizes morality and scientists, awaits heroic Overman

Austrian theorist Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) probes dreams, childhood, and unconscious through psychoanalysis

Many male scientists believe that new ideas about evolution and psychology confirm that women are inferior, irrational, domestic

Women often still excluded from scientific discussion

1890s–1900s: Scientists Pierre Curie (French) and Marie Curie (Polish-French) discover radioactivity and x-rays

1900s: German physicist Max Planck describes quantum theory

1905: German physicist Albert Einstein publishes special theory of relativity