History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 1997: Q.6

History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 1997: Q.6

Q.6 Isolation of France constituted the keystone of Bismarck’s foreign policy. Elucidate. (60 marks)


Bismack had won for Germany national unity and hegemony of Europe by a policy of “blood and iron”. After achieving his goal, his aim was to maintain status quo and peace. He declared Germany as a satisfied country and she should do nothing which could threaten German Empire.

Why Bismarck wanted to isolate France?

Bismarck knew the biggest threat to German security and status quo is France because:

(1) France was humiliated during France-Prussian War, 1871 after which Germany was united.

(2) France would never be reconciled to the loss of Alsace-Lorraine lost after Franco-Prussian War.

(3) France would seek opportunity to avenge national humiliation and to recover territorial loss.

(4) France would never accept powerful German Empire at her door.

Hence, Bismarck devoted his whole diplomatic skill towards isolating France internationally, which would make it impossinle for France to make any war of vengeance.

How Bismarck isolated France?

To isolate France diplomatically, it was necessary for Germany to form a comprehensive system of alliances and to prevent the formation of counter alliance against her.

(1) Alliance with Austria and good relation with Russia

Bismarck’s key foreign  policy was alliance with Austria and good relation with Russia. Inspite of defeating Austria in Sadowa, Bismarck treated Austria well and forged friendship.
Good relation with Russia was easy as Russian interest did not conflict with Germany. Also Bismarck had supported Russia to repudiate Black Sea clauses of the Treaty of Paris.

(2) League of three Emperor

Bismarck succeded in forming League of three Emperor, comprising the Emperors of Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary.

(3) Bismarck preffered Austria over Russia

The interest of Russia and Austria conflicted in Balkans. At the Congress of Berlin (1878) , Bismarck was forced to choose between Austria and Russia and he preffered Austria considering Russia as uncertain ally.

(4) Austro-German alliance

Finally Austro-German alliance was concluded in 1879. This alliance was aimed against Russia and France.

(5) Triple Alliance of 1882

Bismarck next drew Italy into the Austro-German alliance as Italy feared that France may seek to restore the Papacy. Also there was Franco-Austrian rivalry over Tunis in North Africa. Bismarck used these situations to draw Italy and isolate France. Thus formed Triple Alliance of 1882 between Austria, Germany and Italy. This was masterstroke of Bismarck as the alliance contained countries with bitter historical rivalry.

(6) Reviving League of three Emperors

Bismarck feared that alienated Russia might drift towards France, so he tried to pacify Russia and was successful in reviving the old League of thee Emperors. In 1884, a secret treaty was signed by which each of the three Emperors promised benevolent neutrality in case one of them should become involved in war with a fourth Power.

(7) Reinsurance Treaty

Since good relations between Russia and Austria became impossible, Bismarck concluded a separate treaty with Russia known as the Reinsurance Treaty of 1887.

Thus Bismarck isolated France by allying with Austria, Italy and Russia. In short term, Bismarck policy was succeessful with status quo based maintained; safety of German Empire ensured and France isolated. But in the long term, it provoked counter alliances and thus dividing Europe in armed camps. Once Bismarck was gone, isolation of France ended with alliance with Russia.

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