A Level and IB History Revision

Historiography: who was responsible for the First World War?

This is a different type of revision podcast as, rather than covering the details of events, it aims to provide a summary of key historians’ interpretations of them.  The podcast tracks the changing historiography of responsibility for the First World War over time.  Beginning with the attitude at the time of the Versailles Treaty, the podcast summarises the shift in interpretation through the inter-war period, the effect of World War 2, the 1960s and the Fischer Thesis, and post-Fischer revisionism.  Historians whose work is briefly mentioned include G. Lowes Dickinson, Sidney Fay, AJP Taylor, Luigi Albertini, Fritz Fischer, Niall Ferguson and John Keegan.

          

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Treaty of London 1839

The Treaty of London: Belgium independence and the First World War

The Treaty of London recognised and guaranteed the independence and neutrality of Belgium.

https://youtu.be/4B26jnJJAD4

In 1813 Napoleon’s rule of the Netherlands was ended by the combined armies of Russia and Prussia, and control was given to William Frederik of Orange-Nassau. Two years later, as a result of the Congress of Vienna, modern Belgium became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

These southern provinces were predominantly Catholic, and a sizeable number of the inhabitants spoke French. However, William clearly favoured Protestantism and had tried to impose Dutch as the official language. This led to tensions which were exacerbated by economic problems that included high unemployment and arguments over the effect of free trade on the less developed south. A revolution erupted in 1830 that led to the states declaring independence on 4 October, although William refused to recognise the independent Belgium for over nine years.

In signing the treaty that formally recognised the existence of the independent Kingdom of Belgium, the Netherlands were joined by Britain, Austria, France, Russia, and the German Confederation. Furthermore, Britain insisted that the signatories also recognise Belgium’s perpetual neutrality.

The neutrality clause was of central importance in the outbreak of the First World War, since Germany violated Belgium’s neutrality when its forces crossed the border in the Schlieffen Plan. Britain thus claimed to be upholding the Treaty of London when it declared war on 4 August 1914 – much to the anger of German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg who couldn’t believe Britain would go to war over a ‘mere a scrap of paper’.

The origins of German unification: 1815-1848

This revision podcast presents the background of German unification.  Beginning with the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the podcast goes on to explore the opposing conservative and progressive factors at play in the early 19th Century.  In terms of conservatism, we consider the impact of Metternich, the role of the nobles and the influence of the church.  The growth of progressive factors such as the impact of the railways and industrialisation, the middle class, and the Zollverein are also considered.

     

Historiography: The failure of the German revolutions 1848-49

This revision podcast presents the key factors that led to the failure of the revolutions in the German states.  This is done through a consideration of the historiography of period.  Particular focus is put on the work of Eric Eyck, Karl Marx, AJP Taylor and Bob Whitfield and the different interpretations they reached about the reasons for failure.  Historical evidence is then presented that could be used to support their opinions.

          

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The changing balance of power: Germany 1849-59

This revision podcast considers the reasons for the changing balance of power between Austria and Prussia following the revolutions of 1848-9.  Beginning with the Erfurt Union and the subsequent Declaration of Olmutz, the podcast goes on to consider the impact of key international events including the Crimean War and Austria’s war against Italy.  It also assesses the impact of events in the German States themselves, paying particular attention to Austria’s failed attempt to join the Zollverein and the effect of Prussia’s economic boom.

          

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The creation of the North German Confederation: 1862-66

Although this revision podcast covers a much shorter period of time than the previous episodes in the series, the sequence of events that led to the creation of the North German Confederation laid the foundation for the unification of Germany just five years later.  This podcast begins with the introduction of Von Roon’s army reforms and the appointment of Bismarck to the role of Chancellor.  It then goes on to explain how Bismarck refined his system of Realpolitik through the Polish Revolt, the Schleswig-Holstein Crisis and the Danish War which in turn led to the Convention of Gastein.  This episode ends with the Austro-Prussian War and the Peace of Prague – the final stage in Prussia’s subjugation of Austria – and the creation of the North German Confederation.

          

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The unification of Germany: 1866-71

The final episode in this series of revision podcasts concludes the process of German unification.  Beginning with the aftermath of the Peace of Prague and the creation of the North German Confederation, it provides an overview of France’s attempts to gain territory (including the Luxembourg Affair) in the face of increasing Prussian dominance.  Following a discussion of the Hohenzollern Candidature and Bismarck’s editing of the subsequent Ems Telegram, the podcast finishes with an account of Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.

          

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The Franco-Prussian War

This low-budget (but reasonably informative) video presents an overview of the events that led to the Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent German unification.

Railways in the Franco-Prussian War

This short video explains how Von Moltke’s planning enabled speedy Prussian mobilisation by using the railway network.

Wilhelm I declared German Emperor

Proclamation of Wilhelm I as the first German Emperor

On the 18th January 1871, Wilhelm I of Prussia was proclaimed the first German Emperor. The creation of the federal Empire made Wilhelm the head of state and president of the federated monarchies that made up the 27 constituent territories.

Wilhelm had been made the President of the North German Confederation on its formation in 1867, and during the Franco-Prussian War took a leading role in the command of the German forces. With patriotic fervour as a result of the enormously successful German advance, in November 1870 the remaining states south of the river Main joined the North German Confederation.

The next month, on the 10th December, the Reichstag of the Confederation renamed itself the German Empire. Wilhelm was formally declared the German Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles on the 18th January.  The title was accepted grudgingly by Wilhelm who would have preferred “Emperor of Germany” rather than “German Emperor”, but Bismarck warned that this would be dangerous as it suggested he had a claim to other Germanic lands such as Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland. He also refused to be titled “Emperor of the Germans”, since this would have suggested he ruled with permission from the German people rather than by “the grace of God”. As a believer in divine right, this suggestion was unacceptable to him.

Three months later, on the 14th April, the Reichstag adopted the German Constitution. This stated that the King of Prussia would be the permanent President of the confederation of states that formed the Empire. Therefore, the role of Emperor was directly tied to the Prussian crown.