Courtesy Reuters

The World Crisis of 1936

THE nineteenth century was an era of comparative peace. The seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries had been racked by European and world wars. But after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 there was no world war till 1914. There were two main reasons for this. The first was because nations were preoccupied with the industrial revolution and because during the Victorian age there was relative freedom for migration, trade and the export of capital throughout a large part of the world. The second was because the supremacy of the British fleet, established after Trafalgar, made impossible European warlike adventures overseas.

This period of relative stability ended when the Kaiser, dissatisfied with the "place in the sun" enjoyed by the new German Empire, decided to force attention to his claims by building a navy comparable with the British, and by pursuing an aggressive diplomacy. This drove Great Britain out of her old detachment from the European Balance of Power and made her a part of it. The crisis approached with the threatened collapse first of Turkey and then of the Austro-Hungarian Empire under the disintegrating effect of internal agitation for national self-determination. The collapse of Austria-Hungary would not only have gravely weakened Germany, standing between the Franco-Russian alliance, but raised the question whether Germany or Russia was to be the heir to the Hapsburgs in the Balkans. From 1904 all the nations of Europe began to prepare for war, some hopeful, some fearful, none ready to start it, but all feeling that war was becoming inevitable as armaments rose. Germany was confident that if war came she could win it. Europe escaped war while Turkey was being driven back to Constantinople by the Balkan nationalities; but it was unable to escape it a few years later when Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and the one man who might have kept the Empire together, was shot by a South Slav assassin. This crime produced the Austrian ultimatum to Belgrade, backed by Germany and

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