Between 1870 and 1914, in Europe, there was a period without military conflicts of great magnitude, but deep down there was a permanent tension between the great powers. For this reason, historians have recorded this stage with a suggestive term, armed peace.
In the period of Armed Peace, the key figure was German Chancellor Bismarck
In 1870, the Prussian army significantly defeated French troops in the Franco-Prussian War, thus, France was forced to cede its territories in Alsace and Lorraine. The first consequence of this episode was the dismantling of the world order established at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck establishes the German Empire in 1871 and begins to weave his plan for his country to become a world power. To achieve his goal, Bismarck put into practice a double strategy: to isolate France from the international plan so as not to ally itself with other powers (especially Great Britain, Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and, at the same time, resign to colonial expansion so as not to make enmity with the British.
While the Germans activated this policy , the French concentrated on expanding their colonial empire in Africa and Asia and in this way became rivals with the British, as the latter also had expansionist aspirations. Armed Peace
Bismarck’s plans decline and a period of tension begins that would eventually lead to the First World War
Bismarck’s intentions began to weaken when two of his allies (Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire) sought to control the territory of the Balkans at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. In this way, in 1878, the Russians militarily defeated the Ottoman Turks and ended up controlling the territory of Bulgaria. This endangers European stability and after a conference in Berlin, Russia is pressured to renounce its interests in the Balkans.
Bismarck articulates new strategies and allies himself with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy. In secret, Germany and Russia make a pact of collaboration despite being officially opposing powers.
The balance system promoted by Bismarck takes a turn with the new German monarch: Guillermo II. In 1890, Guillermo comes to power, dismisses Bismarck as chancellor, and expresses his desire to turn Germany into an empire, like Britain and France. Armed Peace
One of the first steps to be taken is to break the secret alliance with the Russians, who finally ally themselves with the French by sharing the fear of a strong Germany.
The Germans began to build a powerful fleet to extend their colonial domains, but logically the British reacted and allied with the French to contain German imperialism.
As a result of all these movements and alliances, two axes were created in Europe: Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy against a bloc formed by Great Britain, France and Russia. This tense and convulsive panorama was the preamble to the First World War that began in 1914. Armed Peace