The Hellenic World had its own bipolar international system. The two great powers
wereAthens and Sparta. TheAthenian-Spartan rivalry dated to the Persian Wars,
whenAthens gained dominance. Later on, in 435 BC, the city-states Corinth and
Corcyra went to war over territory (Epidamus). Corcyra formed an alliance with
Athens and Corinth with Sparta, beginning the Peloponnesian War.After almost
three decades,Athens is defeated.
• system level explanation: shift in relative distribution of power; Sparta
(431 BC- 404 BC) wanted to prevent long-term growth ofAthenian power/empire
• national level explanation:Athens had a daring democracy looking for
profit and expansion and accepted possible risks while Sparta was a
• individual level explanation: Pericles, an Athenian statesman, believed war
with Sparta was inevitable and proposed the Megarian Decree, which was
a set of sanctions against allies of Sparta
This was the last of major religious wars. Originally a Protestant uprising in
(1618 - 1648) Bohemia, it eventually widened to include almost all of Europe.At the end, France
became the most powerful.
After the Thirty Years War, French Cardinal Mazarin led peace negotiations. The
peace treaty introduced state sovereignty, created a basis for international law, ended
Peace of Westphalia papal authority, created new states (Switzerland and the Netherlands), and saw a rise
(1648) in the balance of power and a growth in nationalism. This marked the end of the
Holy Roma Empire’s dominance and paved the way for the modern state.
ALaissez-faire balance of power existed with five great powers (France, Austria,
Napoleonic Wars Britain, Russia, and Prussia) that shared beliefs and expectations, including the
(1802 - 1815) acceptance of the status quo. Napoleon introduces Napoleonic Codes and creates a
revisionist France infused with nationalism, forcing Britain, Russia,Austria, and
Prussia to form coalitions against France.
Although France “lost,” they were invited o the negotiating table after the
Congress of Vienna Napoleonic Wars. Here, public opinion didn’t matter, there were a small number of
(1814 – 1815) actors, and all of the professional diplomats had shared goals and objectives.
Classical diplomacy was developed and was extremely successful, resulting in the
“Long Peace” that lasted nearly a century.
This was the name given to the international system created at the Congress of
Vienna. All actors made it a priority to maintain the balance of power and preserve
the status quo. There were regular meetings attended by professional diplomats. The
Concert allowed for economic and industrial development along with a rise in
Concert of Europe standards of living. There were no wars between the signatories until 1854, when
(1815 – 1914) limited and short wars occurred, but did not include all great powers. The wars
included the Crimean War (1854 – 56), FrancoAustrian War (1859),Austro-
Prussian War (1866), and the Franco-Prussian War (1870 – 71). During this time,
there was also a rise in German and Italian nationalism, foreshadowing their
After the 37 German states and principalities unified in 1870 – 71, Otto von
Bismarck sought to isolate France and preserve stability in Europe. He created a
complex system of overlapping alliances, including the Three Emperor’s League
Bismarckian Alliance System with Austria and Russia, the Dual Alliance withAustria, and the TripleAlliance with
(1871 – 1914) Austria and Italy. He had attached Germany to every great power. His reign was
known as his “tour de force,” and his Realpolitik policies made other states very
cautious and suspicious towards Germany and it was beginning to be looked at as a
Britain, France, and Russia, seeing the German threat, came together to form the
Triple Entente in 1907, while Germany tightened its bonds withAustria and Italy.
TripleAlliance vs. Triple Entente These two alliances created a functional bipolar international system with no control
by one single strong leader, arms racing, poor civilian control of military, and deep
mutual suspicions and fear of encirclement. Russia and Japan go to war over imperial hegemony in Manchuria and Korea.All of
Russo-Japanese War Europe believed Russia would win quickly, but that was not the case. Japan, with
financial assistance, comes out victorious, reordering the East Asian balance of
(1904 – 1905) power. Russia’s loss is a major cause the 1905 Russian Revolution, and is one of the
reasons Russia agrees to become a member of the Triple Entente.
Due to the existence of alliances, the great powers of Europe had declared war on
each other in a little over a month after the assassination ofAustrian heirArchduke
World War I Ferdinand by the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. The rise in German power was
(1914 – 1918) a common threat that disturbed the balance of power and caused much suspicion.
Other underlying causes of the war include a number of arms races, imperialism,
Social Darwinism, and the rigid bipolar system.
George Clemenceau of France, David Lloyd George of Britain, Woodrow Wilson of
Paris Peace Conference the U.S., and Vittorio Orlando of Italy c