Journal Article

A Balancing Act: Domestic Pressures and International Systemic Constraints in the Foreign Policies of the Great Powers, 1848–1851

Matthias Schulz

in German History

Published on behalf of German History Society

Volume 21, issue 3, pages 319-346
Published in print July 2003 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online July 2003 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0266355403gh287oa
A Balancing Act: Domestic Pressures and International Systemic Constraints in the Foreign Policies of the Great Powers, 1848–1851

Show Summary Details

Preview

During the revolutions of 1848 and their aftermath, the governments of France, Austria and Prussia, respectively, were exposed to extraordinary pressure from a variety of nationalist movements with fundamentally different agendas. They had difficult choices to make as to whether they let their foreign policies be determined by domestic concerns or heed the rules of the international system—it was hardly possible to do both. As a result they performed a ‘balancing act’ on a tight rope: a wrong step could cause their fall, either because they would be overthrown by their own people, or they would risk war with other Great Powers. Those not affected by a revolution in 1848, i.e. conservative Russia and progressive Britain, had to opt either for backing countries with political tendencies similar to their own, or for simply upholding the balance of power and international rules. The author concludes that the ‘primacy of foreign policy’—within this context more precisely the primacy of the international system's rules and the balance of power—helps to understand the actual foreign policies of four of the five Great Powers during the European crisis of 1848–51. Austria's government, the one country trying to overthrow the balance of power and change the nature of the system, was effectively checked. The rules of the post-1815 international system were still an efficacious tool for disciplining states.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: European History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.