French Public Opinion and Foreign Affairs, 1870-1914

French Public Opinion and Foreign Affairs, 1870-1914

French Public Opinion and Foreign Affairs, 1870-1914

French Public Opinion and Foreign Affairs, 1870-1914

Excerpt

The historical development of public opinion in its relation to foreign affairs is a comparatively new field of investigation. This volume is the result of the first exploration of a considerable section of this field. If it shows that the history of international relations before 1914 requires a broader treatment than is possible with the traditional methods of diplomatic history, if it suggests a more intensive study of certain problems which could not be examined here in detail, and if it encourages similar studies for the other Great Powers, it will not have been in vain. The present writer, at least, has found the problem of absorbing interest, and he ventures to hope that something of this interest may be communicated to others.

The author does not pretend to have accomplished the impossible. The mass of printed material which to a degree influenced or expressed public opinion defies a completely exhaustive study. Nor is it, in fact, necessary, for there were usually a comparatively few opinions whose repetition was limited only by the capacity of the press and by the number of politicians who were interested in these questions. The author believes that he has traced the more important currents of public opinion, and that he has indicated with a measure of accuracy their influence or lack of influence, as the case may be, upon the official policy.

The use of material from the newspaper press involved certain technical difficulties. Two methods were possible. A few editorials could be quoted at some length on each question, following the example of the diplomatic historian who wishes to give each important statement in its context; the alternative was the quotation of a phrase, or of a few sentences, from a larger number of newspapers. The latter procedure has been followed in this study. It permits a more complete, and therefore more satisfactory, presentation of the evidence. It has the merit of reproducing something of the mass effect of the press. The plan does not, it is believed, require the sacrifice of essential material. The editorial is most frequently the elaboration of a fairly definite point of view which may be suggested perhaps more effectively by a brief than by a long quotation.

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