The Italian Problem in European Diplomacy, 1847-1849

The Italian Problem in European Diplomacy, 1847-1849

The Italian Problem in European Diplomacy, 1847-1849

The Italian Problem in European Diplomacy, 1847-1849

Excerpt

At first sight the European diplomatic system appears to proceed in the most haphazard way. Personal likes and dislikes (such as the famous feud between Bismarck and Gortschakoff), the accidental delaying of a dispatch, the evil intentions of one diplomat or the levity of another --by these the tranquillity, even the peace, of Europe seem to be determined. And no doubt these personal, these accidental issues have their influence and their importance. But, on a closer view, there emerge more and more clearly certain broad principles, until the petty struggles of day-to-day diplomacy take on the appearance of a battle of Platonic Ideas. From a study of almost any isolated instance, one might deduce all the differences in political structure and political outlook among the states of Europe. Not, of course, that the diplomats and statesmen are themselves always conscious of these essential differences--they, like the casual reader, believe that they are living from hand to mouth, and popular opinion, faced with this paradox, has often tended to fall back upon some ready-made explanation--the malignant influence of a Holstein or a Crowe or the irresistible atmosphere of the Quai d'Orsay. But it is really not necessary to discover, or to invent, such secret forces: it is rather that the course of national policy is based upon a series of assumptions, with which statesmen have lived since their earliest years and which they regard as so axiomatic as hardly to be worth stating. It is the duty of the historian to clarify these assumptions and to trace their influence upon the course of every-day policy.

It is the peculiar fascination of European diplomatic history that the assumptions vary from one country to another, that what is obvious to an English statesman is . . .

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