Germany and the Great Powers, 1866-1914: A Study in Public Opinion and Foreign Policy

Germany and the Great Powers, 1866-1914: A Study in Public Opinion and Foreign Policy

Germany and the Great Powers, 1866-1914: A Study in Public Opinion and Foreign Policy

Germany and the Great Powers, 1866-1914: A Study in Public Opinion and Foreign Policy

Excerpt

Every book has its roots in the past. This one goes back to 1925, when my interest in the rôle of European public opinion in the history of international relations was first aroused in connection with the origins of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. After the completion of my book French Public Opinion on Foreign Affairs, 1870-1914 (published in 1931), I began the investigations which now eventuate in this study.

There is today, it is safe to say, a rather general appreciation among students of history of the importance of public opinion in the development of foreign relations, but, unless I am much mistaken, there is a good deal of skepticism as to its significance in Germany, even during the comparative freedom of the Second Reich. My own vague ideas were at first based upon the revelations of Bismarck's control of the press in Moritz Busch Memoirs, by what I had heard and read of the foreign office's press bureau under William II, and by what the Germans themselves were wont to say of their own political docility and incapacity. My researches show, beyond any doubt, that the official control of the press and of public opinion, although greater than in France and England, was far less complete and that there was more real independence of opinion than is generally believed. Instead of lightening my labors, these conclusions greatly increased them, for it was impossible to assume that what the official and so-called inspired press said was automatically accepted by the press and public opinion in general. First of all, it was necessary to find out with respect to every important question what the government wished the reaction of the public to be, and then, which was far more difficult, what that reaction really was. Without going into the whole question of the causative forces behind German public opinion, I wish to point out the part . . .

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