It is a rather surprising fact that while the outbreak of the war in 1914 has led to the production of more than one skillful analysis of the crisis of that year, comparatively little attention has been given to the origin of the factors leading to that crisis, factors which take us back irresistibly to the establishment of German unity in 1870.
The study which follows does not profess to be a detailed history of the diplomacy of the past forty-five years. It attempts merely to correlate in their logical sequence the most significant events of recent European history and to show how the great disaster was the inevitable result of their reaction upon each other. The author's aim is to indicate the manner in which German primacy in continental politics, first acquired by Bismarck and maintained by William II, led, in combination with the economic and moral transformation of the Empire, to Germany's new conception of the rôle she must play in world politics. The effect upon British policy was such that a far-reaching diplomatic revolution took place, and was succeeded by the series of crises which marked the diplomatic conflict of the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente. The last of these crises, that of 1914, was the most serious and could not be settled peacefully, partly because Germany felt it essential at this time to reinforce her prestige, partly because her vital interests in the Near East seemed to be at stake.