A level History exam revision resources written by A level Examiners



  • As a result of the problems in the Balkans during the 1870s including the humiliation of the Turks, and Russia's anger at her diplomatic defeat, Bismarck moved towards a more formal system of alliances
  • Bismarck's neutrality during the Bulgarian crisis had looked like a preference for Austria
  • The 1879 alliance was intended to keep Austria and France apart
  • Mutual guarantee of neutrality if there was an attack by another country unless it was aided by Russia
  • It was secret, to run for 5 years and could be renewed
  • The worry was that Russia might go into alliance with France
  • Or – Austria might be tempted to begin some adventure in the Balkans



  • Bismarck was able to revive the tripartite agreement because Russia wanted to avoid isolation
  • If one of the states was at war with a 4th the other two would remain neutral
  • No changes to take place in the Balkans without agreement
  • It implied a division into spheres of influence at the Serbo-Bulgarian frontier
  • Austria reserved right to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina in the future
  • The British demand made at the Congress of Berlin for free passage through the Straits was refused – and the Turks were told not to agree to it


  • Dual Alliance not replaced
  • War between Russia and her two allies was still possible
  • Attempt made to prevent war in the Balkans
  • Austria made alliances with Serbia (1881) and Rumania (1883)


Triple Alliance 1882

  • Bismarck hoped that an alliance would improve Austro-Italian relations
  • Franco-Italian relations worsening over former's imposition of protectorate over Tunis
  • Result – May 1882 Five year renewable treaty:-
  • Austria and Germany to help Italy if she was attacked by France
  • If one of the 3 powers was attacked by 2 or more powers the others would support it
  • This covered the chance of war between Austria and France and Russia
  • If one of the 3 allies made war on a power that threatened it, the other 2 would maintain 'benevolent neutrality'


  • Italy had been neutralized as a danger at the price of a guarantee against French attack
  • The alliance was supported by Italian conservative groups but the Left and radical groups favoured France and they were 'irredentist'

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