After the short and brutal Prussian war against France in 1870 which consolidated the Hohenzollern dynasty’s German empire, the British Conservative statesman Benjamin Disraeli warned: “The balance of power has been entirely destroyed, and the country which suffers more and feels the effects of this change most, is England.”
Disraeli was not referring to the impending confrontations with German imperialism that came to nearly devastate European civilisation in the 20th century; rather, he was most consternated by the untethering of the Russian Empire from the conditions of the settlement imposed on St Petersburg after the Crimean War (1853-56).
The humiliating defeat of the French Republic by Germany undermined the constraints designed to quash prospects for Russian penetration of Central Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean.
While recognising that European geopolitical upset often led to wider ramifications, Victorian politicians and strategists widely assumed that the United Kingdom (UK) – as an industrialised, resource-rich archipelago – could escape its European constraints. But, as Disraeli lamented, they became increasingly aware that the futures of the British Isles, the European mainland, and the wider international system were all inextricably entwined with one another.
Read more in the Telegraph.