European Coalitions, Alliances, and Ententes Since 1792


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. European Coalitions, Alliances, and Ententes Since 1792 is Number 152 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The book summarizes the purposes behind, and the circumstances surrounding, 18 different combinations of European states, beginning with the first coalition against revolutionary France of 1792‒93 and concluding with the alliance of 1914 in which Great Britain, France, and Russia joined forces against the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary (later joined by the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria). In the introduction, the author, Professor Fossey John Cobb Hearnshaw of the University of London, notes that the formation of coalitions, alliances, and ententes was a feature of the modern European state system, which emerged from the breakup of medieval Christendom during the Renaissance and Reformation and was consummated with the Treaty of Westphalia that in 1648 terminated the Thirty Years War. In this system, there was no political authority superior to the national state, which left these states “dependent upon their own resources both for security and for extension of power.” Association with other states, most often to maintain the balance of power, became one of the chief means employed by states in the modern system to pursue their objectives.

Last updated: February 4, 2016