JÖ¼rgen Angelow. Von Wien nach KÖ¶niggrÖ¤tz: Die Sicherheitspolitik des Deutschen Bundes im europÖ¤ischen Gleichgewicht, 1815-1866. Vol. 52, BeitrÖ¤ge zur MilitÖ¤rgeschichte. Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 1996. 418 pp. DM 88.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-486-56143-2.
Reviewed by Paul W. Schroeder (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Published on H-German (January, 1997)
This book deals much better with the first part of its subtitle than with the second. It helps fill the need for a careful, expert analysis of the military constitution of the Confederation and the military factors involved in its ultimate failure to develop into a satisfactory instrument for both defending its great, middle, and small state members and integrating them politically. The book's attempt to connect this story with the wider one of German and European international politics from 1815 to 1866, however, is not very satisfactory.
Of the book's three main sections, the first (pp. 19-87), on the military concept and constitution of the Confederation as laid down in 1815 and partially filled out by 1820, offers the most both in information and in ideas. The detailed analysis of a variety of subjects (the origins of the constitution, its technical provisions, the relations between the federal army and the Federal Assembly and the individual states, federal fortresses, and the various individual state armies), helpful per se, also provides the ground for useful insights. Examples of those offered by the author are his contention that the lax federal provisions for combat readiness and mobilization had involuntary peace-promoting effects in Europe, and that the military constitution which effectively protected the smaller states against overt Austro-Prussian military hegemony also encouraged their de facto defection from their military obligations, making them ultimately even more dependent on the great powers. I was struck in Angelow's material by the fact that Wuerttemberg, which failed utterly to defend its political independence or to stop the Austro-Prussian crusade against liberalism within the Bund in 1820-1823, could and did win at least partial victories in the military sphere; that federal (hence civilian) control of supreme command over the federal forces helped cut off one dangerous source of potential militarism; and that the inefficiency, weakness, and lack of technical innovation in the Federal army fits a general pattern of practical arms reduction in post-1815 Europe. Also of considerable value is the last section, a lengthy appendix (pp. 283-409) of documents, primarily from Prussian archives, that shed light on a wide variety of military and political topics.
Unfortunately, the heart of the book, which recounts the Bund's security policy in successive European crises from 1830 to 1866, has serious problems. The author's procedure is sensible enough, if a bit tedious: first to review each international crisis, sometimes in detail, sometimes quite briefly, then to follow this with an account (likewise varying widely in length and depth) of how the Confederation reacted to the crisis militarily, and in particular how the crisis affected plans and possibilities for reforming its military constitution for greater effectiveness. The problem, in a nutshell, is that though the accounts of how the Confederation responded to international crises and the effects that these responses had on the development of its military constitution seem accurate and sometimes add new details, they never alter the prevailing picture in a major way. At the same time, the analyses of the origins, course, and results of the international crises themselves are at best conventional and superficial and fairly often seriously inaccurate and misleading.
A further difficulty: the bulk of the narrative deals with the period after 1848, which makes sense in terms of important international crises and developments, but not in terms of the Confederation's responses to them or the possibilities of reforming and developing the federal military constitution. For after 1849, as the author points out, the Confederation became an increasingly marginal factor in the Austro-Prussian struggle and the possibilities of reforming its military constitution to make it a serious player in its own right in Germany and Europe steadily dwindled, until by the climax of the contest in 1864-1866, any thought of reforming the Confederation militarily was totally unrealistic. The paradoxical outcome, therefore, is that even where the author's accounts of the Confederation's responses to crises are fairly sound and useful, though never new or exciting, his accounts of the European crises themselves tend to be quite unsound (this holds for 1830-32, 1840-41, the Crimean War, and 1859-60), and where his portrait of the European picture is generally satisfactory though conventional (on 1848-52 and 1863-66), the internal German military part of the story either misses important issues or proves not very important.
Part of the problem lies in the subject: one cannot expect originality on a question as thoroughly canvassed as the German question in the mid-nineteenth century. Another part, however, derives from one-sided, inadequate research. Though Angelow has done considerable work in Prussian archives and a little in Austrian (not, however, in the Austrian archive most important for this subject, the Kriegsarchiv, or in other German archives), the book is based mainly on published documents and literature. This would not be objectionable were the research in this area thorough, but one has to say in this case that it is not. Angelow has done fairly wide reading, but even on German military history and especially on European international politics he has overlooked some important works in German, and most recent important ones in other languages.
Here is a partial list of leading authorities not consulted: on the Austrian army, Istvan Deak, Guenther Rothenberg, Alan Sked, Manfred Rauchensteiner, and Kurt Peball; on Austrian history, the massive Die Habsburger Monarchie 1848-1919 edited by Adam Wandruszka and Peter Urbanitsch; on Austrian foreign policy, F. Roy Bridge. On German military history, Martin Kitchen and Dennis Showalter (works by Gordon Craig and Michael Howard translated into German are cited, apparently a general rule for English or French-language works). On the Zollverein, Hans-Werner Hahn; on Prussian and middle-state policy in 1830-1832, Lawrence Baack (whose book is listed in the bibliography but never cited in footnotes), and Robert Billinger. On Metternich's German policy, Enno Kraehe and G. de Bertier de Sauvigny (Viktor Bibl, in contrast, is frequently cited). On the foreign policy of the Frankfurt Parliament, Guenter Wollstein; on middle state policy in 1849-52, Helmut Rumpler; on the Crimean War, J. S. Curtiss, Ann P. Saab, J. B. Conacher, Norman Rich, David Goldfrank, and Paul Schroeder (again, my book is listed in the bibliography, but never cited); on Russia's Near Eastern policy, Barbara Jelavich. Several questions (Italy in 1859-60, Belgium in 1830-32, British policy in the Near East) are discussed without using any of the most important monographs on the subject.
There are undoubtedly mitigating circumstances. Angelow seems to have been trained and to have done much of his research in East Germany before the Wall fell (a few residual Marxist interpretations remain), and the academic chaos since German reunification may well not have helped him gain access to a wider literature. Nonetheless, his study as a result fails to provide what it promises, a genuine integration of the internal history of German security policy in this period with the evolution of European international politics. The problem is not merely or mainly the outmoded and untenable interpretations marring the latter (for example, that Russia aspired to seize Constantinople and the Straits before, during, or after the Crimean War, or that the French were ready to sacrifice the integrity of the Ottoman Empire during the 1840 crisis, or that Anglo-Russian world rivalry was the cause of the Crimean War rather than being, for Russia at least, its result). It is rather that the book does not really develop its most important insight, namely, that the security of Germany in this period (as always) depended on a delicate balance between an adequate German security mechanism and defense establishment on the one hand, and a functioning European security system and concert on the other, and that any overdevelopment of the former was quite likely, by ruining the latter, to produce simultaneously greater strength and greater insecurity for Germany. This insight, recognized early on, tends to get lost in a superficial account of European international politics, so that the conclusion, that the 1866 outcome was virtually inevitable, remains both conventional and challengeable.
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Paul W. Schroeder. Review of Angelow, JÖ¼rgen, Von Wien nach KÖ¶niggrÖ¤tz: Die Sicherheitspolitik des Deutschen Bundes im europÖ¤ischen Gleichgewicht, 1815-1866. Vol. 52, BeitrÖ¤ge zur MilitÖ¤rgeschichte.
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