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39.4 Imperialism in France, Italy and the Balkans

Figure 1024

Figure 1024: The Balkan States, after Wars of 1912-1915

Our studies of modern imperialism in Germany and Britain bring out certain forces common to the two countries, and we shall find these same forces at work in variable degrees and with various modifications in the case of the other great modern communities at which we shall now glance. This modern imperialism is not a synthetic world uniting movement like the older imperialism; it is essentially a megalomaniac nationalism, a nationalism made aggressive by prosperity; and always it finds its strongest support in the military and official castes, and in the enterprising and acquisitive strata of society, in new money, that is, and big business; its chief critics in the educated poor, and its chief opponents in the peasantry and the labour masses. It accepts monarchy where it finds it, but it is not necessarily a monarchist movement. It does, however, need a, foreign office of the traditional type for its full development. It’s origin, which we have traced very carefully in this book of our history, makes this clear. Modem imperialism is the natural development of the Great Power system, which arose with the foreign office method of policy, out of the Machiavellian monarchies after the break-up of Christendom. It will only come to an end when, the intercourse of nations and peoples through embassies and foreign offices is replaced by an assembly of elected representatives in direct touch with their peoples.

French imperialism during the period of the Armed Peace in Europe was naturally of a less confident type than the German. It called itself «nationalism» rather than imperialism, and it set itself, by appeals to patriotic pride, to thwart the efforts of those socialists and rationalists who sought to get into touch with liberal elements in German life. It brooded upon the Revanche, the return match with Prussia. But in spite of that preoccupation, it set itself to the adventure of annexation and exploitation in the Far East and in Africa, narrowly escaping a war with Britain upon the Fashoda clash (1898), and it never relinquished a dream of acquisitions in Syria. Italy, too, caught the imperialist fever; the blood letting of Adowa cooled her for a time, and then she resumed in 1911 with a war upon Turkey and the annexation of Tripoli. The Italian imperialists exhorted their countrymen to forget Mazzini and remember Julius Cæsar; for were they not the heirs of the Roman Empire? Imperialism touched the Balkans; little countries not a hundred years from slavery began to betray exalted intentions; King Ferdinand, of Bulgaria assumed the title of Tsar, the latest of the pseudo-Cæsars, and in the shop windows of Athens the curious student could study maps showing the dream of a vast Greek empire in Europe and Asia.

In 1913 the three states of Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece fell upon Turkey, already weakened by her war with Italy, and swept her out of all her European possessions except the country between Adrianople and Constantinople; later in that year they quarreled among themselves over the division of the spoils. Rumania joined in the game and helped to crush Bulgaria. Turkey recovered Adrianople. The greater imperialisms of Austria, Russia, and Italy watched that conflict and one another.

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