International relations of the Great Powers (1814–1919)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

This article covers worldwide diplomacy and, more generally, the international relations of the major powers, from 1814 to 1919, with links to more detailed articles. The international relations of minor countries are covered in their own history articles. This era covers the period from the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna (1814–15), to the end of the First World War and the Paris Peace Conference.

Important themes include the rapid industrialization and growing power of Britain, Europe and, later in the period, the United States, with Japan emerging as a major power and empire towards the end of this period. This led to imperialist and colonialist competitions for influence and power throughout the world, the impacts of which are still widespread and consequential in the current age. Britain established an informal economic network that, combined with the Royal Navy, made it the most influential nation during this time. The entire era had a general lack of major conflict between the great powers, with most skirmishes taking place between belligerents within the borders of individual countries. In Europe, wars were much smaller, shorter and less frequent than ever before. The quiet century was shattered by World War I (1914–18), which was unexpected in its timing, duration, casualties, and long-term impact.

At the beginning of this period, there was an informal convention recognising five Great Powers in Europe: the French Empire, the British Empire, the Russian Empire, the Austrian Empire (later Austria-Hungary) and the Kingdom of Prussia (later the German Empire). In the late 19th century, the newly united Italy was added to this group. By the early 20th century, two non-European states, Japan and the United States of America, would come to be respected as fellow Great Powers.

All of them took part in the Boxer Rebellion as the Eight-Nation Alliance and were later involved in the Great War. Having lost the conflict, Germany and Austria lost their great power status while Britain, France, Italy and Japan gained permanent seats at the League of Nations council. The United States, meant to be the fifth permanent member, left because the US Senate voted on 19 March 1920 against the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles, thus preventing American participation in the League.

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