- Triple Alliance
- (1882)A secret alliance of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Italy pledging mutual assistance in the event of an attack by France. Franco-Italian relations had been strained since the Italian occupation of Rome in 1870. When France formalized its protectorate over Tunis in 1881, Italy decided to pursue an alliance with Austria-Hungary, already allied with Germany.Germany and Austria-Hungary were initially cool to Italian advances, as there appeared to be no benefits to them. Berlin was in fact happy to see France diverted by North African adventures, while Vienna had made it clear that Austria-Hungary was unwilling to go to war against France on Germany’s behalf and even less willing to enter a war for the sake of Italy. A crisis in the Habsburg province of Bosnia over the autumn and winter of 1881–1882, however, led to a reevaluation of the situation by both. Though Russia had remained officially neutral during the crisis, prominent ministers and generals had spoken in favor of Franco-Russian alliance in support of the Bosnians. Fear of such sentiments drove Germany and Austria-Hungary into the arms of Italy.The alliance was signed on May 20 as an agreement renewable every five years. Like the Dual Alliance, which it replaced, it was a defensive pact designed to work against France or against “two or more Great Powers not members of the alliance.” In the event of an Austro-Russian war, Italy was pledged to benevolent neutrality. Finally, to allay Italian fears, the pact stated that it “cannot . . . in any case be regarded as directed against England.” The Triple Alliance provided the greatest benefit to Italy by making her part of the Great Power system and providing her with stronger partners in the event of conflict with France. For Germany and Austria-Hungary, the gains were minimal, as the alliance removed the threat of an additional partner for Russia and posed for France a complication in any war with Germany. The pact was renewed until 1912. The Italians chose not to enter World War I in 1914, because, they argued, the terms of the alliance had not been met.See also <
>; < >; < >; < >; < >.FURTHER READING:Langer, William L. European Alliance and Alignments 1871–1890. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962;Strachan, Hew. The First World War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001;Tranter, Nigel. Triple Alliance. London: Coronet, 2002.DAVID H. OLIVIER
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.