A plebiscite is held in Alsace-Lorraine in 1871

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
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What if, instead of having Germany take Alsace-Lorraine in 1871 without a plebiscite, a plebiscite is held in Alsace-Lorraine in 1871 in order to determine its future fate--with the stipulation being that the French part(s) of Alsace-Lorraine would have to be permanently demilitarized if France will win any territories in Alsace-Lorraine in this plebiscite? The logic behind the demilitarization part would be to ensure the security of the south German states--states that still had long memories of Napoleon's expansionist desires and inclinations just half a century earlier. Anyway, what effects would a fairer resolution of the Alsace-Lorraine dispute in 1871 have on European and global politics in the years and decades ahead?

A huge effect that I can personally see here is that France would be less willing to create an alliance with Russia in this scenario simply because it won't have anywhere near as much to gain from such an alliance in this scenario. This could also mean somewhat less French loans to Russia and thus a slower Russian industrialization, but an even more important factor here is that without a French alliance, Russia might be much less likely to go to war with Germany simply because it won't have any other Great Power backing it up. This might pave the way for a negotiated solution to Austria's and Russia's ambitions in the Balkans and thus help make that region less of a tinderbox than it was in real life. Perhaps the Three Emperors' League is likely to survive longer in this scenario without the dispute about the future fate of the Balkans?

Britain is another interesting question in this scenario. If Germany still decides to engage in a naval arms race against Britain, Britain might still decide to try ending its splendid isolationism policy. However, finding allies in this scenario might be more difficult for Britain. True, it could still ally with Japan and maybe with the Ottoman Turks, but who else is going to be a good British ally? Italy? France? Would Russia be interested in leaving the Three Emperors' League and allying with Britain instead--in spite of its conflict with Britain in the Great Game? Indeed, might the World Wars be completely prevented in this scenario? Or are we simply going to see a different version of World War I in this scenario--and if so, what would this alternate World War I have looked like and when would it have actually taken place in this scenario?

Any thoughts on all of this?
 

Offspring

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
8,434
România
Can you explain the bit about the parts? Are there going to be separate parts that will hold a referendum at the same time or will there be one referendum and then they'll make a map that corresponds with the results?
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
23,676
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Can you explain the bit about the parts? Are there going to be separate parts that will hold a referendum at the same time or will there be one referendum and then they'll make a map that corresponds with the results?
Honestly, either one of these would probably work here. As in, they could hold plebiscites for several different parts separately--as in Schleswig in 1920--or they could hold one big general plebiscite and then look at a map of the results of this plebiscite and use this map to draw a new Franco-German border--which was actually the same approach that was adopted in Upper Silesia in 1921, where one big general plebiscite was held and then the new German-Polish border was drawn based on the map of the results of this plebiscite.

Is this sufficiently clear for you, Offspring? Also, do you have any additional questions here?
 

Offspring

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
8,434
România
Honestly, either one of these would probably work here. As in, they could hold plebiscites for several different parts separately--as in Schleswig in 1920--or they could hold one big general plebiscite and then look at a map of the results of this plebiscite and use this map to draw a new Franco-German border--which was actually the same approach that was adopted in Upper Silesia in 1921, where one big general plebiscite was held and then the new German-Polish border was drawn based on the map of the results of this plebiscite.

Is this sufficiently clear for you, Offspring? Also, do you have any additional questions here?
It's clear, thanks!
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
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A plebiscite would have been good propaganda for Hitler in 1940.
It would have, but he might have simply rigged it to ensure that he'd win.

It's clear, thanks!
OK; good. For the record, I suspect that the latter scenario (one big general plebiscite followed by a new border being drawn based on the results of this plebiscite) is more likely than the former scenario is.

Anyway, do you have any thoughts on this scenario of mine?
 

Offspring

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
8,434
România
Anyway, do you have any thoughts on this scenario of mine?
I'm not sure why Germany would go for this. Maybe in order to create a precedent and then get some German-dominated territories from around Germany.

Btw, do you remember ever reading about a plan according to which there was going to be a buffer zone between Germany and France which would have included Belgium, Alsace-Lorraine and Switzerland? I don't recall all the details. Your scenario + that plan + international support might have worked.
 
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Apr 2017
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If the plebiscite votes in favor of Germany for both Alsace and Lorraine, France would still feel humiliated and aspire to regain the territories; possibly claiming the vote was rigged or illegitimate. World scenario goes the same way as real life.

If the plebiscite votes in favor of France and they honor the demilitarize aspect of it, they would still feel threatened by Germany economically and militarily. They may still ally with Russia and ww1 happens the same. France would also be enraged they have to demilitarize their own territory and would probably renege on it eventually.

A split vote partitioning the territory could also go the same way.

I see no reason why Britain would seek closer alliances in this scenario.
 

Futurist

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May 2014
23,676
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I'm not sure why Germany would go for this.
In order to avoid permanent French enmity, of course. French enmity combined with Russian alienation resulted in Germany getting encircled on two fronts.

Maybe in order to create a precedent and then get some German-dominated territories from around Germany.
That could work if Germany was actually interested in dismembering Austria-Hungary--which it probably isn't. The main goal here is to avoid permanent French enmity towards Germany.

Btw, do you remember ever reading about a plan according to which there was going to be a buffer zone between Germany and France which would have included Belgium, Alsace-Lorraine and Switzerland? I don't recall all the details. Your scenario + that plan + international support might have worked.
Unfortunately, I haven't previously heard about this. :(

If the plebiscite votes in favor of Germany for both Alsace and Lorraine, France would still feel humiliated and aspire to regain the territories; possibly claiming the vote was rigged or illegitimate. World scenario goes the same way as real life.
What if imperial observers will be there to monitor this plebiscite, though?

If the plebiscite votes in favor of France and they honor the demilitarize aspect of it, they would still feel threatened by Germany economically and militarily. They may still ally with Russia and ww1 happens the same. France would also be enraged they have to demilitarize their own territory and would probably renege on it eventually.
Would France really be willing to wage war against Germany if Alsace-Lorraine is already in its hands (albeit demilitarized), though?

A split vote partitioning the territory could also go the same way.
But it would be harder to justify taking over territory if the people there have demonstrated in a free, fair, and impartial plebiscite that they don't support being ruled by you, wouldn't it?

I see no reason why Britain would seek closer alliances in this scenario.
So, Britain remains in a state of splendid isolation indefinitely in this scenario? What about if Germany still begins its naval arms race with Britain?
 
Apr 2017
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In order to avoid permanent French enmity, of course. French enmity combined with Russian alienation resulted in Germany getting encircled on two fronts.

That could work if Germany was actually interested in dismembering Austria-Hungary--which it probably isn't. The main goal here is to avoid permanent French enmity towards Germany.

Unfortunately, I haven't previously heard about this. :(

What if imperial observers will be there to monitor this plebiscite, though?

Would France really be willing to wage war against Germany if Alsace-Lorraine is already in its hands (albeit demilitarized), though?

But it would be harder to justify taking over territory if the people there have demonstrated in a free, fair, and impartial plebiscite that they don't support being ruled by you, wouldn't it?

So, Britain remains in a state of splendid isolation indefinitely in this scenario? What about if Germany still begins its naval arms race with Britain?
France would say whatever they want to get what they want.

France would look for an opportunity when Germany is distracted or failing that, when ww1 begins they would quickly reoccupy it.

France would then say the plebiscite was unfair, its called lying to get what you want and shape the argument. Britain made up stories about german soldiers baking babies in Belgium (ww1), that hitler was into mysticism and did a jig when he conquered france.

Britain would do like they did in real life, claim to be neutral while also sort-of being in a anti-Germany coalition with France.