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Long-term bandwagoning and short-term balancing: the lessons of coalition behaviour from 1792 to 1815

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 May 2001


Recent literature in International Relations has argued that the absence of ‘balancing’ behaviour by European states during the Napoleonic Wars from 1798 to 1815 calls into question current explanations for the presence or absence of such behaviour in international relations. This literature has argued that: (1) Napoleonic France presented a significant threat to the stability of the international system; (2) European states did not balance against this threat from 1798 to 1813, and subsequently balanced only after Napoleon's defeat in Russia in 1812; (3) members of the system possessed adequate power to balance successfully against this threat; and (4) since European states engaged in co-opting, rewarding, avoiding, or bandwagoning behaviour towards the French threats to the system, a new explanation for the absence of balancing behaviour is required. Each of these four points can be refuted by: taking a longer time perspective of the international system during the period in question, expanding state motives to include interests other than security, using a long cycle model of coalition leadership by a global leader, recognizing the constraints faced by European states in their choices of balancing or bandwagoning behaviour under threats from France, and taking into account the role of innovation and change in a period of global war.

Original Articles
© 2001 British International Studies Association

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