At the breakout of World War I, the borders of central Europe had generally coalesced into large nation states and regional empires which had incorporated the numerous small principalities and kingdoms that were spread across the region throughout much of the 19th century. The unification of Germany under the large German Empire in 1871 had come about as a result of France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, and by 1914 Germany’s huge territories extended as far as East Prussia. In the south the continent was dominated by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had absorbed much of the Balkans and Adriatic coastal territories. The ever changing political alliances across Europe saw Germany and Austro-Hungary coming into an ever closer union in the lead up to World War I. Pitted against this central European alliance was the Triple Entente of Russia, France and Britain which had formed after a series of alliances, first between France and Russia in 1894, then France and Britain in 1904 and finally Britain and Russia in 1907.
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