Primary Documents - Triple Alliance, 20 May 1882

Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef Negotiated and signed in May 1881, the Triple Alliance brought Italy into the alliance previously agreed between Germany and Austria-Hungary (in 1879) as a counterweight to France and Russia.

Under the provisions of this treaty, Germany and Austria-Hungary promised to assist Italy if she were attacked by France, and vice versa: Italy was bound to lend aid to Germany or Austria-Hungary if France declared war against either.

Additionally, should any signatory find itself at war with two powers (or more), the other two were to provide military assistance.

One of the chief aims of the Triple Alliance was to prevent Italy from declaring war against Austria-Hungary, towards whom the Italians were in constant dispute over territorial matters.

Although regularly renewed up until the outbreak of war in 1915, the Triple Alliance was essentially ineffective with regard to Italy's participation, for in 1902 (just five months after the latest renewal of the Alliance) Italy reached an understanding with France that each would remain neutral in the event of an attack upon the other.

Abridged Text of the Triple Alliance

Article 1

The High Contracting Parties mutually promise peace and friendship, and will enter into no alliance or engagement directed against any one of their States.

They engage to proceed to an exchange of ideas on political and economic questions of a general nature which may arise, and they further promise one another mutual support within the limits of their own interests.

Article 2

 In case Italy, without direct provocation on her part, should be attacked by France for any reason whatsoever, the two other Contracting Parties shall be bound to lend help and assistance with all their forces to the Party attacked.

This same obligation shall devolve upon Italy in case of any aggression without direct provocation by France against Germany.

Article 3

If one, or two, of the High Contracting Parties, without direct provocation on their part, should chance to be attacked and to be engaged in a war with two or more Great Powers non-signatory to the present Treaty, the casus foederis will arise simultaneously for all the High Contracting Parties.

Article 4

In case a Great Power non-signatory to the present Treaty should threaten the security of the states of one of the High Contracting Parties, and the threatened Party should find itself forced on that account to make war against it, the two others bind themselves to observe towards their Ally a benevolent neutrality. Each of them reserves to itself, in this case, the right to take part in the war, if it should see fit, to make common cause with its Ally.

Article 5

If the peace of any of the High Contracting Parties should chance to be threatened under the circumstances foreseen by the preceding Articles, the High Contracting Parties shall take counsel together in ample time as to the military measures to be taken with a view to eventual cooperation.

They engage henceforward, in all cases of common participation in a war, to conclude neither armistice, nor peace, nor treaty, except by common agreement among themselves.

Article 6

The High Contracting Parties mutually promise secrecy as to the contents and existence of the present Treaty.

Article 7

The present Treaty shall remain in force during the space of five years, dating from the day of the exchange of ratifications.

Article 8

The ratifications of the present Treaty shall be exchanged at Vienna within three weeks, or sooner if may be.

In witness whereof the respective Plenipotentiaries have signed the present Treaty and have annexed thereto the seal of their arms.

Done at Vienna, the twentieth day of the month of May of the year one thousand eight hundred and eighty-two.

(L.S.) H. VII v. REUSS

Ministerial Declaration

The Royal Italian Government declares that the provisions of the secret Treaty concluded May 20, 1882, between Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Germany, cannot, as has been previously agreed, in any case be regarded as being directed against England.

A "box barrage" was an artillery bombardment centred upon a small area.

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