Naval War College Review


Paul Schroeder


Despite the significant role it played in the history of 19th century Europe, the balance of power is theoretically simple: Whenever a multi-state system arises in a given area, that is, whenever you have a number of independent states in close proximity and frequent contact, the best way both to prevent violent conflict and to protect states' individual independence and security is to work for an equilibrium of power. How such a balance is initially achieved depends on historical circumstances-by postwar settlements, by peaceful territorial arrangements, by using a principle of compensation so that whenever any one state gains territory, others are similarly compensated, and so on.