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From the Anglo-Russian Entente to the Balkan Wars

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Part of the European History in Perspective book series (EUROHIP)

Abstract

It might have seemed a source of hope and encouragement when delegates assembled for the second Hague Peace Conference in 1907 that the European powers should have avoided war among themselves for no less than 36 years. The main participants, however, were interested at best in marginal additions to such constraints on war as already existed. Even the visiting Americans were anxious to give no impression of weakness. The British feared German plots to reverse their ententes with France and Russia, while the Austrians believed that Britain was bent on causing Germany the maximum of embarrassment. The Germans objected to anything that threatened their naval or military freedom of action. As for the moves which led to the Declaration of London (1909) on neutral rights and contraband, key British policy-makers saw the ‘agreements … as mere words to be interpreted in the light of circumstances if Britain found herself a belligerent’.1 This was confirmed in the first year of the war when such restraint as accompanied the British blockade was inspired by the need to avoid giving offence to the Americans. The Germans were taken aback by the speed with which the British broke the Hague Convention on private property.

‘… if we once allow Germany to defeat France, our expeditionary force would be valueless and the duration of our naval predominance could be measured in years.’ (British General Staff memorandum, 13 August 1911)

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Notes and References

  1. Bernard Semmel, Liberalism and Naval Strategy: ideology, interest and sea power during the Pax Britannica (1986), p. 176.

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  2. D. McDonald, United Government, pp. 96–7, 108–9, 104–11.

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  3. James Joll, The Origins of the First World War (1984), pp. 46–7.

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  8. V. Berghahn, Germany, p. 137 and Chapter 7 passim.

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  9. See Ibid, pp. 141–2 for interesting comment on the use of imperialism in Germany to help unite the parties of the right and the centre; also Chapters 3–7 passim. John Lowe, The Great Powers, Imperialism and the German Problem, 1865–1925 (1994), Chapter 5 judiciously examines the scholarly debate on the importance of weltpolitik.

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  10. Lord Acton et al. (eds.), The Cambridge Modern History (1910), xii. 7–8, 172–3, 718–19.

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  11. V. Berghahn, Germany, p. 91, notes the forces beginning to work against Tirpitz before 1911–12, but still sees those years as the turning point.

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  12. D. Lieven, Russia, pp. 90–1.

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  13. Ibid, p. 134; Lieven stresses the usual subordination of economic interests to national security. See also his Nicholas II, pp. 94–101, 105–11, 117 ff., 190–2; A. J. Rieber, ‘Persistent Factors in Russian Foreign Policy’, in H. Ragsdale, Russian Foreign Policy, p. 353; A. Bodger, ‘Russia and the end of the Ottoman Empire’, in M. Kent (ed.), The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire (1984), Chapter 4; D. W. Spring, ‘Russian foreign policy, economic interests and the Straits Question, 1905–14’, in R. McKean, New Perspectives, pp. 203–21. Grain equalled c. 50 per cent of Russia’s exports (1900s) with 75 per cent leaving via the Straits (p. 83).

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  14. D. Lieven, Russia, pp. 74–81.

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  15. Ibid, pp. 91–101, 153. For insight into Russian diplomats see ibid, pp. 83–91; A. Reiber in H. Ragsdale, Russian Foreign Policy, pp. 366–8.

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  16. D. Lieven, Nicholas II, pp. 192–4; Russia, pp. 153 ff.

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  17. A. Bodger in M. Kent, Great Powers, p. 87. On naval matters, see J. N. Westwood, Russian Naval Construction, 1905–45 (1994), pp. 73–5, 92–4.

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  18. D. Spring in R. MacKean, New Perspectives, especially pp. 208–9, 218–19.

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  19. V. Berghahn, Germany, p. 150.

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  20. J. Joll, Origins, p. 52.

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  21. See above note 13; D. M. McDonald, United Government, pp. 185–7.

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  22. V. Berghahn, Germany, pp. 150–1, 179–80.

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  23. C. H. D. Howard (ed.), The Diary of Edward Goschen, 1900–14 (1980), pp. 58–9.

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  24. F. Bridge, Habsburg Monarchy, pp. 312–67; L. Sondhaus, The Naval Policy of Austria-Hungary, 1867–1918 (1994), pp. 183 ff., 232 ff. By 1910 naval expenditure had risen rapidly to almost one quarter that of the army (István Deák, Beyond Nationalism: a social and political history of the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1992, p. 64). For the increasing militancy in many quarters in Vienna, see pp. 73 ff.

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© 1996 C. J. Bartlett

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Bartlett, C.J. (1996). From the Anglo-Russian Entente to the Balkan Wars. In: Peace, War and the European Powers, 1814–1914. European History in Perspective. Palgrave, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-24958-9_7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-24958-9_7

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