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The Origins of the First World War

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  • Category: History War

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The Prussian victory over France in 1870 and the creation of the German Empire led to a change in the balance of power in Europe and to an international system in which Germany, by now the strongest military power on the Continent and one with large and expanding industrial resources, necessarily played a leading role. Consequently the methods of conducting international relations and the basic structure of international alignments were to a large extent those devised by Bismarck to meet Germany’s needs in the 1870s and 1880s. Bismarck’s name has become associated also with a particular style of diplomacy an unprincipled and unscrupulous Realpolitik. “It is the lees left by Bismarck that still foul the cup,” Sir Edward Grey wrote in December 1906, and he accused German diplomacy of “deliberate attempts to make mischief between other countries by saying poisoned things to one about the other.”

This is perhaps unfair: as A.J.P. Taylor has pointed out, Bismarck was no worse in this respect than some other nineteenth-century statesmen, notably Napoleon III. But it was Bismarck who seemed to contemporaries and to subsequent historians to be the great master of diplomatic intrigue, bluffing and frightening the ambassadors and foreign ministers of other countries into doing his will, sometimes by a calculated indiscretion, as when in 1887 he read out to the Russian ambassador the exact text of Germany’s alliance with Austria in order to persuade the Russians to agree to a “reinsurance” treaty with Germany which would guarantee Russian neutrality in the event of a Franco-German war without committing Germany to anything specific in return. On other occasions, he could accept the failure of his bluff with a certain bonhomie: “All I can say is: consider carefully what you do,” Bismarck said to the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister during the negotiations for the alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1879.

“For the last time I advise you to give up your opposition. Accept my proposal, or else … or else I shall have to accept yours.” More serious, however, than the actual methods by which Bismarck conducted diplomacy was the underlying assumption that all international negotiations and all international undertakings were to be interpreted in terms of national interest, so that raison d’etat could always provide an excuse for going back on international commitments. Bismarck believed that Austria and Prussia were states too great to be bound by the texts of treaties. No agreement could be expected to last for ever; and, as Bismarck put it, all treaties should contain the phrase rebus sic stantibus. Lord Salisbury’s views were much the same: at the end of his life he wrote on the question of Belgian neutrality: “Our treaty obligations will follow from our national inclinations and will not precede them.”

The details of the alliance treaties and other international agreements were in many cases kept secret and were only published in full after the war; and, as even those which were published contained secret clauses, they were often believed to contain more than they actually did. Bismarck’s “Reinsurance Treaty” with Russia in 1887 was concluded without the knowledge of Germany’s ally Austria-Hungary, and it was Bismarck himself in embittered retirement who revealed its existence and the fact that his successor Caprivi had not renewed it. The details — as opposed to the existence — of the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria and Italy were learnt partially in 1915 when Italy declared war on her former allies, but were not published completely until 1920.

Speculation about secret agreements and hidden commitments was encouraged by the press. The famous journalists — Sir Valentine Chirol of The Times or Theodor Wolff of the Berliner Tageblatt for example — and editors, in an age when the popular press was beginning to be regarded as a power which governments had to take into account, were on friendly terms with members of governments and were often used as a channel for deliberate disclosures; and this in turn encouraged further speculations. In France at least one Foreign Minister, Stephen Pichon, had been a journalist and returned to the profession on leaving office in 19l1. “The diplomacy of nations,” the British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury wrote resignedly “is now conducted as much in the letters of foreign correspondents as in the despatches of the Foreign Office.”

If newspapermen were fishing for sensational disclosures, governments too were as anxious to find out the secrets of other foreign ministries as they were to discover details of military plans. The French Foreign Ministry had maintained, with brief interruptions, a cabinet noir since the time of Richelieu, a secret office which worked to break the diplomatic ciphers of other governments, and which from the 1880s was regularly doing so. The Germans had a spy in the Russian embassy in London in 1914 who gave them information about — and seems to have exaggerated the importance of — the inconclusive naval talks between the British and Russian admiralties in June 1914; and this information strengthened the Germans’ conviction that their opponents were tightening a ring around Germany and that it would be better to break out of this encirclement sooner rather than later. The secrecy of diplomatic agreements as well as of military plans encouraged the powers to spend money and energy on developing their secret services; but documentation is fragmentary and it was only when espionage started political scandals, of which the most famous is the Dreyfus affair in France, that something of these activities came to light.

Liberals and radicals all over Europe, but especially in England, denounced the secrecy of diplomatic methods, while at the same time the belief was spread by many diplomats that theirs was an arcane profession which no outsider was qualified to understand and whose members must come from a particular class or caste. As one senior British Foreign Office official put it in 1914:

I think your Board of Selection will generally take what one may call perhaps one type of man, because he is the type of man who is fit for this international career called diplomacy. All …, speaking metaphorically, speak the same language; they have the same habits of thought, and more or less the same points of view, and if anybody with a different language came in, I think he would be treated by the whole diplomatic service more or less with suspicion.

Whether international relations would have been more successfully conducted if the diplomats had been recruited from a less exclusive class or whether international tension would have been lessened by exposing diplomatic negotiations to full publicity or to close control by parliaments is very doubtful; but there is no doubt that the practitioners of what after the war came to be called the “old diplomacy” contributed to the belief that there was always more to every international negotiation than met the eye.

With treaties of alliance often negotiated in an atmosphere of distrust and with many unspoken reservations on all sides, why were they considered important and what effect did these formal agreements have on the policies of the states involved? In what way can it be said that the existence of the systems of alliances contributed to causing the outbreak of war in 1914? The theory, if that is not too grand a term, by which contemporaries justified the alliance system was that it would maintain the balance of power. This phrase, which had been common in diplomatic language since the eighteenth century, could be interpreted both as an objective assessment of the actual military and economic strength of the powers and as a subjective evaluation by statesmen of where their own national interest lay.

The idea was expressed by Sir Eyre Crowe of the British Foreign Office in a famous memorandum of 1907 as follows: “The only check on the abuse of political predominance has always consisted in the opposition of an equally formidable rival, or of a combination of several countries forming leagues of defence. The equilibrium established by such grouping of forces is technically known as the balance of power.” Bismarck, whose diplomacy after the achievement of German unification aimed at maintaining the balance of power in Germany’s favour, put it more succinctly and with his usual realism: “All politics reduces itself to this formula: Try to be à trois as long as the world is governed by the unstable equilibrium of five Great Powers.” Many statesmen and diplomats believed that the maintenance of the balance of power would itself prevent war by deterring an aggressor, either directly or by providing machinery by which, as Bismarck himself believed, one power could control its allies and stop them doing anything to upset the balance.

This aspect of the theory of the balance of power was expressed in a leading article in The Times in April 1914 as follows:

The division of the Great Powers into two well-balanced groups with intimate relations between the members of each, which do not forbid any such member from being on the friendliest terms with one or more members of the other, is a twofold check upon inordinate ambitions or sudden outbreak of race hatred. All Sovereigns and statesmen — aye, and all nations — know that a war of group against group would be a measureless calamity. That knowledge brings with it a sense of responsibility which chastens and restrains the boldest and most reckless. But they know, too, that to secure the support of the other members of their own group and to induce them to share the responsibility and risks of such conflict, any Power or Powers which may meditate recourse to arms must first satisfy those other members that the quarrel is necessary and just. They are no longer unfettered judges in their own cause, answerable to none but themselves.

It was this system that broke down in 1914 when it became clear that the balance of power was not a built-in regulator of the international system and that the division of Europe into rival alliance systems would not necessarily work as beneficently as the editor of The Tunes hoped.

The two treaties of alliance which were of central importance in the July crisis of 1914 were the German-Austrian treaty which had been signed in 1879 and the Franco-Russian alliance of 1893. Italy had joined the German-Austrian alliance in 1882, so that it was known as the Triple Alliance; and it had been renewed as recently as 1912. These were formal alliances, but equally important were the less formal ententes reached between England and France in 1904 and England and Russia in 1907.

If we look at the circumstances in which these various agreements were negotiated and the situations which they were intended to meet, we can see how in fact their nature changed over the years. At the same time, the fact of their existence led other countries to frame their own policies in accordance with what seemed to be the permanent alignments with which they might be confronted in a war. Thus both political expectations and military plans were conditioned by the existence of the alliance system and strengthened the divisions which the alliances themselves tended to produce.

The German-Austrian alliance had by 1914 changed its emphasis significantly since it was first negotiated by Bismarck in 1879. In the diplomatic circumstances of that year, when Russia was still suffering from what the Pan-slav publicists regarded as the humiliation inflicted by the other powers at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Bismarck believed that an alliance with Austria-Hungary would have the effect of deterring Russia from any action against Germany, and that it would therefore sooner or later force Russia to seek improved relations with Germany — as indeed happened in 1881 and again in 1887.

But Bismarck also always regarded the alliance as a means of restraining Austrian policy in the Balkans and of avoiding a situation in which Germany would be drawn by Austria into a war with Russia to defend Austro-Hungarian interests in south-east Europe. The alliance was therefore in Bismarck’s mind an element of stability in Europe since it would both alarm Russia sufficiently to make her want better relations with Germany and also provide Germany with the power to control Austrian policy towards her Slav neighbours.

For Austria-Hungary the German alliance meant an additional guarantee of the Empire’s stability. At least since 1815, the survival of the Habsburg monarchy had depended to a large extent on convincing the other Great Powers that Austria was an essential element in the European balance of power which they could not afford to allow to disappear. Moreover, there was also among the German-speaking inhabitants of Austria a sense of relief that the alliance meant an end to the fatal division between Prussia and Austria which had resulted from the war of 1866. The formal diplomatic terms of the alliance were reinforced by an emotional feeling that Germany and Austria were now bound together in a community of fate, a Schicksalsgeneinschaft.

Thus the alliance met not only immediate diplomatic requirements but also an emotional need among many people in both countries at a time when, as never before, the public — or at least the press — responded immediately to diplomatic moves, so that treaties could acquire a significance with which their actual contents had little to do. The fact that an alliance existed was more important than its exact terms, precise details of which were still kept secret. The essential part of the German-Austrian alliance was in fact an agreement that if either were attacked by Russia, each would support the other “with the whole strength of their empires.”

In Bismarck’s day, then, both the Germans and Austrians had regarded the alliance as a way of ensuring stability; and indeed, as we have seen, Bismarck revealed the terms to the Russian ambassador in 1887 when he was hoping to maintain that stability by persuading the Russians to sign a treaty with Germany. But by the time this “Reinsurance Treaty” became due for renewal in 1894 Bismarck had fallen from power and the international situation had changed fundamentally by the signature in August 1892 of a military agreement between France and Russia which was converted into a full alliance in the following year.

A rapprochement between France and Russia, in spite of the differences of political system between the Third Republic and the Tsarist autocracy had been a logical consequence of the new balance of power established in 1870. As Karl Marx had put it at the time of the Franco-Prussian War, “If Alsace and Lorraine are taken, then France will later make war on Germany in conjunction with Russia.” The annexation by Germany of the two French provinces meant that there could be in the long run no reconciliation between France and Germany; and although at some moments the French government and public temporarily forgot about the lost provinces, the hope of recovering them was always likely to ensure that in a European war France would join the side opposed to Germany.

The advantages for Russia of a French alliance seemed clear: it would give the Russians a freer hand in south-east Europe. Faced with the possibility of a war on two fronts, Germany would be less likely to back Austria-Hungary in a conflict with Russia and so Austria would not be able to resist Russia’s moves. The alliance would also give, it was hoped, security for Russia in Europe while the Tsar’s government was engaged in vast operations to extend control across Siberia to the Pacific. (The decision to construct the Trans-Siberian Railway was taken in 1891.) But, independently of these strategic and diplomatic considerations, closer financial links between France and Russia were developing, from 1887 onwards, which were to give the Franco-Russian alliance a firmer popular base than most other diplomatic alignments of the period. The Russian government needed foreign capital, not only for investment in its expanding industries and growing transport system, but also to carry out a major conversion of Russian government stock in order to rationalise and economise.

French bankers were interested in expanding their share of the Russian money market and conducted active campaigns to sell Russian bonds to small savers in France, to which the French middle classes responded enthusiastically. Although the French government had not expected or intended that these loans would supply an essential element of support for a military and diplomatic alliance, this turned out to be the case; and the interest in Russia which the promotion of these sales had aroused helped to prepare the way for the popular success of the visit of the French fleet to Russia in 1891 and that of the Russian Navy to Toulon in 1893. Bismarck, too, contributed to these developments.

He never showed much awareness of the wider political significance of international financial links; and in November 1887 he banned the sale of Russian bonds on the Berlin Stock Exchange because he was annoyed with the Russian government for imposing a tax on foreign owners of estates in Russia, a measure which affected important members of the German aristocracy who owned properties on both sides of the border between Russia and Prussia. Thus Bismarck unwittingly encouraged Russia to turn to Paris in its search for funds.

It was, however, the military leaders in France and Russia who were most anxious to reach agreement. There had been some contact between them going back to 1870, and it was as a military instrument that the alliance was primarily regarded. The agreement negotiated in 1892 and ratified during the winter of 1893-94 laid down: “If France is attacked by Germany or by Italy supported by Germany, Russia will use all her available forces to attack Germany. If Russia is attacked by Germany or by Austria supported by Germany, France will use all available forces to attack Germany….” By the mid-1890s the existence though not the precise terms of the alliance were widely known.

The Dual Alliance of France and Russia was seen as confronting the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. The immediate consequence of this confrontation was that the German General Staff at once began to make plans for a war on two fronts, but for the moment this still seemed a remote possibility. The Russians were preoccupied with their expansion across Asia: the Austrians were anxious for a period of calm while they tried to damp down the national tensions within the Monarchy: the French for the moment were more preoccupied with imperial rivalries in Africa and south-east Asia than with the question of Alsace-Lorraine; and the Germans under William II were eagerly looking for ways of asserting their position as a potential world power, and in 1897 took the first steps towards creating a large navy.

Throughout the 1890s the imperialist activities and interests of all the powers except Austria cut across the lines which the Triple and Dual alliances seemed to be establishing. In the Far East, the French and Russians were prepared in 1895 to work with the Germans to impose a settlement at the end of the war between Japan and China. In 1901 the French were even ready to send a contingent to an international force under the command of a German general to put down the Chinese nationalists (the “Boxers”) who seemed to be threatening the privileged position of Europeans in China. For the French in Africa and the Russians in the Far East, England seemed a more immediate rival than Germany.

At the same time it was the problems caused by her imperial commitments which brought England, gradually and unintentionally, into the European alliance system. Until the late 1890s, British governments had refused to consider any formal alliances with other powers. They had ignored suggestions by Bismarck for a closer association with his international system, limiting themselves to the so-called Mediterranean agreements of 1887, which remained secret and which did little more than declare England’s already well-known interest in the stability of the eastern Mediterranean area and promise consultation and possible joint action with Austria and Italy in time of crisis.

By 1900, however, after several years of cold war against the French in Africa, and faced by what was seen as a Russian threat to British influence in China, the British also found themselves involved in the war against the Boer republics in South Africa. The strains of acquiring and running a world-wide empire were beginning to tell. Some British leaders, notably Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary, were beginning to think that Britain might have to abandon the policy of isolation.

All the powerful States of Europe have made alliances, Chamberlain said in May 1898: and as long as we keep outside these alliances, as long as we are envied by all, and as long as we have interests which at one time or another conflict with the interests of all, we are likely to be confronted at any moment with a combination of Great Powers so powerful that not even the most extreme, the most hot-headed politician would be able to contemplate it without a certain sense of uneasiness.

There were indeed discussions in 1898 and again in 1901 about the possibility of an Anglo-German alliance, but the interests of both sides were too far apart. The British wanted diplomatic support against Russia in the Far East: the Germans wanted British help, or at least benevolent neutrality, in a possible war in Europe. Lord Salisbury, the British Prime Minister, in his last major foreign policy decision before his retirement, put a stop to these discussions in May 1901, with the words, “This is a proposal for including England within the bounds of the Triple Alliance.” And he went on to talk of British isolation:

Have we ever felt that danger of isolation! practically? If we had succumbed in the revolutionary war, our fall would not have been due to our isolation. We had many allies but they would not have saved us if the French Emperor had been able to cross the Channel. Except during his reign, we have never been in danger and therefore, it is impossible for us to judge whether the “isolation” under which we are supposed to suffer, does or does not contain in it any elements of peril. It would hardly be wise to incur novel and most onerous obligations, in order to guard against a danger in whose existence we have no historical reason for believing.

But although British politicians continued to talk as if Britain could avoid continental commitments, they were, sometimes almost without realising it, becoming increasingly involved in the alignments of the European powers. Britain’s immediate need for diplomatic support in the Far East seemed in fact to be satisfied by an alliance with Japan, signed in January 1902. This was Britain’s first formal move away from isolation, but it was one which seemed at the time to have few implications for policy in Europe and to be limited to the Far East.

It was of course, or so it seems now, the Anglo-French Entente of April 1904 which marked a real turning-point in British policy — and indeed “un grand tournant de la politique mondiale” [[a great turning of world politics]] as the head of the political division of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs was later to describe it. Yet this is not how it seemed at the time, and the agreement was another of those international arrangements which gradually changed into something different from what the people who had originally made them envisaged. Throughout the 1890s the British and French had been quarrelling over their colonial differences in West Africa, on the upper Nile and in Siam. In 1898 the crisis at Fashoda on the upper Nile, when a small French force had confronted a British army which had just re-established control over the Sudan. had led to talk of war between the two countries, and the British Channel Fleet was sent to the Mediterranean.

At the same time, Theophile Delcassé, the new French Foreign Minister and the architect of French foreign policy until 1905, realised that France’s ally Russia was not prepared to help her against England in Africa and that, with France in the midst of the domestic political crisis caused by the Dreyfus case, a direct confrontation with England would have to be avoided. Gradually — and reluctantly, because he had been closely involved with the anti-British colonial party in France — Delcassé came to realise that there might be advantages for France in a colonial deal with England. The basis for such a deal was provided by the fact that the French were hoping to extend their North African empire by gaining control over Morocco, while the British, who had been in occupation of Egypt since 1882, wanted to consolidate their position there and to carry out a reform of the Egyptian finances, a step for which French approval would be essential since the French occupied a key position in the Caisse de la Dette, the international commission responsible for supervising Egypt’s financial affairs.

The Anglo-French agreement of 1904 was therefore essentially a settlement of outstanding colonial differences aimed at strengthening France’s hand in an attempt to win Morocco and at confirming Britain’s position in Egypt. There was also an agreement to leave Siam as an independent buffer state between French Indo-China and the British possessions in Burma. Small territorial adjustments were made in Africa; and a dispute about fishing rights off Canada which had lasted for nearly 200 years was settled. But this hard bargaining about specific points of dispute outside Europe has a different significance when it is seen against the changes which had taken place in the general international scene in the previous ten years.

By 1904 the British government had begun to realise that the creation of a large German navy might pose a serious threat to Britain’s position as a world power. Whereas only a few years before it had seemed that England and Germany had no serious differences and that a formal alliance between them might be a subject for discussion, by 1904 many people in England believed that Germany was becoming a serious rival: in March 1903 the Admiralty with this in mind decided to create a North Sea fleet and to construct a base for it at Rosyth on the east coast of Scotland. Thus, although the agreement with France was strictly limited to a settlement of colonial differences, old and new, the changing position and policies of Germany were at the back of the minds of both the French and British statesmen involved in the negotiations.

Although Delcassé, in a moment of irritation after the French withdrawal from Fashoda, had considered seeking German help against Britain in Africa, he had by 1903 come round to the idea that both France’s ambitions in Morocco and her position in relation to Germany could be best served by an agreement with England. At the same time, important sectors of French opinion in commercial circles and the press, which during the South African war had been uniformly hostile to England, now began to welcome the idea of better relations between the two countries; and so the successful visits of King Edward VII to Paris in May 1903 and of President Loubet to London in July seemed to be symbols of a new and improved climate of opinion in both countries.

It was, however, the German government which was responsible for the rapid development of the Entente Cordiale into something which, though never becoming a formal alliance, seemed to be moving in that direction. The presupposition of German diplomacy since the 1890s had been that the imperial rivalries between Britain and France and Britain and Russia were so deep that they could never be overcome, and so Britain would sooner or later be obliged by the pressures of power politics to seek an alliance with Germany on Germany’s terms, For this reason the German Foreign Ministry had not been too disappointed by the failure of the discussions about an alliance in 1898 and 1901.

Time, the Germans believed, was on their side. The conclusion of the Anglo-French agreement in 1904 did little to shake this belief. The German Foreign Ministry still believed that Anglo-French differences were insuperable and that any rapprochement was bound to be a superficial one which could easily be broken. Between 1904 and 1906 the Germans were trying to test the Entente and to demonstrate its hollowness. At first it appeared indeed that France’s existing alliance with Russia might conflict with her new friendship with Britain.

A few weeks before the signature of the Entente, war had broken out in the Far East between Japan and Russia. It was an incidental episode in this war which provided the first test of the Anglo-French Entente. The Russian fleet, on its way from the Baltic to the Far East shot at and sank some British fishing-boats on the Dogger Bank in the North Sea, apparently mistaking them for Japanese submarines. There was a moment of violent anti-Russian feeling in Britain, and the German government suggested to the Russians that now was the moment to form a continental league against England, which it was hoped the French might also join. But Delcassé refused to choose between France’s ally Russia and her new friend England, and he used all his diplomatic skill to mediate between England and Russia and to persuade the Russians to hold the enquiry and give the compensation the British government was demanding.

However, it was over Morocco — an area specifically covered in the Anglo-French agreement — that the most serious test of the Entente Cordiale came, a test which the Germans had hoped would weaken the Entente but which only had the result of strengthening it. In March 1905, the Kaiser. who was on a Mediterranean cruise, was, somewhat against his will, persuaded by his foreign ministry to land at Tangier and, in an obvious criticism of French ambitions in Morocco, declare that he was visiting an independent sovereign state and that Germany demanded equal treatment for her commerce there. The effect was to produce the most acute crisis between France and Germany for nearly twenty years; and there was much talk of the possibility of a war. The result was that the British and French were obliged to think a little more closely about the implications of the agreement of the previous year.

It is still not clear exactly what was said in the talks in the spring of 1905 between Lord Lansdowne, the British Foreign Secretary and Paul Cambon, the French ambassador in London, or between Delcassé and Sir Francis Bertie, the British ambassador in Paris, since Delcassé seems to have given his colleagues in the French cabinet the impression that the British had offered an offensive and defensive alliance, while the British were convinced that all they had promised was that the two governments would confer together to discuss what steps might be taken to meet any German threat.

If Delcassé hoped to bluff his colleagues into adopting a tougher line with the Germans over Morocco by hinting at the promise of an English alliance, he failed, for by now Rouvier, the Prime Minister, was alarmed by the seriousness of German intentions and worried that France might be embroiled with Germany because of the British wish to ensure that the Germans did not gain a naval base on the Atlantic coast of Morocco — a sign of the way in which the new Anglo-German naval rivalry was beginning to affect Britain’s position with regard to the Franco-German rivalry in Morocco in which up till then England had had little interest. Delcassé found himself isolated in the cabinet and was forced to resign.

There was, however, little change in French policy after Delcassé’s resignation. The crisis was eventually resolved by an international conference held at the Spanish port of Algeciras in January 1906. It was, however, in the course of the Moroccan crisis that the first military staff talks were held between representatives of the British and French armies. The military implications will be discussed in Chapter 4.

Here the important thing to note is that within two years of signing the agreement of April 1904, plans were being made for common military action against Germany so that, however much the British government protested that the staff talks were unofficial and implied no commitment, nevertheless some moral obligations were being assumed, and the Entente was already something much closer than the original settlement of outstanding colonial differences had implied. When the Conservative government fell in December 1905 and was succeeded by the Liberals, Sir Edward Grey, the new Foreign Secretary made it clear that the change of government would involve no change in foreign policy. He also accepted that there was a moral aspect to the agreement with France. He wrote in February 1906:

If there is a war between France and Germany, it will be very difficult for us to keep out of it. The Entente and still more the constant and emphatic demonstrations of affection (official, naval, political, commercial and in the Press) have created in France a belief that we shall support them in war … If this expectation is disappointed, the French will never forgive us. There would also I think be a general feeling that we had behaved badly and left France in the lurch … On the other hand the prospect of a European war and of our being involved in it is horrible.

At the same time, he allowed the unofficial talks between the War Office and the French military attaché to continue.

The crisis over Morocco died down after the Algeciras conference; and although France’s influence in Morocco was confirmed at the conference and Germany suffered a diplomatic defeat, nevertheless the two countries were able to co-operate in various economic enterprises over the next few years and it was not until 1911 that their rivalry in Morocco led to a second acute crisis. But the consolidation of the Anglo-French Entente continued, though perhaps not as fast as some of the French leaders would have liked. In 1907 the apparent division of Europe into two rival camps was carried a stage further.

On 31 August 1907 the British and Russian governments signed an agreement which was intended to settle old differences between them on the borders between their two empires, particularly in Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet. For more than ten years there had been people in the British Foreign Office who believed that it would be possible to achieve an agreement based on mutual recognition of spheres of influence and that this would be preferable to risking a major confrontation as a result of the escalation of minor incidents. There had been some discussions in 1903, but the outbreak of war in the Far East impeded their progress. However, the defeat by Japan made the Russian government anxious to improve relations with England, and at the same time Isvolsky, the new Russian Foreign Minister, was hoping that he might win British support for a revision in Russia’s favour of the international regulations closing the exit from the Black Sea in time of war.

For Britain, the agreement was based on a more explicit realisation than in 1904 that Germany was now a growing potential even if not immediate threat to British interests. “An entente between Russia France and ourselves,” Grey wrote on 20 February 1906, “would be absolutely secure. If it is necessary to check Germany it could then be done.” It was also assumed that by now Germany might be a greater danger than Russia. Consequently there had to be a thorough reassessment of Britain’s position in the Middle East and India. The demands of the military commanders in India that the army there should be strengthened to meet a threat from Russia were finally rejected, and it was now realised that Germany was likely to be England’s main rival.

The Russians, although they knew that British consent would be essential to any attempt to revise the agreements about Constantinople and the Straits, were anxious if possible to avoid antagonising Germany arid were by no means as yet committed to challenging her, as they had still not recovered from the military, economic and political strains resulting from the defeat by Japan.

The agreement with Britain remained for them primarily one which would strengthen their hold on their Asiatic empire without fear of British interference — even though in fact disagreements about Persia and the Far East never completely disappeared. The agreement, however, also gave the Russians hopes of British support for their aspirations in the Balkans. Within little more than a year it became clear that the satisfaction of these aspirations was bound to lead to a confrontation with Germany.

During the fifteen years after Bismarck’s fall, the alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary had been, so to speak, a passive factor in international relations, something which was taken for granted but which did not involve any positive action. The problems of south-east Europe and the future of the Ottoman Empire were temporarily less important than the imperial rivalries of the powers outside Europe. rivalries in which Austria-Hungary was not involved. As a result, with the Russian government concentrating on its expansion in the Far East, the crises in Turkey caused by the massacre of the Armenians in 1894-96, the revolt in Crete in 1897 and the war between Turkey and Greece which resulted from it did not cause a conflict between the Great Powers and could even lead to co-operation between them. After 1905 the situation was changing.

The Moroccan crisis and the conference of Algeciras had shown the Germans that their alliance with Austria was all that stood between them and complete diplomatic isolation, since Austria alone gave them any support over the Moroccan question: the Kaiser, with characteristic tactlessness, had thanked the Emperor Franz Joseph by referring to his “brillanten Sekundantendienst” (brilliant services as a second).

The maintenance of Austria-Hungary as a Great Power became a major foreign policy goal for Germany, both on diplomatic grounds, since Austria was seen as Germany’s only reliable ally, and because any internal crisis in Austria-Hungary might have repercussions in Germany. In 1906, as a result of a constitutional crisis over the relations of Hungary with the rest of the Monarchy, there was much talk of an impending dissolution of the Empire, so that the German Chancellor wrote to German representatives abroad, pointing out that it would in such an event be dangerous for Germany if the German-speaking Austrians were to become part of Germany:

We shall thereby receive an increase of about fifteen million Catholics so that the Protestants would become a minority … the proportion of strength between the Protestants and the Catholics would become similar to that which at the time led to the Thirty Years War, i.e. a virtual dissolution of the German empire … [the question] compels attention whether the German Reich, today so well balanced and therefore standing so strong and powerful ought to let itself be brought into such a horrible position. In the interests of the preservation of a powerful Germany this question must unconditionally be answered in the negative.

The conclusion was that the Austrian Empire must somehow be preserved at all costs.

In 1908 the implications of the German-Austrian alliance became clearer. The internal crisis in the Ottoman Empire caused by the Young Turk revolution once more raised the question of the future of the Turkish possessions in Europe: and the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Aehrenthal decided that this was an opportunity for the Monarchy to annex the two provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina which Austria had occupied since 1878, but which were still formally under Turkish suzerainty.

Aehrenthal was convinced that a vigorous foreign policy was one way out of the problems caused by the aspirations of the subject nationalities within the Monarchy and that the incorporation of the two provinces would be a blow to Serb ambitions to make Serbia “the Piedmont of the Southern Slavs,” to serve, that is, as a focus for the unrest among the Serbs and Croats inside Austria-Hungary. Aehrenthal also seems to have believed that a bold initiative would demonstrate that Austria was not wholly dependent on her German ally — and indeed the Kaiser was understandably irritated at learning of the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the newspaper. The result was in fact to demonstrate both Austria’s dependence on Germany and also the extent to which initiative within the alliance had passed to Austria.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Isvolsky, who was hoping to restore Russia’s international position by gains in the Balkans and at the Straits, had secretly agreed with Aehrenthal to accept the Austrian move on the understanding that Austria would support Russia’s demands for a revision of the treaties governing the closure of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles.

However Aehrenthal had announced the annexation before Isvolsky had had time to muster diplomatic support in the other capitals of Europe. Isvolsky was extremely indignant and felt, rightly or wrongly, personally betrayed by Aehrenthal. Relations between the two empires became very strained and there was talk of war. The result was an unequivocal declaration by the German Chief of Staff, Moltke, to his Austro-Hungarian counterpart Conrad von Hötzendorf that, “The moment Russia mobilises, Germany will also mobilise.” This was followed by a German demand that Russia should accept the annexation; and the Kaiser was able to declare that he had stood by his ally the Austrian Emperor “in shining armour.”

Much of this was bluff: neither the Austrians nor the Russians were militarily or economically in a position to go to war, but the effect was to show both the nature and the limitations of the alliance system because, while the extent of Germany’s commitment to Austria was made clear, the Russians had found only lukewarm support in Paris and London for their ambitions at Constantinople.

In the years between the Bosnian crisis and the outbreak of the First World War, four things were forcing a reassessment and a tightening up of the alliance system in Europe: the upheavals in Turkey which encouraged Russian hopes of compensating for their humiliation in the Far East by gains in the Balkans and strengthened the Austrians’ conviction that they must act vigorously against Serbia to prevent the danger of the dissolution of the Habsburg monarchy; the growing realisation by many people in British government circles that German naval building was a threat to Britain’s imperial interests; the German belief that they must take some foreign political action both for domestic reasons and in order to ensure that the world balance of power should be tilted in their favour; the hopes of the French — and especially of Raymond Poincaré, Prime Minister in 1912 and then President of the Republic from 1913 — that they could use the alliance with Russia eventually to obtain the return of Alsace and Lorraine and at the same time be in a position to establish their control of Morocco without German interference.

In April 1911, increasing internal unrest in Morocco gave the French the opportunity they wanted to send troops into Fez and to prepare for the establishment of a protectorate over the country. The Germans saw in this action a chance to win some colonial concessions from France, if not in Morocco itself, then in the French Congo; and at the same time the German government recognised that a successful confrontation with France would strengthen their hands in the parliamentary elections of 1912.

They sent a gunboat to the Moroccan port of Agadir and demanded compensations from the French for what was claimed to be a breach of the Algeciras agreement of 1906. In fact the German plan misfired. It demonstrated that the alliance with Austria would not be worth much unless Austria’s own interests were directly threatened, for the Austrian government refused even diplomatic support. On the other hand, the British government, in spite of the reluctance of some members of the Cabinet, proclaimed its solidarity with France in a speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, a man till then thought to be one of the ministers most opposed to any involvement in continental alignments. He issued a warning, assumed by everyone at the time to be directed at Germany, that:

If a situation were to be forced upon us, in which peace could only be preserved by the surrender of the great and beneficent position Britain has won by centuries of heroism and achievement, by allowing Britain to be treated, where her interests were vitally affected, as if she were of no account in the Cabinet of Nations then I say emphatically that peace at that price would be a humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure.

Within a few months — in April 1912 — an informal naval agreement had been concluded between France and England, by which the British navy would be responsible for the security of the English Channel and the French fleet concentrated in the Mediterranean, and the Entente had become still more like an alliance.

The German leaders were probably not surprised by the lack of support from Austria-Hungary. A few months before the crisis, Bethmann [[the German Chancellor]] had admitted to the Kaiser: “If it comes to a war, we must hope that Austria is attacked so that she needs our help and not that we are attacked so that it would depend on Austria’s decision whether she will remain faithful to the alliance.” But England’s support for France was a shock: and German nationalist opinion held the British responsible for the failure of Germany’s African gamble.

Although over the next two years the British government still hoped to improve relations with Germany and reached agreements on questions outside Europe, the Agadir crisis showed how deep the divisions between the two countries now were. It was therefore, as many of the senior officials in the Foreign Office realised, important for England to maintain her close relations with France as otherwise there might be a danger that, if the French felt isolated, they would do a direct deal with Germany at the expense of the British Empire.

The international recognition of France’s predominance in Morocco was one of the things which encouraged Italy too to seek compensation: on 29 September Italy declared war on Turkey and sent troops to occupy the Turkish provinces of Libya and Tripolitania. This blow to the stability of the Ottoman Empire was followed within weeks by the signature of an agreement between Serbia and Bulgaria, directed against Turkey and aiming at the conquest of Macedonia and its partition between the two countries.

In May 1912 Greece was brought into this alliance, which became known as the Balkan League. The negotiations between Serbia and Bulgaria had been actively encouraged by the Russians, and especially by their ministers in Belgrade and Sofia who worked hard to persuade the Serbs and Bulgars to forget their old feuds and to join forces against Turkey. The events of 1911 and 1912 therefore raised problems for the Great Powers: problems about their relations to the small states of the Balkans which were showing their capacity to take the initiative and which could not be immediately or easily fitted into the alliance system, and problems about the relations of Italy to its allies Germany and Austria-Hungary.

The Triple Alliance had been renewed three times since it was first signed in 1882. It was due for a further renewal in 1912. Italy’s involvement in the Libyan War therefore made the exact timing of the renewal of some importance. Some members of the Italian government argued that after a successful war Italy would carry more weight in the renegotiation of the alliance. Others were worried that Austria might claim compensation in the Balkans for Italy’s gains in North Africa, since the treaty specifically allowed for this if “the maintenance of the status quo in the regions of the Balkans or of the Ottoman coasts and islands in the Adriatic and in the Aegean sea should become impossible,” and presumably it might be argued that Libya and Tripolitania counted as part of the Ottoman coasts.

The Italians also believed that there might be an advantage in the early renewal of the alliance so as to make sure that this was completed before the death of the old Emperor Franz Joseph, now aged eighty-one, since his heir the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was believed, rightly, to be hostile to Italy. At the same time, the German and Austrian governments were annoyed by Italy’s unilateral action against Turkey and by the fact that they were given no warning of Italy’s formal annexation of Libya and Tripolitania in November 1911 or her occupation of the Dodecanese Islands. However, by the autumn of 1912 and the outbreak of the war between the Balkan League and Turkey, all three signatories saw some advantage in the renewal of the Triple Alliance and this was formally signed on 5 December 1912.

Italy’s alliance with Germany and Austria can be seen as an extreme case of a treaty entered into with numerous reservations and considerable cynicism — at least on the part of Italy. The Italians had welcomed the original alliance in 1882 because it appeared to give the recently united kingdom the status and prestige of a Great Power; it had seemed to offer her the prospect of support in an attempt to win some colonial compensation for France’s acquisition of Tunisia the year before: to the King of Italy it appeared to offer the chance, through association with the Austrian Emperor, the senior Catholic sovereign in Europe, of improved relations with the Pope and therefore of a greater likelihood of going to heaven when he died. For Bismarck, Italy’s alignment with Germany and Austria was one more step in his policy of keeping France diplomatically isolated; and for Austria the alliance seemed to provide one way of controlling Italian nationalist hostility to Austria caused by the number of Italians still living under Austrian rule in Italia irredenta, especially the South Tyrol and Trieste.

For the Italians, then, the Triple Alliance had always been a means of using other powers to further Italian interests; and, as with the other European
alliances, both those interests and the international situation which the alliance had originally been intended to meet had changed. By 1911, Italy was not only involved in establishing her own empire in North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, she was also actively interested in what was happening in the Balkans and anxious to establish her influence there. Popular feeling against Austria had not diminished, although the strident new nationalism of the past decade was aiming more widely than just at the winning of Italia irredenta from Austria. It had always been understood that the Triple Alliance would in no case be regarded as directed against England — and indeed this had been declared formally at the time of the original signature of the alliance.

Moreover, although the text of the treaty as renewed in 1891 had given it a specifically anti-French emphasis, by the beginning of the century the economic and colonial rivalry between Italy and France had so far abated that in 1902 the Italian Foreign Minister had declared that Italy would remain neutral if France were attacked; and in the following year a commercial treaty between the two countries had been signed. Thus, although the renewal of the Triple Alliance in 1912 might seem to be a success for German and Austrian diplomacy, there was still much uncertainty about the extent of Italy’s actual commitment to it. Indeed, Conrad, the Austrian Chief of Staff is said to have thought the alliance “a pointless farce,” and as “a burden and a fetter which he would fain cast off at the first opportunity.”

During the upheavals in the Balkans in 1912-13, Italian and Austrian interests were often opposed, particularly in their rival attempts to establish a predominant influence in the newly created state of Albania. Yet the very existence of the alliance forced an uneasy compromise, with all three governments continuing to behave as if the alliance was an important element in their strategic planning.

For either side to admit that the alliance had lost its meaning would have been an admission of diplomatic failure and the abandonment of a diplomatic instrument that might still have its uses. Italy’s alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary was indeed an example of an alliance which, for the Italians, was never intended to be more than a diplomatic device to help the Italian government to get its own way, while for Germany and Austria even an unreliable and unpredictable ally seemed preferable to no ally at all. In spite of some measure of military co-operation, it was never really envisaged as preparing for a war. As a recent historian of Italian foreign policy has put it, “The Triple Alliance remained a diplomatic arrangement likely to work in peace and not in war.”

The continuous crisis in the Balkans between 1911 and 1914 demonstrated both the nature and limitations of the alliance system and the nature and limitations of the “Old Diplomacy.” The two Balkan wars — that between the Balkan League and Turkey was followed by one in which Bulgaria fought Serbia, Greece and Rumania in the hope of winning territories conquered from Turkey in the first war — were localised. They did not escalate into a European war, partly because the governments involved were not ready for a war and partly because, given the desire to find a solution, it was possible to create the diplomatic machinery to achieve one. Sir Edward Grey was able to take the initiative in organising a conference of ambassadors in London which dealt with such questions as the frontiers of the new state of Albania and the unsuccessful attempts by Serbia to win a port on the Adriatic. But Grey’s successful diplomacy — and the belief that he could repeat that success was an important factor in his policy in July 1914 — was only possible because, to the annoyance of the Austrians, the Germans decided that they would not put their whole weight behind the Austrian efforts to limit Serbia’s gains.

The German government was indeed convinced of the ultimate likelihood or even the inevitability of war: there was much talk in court and army circles about the forthcoming struggle between Teuton and Slav, and in December 1912 the Kaiser had given instructions for a propaganda campaign to prepare public opinion for war. But the Balkan crisis did not seem the right moment to risk a general war. This was partly because of the complexity of the local issues and the difficulty which any government would have in explaining to its subjects why they would justify a war, and partly too from a feeling that the small states were showing a dangerous amount of initiative.

“It is the first occasion in the history of the Eastern Question,” a French diplomat wrote, “that the small states had won a position so independent of the Great Powers that they feel they are in a position to act completely without them and indeed to carry them along with them.” Then, of the Great Powers most involved, neither Russia nor Germany was militarily quite ready for war. The Russians needed three or four more years to complete their remarkable military recovery from the disasters of the Japanese War: the German Admiralty was insistent that war should be avoided until the completion of the widening of the Kiel Canal and the construction of a submarine base on the island of Heligoland.

German policy was also strongly influenced by the fact that, in the view of the Chancellor and the Foreign Ministry, there was still a chance of securing British neutrality in a war, since England’s ententes with France and Russia had still not become a firm alliance. [[The German Chancellor]] Bethmann believed that if war broke out in such a way that it could be claimed that Russia had made the first move, then England would not intervene. In February 1912 there had been an attempt, with the visit to Berlin of Lord Haldane, the Lord Chancellor, to reach an agreement on the limitation of naval armaments; and although this had come to nothing, negotiations on other questions — co-operation in the construction of a railway across Turkey to Baghdad, the disposal of the Portuguese colonies in Africa, should Portugal’s financial collapse lead to these coming on the market — proceeded in an amiable atmosphere right down to the outbreak of war.

Some people in the British Foreign Office were beginning to wonder whether a rearmed Russia might not after all be an even greater threat to the balance of power than Germany, so that it was not unreasonable for Bethmann to believe than an Anglo-German rapprochement might be possible and that it was worth avoiding a major crisis until this possibility had had time to develop. Both the French government and those people in Britain who remained convinced of the German danger were apprehensive about a policy of rapprochement with Germany and were anxious for still closer ties between Britain and France and for the relationship to be made even more explicit. Sir Eyre Crowe had written at the beginning of 1911:

The fundamental fact of course is that the Entente is not an alliance. For purposes of ultimate emergencies it may be found to have no substance at all. For an Entente is nothing more than a frame of mind, a view of general policy which is shared by the governments of two countries, but which may be, or become, so vague as to lose all content.

Although since Eyre Crowe had written this, the Agadir crisis and the Anglo-French naval talks of 1912 had made common action in war more likely, the French were quick to see any improvement of relations between Britain and Germany as a sign of how precarious the Anglo-French Entente was.

The Austrians too, in the particular situation in south-east Europe in 1912-13, felt that even their formal alliance with Germany did not seem to be giving them the support they expected. Kiderlen-Wachter, the State Secretary in the German Foreign Ministry, remarked in October 1912 that the time had come to reassert German predominance within the alliance and to prevent “the leadership in policy passing from Berlin to Vienna as Aehrenthal had unfortunately been able to achieve as against Bülow” [the German Chancellor at the time of the Bosnian crisis in 1908]. For the Austrians, however, more than ever determined to reduce the influence of Serbia, this attitude was very unsatisfactory and there seemed an ironical contrast between the regular references to the loyalty — the Nibelungentreue, whatever that meant — between the two countries and the actual support offered in a specific situation.

Although the Germans had given the Austrians some diplomatic support at certain points in the crisis, the Balkan quarrels had not escalated into a European war because the Germans were not prepared to give their ally a free hand against Serbia. At the same time the Russians, whose Balkan diplomacy had failed to stop her Slav protégés Serbia and Bulgaria from fighting each other in the Second Balkan War, were at this time more concerned with the future fate of Constantinople than with supporting Serbia. In these circumstances, Grey’s diplomacy was successful because none of the Great Powers wanted a war at that time and on those issues. For the last time the old nineteenth-century Concert of Europe worked.

The Balkan crisis demonstrated that even apparently firm formal alliances did not guarantee support and co-operation in all circumstances. It might be that in a final emergency the German-Austrian alliance guaranteed German support for Austria; in the meantime, in F. R. Bridge’s words, “the eternal problem of the Dual Alliance remained: how effectively could an alliance designed to cope with the contingency of war serve the Monarchy’s interests in the day-to-day diplomacy of peace.”

In the autumn of 1913 it also became apparent that the Franco-Russian alliance too was no automatic guarantee of general support for Russia by France. In October 1913 the Germans sent a military mission under General Liman von Sanders to advise the Turkish government on the modernisation of their army after its defeat by the Balkan League; and Liman von Sanders was appointed to command the army corps in Constantinople. The Russians at once protested, asserting that the mission was an openly unfriendly act, and looked to France and Britain for diplomatic support against Germany. The British, who already had an admiral in Constantinople commanding the Ottoman navy, were reluctant to press too hard and worked for a compromise between Germany and Russia.

The French were in a more embarrassing position. Poincaré had throughout the Balkan crisis reaffirmed French loyalty to the Russian alliance and was hoping as President of the Republic to exercise a more direct control over foreign policy than his predecessors had done. He was determined to make the Russian alliance a central element in his policy and, although not working directly for war, accepted the idea that if war between Russia and Germany were to come, then France would have a chance of recovering the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. At the same time, he showed more interest in the Balkans than some other French leaders, and wanted to develop French economic interest there. He is reported — though he later denied it — to have declared to Isvolsky, now the Russian ambassador in Paris, just before the outbreak of the First Balkan War: “If conflict with Austria brought intervention by Germany, France would fulfil her obligations.”

France, the implication was, might intervene on Russia’s side without herself being directly attacked by Germany. By the time of the row over the Liman von Sanders mission, however, the French government was more cautious; although re-affirming their loyalty to the alliance and their willingness to support Russia’s demands for some sort of compensation from Turkey, they in fact made any action conditional on British participation. By this time both the French and the British were worried that they did not really know what Russian intentions were or how far the Russians were prepared to go in support of their ambitions at Constantinople, and were therefore reluctant to encourage them. Once again the Great Powers in fact decided that this particular issue was not worth the risk of war; and even the Russian ministers themselves were divided on this point.

By the beginning of 1914, then, the alliance system in Europe looked as if it was in some disarray. Both Austria and Russia felt that they had, in the recent crises in the Balkans and at Constantinople respectively, not received the diplomatic support from their allies they had the right to expect. Italy’s position still remained ambiguous. The subsidiary alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Rumania first signed in 1883 and renewed as recently as 1913 seemed hardly likely to survive the repeated complaints about the oppression of the Rumanian inhabitants of the Hungarian province of Transylvania: and like Italy, Rumania eventually entered the war on the side opposed to its formal allies. As far as England was concerned, the exact nature and implications of the Entente with France remained obscure right down to the beginning of August 1914.

Nevertheless the existence of the alliance system and of the less formal ententes provided the framework within which the diplomacy of the pre-war years was conducted. It roused expectations about the behaviour of other governments which conditioned the foreign policies and the military plans of the major countries of Europe. And even when the alliances did not provide the immediate diplomatic support for which the governments were hoping, this sometimes made the participants all the more anxious to ensure that the alliance would function more effectively next time.

Russian anxieties about France’s attitude during the Liman von Sanders crisis and about Britain’s lukewarm support led during the next months to Russian attempts to consolidate the alliance with France and tighten up the agreements with Britain, by, for example, negotiations for naval co-operation between the two admiralties. The realisation by the Germans that Austria-Hungary was her only reliable ally and that she must be supported at all costs in any policies which the Austrians thought essential for the survival of the Habsburg state, was an important motive for the German decisions of July 1914; and these decisions have to be seen in terms of the Austrian belief that Germany had not supported her sufficiently in the previous year.

Moreover, each Great Power had attempted to build up a clientele of smaller states. As the Balkan countries showed their capacity for initiative, so too the Great Powers were anxious to recruit them into their respective alliance systems; but the price was a promise of support for the local ambitions of the small states. A Great Power could have its policies to some extent determined by the need to retain the friendship of a small power and to keep it within its diplomatic system.

The Russian government knew in July 1914 that they had failed to support Serbia in the previous year as warmly as the Serbs had expected and hoped; and failure to support Serbia again would mean, the Russians thought, the end of Russian prestige in the Balkans and the beginning of a possible new diplomatic alignment these. Once the governments of Europe came to believe that they were aligned in two rival camps, then the winning of an additional small state to their side seemed to be of great importance, while the wooing of partners in an alliance whose allegiance seemed doubtful or wavering, such as Italy, came to be a major objective of diplomacy.

The existence of the alliance system above all conditioned expectations about the form a war would take if it broke out, and about who were likely to be friends and who enemies. These expectations laid down the broad lines of strategic planning, so that the general staffs were taking decisions which often committed them to irreversible military actions if war threatened; and consequently in a crisis the freedom of action of the civilian ministers was often more circumscribed than they themselves realised. What to many diplomats still seemed a stately and esoteric ritual which only they were qualified to perform became something rather different when translated into the logistical calculations of the military planners. However much the foreign ministers and diplomats believed that they were making foreign policy and that foreign policy held prime place in all acts of state, there were many other forces in twentieth-century European society which were limiting their choices, determining their actions and creating the climate of opinion in which they operated.


1.G. M. Trevelyan, Grey of Fallodon (London 1939) pp. 114-lS. 2.A. J. P. Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1914 (paperback edition, Oxford l971) p.81,fn. 1. 3.E. Wertheimer, Craf Julius Andrassy, Vol. III (Stuttgart 1913) p. 284, quoted in W. L. Langer, European Alliances and Alignments 1871-1890 (New York 1939) p. 284. 4. Quoted in Samuel R. Williamson Jr., The Politics of Grand Strategy: Britain and France Prepare for War 1904 – 1914 (Cambridge, Mass. 1969) p.21.

5.Salisbury to Canon MacColl, 1901; G. W. E. Russell, Malcolm MacColl (London 1914) p. 283, quoted in W. L. Langer, The Diplomacy of Imperialism (New York 1951) p. 85. 6.Christopher Andrew, “Dechiffrement et diplomatie: le Cabinet Noir du Quai d’Orsay sous la Troisieme Republique” Relations Internationales, No. 5, 1976. 7. Cmd. 7748. Fifth Report of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service 1914. See Zara S. Steiner, Britain and the Origins of the First World War (London and New York 1977) pp. 171 ff. 8.G. P. Gooch and Harold Temperley (editors) British Documents on the Origin of the War 1898 – 1914, Vol. III (London 1928) Appendix A, pp. 402-3. (Hereinafter referred to as BD. ) 9.Bismarck to Saburoff 1878, Nineteenth Century, Dec. 1917, p. 111. See also G. Lowes Dickinson, The International Anarchy 1904C1914 (2nd edition 1937) p. 76. The Times, 8 April 1914. See also The History of The Times, Vol. 14: The 150th Anniversary and Beyond (London 1952) Part I, p. 168. 11.Quoted in Karl Kautsky, Sozialisten und Krieg (Prague 1937) p. 200. 12.The Times, 14 May 1898.

13.BD 11, No. 86, pp. 68 9.
14. Maurice Paleologue, Un grand tournant de la politique mondiale 1904-1906 (Paris 1934).
15.BD 111,No.299,p.266.
16.BD III, No. 299, p. 267. See also Beryl Williams, Great Britain and Russia 1905-1907- in F. H. Hinsley (ed.) British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey (Cambridge 1977) pp. 13347. 17.This passage was in 1928 omitted by the editors from Die Crosse Politik, Vol. XIX, Part II, No. 6305 on the grounds that “this would mean a heavy blow to the policy of the Anschluss.” See James Joll, “German diplomatic documents,” Times Literary Supplement, 25, Sept. 1953. 18.Feldmarschall Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, Aus meiner
Dienstzeit, Vol. I (Vienna 1921) pp. 380-1; Gordon A. Craig, Politics of the Prussian Army 1640- 1945 (paperback edition, New York 1964) p. 289. 19.Quoted in Michael Balfour, The Kaiser and his Times (London 1964) p. 295. 20.Quoted in R.C.K. Ensor, England 1870- 1914 (Oxford 1936) pp. 434-5. Some later writers have suggested that Lloyd George’s warning was aimed as much at France as at Germany and was intended to frighten the French off making any agreement with Germany without British participation, though this does not seem to have been a view expressed at the time. For a discussion of the Agadir crisis, see Geoffrey Barraclough, From Agadir to Armageddon?: Anatomy of a Crisis (London 1982). 21.Quoted in Erich Brandenburg, Von Bismarck zum Weltkrieg (Berlin 1939) p. 342. See also Fritz Fischer, Krieg der Illusionen (Dusseldorf 1969) p. 135. 22.A. F. Pribram, The Secret Treaties of Austria-Hungary 1879- t914, Vol.1, (Cambridge, Mass. 1920) p. 225. 23.Theodor Sosnosky Franz Ferdinand der Erzherzog Thronfolger (Munich 1929) pp. l43-4, Quoted in Albertini, The Origins of the War of 1914, Vol. II (London 1953 p. 9. See also Richard Bosworth, Italy, the Least of the Great Powers: Italian Foreign Policy before the First World War (Cambridge 1979) p. 196. 24.Bosworth, op. cit., p. 215.

25.Documents diplomatique francais 3me serie, Vol. III (Paris 1931) No. 466. See also Fischer, op. cit., p. 219. 26.Quoted in R.A. Hamilton, “Great Britain and France 1911-1914” in Hinsley, op. cit., p. 324. 27.E. Jaeckh, Kiderlen-Wachter (Stuttgart 1924) Vol. II, p. 189, quoted in Fischer, op. cit., p. 226. 28.F. R. Bridge, From Sadowa to Sarajevo: The Foreign Policy of Austria Hungary 1866-1914 (London 1972) p. 360. 29.Diplomatische Schriftwechsel Isvolskis 1911- 1914 (ed. F. Stieve) (Berlin 1926) ii, No. 401, quoted in Taylor, op. cit., p. 488.

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