The Responsibility of Britain Foreign Policies in 1870-1914 Leading to World War I

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Topic: The responsibility of Britain foreign policies in 1870-1914 leading to World War I


In 1914, a human disaster appeared in our history which was the First World War. The world was in the chaos at that time. At last, Germany was the loser and “Big Three “which were America, Britain and France forced her to bear most of the responsibilities for the war and signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. However, only one country’s ambition cannot generate a war. WW1 was the last outbreak of conflicts between European countries. Other countries had different standards of responsibility to contribute World War I. Britain was one of the countries.

To a lesser extent, Britain’s foreign policies had the responsibilities to lead the World War I. They helped to keep a peaceful Europe, at the same time, they contributed conflicts in Europe. The foreign policies could be divided into alliance system, armament race, new imperialism and responses to Sarajevo incident which I would like to illustrate in the following.

Alliance system:

To begin with, it was the alliance system. The definition of it is a group of nations or countries formed to support a common goal. The original founder was Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck who was Germany’s prime minister. He formed the Triple alliance in 1882 with Austria and Italy in order to monitor France which was Germany’s rival and converged power. To resist it, Britain, France and Russia formed the Triple Entente in 1907.To Britain, the main use of Triple Entente was liked the French meaning of “Entente” –understanding. Also, Britain did not sign any collective treaties in the alliance. In order words, the nature of it was peace, not for war. This policy had influence on World War I.

It helped to prevent conflicts or wars between European powers. Firstly, Britain kept a stable relationship with France and Russia through the alliance system. Before the triple entente, Britain had colonial and other conflicts with two countries. With France, they had an argument in Egypt, Morocco, Newfoundland, some areas of West and Central Africa, Siam, Madagascar and the New Hebrides. With the alliance system, they signed the Entente cordiale in 1904 for ending this problem. The most important treaty was France would not affect British actions in Egypt and Britain would give assistance to France in Morocco. With Russia, they had conflicts in Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet which called “The Great Game” in history. They signed the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907 to stop this struggle. The essential part was in Persia, Britain got the southwest part and Russian got the north part. Britain stopped the potential colonial wars with two countries and wars would not appear between 3 big European powers.

Also, the alliance system had a deterrent function. Considered the alliance of 3 big powers, some countries would not announce war so easily. Take Two Morocco crises as an example, Germany and France wanted to control Morocco which was in a serious Strategic position. In the first time (1906), Germany Kaiser Wilhelm II visited and announced Moroccan independence dramatically, which was a provocative challenge to French influence in Morocco. Two countries had mobilization (an act of assembling and making both troops and supplies ready for war). and it seemed to be a war. However, with the alliance system, Britain said that she would support France and made two countries to have Algeciras Conference for solving problem. Britain led Germany to give up. In the second time (1911), Germany sent a gunboat Panther to Morocco and it was a military action to France. Regard to the alliance system, Britain supported France again. Sir Edward Grey which was the British Foreign Secretary, he wrote: “what the French contemplate doing is not wise, but we cannot under our agreement interfere”. Also, Edward Grey who was Britain Chancellor of the Exchequer said that Britain would start war with...
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