Saturday, March 19, 2011

Towards 1914 (2)

The first Moroccan crisis
The Entente had not been aimed at Germany, but it created problems for German policy makers. In March 1905 Wilhelm II made a deliberate attempt to break it. He paid a state visit to Tangier in which he made a speech emphasizing Germany’s commercial interests in Morocco and the importance of maintaining the independence of its Sultan. This was diplomatic bluster on Wilhelm’s part. Germany had no economic interests in Morocco and certainly did not want war. But it caused French and British diplomats to discuss the military possibilities of the Entente in the event of a war with Germany. The immediate outcome was the resignation of the French Prime Minister, Delcassé, in June, 1905.

Germany succeeded in having an international conference called at Algeciras in 1906.
The conference confirmed the integrity of the sultan's domains but sanctioned French and Spanish policing of Moroccan ports and collection of the customs dues. There was now no hope of a Franco-German rapprochement and the Anglo-French entente was solidified. The crisis revealed to British statesmen the importance of France and was the effectual end of the policy of isolation. It also revealed Germany’s isolation, with only Austria-Hungary supporting its position.
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Towards 1914 (1)

For the complicated politics of the European alliances before 1914, I have been especially indebted to J. M. Roberts Europe 1880-1945, 2nd edition (Longman, 1989) and to Michael Rapport, Nineteenth-Century Europe (Palgrave, 2005).

'In the approach to the outbreak of the First World War, four factors were crucial: first, the ambitions and strategies of the great powers; second, the system of alliances, the danger of which was less to drag allies into the abyss than to make them concerned lest their opposite numbers renege on their commitments at the last moment; third, the balance of power in the decision-making process between military men and civilian politicians; last, the pressure of both nationalist and socialist anti-militaristic opinion, and the opportunity offered by the war to achieve the ultimate in national integration'. Robert Gildea, Barricades and Borders: Europe 1800-1914, 3rd edn. (Oxford, 2003), 429.

Between the Berlin Congress of 1878 and 1900 the Concert of Europe in effect came to an end as new occasions of conflict arose.
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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Memories of Queen Victoria and Kaiser Bill

Princess Alice of Athlone remembers her grandmother, Queen Victoria, and her cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Monday, March 07, 2011


Above is Punch's cartoon of Cecil Rhodes striding the map of Africa. This is a comment on his projected Cape to Cairo Railway.
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Monday, February 28, 2011

Russia in the nineteenth century

The extent of the country
At the beginning of the nineteenth century Russia was geographically the world’s most extensive country and its empire was expanding. From 1809 Russia controlled Finland and in 1815 the Grand Duchy of Warsaw was subsumed into Russia. In 1800 Georgia was annexed. In 1859 the rest of the Caucasus was conquered and the Chechen hero Imam Shamil (right) captured. In 1860 the Amur and Maritime provinces were acquired from China and Turkestan from Persia in 1875. Turkmenistan was annexed in 1881. The Pacific port of Vladivostok was founded in 1860. The only territory lost was Alaska, which was sold to the United States in 1867 for $8 million.
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Sunday, February 27, 2011


Before 1867
In 1806 the Holy Roman Empire was brought to an end following Napoleon’s victories over the Austrians. The last of the Holy Roman Emperors, Francis II, was now Francis I of Austria. After the fall of Napoleon (1814-15), Austria became once more the leader of the German states but following the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 she was expelled from the German Confederation.
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Friday, February 25, 2011

Rat du jour

'Along with the carrier-pigeon, the rat was to become the most fabled animal of the Siege of Paris [1870-1], and from December the National Guard spent much of its time engaged in vigorous rat-hunts. Even so, the number actually consumed was relatively few: according to one contemporary American calculation, only 300 rats were eaten during the whole siege, compared with 65,000 horses, 5,000 cats and 1,200 dogs. The elaborate sauces that were necessary to render them edible meant that rats were essentially a rich man's dish - hence the notorious menu of the Jockey Club, which featured such delicacies as "salmis de rats" and rat pie.'

From Alistair Horne, The Seven Ages of Paris (2002)

The view from 1865 - and now

There is a fascinating Guardian article from Martin Kettle pointing out that during the American Civil War the Manchester Guardian and many other liberal voices supported the Confederacy (the south) rather than the Union (the north) and thought Abraham Lincoln.  There was a respectable argument for this position: if it was OK for the Italians to secede from Austrian rule (and the Belgians from Dutch and the Greeks from Turkish rule) why should the southern states be forced against their will to remain in the Union.

The moral? Things can look very different a hundred and fifty years on.