Why did Britain go to war? Background | The National Archives
The "rock-solid" relationship between the United States and Great Britain that on both sides of the war, including Great Britain and Germany. In the latest Brookings Essay, "The Rhyme of History: Lessons of the Great War," monarch of the age, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany; King George V of England; and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. WWI family relationships. Casting an eye over social policy blurs the lines of Anglo-German relations for social reform in pre-war Britain and Germany underline a similarity between the.
Focussing on the human side of pre-war Europe, before they were drilled into being soldiers, the citizens and subjects of both the German and British Empires were concerned with domestic and social policy in an era where fears of dreadnaughts and the erosion of naval supremacy had not yet totally consumed the public mind. In these forgotten days, social reform sparked animated debate in both parliaments.
In this climate, past similarities between victors and vanquished were quietly forgotten in the aftermath of the trenches. Beyond From the armistice to appeasement, it was largely unfashionable to revisit the German model when discussing British social policy.
Germany before 1914: social reform and British emulation
In any case, tailored versions of pre-war German policies were now embedded in British legislation at a time when the politics and economy of Weimar Germany were hardly models worthy of emulation. Beveridge had come into the civil service after his talents were recognised by another enthusiastic social reformer: Unlike others in that Cabinet, these two Liberal-radicals were steadfast in their belief in the merits of state-intervention on the German model; a view not shared by all their Cabinet colleagues but one which won out in the passage of subsequent legislation.
Although Churchill eventually cooled on his initial zeal for social reform, he was integral to the early phase of converting Cabinet to adopting a stylised version of German social policy; a system distinguished from organic British antecedents by the principles of compulsion, universality, and collaboration between worker and employer.
Hennock explains, the radical social reformers — most notably Lloyd George and Churchill — managed to convert the government to adopting the German model within a remarkably short period of time, from June to December His own counterparts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are concerned that this domestic row over commemoration will damage present-day Anglo-German relations, and arguably they are right.
The blame game, like patriotism, will only be drummed up by those with an eye on the politics of the present. Not everything that we owe to our forbearers was won by them down the barrel of a gun. Social reformers in Britain, Germany, and across Europe in the last century worked peaceably in the belief that they were moving people, not just nations, out of poverty and towards material betterment.
There was no liberty in conscription. In the empires of the victors, liberty ended up being taken, at further cost of life and limb, when it was not granted through legislation. Returning to Germany, it is important to de-simplify any picture of a Prussian Junker-state bent on land and naval supremacy. Prussia now represents all that is most antagonistic to the liberal and democratic ideas of the age; military despotism, the rule of the sword, contempt for sentimental talk, indifference to human suffering, imprisonment of independent opinion, transfer by force of unwilling populations to a hateful yoke, disregard of European opinion, total want of greatness and generosity, etc.
The British were building up their empire, but Bismarck strongly opposed colonies as too expensive. When public opinion and elite demand finally made him, in the s, grab colonies in Africa and the Pacific, he ensured that conflicts with Britain were minimal. Coming to power inthe young Wilhelm dismissed Bismarck in and sought aggressively to increase Germany's influence in the world.
Foreign policy was controlled by the erratic Kaiser, who played an increasingly-reckless hand  and by the leadership of Friedrich von Holsteina powerful civil servant in the Foreign Office. Russia could not get Germany to renew its mutual treaties and so formed a closer relationship with France in the Franco-Russian Alliance since both were worried about German aggression.
Britain refused to agree to the formal alliance that Germany sought. Since Germany's analysis was mistaken on every point, the nation was increasingly dependent on the Triple Alliance with Austria-Hungary and Italy.
That was undermined by the ethnic diversity of Austria-Hungary and its differences with Italy. The latter, inwould switch sides. German officials in Berlin had managed to stop the Kaiser from proposing a German protectorate over the Transvaal. It was the new policy to assert its claim to be a global power.
- Germany–United Kingdom relations
Bismarck's conservativism was abandoned, as Germany was intent on challenging and upsetting international order. Britain began to see Germany as a hostile force and moved to friendlier relationships with France. Anglo—German naval arms race The British Royal Navy dominated the globe in the 19th century, but afterGermany attempted to achieve parity.
The resulting naval race heightened tensions between the two nations. In Admiral Tirpitz became German Naval Secretary of State and began the transformation of German Navy from small, coastal defence force to a fleet that was meant to challenge British naval power. Tirpitz calls for Risikoflotte Risk Fleet that would make it too risky for Britain to take on Germany, as part of wider bid to alter the international balance of power decisively in Germany's favour. Into protect its new fleet.
Germany traded the strategic island of Heligoland in the North Sea with Britain. In exchange Britain gained the Eastern African island of Zanzibarwhere it proceeded to construct a naval base. The Germans were upset at not being informed.
Britain and Germany
Wilhelm made a highly-provocative speech for Moroccan independence. The following year, a conference was held at Algeciras in which all of the European powers except Austria-Hungary now increasingly seen as little more than a German satellite sided with France.
A compromise was brokered by the United States for the French to relinquish some of their control over Morocco. He sent a small warship, the SMS Pantherto Agadirmade saber-rattling threats and whipped up anger by German nationalists. France and Germany soon agreed on a compromise, with France gaining control of Morocco and Germany gaining some of the French Congo.
The British cabinethowever, was angry and alarmed at Germany's aggression. Lloyd George made a dramatic "Mansion House" speech that denounced the German move as an intolerable humiliation. There was talk of war until Germany backed down, and relations remained sour. Since relations with Germany regarding colonies and the naval race had improved in it did not expect trouble. However Liberal Prime Minister H. Asquith and especially Foreign Minister Edward Grey were committed to defending France, which was weaker than Germany.
The emerging Labour Party and other socialists denounced war as a capitalist device to maximize profits. Inthe leading German expert in the Foreign Office, Eyre Crowewrote a memorandum for senior officials that warned vigorously against German intentions.
Crowe argued that Germany presented a threat to the balance of power like that of Napoleon. Everyone knew that if Russia attacked Austria-Hungary, then the alliance system meant that Germany and France could be pulled into the war as well.
The alliance system did not mean that a European war had to happen.
Some say that it could still have been avoided - especially if Britain could have made Germany hold back from helping Austria-Hungary. Back to top In the late s and early s, Britain was often described as being in 'Splendid Isolation' from the rest of Europe. Britain had a huge empire and ruling this empire was its priority. The key to Britain's power was India with its vast resources of manpower. Britain relied heavily on Indian troops to control the empire.
The highest priority for Britain was protecting the trade routes between Britain and India. Britain's large navy protected trade links with India and with the rest of the world. Despite this focus on the empire, Britain was interested in events in Europe. To start with, other European countries had rival empires. Belgium and France both had large empires in Africa. There was strong rivalry between Britain and France over possessions in North Africa.
By the early s, Germany also had colonies in Africa and was beginning to show an interest in North Africa. Another concern was Russia. For much of the 19th century, Russia wanted to take control of the Dardanelles, the area where the Black Sea opened out into the Mediterranean Sea. This would allow Russian warships and trading ships to sail easily around Europe.
Russia had other ports in the north, but these tended to freeze over in winter.
Germany–United Kingdom relations - Wikipedia
The problem was that the Dardanelles were owned by Turkey. Turkey and Russia had long been enemies.Christmas Truce (1914)
Britain supported Turkey against Russia. This was because Britain did not want Russian ships in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean was part of Britain's most important trade route to India. Until the early s, Britain was more concerned about Russia and France than Germany. Relations between Britain and Germany were very good.