The reason for the lack of posts in the past two months is because I have been burdened with my first research paper in three years. But it's now done. For the curious, here is what I've been laboring on for the last couple of months. It concerns the effect of Great Power psychology on German foreign policy before World War I.
'A Place in the Sun': The Effect of Great Power Psychology on German Weltpolitik in the Wilhelmine Era
From 1815 until 1914 something truly remarkable occurred or rather didn't occur, namely, for a century there was no general European war. Now, obviously there were various conflicts that took place during this period, most notably the Italian and German wars of unification, but many of these were localized incidents involving two, at most three powers. What is meant by the above statement is that there was never a conflict that developed into a wider European war during this period.1 This was indeed a unique development given the history of European international relations prior to the 19th century. The Concert of Europe that had formed out of the Congress of Vienna (the peace settlement that definitively ended the Napoleonic wars) astoundingly maintained peace for a hundred years.2 It took the outbreak of the First World War to finally put an end to this peace, effectively shattering European civilization in the process.
And precisely because this war was so world-shattering the desire to apportion “blame” to one or more of its participants emerged quickly after the war's end. There thus arose a pervasive dogmatism in the subsequent study of the causes of the First World War which in certain respects still plagues this popular area of historical inquiry. In this respect, the passionate desire of historians to ascertain the causes of the Great War has had no rival within the sub-field of international history that has traditionally concerned itself with the study of the origins of conflicts.3 In the years since the war there has been a proliferation of reasons cited as the primary cause ranging from the sensible (incendiary Balkans problem, rise of Anglo-German antagonism, great power war mobilization plans, etc) to the less probable (secret treaties, entangling alliances, domestic problems), to the conspiratorial (manipulation of the international system by Jewish financiers).4
But in spite of these differences there has been a general tendency to emphasize the role of Empire as being a contributing factor in causing World War I because of the part the imperial system played in the breakdown of the balance of power system in Europe that had generally been maintained since Vienna.5 It was with good reason that the historian Eric Hobsbawm entitled the second part of his classic trilogy The Age of Empire for it is an accurate description of the several decades preceding the war.6 This period witnessed the infamous “scramble for Africa”, the penetration and exploitation of China, the height of the “Great Game” between Russia and Great Britain, and more. In fact between the brief period of 1860 and 1914 the great powers amassed more colonies than in any of the previous centuries combined since the 16th century.7
The belated participant in this “Age of Empire” was most notably Germany which had only relatively recently in terms of European history become a nation in 1871 under the great Prussian statesman Otto von Bismark. And except for a brief period (1884-1885) Germany under the direction of Chancellor Bismark mostly refrained from the imperial dash then being made by the other powers because in Bismark’s words the new German nation was “a satiated power.”8 But the accession of Wihelm II to the position of new German Kaiser in 1888 changed this. After forcing Bismark’s resignation over a domestic dispute, Wilhelm began to exercise more control over Germany’s foreign policy, eventually ushering in the so-called “New Course” (1890-1896) and Weltpolitik9 (world policy; 1897-1914) eras.10 Germany, Kaiser Wihelm asserted, deserved “a place in the sun”11 with the other great European powers.12 This meant among other things a renewed focus on the acquisition of colonies, the buildup of a major naval force, the right to arbitration in international disputes, and a general acknowledgment of Germany's status as a Great Power.
But besides the drive for obvious concrete imperial aims the primary motivation underlying Germany's determined pursuit of Weltpolitik was at bottom psychological. In fact, I would argue that at this period in history being an imperial power from the perspective of a belated country such as Germany was a function of “Great Power Psychology”. That is, to be a Great Power was to have an empire; to have an empire was to be a Great Power. Thus, Germany's imperial desires were more about the non-tangible aspects of being a Great Power and less about the actual finite gains to be had from acquiring and maintaining an Empire. In other words having an Empire functioned as a kind of status symbol that indicated one was in fact a Great Power.
Now of course there clearly were economic incentives driving much of Germany's foreign actions and adventures during the Wilhemine period; I do not deny such. Indeed Germany's fated geographic position as a central European power necessitated a certain degree of expansion if it wished to continue to rise as an economic force on the continent of Europe. My point is one of emphasis: the course that German Weltpolitik was to endeavor upon was more about power prestige and status as a Great Power and less about the physical gains to be had from, say, the possession of colonies or the build up of a great navy.
Now, anyone who has engaged in even a cursory study of the origins of the First World War knows that German Weltpolitik and its relation, if any, to the cause of World War I has been treated ad naseum. But the focus has tended to be on German aims of the more traditional, that is to say, physical elements of Empire and how such a reckless pursuit of these goals created a hostile environment between the other major powers vis a vis Germany. The purpose of this paper is not to call this standard interpretation into question but rather to isolate the psychological aspect of Empire that involves Great Power status and to show how this in turn informed and shaped the course of German foreign policy in the decades before the Great War. To draw this out necessitates examining German foreign policy during this time period in three specific though related areas that were briefly mentioned above, namely, the desire for colonies, a naval force, and the right to arbitration and/or consultation in international disputes. 13
We turn first to the most obvious marker of Empire and Great Power status: the possession of colonies.
The German Colonial Bid
The Franco-Prussian war was truly a watershed moment in the history of Germany. Its conclusion brought about the unification of the various German states (save Austria) principally under the direction of the “Iron and Blood” statesman Otto von Bismark who became the German chancellor in the Spring of 1871. 14 While the Age of Empire was just beginning Bismark was busy consolidating the new position of the second German Reich and so initially refused to have anything to do with the most recent surge in colonial activity then being conducted by the other European powers, repeatedly declaring on more than one occasion, “I am no man of colonies.”15 Moreover, in a famous incident Bismark purportedly told a German explorer of Africa, “Here is Russia and here is France, with Germany in the middle. That is my map of Africa.”16
But for reasons that remain somewhat obscure Bismark altered course and the first colonies obtained by Germany in the years 1884-1885 were done so under his approval.17 These were the Cameroons in west central Africa, a strip of territory in German south-west Africa, and a northern portion of New Guinea. There were a few other minor colonial gains made during this period but eventually Bismark soured on the whole enterprise and reverted back to an anti-colonial policy. It would take Bismark's dismissal and the rise to prominence of Kaiser Wilhelm II to renew a German push for colonies. As noted before these changes occurred in 1890. Oddly enough, however, Germany's renewed bid for colonial territory began rather benignly, namely, with the signing of an agreement with England that gave to Germany a small North Sea archipelago called Heligoland in exchange for some previously disputed territory in East Africa (Zanzibar).18 But this proved to be the high point of Anglo-German relations during this so called “New Course” period because for various reasons that we will return to later Anglo-German relations deteriorated rapidly thereafter, leading to a pronounced antagonism between the two powers that would last until the outbreak of world war.19 Nevertheless, Germany continued to acquire territories, especially in South East Asia, in these first few years of undisputed Wilhelmine rule.20 Most notably was the seizure in 189721 of the Chinese port Kiao-Chow, ostensibly in response to the murder of two German missionaries in the Shantung province.22
In the remaining years from 1900-1914 Germany continued to make small grabs in Asia and Africa; the last remaining portions of Africa that Germany received came about because of an international crisis over Morocco (which will be examined in more detail later) and as the result of the outcome of Anglo-German negotiations over the status of Portuguese colonies in Africa.23
On paper Germany's colonial possessions appeared impressive, but in reality none of the acquired territory, with the possible exception of the Heligoland, were of any real economic or strategic value. This fact is partly supported by the general ease with which the powers, especially Great Britain, made colonial concessions to Germany over this time period. In short by the time Germany thrust itself upon the colonial scene the pickings were slim. What one high official in the German office exclaimed upon learning of the possession of Samoa that “it was not worth the money spent upon telegrams to and from Apia”24 could be said of the entire German colonial venture upon the eve of World War I. Indeed much of the hostility that Germany's colonial policy was to create was due to the fact that Wilhem and the German foreign office understood that if they were to obtain any territory of actual value they would most likely have to do so in a manner that could only be perceived by the other powers as aggressive. But Germany pressed on all the same.
Clearly then there was more to German colonial aims than simply the physical acquisition of territory for economic and/or strategic gain. Great Power psychology provides the explantion. Germany sought to emulate the other Great Powers and understood that a strong marker of Great Power status was the possession of colonies. If the second Reich was to truly take its place as great power then the control of foreign lands was a sine qua non. Therefore, Great Power psychology compelled Germany to seize foreign lands, regardless of their value. So Hobsbawm: “Once the status of a great power thus became associated with raising its flag over some palm-fringed beach...the acquisition of colonies itself became a status symbol, irrespective of their value.”25
But of course to have colonies requires the building and maintaining of some kind of navy and so it is to Germany's naval ambitions that we now turn.
German Naval Policy
Wilhelm's vital role in the formation of a powerful German navy cannot be overstated. The Kaiser harbored a personal fascination for navies originating with his childhood when he used to look upon the British Royal Navy fleet with awe and reverence.26 His own personal passion for navies “was the customary blend of absurdity and energetic enthusiasm” often exhibited for example by Wilhelm's donning of an admiral's uniform in public, his obsession with learning the technical details of British Royal Navy ships, and his repeated readings of Alfred Thayer Mahan's influential maritime study The Influence of Sea Power Upon History.27 Thus as Germany rose in power it was no accident that Wilhelm decided the country needed a strong navy. Furthermore, this navy was to be the instrument, or perhaps more correctly, the enforcer of Wilhemine Weltpolitik.
The most important decision Wilhelm was to make on this score was the appointment in 1897 of Rear Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz to the position of State Secretary for the Imperial Navy Office.28 Through shrewd political maneuvering Tirpitz successfully was able to pass in the Reichstag the Navy Law of 1898 and a supplement to that law in 1900, a moment in German history nearly on par with that of unification.29 Why? Because as the historian Jonathan Steinberg notes “the Navy Law of 1898 was no ordinary piece of military legislation. It began a new era. The emphasis in German military affairs shifted dramatically from the land to the sea.”30 The Law itself increased the size of the current German naval fleet by seven battle ships, two heavy cruisers, and seven light cruisers.31 The modern German battle fleet had been birthed.
This newly created German battle fleet found an immediate use during the 1902-03 Venezuelan Affair when as part of an Anglo-German blockade that was meant to pressure Venezuela into settling its debts with foreign creditors the German Navy recklessly bombarded a port in the country to the angry outcry of the United States.32 But the United States weren't the only ones to be alarmed by the existence and actions of this new component of Weltpolitik.
For centuries a central tenet of British foreign policy had been the preservation of British Royal Naval supremacy in the seas based first of course on security for the Homeland because of its geographical handicap as an island nation and second as an instrument of protection for its widely flung colonies.33 Therefore, any perceived attempt to change or challenge British naval supremacy would immediately be construed as a threat by Great Britain. And so not surprisingly Great Britain began to interpret German naval development in such a fashion.34 This resulted in a naval arms race between the two powers with the result that by 1912 England came out just slightly ahead in the number of its Dreadnought class battle ships versus similar German versions.35 This naval arms race between England and Germany did more to create hostility between the two powers than did any other factor before the First World War.36
Surely Germany knew that their Flottenpolitik or naval policies would antagonize the British? Most definitely. In fact, the Navy Law of 1898 was from the very beginning designed as a measure against England in that it was intended to challenge Great Britain's traditional mastery of the seas.37
So what then explains Germany's apparently heedless Flottenpolitik? That there were clearly economic interests which influenced the desire for the development of a strong German navy cannot be denied.38 By the mid 1890's Germany's industry and trade were at an all time high, and so an interpretation which concludes that Germany desired a navy in particular to safe guard these new gains and other economic interests such as their recently acquired colonies is a reasonable one. But even here Great Power psychology provides an explanation for the reckless naval actions of Germany after 1897.
It is impossible to convey in this short paper the impact that Alfred Thayer's Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power Upon History had on the nations at the time of its publication in 1890.39 I have already mentioned the profound spell it cast upon Wilhelm. But the book's influence penetrated Tirpitz as well who had 2,000 copies of the book translated into German and distributed as part of his political campaign for the passage of the Reichstag Navy Law.40 The central message that figures like Wilhelm, Tirpitz, and others took from Mahan's book was this: to be a Great Power was to have a great navy.
This belief in a necessary linkage between Great Power status and naval dominance influenced the naval policies of German Weltpolitik more than economic forces when you consider two things (1) what came to be the German navy was primarily composed of battle ships which is important because if the drive to build a navy was born out of a need solely to protect commercial interests then the focus would have been on the building of primarily fast cruisers and (2) as mentioned above Germany's Navy Laws were designed specifically to challenge Great Britain's mastery over the seas which again makes no sense if purely economic motives were the main cause in Germany's desire for a great navy. Therefore, just as in the case of its pursuit of colonies, likewise the creation of a great navy was for Germany an effect of the Great Power psychology that pervaded the international system at this period in history. Steinberg perhaps conveys this better when he states that, “the gunboat and the battle fleet joined the more traditional devices of diplomacy, and the possession of a presentable fleet became the hall-mark of international respectability.”41
But in addition to having colonies and a great navy being an imperial power was also about the right to engage in international disputes and crises, the next and last category to be examined.
German Right to Inclusion on the International Stage: The Moroccan Crises
One of the first instances of Germany flexing its Weltpolitik on the world scene was the Venezuelan Affair of 1902-03 that I have already briefly mentioned. But this incident had the result of really only antagonizing one power, namely, the United States, since it was seen by Washington as a blatant violation of its Monroe Doctrine.42 Moreover, it was an affair that was smoothed over quite rapidly with no lasting repercussions on the international community and therefore was soon forgotten.43 The same cannot be said for the two Moroccan crises that were to follow.44
In late March of 1905 on the pretext of settling certain grievances that the German government supposedly had with Morocco, Kaiser Wilhelm landed his personal cruiser in the port of Tangier thus precipitating the first Moroccan crisis.45 In reality, then Chancellor Bulow convinced the Kaiser to land in Morocco because Germany had learned of secret talks between France and Great Britain concerning Moroccan issues that had remained latent for some time.46 These talks were rightly viewed by Germany as a violation of the 1880 Madrid Convention which stated that any future issues arising in regards to the “Moroccan Question” must be consulted with all of the participants of that accord which had included Germany.47
Early in the crisis, Germany earned a diplomatic victory with the forced resignation of French foreign minister Declasse48, but Germany soon botched this success by, first, refusing to negotiate directly with the French, instead calling for a general conference to discuss the “Moroccan Question”49, and then, second, by failing to develop any clear goals that it wished to achieve out of the crisis.50 The result was that Germany came off looking the aggressor because as the historian John Lowe aptly states the other European powers saw clearly that German actions “had every intention of making a drama out of a crisis.”51 And so at the Algeciras Conference of 1906 only Morocco and Austria-Hungary backed the German government.52 The Germans were left with a vague promise of protection of their commercial rights while the French position and influence in Morocco was actually enhanced.53 It was a humiliating defeat for Germany.
In the intervening years between this first Moroccan crisis and the next, Germany and France made some attempts at a modus vivendi, eventually resulting in the Franco-German Accord of 1909 in which Germany recognized France's special political interests in Morocco in return for more economic rights in the country.54 But the “Moroccan Question” was soon hurled back onto the world stage when an uprising against the Sultan provided France with an opportunity to occupy the capital of Fez under the pretext of protecting French nationals. The German response was rapid: the new foreign secretary Kiderlen-Waechter ordered a ship to land at the southern port of Agadir on July 1 of 1911; the famous so called “Panther's leap to Agadir”. 55 The second Moroccan crisis was thus ignited.56
Initially, the second Moroccan crisis played out in similar fashion to the first with the other powers generally at first sympathetic to Germany's grievance against France's violation of their 1909 accord. But under Foreign Minister Kiderlen's direction German moves soon became hostile and after a week the German government was demanding colonial concessions from France, particularly in the vaguely defined “Congo” region.57 These demands coupled with Germany's continued intransigence over the negotiations outraged the other powers, especially Great Britain who by this point had definitively cast off its 19th century isolationist disposition.58
The first Moroccan crisis and the naval arms race had done much to antagonize Great Britain so that by the time it was clear that Germany was once again the aggressor in the second Moroccan crisis, Great Britain firmly gave its support to the French throughout the affair.59 The result was yet another conference in which Germany was forced to significantly moderate its claims against the staunch united opposition of the other powers, coming away with only a small sliver of French Congolese territory.60 France on the other hand was finally given their long sought after protectorate over the country, the very thing Germany had been trying to prevent since even before the first Moroccan crisis. And so once again Germany was faced with a national humiliation.
The Moroccan crises were to have a profound effect on the climate of international relations, probably more so than did Germany's sometimes aggressive pursuit of colonies or its reckless naval arms race with Great Britain. Though speaking specifically in reference to the consequences of the first Moroccan crisis, Anderson's comments that the actions of Germany “reverberated like the distant rumblings of canon” across the whole of Europe applies just as appropriately to both crises.
There are usually two explanations given for the actions of the German government in both of the Moroccan crises: (1) Germany aimed at a disruption of the Anglo-French entente61, and (2) Germany thought it could leverage itself to acquire more colonial territory. The latter explanation has the least explanatory power since during the first Moroccan crisis there were never any colonial demands put forward by Germany.62 And though during the second crisis Germany did demand colonial concessions ultimately securing a small portion of central African territory, it is far from clear that this was the primary motive behind Kiderlen's actions. That this was apparently the case seems borne out by the fact that there was a full week between the “Panther's leap at Agadir” and Kiderlen's first demand for some kind of colonial compensation.63 Furthermore, even when a demand was finally made it took some time before any definable desired colonial territory was put forth.64 Thus, I suspect that Kiderlen only knew that he had to come out of this crisis with some kind of tangible gain so as to avoid a repeat of the first Moroccan crisis, but that he did not at first have a clear notion of what form this demand would take, hence his preliminary explanation for the seizing of Agadir as a “clenched pledge” for an undefined future compensation of some sort.65
However, the first explanation, namely, that Germany was attempting to split the Anglo-French entente has considerable merit. This entente combined with (1) the Anglo-Russian accord of 1907 that “settled” the grievances between Russia and England over their “Great Game” in central and eastern Asia, and (2) the continued deterioration of Russo-German relations, chiefly over the festering Balkans problem, led to a growing feeling of “encirclement” in Germany.66 Thus it is quite reasonable that Germany would try to alleviate this problem by attempting to break up the various ententes by whatever means, short of war, it believed necessary.67
Therefore, while there is some truth to the above explanations regarding German actions in these crises, the best explanation for German motives nevertheless remains the simpler one: Germany acted as it did because of Great Power psychology. This is clear when you consider that what sparked both affairs was French refusal to acknowledge Germany's right to partake in the larger “Moroccan Question.” Still, Germany's conduct was “only superficially about Morocco.”68 The greater crime from Germany's perspective was its belief that the French refusal to recognize its commercial rights in Morocco was really a refusal to acknowledge its status as a great power with the right to inclusion in international affairs. In other words, Germany objected and acted for reasons of prestige.69 To simplify further, French actions appeared to indicate to Germany that France did not recognize it as a Great Power.
And so Germany thrust itself into the ports of Tangier and Agadir because of a perceived diminution of its Great Power status. Additionally, that Germany's underlying motive was psychological is further indicated by the feckless way it conducted its diplomacy thereafter, only in the latter crisis eventually formulating a concrete demand. In both crises Germany wanted some way to humiliate France but “could find no operational expression for that objective.”70 Indeed, once Germany had dramatically acted it didn't have much of an inkling of what it hoped to achieve from the crises except a recognition of some kind that it was Great Power worthy to be consulted in international matters. Therefore, just as with the pursuit of colonies and the building of a great navy, German action in both of the Moroccan crises was ultimately motivated by Great Power psychology.71 .
The purpose of this paper has been to show how in three specific but interconnected areas of German Weltpolitik, namely, colonial aims, naval ambitions, and the right to a role in international affairs was driven by the Great Power mindset that had come to saturate the international scene in this “Age of Empire”. However, again, this is not to deny the role of other factors, especially economic and domestic ones, that was surely a component in the development of German Weltpolitik. The analysis used here has been chiefly one in line with a macro study of history. Thus, there has resulted an inevitable tendency towards simplification in this paper that could not be avoided. So I want to stress that German Weltpolitik was a much more complex phenomenon than the impression that has been given here.
Nonetheless, this examination of Germany's approach to three common features generally associated with an imperial power during this time period indicate how the psychological drive to acquire Great Power status and prestige underlay the actions of German Weltpolitik. While at times other impersonal forces may have slightly altered German foreign policy it was the compulsory, almost atavistic desire to imitate the other Great Powers that kept German Weltpolitik on what would turn out to be a crash course.
Germany because it entered into the Age of Empire so late was like a kid trying to mature too quickly because it badly wanted to be like the grown ups surrounding it. The trouble was that except for under Bismark, Germany never developed a wise and mature foreign policy with which to engage the other Great Powers.72 Beyond the superficial Great Power status symbols discussed above in this paper German Weltpolitik never acquired any other concrete aims. And because of this German diplomacy, even when it had no bearing on the three aspects of Empire discussed here, often came across to the other powers as curt and abrasive. The result was that German foreign policy gained a European reputation for being motivated by a “dangerous irrationality.”73 And so not surprisingly Germany's foreign policy increasingly became viewed by the others as uniformly aggressive, a factor which definitely contributed to the outbreak of world war in 1914.
To sum up, once Germany had set itself on the path of becoming a Great Power it was only natural that it would develop a desire for “a place in the sun.” Yet unfortunately as the late diplomatic historian A.J.P. Taylor notes, “by this they meant someone else's place in the sun, their own having become too hot.”74
1The Crimean War (1854-56) is sometimes cited as an exception but aside from a few battles on the Crimean peninsula this war was chiefly a naval one.
2Hence Henry Kissinger's appropriately named study, A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812-1822 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957). I should note that the Concert of Europe actually broke up with the Crimean War. Bismark's European system would eventually take over this role. Therefore, it is actually more accurate to say that the Concert of Europe and the Bismarkian Order maintained a general peace for nearly a hundred of years in Europe.
3The possible exception being the study of the origins of the Franco-Prussian War (1870/71) that resulted in the unification of Germany. However, I would argue that the dogmatism that has surrounded this discussion is itself directly related to the question of Germany's role in causing World War I since it is often argued that if Germany had never become united it likely would not have gone on to become the key power to disrupt the European balance of power system. For a helpful discussion of these issues see further The Unification of Germany 1848-1871, ed. Otto Pflanze (Malabar, FL: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Co., 1968), especially 69-80; also see David Wetzel, A Duel of Giants: Bismark, Napoleon III, and the Origins of the Franco-Prussian War (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001).
4The controversial nature of this topic typically arises from the question of German war guilt as supposedly originating from the so called “war guilt” clause of the Treaty of Versailles (the document itself does not actually use this phrase). This question then took on a new dimension after the demise of Nazi Germany with post-war scholarship increasingly concerning itself with issue of continuity in German history. The publication of Fritz Fischer's controversial Germany's War Aims in the First World War (New York: W.W. Norton, 1967) significantly intensified the debate. For a helpful survey consult Niall Ferguson, “Germany and the Origins of the First World War: New Perspectives in The Historical Journal, Vol. 35, No.3 (Sep., 1992), 725-52; and Annika Mombauer, The Origins of the First World War: Controversies and Consensus(London: Longman, 2002), particularly 127-74 for the impact and controversy concerning the Fischer thesis.
5The connection between imperialism and World War I is as old as the war itself having been famously put forth by Lenin while the war was still raging and some would say having been anticipated by J.A. Hobson's classic work Imperialism: A Study (London: Nisbit and Co. Limited, 1902; reprint 2010). See further William L. Langer, “A Critique of Imperialism” in Foreign Affairs, vol. 14, No. 1 (Oct., 1935), 102-19, for a concise though somewhat dated examination of Hobson's study.
6The Age of Empire (New York: Vintage Books, 1987).
7Hobson, Imperialism, 15-29.
8As quoted in A.J.P. Taylor, Bismark: The Man and the Statesman (New York: Vintage Publishing, 1967), 129.
9For a detailed examination of Weltpolitik, see C.M. Andrew, “Weltpolitik and the Reshaping of the Duel Alliance”, Journal of Contemporary History, vol.1 (1966).
10 For the sake of precision I should state that though Wilhelm did indeed exert a significant degree of control over Germany's foreign policy he was not its sole mover since both the foreign minister (and later Chancellor) Bulow and State Secretary Holstein were factors, though limited ones, in determining the direction that German Weltpoltik was to take, especially after 1900. See William Young, German Diplomatic Relations 1871-1945 (New York: iUniverse Inc., 2006), 74-103. On the unique personality of Wilhelm II refer to Gordon Craig, Germany 1866-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 224-27.
11Quoted in Mombauer, The Origins of the First World War, 4.
12Young, German Diplomatic Relations, 85.
13The degree to which German domestic politics (Innenpolitik) and other impersonal forces influenced and determined the course of Germany's foreign policy during the Wilhemine era cannot be treated here. That domestic concerns played a part in the development of German Weltpolitik seems certain but ascertaining to what degree has generated a seemingly endless debate in and of itself in the study of German history. For a concise survey of domestic interpretations of Wilhemine foreign policy see John Lowe, The Great Powers, Imperialism, and the German Problem 1865-1925 (London and New York: Routledge), 143-49.
14Wilhem I was crowned German emperor on January 26th 1871.
15As quoted in Taylor, Bismark, 215.
17Divining the reasons behind Bismark's sudden reversal of policy concerning colonies has generated much debate. That it was partially a response to nationalist fervor for colonies seems the only thing agreed upon. For an accessible discussion refer to S. Foester, W.J. Mommsen, and R. Robinson, eds., Bismark, Europe, and Africa (London, 1988). For an interpretation that stresses the primacy of domestic factors in changing Bismark's mind, see H.U. Wehler, “Bismark's Imperialism 1862-1890” in Past and Present, no. 48 (August, 1970), and Paul M. Kennedy, “German Colonial Expansion. Has the 'Manipulated Social Imperialism' Been Ante-Dated? in Past & Present, No. 54 (Feb., 1972) for a critique of this emphasis. A.J.P. Taylor's older interpretation as systematically presented in his short work Germany's First Bid for Colonies, 1884-1885: A Move in Bismark's European Policy (New York: W.W. Norton and Co. Inc.) that Bismark changed his colonial policy as a means of forging a possible detente with France by antagonizing Britain over colonial issues (“A grievance had to be created, and Bismark turned to the colonial topics, which he had hitherto despised”, 23) gets dismissed today too quickly. Note for example Paul Kennedy's remarks in idem, 135. Though Taylor's diplomatic heavy interpretation has its problems I think it still has some merit. Kennedy's own interpretation that Bismark gradually changed his policy in response to “controlling territories where German traders were active” (idem, 135) is sensible; see further the author's The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism 1860-1914 (New York: Humanity Books, 1980), 167-84 for a further elaboration of this viewpoint.
18For background on the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty see William L. Langer, The Diplomacy of Imperialism 1890-1902, 2nd ed (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1951), 5-8; A.J. P. Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), 328-30.
19So the aptly named comprehensive study of Kennedy, The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism.
20Specifically in Samoa. See Langer, Diplomacy of Imperialism, 620ff; Paul Kennedy, The Samoan Tangle: A Study in Anglo-German-American Relations, 1878-1900 (Dublin/New York, 1974).
21This seizure along with the beginnings of the naval buildup and the start of the Bulow chancellorship with Holstein as state secretary usually marks the beginnings of the Weltpolitik era. Taylor goes so far as to say that Bulow “was the symbol of world policy”; The Struggle for Mastery, 373.
22Lowe, Great Powers, Imperialism, and the German Problem, 115.Lowe's remarks that this was probably not a part of German Weltpolitik but an aberration designed to impress German public opinion seems to me off the mark. Long before the crisis Admiral Tirpitz had marked out this territory as a suitable port for Germany's future navy that he was to eventually spearhead. And so even before these two missionaries were killed both Tirpitz and the Kaiser already had designs on this portion of Chinese territory. Therefore, it seems clear to me that grabbing Kiao-Chow was more than just about impressing public opinion though it was no doubt in part meant to do such. Though note the rhetoric of the Kaiser's remarks as quoted in Langer, Diplomacy, 451: “I am firmly determined to give up our over-cautious policy which is regarded as weak throughout eastern Asia, and to demonstrate through the use of sternness if necessary of the most brutal ruthlessness toward the Chinese, that the German emperor cannot be trifled with.”
23On the Portuguese negotiations see Taylor, Struggle, 481; and Zara S. Steiner and Keith Neilson, Britain and the Origins of the First World War, 2nd ed (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 111-13. These negotiations were one of the last attempts before the war to achieve a detente between the two countries.
24Quoted in Langer, Diplomacy, 624.
25Age of Empire, 67. Likewise, A.J.P. Taylor's comments in The Course of German History (London: Routledge Classics, 2002), 155, “Their only purpose was emotional, an inadequate safety valve for the growing desire that united Germany, as a Great Power, should display all the characteristics of greatness shown by others.”
26Hew Strachan, The First World War Volume I: To Arms (New York: Oxford, 2001), 11.
28Young, German Diplomatic Relations, 85.
29The reason the passage of the Navy Law of 1898 and its 1890 supplement was such a noteworthy political success is because Tirpitz was able to overcome the traditional strong opposition to a large navy that some of the conservative elements within German society, especially the Prussian army, had historically held towards such a project. For a full survey of the birth of the German Navy and Tirpitz's role in its creation see Jonathan Steinberg, Yesterday's Deterrent: Tirpitz and the Birth of the German Battle Fleet (New York: Macmillan Co., 1965).
30Steinberg, Yesterday's Deterrent, 201.
31Young, German Diplomatic Relations, 88.
32Lowe, Great Powers, 150.
33Other tenets of British foreign policy at this time: control of the lowland countries (Belgium, Luxembourg) and the prevention of one power dominance on the continent of Europe.
34England's initial reaction to the passage of the first Reichstag Navy Law was actually restrained and lukewarm. It was in fact the Supplementary Naval Bill that jolted the British from their indifference. So Craig, Germany, 312: “The thought that the supplement promised to change the ration between the strength of their own fleet and that of Germany from two to one to three to two was not comforting, and the suspicion was quick to grow that the Germans, who had the strongest army in Europe, were now seeking to build the strongest fleet as well.”
35For a popular account of the first stage of the naval arms race that led to the creation of the first Dreadnought class battle ship see Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War (New York: Random House, 1991).
36From 1897 to 1912 there were many attempts to forge some kind of an agreement between the two powers. They all eventually failed because German demands for suspension of their naval buildup was only offered if England agreed to absolute neutrality in any war that Germany might in the future find itself engaged in, a price too high for Great Britain to pay. See further Paul M. Kennedy, “German World Policy and the Alliance Negotiations with England, 1897-1900 in The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 45, No. 4 (Dec., 1973), 605-625; Steiner, Britain and the Origins, 44-83. The Haldane Mission was the last significant attempt made to achieve a rapprochement between England and Germany. On the background and failure of the Haldane mission, consult Kennedy, Rise, 450-52.
37Steinberg, Yesterday's Deterrent, 125-48. Actually, emphasizing that the German navy was meant to be a direct challenge to the Royal Navy was one of the key factors in changing the minds of those who had been originally opposed to Tirptiz's naval plans.
38See Langer, Diplomacy, 429, though I think he goes too far when he states that the “phenomenal development of German industry and trade was probably the decisive factor” in affecting German thought when it came to “world policy”, and the building of a navy in particular.
39For a concise examination of the books impact on the Great Powers, see further Langer, Diplomacy, 418-24.
40Steinberg, Yesterday's Deterrent, 142.
41Ibid, 17; emphasis added.
42Though the British did issue a formal protest against the misguided actions of its “alliance” partner, this had more to do with appeasing the United States (at this time Anglo-American relations were remarkably on solid terms) than it did in bringing about condemnation on the actions of Germany. So rightly Taylor, Struggle, 410 n.1.
43So it seems on the scholarly literature as well since even in Taylor's other wise comprehensive study the Venezuelan Affair receives barely a mention most of which comes from the footnote cited above. Moreover, not even in Taylor's extensive bibliographic essay is there listed a work devoted to the Venezuelan Affair. In fact, I could find no single volume account of this incident in the English language. My best source on this matter was Archibald Coolidge; see his The United States as a World Power (New York: Macmillan Co., 1908), 201-03.
44For these international incidents I have had to depend chiefly on the following two works: Eugene N. Anderson, The First Moroccan Crisis 1904-06 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1930) and Ima C. Barlow, The Agadir Crisis (North Carolina: North Carolina Press, 1940; reprint 1971). To my knowledge these remain the only two full accounts of both Moroccan crises, both of which have long been out of print. This is most unfortunate especially in the case of Anderson's study since it was published before the release of pertinent French documents and is therefore quite inadequate.
45For a list of the marginal grievances that had no real bearing on German actions in this crisis see Anderson, First Moroccan Crisis, 147 n.52. Wilhelm agreed to this action much against his will indicating the limited though real influence Bulow and Holstein exerted on German foreign policy at this time; idem, 188.
46Technically, Spain was a part of these secret talks as well but its role was rather minor concerning a small portion of Moroccan territory just across the Iberian peninsula that it historically had ties with. For more on the Spanish role consult Anderson, First Moroccan Crisis, 35-40.
47For background on the 1880 Madrid Convention see Barlow, Agadir, 19-21. It should be noted that Germany was in fact on firm legal ground with this action, something that often gets ignored in the literature. Regardless, Germany's subsequent aggressive actions would negate any initial moral high ground she might have had at the beginning of this crisis.
48Declasse had been the architect of the Anglo-French entente of 1904 that witnessed Great Britain officially abandoning its so called “splendid isolation” phase. Thus, as most scholars I have consulted on the first Moroccan crisis have noted part of Germany's actions were no doubt motivated by a desire to disrupt the Anglo-French entente; instead, the first Moroccan crisis strengthened it. For more relating to the effect of the Anglo-French entente on German policy, see Anderson, First Moroccan Crisis, 135-59 and Steiner, Britain and the Origins, 32-8.
49So Lowe, “If, following Declasse's fall, the German government had opened bilateral negotiations with France it could have ended the crisis over Morocco with prestige and profit”, Great Powers, 169.
50The clearest statement of a goal came from Prince Lichnowsky, a councilor in the German foreign office who stated only that “We need a success in our foreign policy”, as quoted in Anderson, First Moroccan Crisis, 147
52Germany claimed to be acting for the independence of Morocco thus earning that country's backing at the conference.
53For details on French gains in Morocco see further Taylor, Struggle, 439-40.
54Lowe, Great Powers, 175. This agreement came out of what some see as the actual second Moroccan crisis of 1908. For a survey and examination of this incident, see further Barlow, Agadir, 56-67.
55As with the first Moroccan crisis the Kaiser went along rather reluctantly. Both he and Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg wanted nothing to do with this new Moroccan crisis, but Kiderlen was able to persuade both to allow him to direct the foreign policy in this affair; Young, German Diplomatic Relations, 104-07.
56Germany's official reasons for landing at Agadir were similar to France's, namely, it was said to be done for the protection of nationals in the area. That this was demonstrably false was made clear by the choice of Agadir, a closed port with no German nationals within a hundred mile radius of the area; Barlow, Agadir, 231. But here again Germany was initially in the “right” because France's occupation of Fez was a violation of the Madrid Convention of 1880 and a violation of the Franco-German Accord of 1909. Yet just as in the first Moroccan crisis Germany's reckless actions would quickly cause it to lose the moral high ground.
57Barlow, Agadir, 255.
58See n. 47 above.
59One of the turning points in the crisis was a hawkish harangue that came to be known as the “Mansion House Speech” given by the otherwise pacific and later Prime Minister David Lloyd George who at one time was known to have considerable pro-German sympathies. For an examination of the speech, see Barlow, Agadir, 271-99.
60Lowe, Great Powers, 180: “This territory was absorbed into the existing German colony of the Kameruns, providing access to the River Congo, but its size was a mere 275,000 square kilometres with 1 million inhabitants.”
61See n.47 above.
62Germany's choice to refrain from making any colonial requests might partly be explained by the fact that in a rare moment of German history popular opinion concerning colonies was at an all time low. So Taylor, Struggle, 429.
63For the development of German policy and demands during this week, see Barlow, Agadir, 247-55.
66On the Anglo-Russo Convention of 1907 see Steiner, Britain and the Origins, 51, 90-1.
67The Franco-Russian agreements of 1892/94, the Anglo-French entente of 1904, and the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 would form the basis for the Allied Powers of World War I.
68Mombauer, Origins, 8.
70Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), 197.
71Unfortunately, due to space constraints I was not able to cover other cases in which German actions on the world stage created hostility between it and the other powers such as the Kruger Telegram affair, the Baghdad Railway project, and Germany's role in the Balkan crises of 1908-09 and 1912-13. Of these the Kruger Telegram is probably the most important though Taylor probably ascribes to it too much foresight when he says that the “later German excursions into world policy were implicit in the telegram”, Struggle, 366.
72Bismark is partly to blame for this problem because of the tightly and exclusive manner in which he controlled Germany's foreign policy under his Chancellorship.
73Craig, Germany, 303.
74Germany's First Bid for Colonies, 7.
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