(Toward WORLD WAR, 1901-08 – continued)

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Toward WORLD WAR, 1901-08 (2 of 4)

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An Alliance Game Begins

Great Britain's second war against the Boers in Africa (1899-1902) was unpopular across the world, including the United States and Germany. Responding to world hostility, Great Britain decided to make its position in the world more secure by ending its diplomatic isolation, what it had been calling its "splendid isolation." Britain began thinking about creating an alliance with Germany.

Both Germany and Britain were predominately Protestant, and the Germans and British saw themselves as being of the same superior Teutonic race and as having a moral fiber stronger than that of the Slavic and Latin peoples of eastern and southern Europe. The royal families of Germany and Britain were linked. The German monarch, Wilhelm (William) II, to be known as "the Kaiser," was the grandson of Queen Victoria, and he had visited his grandmother and British family frequently. Britain's wealthy sent their young men to German universities and their daughters to Germany for their final polish (what they called being "finished"), and many successful marriages between the British and Germans had arisen from these contacts. Also, Britons went to Germany for their vacations.

Germany's diplomats looked forward to Britain signing an alliance with their nation. Germany had a navy that was weaker than Britain's, but Germany's navy was growing. German diplomats believed that Britain's fear of this growing navy would help inspire it to be a partner with Germany rather than a rival. They believed that the British were unlikely to ally themselves with their old enemies Russia or France. Germany's diplomats believed that they were bargaining from a position of strength, and they asked Britain to join an alliance that included Germany's ally, Franz Joseph's Austria-Hungary.

The British surprised Germany diplomacy by refusing to tie themselves to an alliance that would commit it to war on the side of Austria-Hungary. The Germans had been over-confident in insisting that Britain do so, and Britain began looking elsewhere for allies.

Britain settled its differences with the United States, and in 1902 it entered into an alliance with Japan. Then Britain had talks with France to settle their differences. Having finished carving up Africa and other parts of the world, the British and French wanted an agreement between them that would make their empires more secure. France recognized Britain's position in Egypt. Britain gave secret recognition to France's willingness to divide Morocco between itself and Spain. And Britain and France settled long-standing disagreements concerning territories in the Pacific and disagreements over Thailand.

France also reached an agreement with Italy. Italy extended France a free hand in Morocco in exchange for Italy exercising its will over Libya. And France had a military alliance with Russia – a defense treaty that had been signed in 1894. France and Russia had promised that should Germany attack the other they would attack Germany. This tie between Russia and France was enhanced by a huge loan from French banks to Russia, money that Russia wanted for building railroads, industry and its military capability.


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