England and Germany, 1740-1914

By Bernadotte Everly Schmitt | Go to book overview
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IT is a fixed idea with Germany and her sympathizers that Great Britain was drawn into the war from jealousy of Germany's advance toward the commercial conquest of the world. They point to the law of 1887, by which the British Parliament required all goods of that origin to be stamped "Made in Germany," lest Englishmen should unwittingly patronize foreign industries, and they laughingly remark that the law in no small degree failed of its purpose, because the superiority of German-made commodities soon commended them to English buyers. From the German point of view, British commercial supremacy has been in jeopardy for at least two decades from the extraordinary expansion of German trade; sooner or later it must succumb to the intensified attack of its rival. Therefore, when Germany found herself at war with France and Russia, the temptation to the nation of shopkeepers was irresistible. The armies of other nations would fight her battles on land, her own navy would bottle up German merchantmen, and British manufacturers and traders would recover the markets filched from them by the superior genius of Germans.

Such is the indictment, which rests on two assumptions: first, that Great Britain and Germany are rivals, one of whom must destroy the other; and second, that the United Kingdom cannot hold its own against the upstart Power across the North Sea. Before examining the argument in detail, let us frankly admit that Great Britain has not viewed the competition of Germany with pleasure or unconcern. From a host of writings bearing on the matter,


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