Portrait of a Diplomatist: Being the Life of Sir Arthur Nicolson, First Lord Carnock, and a Study of the Origins of the Great War

Portrait of a Diplomatist: Being the Life of Sir Arthur Nicolson, First Lord Carnock, and a Study of the Origins of the Great War

Portrait of a Diplomatist: Being the Life of Sir Arthur Nicolson, First Lord Carnock, and a Study of the Origins of the Great War

Portrait of a Diplomatist: Being the Life of Sir Arthur Nicolson, First Lord Carnock, and a Study of the Origins of the Great War

Excerpt

This book covers nearly half a century of diplomatic history.Arthur Nicolson entered the British Foreign Service a weekbefore the Battle of Sedan, and left it a fortnight after the Battleof Jutland. During these forty-six years he witnessed the riseand fall of the German Empire, and saw his own country ceaseto be the strongest Power in the world.

He was personally identified with almost every phase in thatslow, and at the time unrealised, process, by which Englandand Germany were gradually impelled towards their commondestruction. It may thus be of value to trace, in terms of anindividual experience and of a single personality, those recondite displacements of weight, prejudice and sympathy, which,between the year 1870 and the year 1914, produced the European War.

The old diplomatist has not been fairly treated by his posterity. If he failed to foresee the war, he is, and with full justice,called a fool: if he did foresee the war, he is, quite unjustly,considered a knave. I trust that this biography may do something to correct such false perspectives. It is unnecessary toassume that such men as Bethmann-Hollweg, Grey, the twoCambons, Hardinge, Jagow, Metternich, Pourtalès, Mensdorff, Schoen, and Nicolson were less high-minded than thosewho gather to-day in the Salle de la Réformation at Geneva.What was wrong was the civilisation which they represented.But if we are tempted to regard our own state of mind as morehumane and more enlightened, we should remember that wewere taught our lesson by the death and mutilation of tenmillion young men. We have no cause to feel self-righteouswhen backed by so expensive an education.

Arthur Nicolson provides an admirable example for thestudy of the old diplomacy at its best.

In the first place, he had actual experience, from 1870 onwards, of all the main factors, which contributed towards thefinal catastrophe. In the second place his frank and gentlecharacter furnishes an excellent mirror in which the clouds . . .

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