British Foreign Policy, 1874-1914: The Role of India

By Sneh Mahajan | Go to book overview

8

Nurturing the entente, 1907-14

Most contemporary observers tended to argue, and historians have tended to accept, that the chief features of international relations during 1907-14 were effervescence of Anglo-German antagonism 1 and the end of Anglo-Russian rivalry. 2 To the factors that had exacerbated Anglo-German relations so far - the colonial quarrels, the shift in economic power in Germany's favour and assertion centring on weltpolitik - was added the German decision to build dreadnoughts. To Britons, Germany seemed to be aiming at the creation of a navy that would be, to borrow Paul Kennedy's graphic description, like 'a sharp knife held gleaming and ready only a few inches away from the jugular vein of Germany's most likely enemy, Britain'. 3 The anxiety on this score was enhanced by the fact that Germany possessed the most efficient army as well. The rancorous feeling against Germany was very much in evidence in the calculations of the Foreign Office, the Admiralty, debates in Parliament, public speeches and comments in the press. As a result, most historians have also tended to see this as the motive force behind all diplomatic initiatives and manoeuvres during this period. In Anglo-Russian relations, the conclusion in 1907 of the Anglo-Russian entente by Henry Campbell-Bannerman's government has been seen as the culmination of efforts made by successive British governments at least since the 1880s to sign some agreement with Russia. By implication, it is presumed that after 1907, the British government was relieved of all anxieties centring on Russia's aims and policies.

An examination of Britain's foreign policy concerns during 1907-14, however, shows that both these impressions need to be re-examined. The British government and the people showed a single-minded commitment to maintaining their superiority over Germany in the naval field, and they were successful. Britain was able to outperform Germany in the construction of dreadnoughts. With a stronger navy and the English Channel dividing them from Germany, the British Isles seemed immune from attack. Besides, down to 1914, the two countries carried on negotiations to settle different points of dispute between them. In fact, during the two years preceding the outbreak of the war, there were clear signs of optimism in Anglo-German relations. Similarly, the signing of the Anglo-Russian entente did not automatically result in the establishment of friendly relations with Russia. Faith in the promises of

-168-

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British Foreign Policy, 1874-1914: The Role of India
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • 1 - Constructing Britain's Foreign Policy 1
  • 2 - Flaunting the Indian Empire, 1874-80 33
  • 3 - In the Garb of Moral Imperatives, 1880-5 58
  • 4 - Courting the Triple Alliance, 1885-92 80
  • 5 - Facing the Franco-Russian Combine, 1892-8 101
  • 6 - Seeking Partnerships, 1898-1902 124
  • 7 - Russia: a Friend at Last, 1902-7 145
  • 8 - Nurturing the Entente, 1907-14 168
  • 9 - Conclusion 197
  • Appendix 205
  • Notes 207
  • Bibliography 240
  • Index 257
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