'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!'
'That's the effect of living backwards,' the Queen said kindly: 'it always
makes one a little giddy at first--'
'Living backwards!' Alice repeated in great astonishment. 'I never heard of
such a thing!'
'--but there's one advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways.'
'I'm sure mine only works one way,' Alice remarked. 'I can't remember
things before they happen.'
'It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' the Queen
( Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 5)
HAVING 'a poor sort of memory' is not the problem for historians. Indeed, the problem is rather the reverse. Like the White Queen's, historians' memories work in two directions; they know in advance how the events they study turn out. Thus, they often find themselves drawn to the conclusion that what did happen was inevitable. But such foreknowledge was denied to those who participated in the events themselves. The latter, like Alice, lived in a world where time's arrow pointed in only one direction. Thus, when attempting to discover the 'why' of history as well as the 'what' it is essential to approach events chronologically in order to understand the actions of the participants in these events. Such general considerations are particularly significant for the examination of British foreign policy before the First World War. The war has cast a retroactive shadow over historical studies. The knowledge that Britain went to war in August 1914 against the Central Powers and the search for the origins of that war have meant, in particular, that Anglo-German relations have been given greater emphasis for the period before 1914 than they deserve.1 While not denying the validity of____________________