Germany, a Companion to German Studies

By Jethro Bithell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV

GERMAN HISTORY FROM 1900 TO 1931

POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT

DURING the period of economic and political expansion the foreign policy of Germany was of greater importance than developments at home, and the reason for this can be seen quite clearly in the rapid growth of international trade in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, the enormously complicated ramifications of international finance, generally allied with industry, and in the new conception of economic power which was rapidly coming into prominence -- the conception of power based on world rather than purely national frontiers. One must, in order to obtain a just perspective, examine German foreign policy from the double point of view of colonization and of international trade.

From 1878 onwards, one could see emerging three great colonizing powers, Great Britain which was already firmly established, Russia and France; and many of the political changes of the period were dictated by adjustments in the colonizing sphere. Thus, Russia aimed at expanding its sphere of influence eastwards into Manchuria and Korea, south into Persia, Afghanistan and India, and south-west into the Balkans. To render such penetration possible, in the Balkans for example, it was necessary to solve the problem of communications between the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmora and the Mediterranean, so that any Slav confederacy which would be built up in the Balkans could be joined to Russia by sea as well as by land. France extended its control over Northern Africa, aimed at cutting across Central Africa through the Sudan into Arabia, with possibly some idea of establishing a French zone in the Middle East. Great Britain found itself forced to defend its position against Russia in India, Afghanistan and Persia, while it had to check the ambitions of France in North-East Africa and render impossible the penetration of France into the Middle East. Britain was concerned, therefore, to maintain the integrity of Turkey and strengthen the hands of Japan, while its paramount interest, as far as France was concerned, was to develop closer Anglo-Italian relations. The theory was -- the neutralization of the

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