Britain and World War 1

Fr. Hank Tree

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[video=youtube;BqO5CnnKLtA]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqO5CnnKLtA&t=2s[/video]

Very enjoyable panel discussion on whether Britain should have fought in WW1. Interesting case made by the revisionists who argue that Germany was not a real threat to Britain (it had given up trying to match Britain's naval power), was a benign power, that Britain's commitments to Belgium were taken too seriously and that lack of British involvement would have meant a quick German victory with consequences not unlike the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. Victory came at too high a cost.

Had Britain maintained "splendid isolation" and sat the war out, it would have maintained its empire and wealth.
 


Analyzer

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Britain lost global pre-eminence as a result of getting involved in WW1.

The real question is whether or not a German dominated France would have challenged that.

I doubt that it would in the short term. In the long term it would.

Considering that American pre-eminence was far more hypocritical, greed driven and dishonest, this was not a good development.
 

Analyzer

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The British were correct to oppose the Prussianization of Europe.

That is a moral issue.
 

GDPR

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There is nothing new here.

Britain joined WW1 because Germany was threatening its position in the colonies and had already over taken Britain in industrial production. Germany was pursuing an aggressive confrontational policy with the rest of Europe and Britain. Had it succeeded in dominating Europe, it would have contested the British Empire on the seas and elsewhere.

Imperial rivalries. No one is the "good guy" here.
 

Fr. Hank Tree

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There is nothing new here.

Britain joined WW1 because Germany was threatening its position in the colonies and had already over taken Britain in industrial production. Germany was pursuing an aggressive confrontational policy with the rest of Europe and Britain. Had it succeeded in dominating Europe, it would have contested the British Empire on the seas and elsewhere.

Imperial rivalries. No one is the "good guy" here.
Except that's exactly what's in dispute. That Germany was such a threat.

Maybe watch video next time before deciding there is nothing new.
 

Analyzer

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There is nothing new here.

Britain joined WW1 because Germany was threatening its position in the colonies and had already over taken Britain in industrial production. Germany was pursuing an aggressive confrontational policy with the rest of Europe and Britain. Had it succeeded in dominating Europe, it would have contested the British Empire on the seas and elsewhere.

Imperial rivalries. No one is the "good guy" here.
Lazy response.
 

owedtojoy

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[video=youtube;BqO5CnnKLtA]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqO5CnnKLtA&t=2s[/video]

Very enjoyable panel discussion on whether Britain should have fought in WW1. Interesting case made by the revisionists who argue that Germany was not a real threat to Britain (it had given up trying to match Britain's naval power), was a benign power, that Britain's commitments to Belgium were taken too seriously and that lack of British involvement would have meant a quick German victory with consequences not unlike the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. Victory came at too high a cost.

Had Britain maintained "splendid isolation" and sat the war out, it would have maintained its empire and wealth.
A doubtful thesis. Germany wanted "in" to the colonies, and would have clashed with the UK sooner or later.

The "revisionists" about both world wars are usually purveyors of nostalgia for the British Empire trying to rewrite history so that Britain does not end up a 2nd rank power, keeps its Empire and is not riding on the coat-tails of the USA.

They get everything backwards - mostly they start from the poor position of the UK today, and try to find someone to blame - Churchill, Asquith or Lloyd George.
 

parentheses

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Sure but John Charmley, one of the revisionists argues that this was a deviation from their long standing policy of staying out of balance of power disputes on the continent.

But remember the British did take a keen interest in European affairs for a long time. In the 1850s they went to war with Russia. In 1878 they threatened force to keep the Russians out of Constantinople. "Splendid isolation" was a fairly short-lived policy during the 1880s and 1890s. It came to an end in 1902 with the alliance with Japan
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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After 430 pages of detailed argument, Sean McMeekin concludes:
In the end, historians must make up their own minds about controversial matters such as responsibility for the outbreak of the First World War. An issue as explosive as this, as central to our understanding of modern history, can never be fully resolved by consensus.
McMeekin, a Russian expert, tends to suggest the key factor lay with the Russians, and the extent to which they were, or were not, being machinated by Poincaré and co.

Meanwhile, since McMeekin, there has been Douglas Newton: The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain's Rush to War, 1914.

As his title implies, Newton takes the view Britain could — indeed should — have stood aside. He isn't explicitly arguing that British policy in 1914 was entirely misbegotten: he is suggesting we need to look more closely at the story British politicians "sold" as their justification for going to war. In particular, he largely dismantles the argument (one I had accepted, I admit) that the invasion of Belgium imposed a moral obligation on Britain.

It is interesting to find Christopher Clark, author of The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, concurring:
By identifying Germany as the world historical Nemesis whose aggression forced an unwilling Britain into war, British leaders concealed from view the complex and morally ambiguous Balkan inception of the conflict and fashioned a narrative whose power over public memory remains impressive, even today.
In short, if you think there's a simple answer here, read another point-of-view.
 

Fr. Hank Tree

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But remember the British did take a keen interest in European affairs for a long time. In the 1850s they went to war with Russia. In 1878 they threatened force to keep the Russians out of Constantinople. "Splendid isolation" was a fairly short-lived policy during the 1880s and 1890s. It came to an end in 1902 with the alliance with Japan
Hmmm...reading the intro of Charmley's book and it seems to be a matter of definition - he speaks of the balance of power in Europe so perhaps he's referring more to France-Prussia-Hapsburg.

https://books.google.ie/books?id=HEhlAgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=john+charmley&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj0v6as8NPRAhXDIsAKHb5vCAoQ6AEIKzAD#v=onepage&q=john charmley&f=false

He is challenging the idea that there was an inevitablility to Britain's involvement. But i take the point owedtojoy makes - imperial romantics will want to present it as an aberration and of course a choice they made, so that the empire can still exist in some parallel universe.
 

owedtojoy

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I am not sure how "benign" Germany was.

More so than Britain or France, Germany saw two massive problems - rising powers of socialist parties at home, and an apparent exponential growth of Russian industry. The ruling elite of the army, the Kaiser and the aristocracy were convinced that war was the only way to stave off this encroaching doom. Bismarck had left advice that the country should never be enemies with both Russia and France, but somehow his successors had ignored him.

The Middle East was also a looming zone of conflict - German influence was being introduced through Turkey, while at the same time British interest in Iranian oil was also growing. Britain had just changed the Royal Navy from coal to oil so strategically Iran was becoming vital. Britain may just have decided they may as well bring Germany to heel in 1914 when they had the Allies to do it.
 

GDPR

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I am not sure how "benign" Germany was.

More so than Britain or France, Germany saw two massive problems - rising powers of socialist parties at home, and an apparent exponential growth of Russian industry. The ruling elite of the army, the Kaiser and the aristocracy were convinced that war was the only way to stave off this encroaching doom. Bismarck had left advice that the country should never be enemies with both Russia and France, but somehow his successors had ignored him.

The Middle East was also a looming zone of conflict - German influence was being introduced through Turkey, while at the same time British interest in Iranian oil was also growing. Britain had just changed the Royal Navy from coal to oil so strategically Iran was becoming vital. Britain may just have decided they may as well bring Germany to heel in 1914 when they had the Allies to do it.
it was an imperial conflict.

This is done and dusted except for some counter-factualists on here.
 

ne0ica

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From the Franco-Prussian War till WW1 how many wars and conflicts was Britain involved with compared to 'war mongering' Germany?
 

Fr. Hank Tree

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it was an imperial conflict.

This is done and dusted except for some counter-factualists on here.
Em...you're the one making the counterfactual. You talking about an all conquering almighty German hegemony if Britain doesn't take part in WW1.

The revisionists are simply saying that the alternative to Britain entering the war, whatever it would have been, could hardly have been worse. That's not a counterfactual argument.
 

parentheses

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Hmmm...reading the intro of Charmley's book and it seems to be a matter of definition - he speaks of the balance of power in Europe so perhaps he's referring more to France-Prussia-Hapsburg.

I would say Russia was definitely part of the power balance of Europe.
 


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