During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Britain was labeled as being in “sequestration” (Shurkin Michael, 8) from Europe.
With Britain’s big empire, ruling this empire was the main concern. According to Michael Shurkin, the key to Britain’s power was in fact India because of its massive recourses. (11) Britain depended most of all on troops from India in order to control their empire. The upmost concern for Britain was shielding the trade courses between India and Britain. Britain’s massive navy sheltered “trade links” (Chen Song-Chuan, 119) with India and the remainder of the world.
Regardless of attention on the empire, Britain was concerned with the events that was taking place in Europe. Starting with other European countries having competing empires. France and Belgium had “two large empires in Africa.” In the early 1900s, Germany had colonies in Africa as well and they were starting to show an attention in North Africa. Britain was worried more about France and Russia than Germany. During this time, relationships with Britain and Germany were in a good place. But, this had a drastic change. When Kaiser Wilhelm II was in charge of Germany, he wanted “Germany to be a great power so bad.
” (Chen, 123) He believed that France to the west and Russia to the east were surrounding Germany. Because of this, he began to create armed forces within Germany. Because of this, the great powers of Europe started to also create their own armed forces. The British policy in Europe stated that “definitely no country in Europe are never to become dominant.” (Chen, 128) If France, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary had worried about each other, they would have been less of a danger to the British.
In 1907, it was clear to Britain that the biggest possible danger to Britain was in fact Germany. With its tough economy, massive population and prevailing armed forces of Germany was capable of overthrowing Europe. Because of this, Britain started to support France and Russia. Even though Britain was intricated with Russia and France, Britain did not want to go to war in 1914.
The foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, spent most of the “1914 summer trying to find ways to encourage Russia and Germany to prevent a war from starting.”(Chen, 123) When German troops conquered Belgium and France due to the Schlieffen Plan, the British didn’t have to go to war. Germany on the other hand hoped that Britain would stay away from the war overall. The Germans knew that Britain had sworn to protect Belgium under the “Treaty of London of 1839.”(Chen, 145) The Germans longed for the British government to overlook the Treaty of London. This would be used in order to let the German army go through the British coast and hand over the Germans control of Belgium, this was an intimidation to Britain.
But, in the end, Britain decided to disregard the events of Germany. Within a few days, France, Russia, and Britain were all legitimately at war with Austria-Hungary and Germany. What had started off as a very minor, local problem manifested into the biggest, most awful war the world has seen. I argue that Great Britain entered the war because Germany invaded Belgium. The foreign policy of Britain had been worked out grounded on the inevitability of upholding the status quo on mainland Europe. This was used by acting to enclose the growth of any willful power appearing to be threatening any domination. Customarily, this was involved by forming coalitions while at the same time contributing only a small army on the continent.
In the meantime, as this imposing power, Britain had used its naval power in order to produce new colonies, focus troops at key locations and protect naval trade. Since the defeat of France in 1871, Germany had “susceptible power over Europe while at the same time inspiring the sovereignty of the Royal Navy through a challenging naval race.” (Chen, 134) During the crisis of July 1914, Britain was not essential to dealings and at first preferred a conveying settlement. But, the attack of Belgium, the likelihood of absolute overthrow for France and the danger to the “Channel ports” (Shurkin, 16) were difficulties that, given the feelings of the age, could only be responded by war.
Britain was well prepared for the customary naval role that had aided it well. Unfortunately, the war would also end up demanding a huge “British military promise” (Chen, 141) onto the western front, for which the army was not prepared. This was something that was so tragic, that it can never be forgotten. Britain’s government was separated in August 1914, with a “seize of ministers aggressively threatening to resign” (Shurkin, 13) in protest at the war in order to bring down the government. But, the occurrence that altered their minds, and changed not only the cabinet but the majority of the country behind the war, was Germany’s cruel, senseless and unnecessary attack of Belgium, where neutrality both Germany and Britain assured peace. This was seen as an unhuman action just like to “that of the Nazis attack 20 years later.
“(Jeansonne, 4) 6,000 Belgian citizens were killed in cold blood, and no one could believe that such a militaristic power could ever dominate Europe and be a danger to Britain. When Germany attacked Belgium in August 1914, the British’s entry into the war became expected. The sense of ethical horror at Germany’s scandalous violation of an international treaty to where the country was a like a countersigner, is difficult to comprehend in this age, but it was real enough for the British. More significantly, an important principle of British safety had been to keep the “Low Countries out of the influences of aggressive power.”( Jeansonne, 17) Because of this, Britain went to war against Germany in 1914 for the exact motive that it fought against the imperialist revolutionary France in 1793. For periods, the leaders of Britain had been nervous about the “conservation of power.”(Chen, 136) For Britain, in order to stand by its equivalent democracy, France, was sadly defeated, and if the rigid, violent Germany gained domination in Europe, it would have been a disaster. Britain was sheltered by the battleship of the “Royal Navy” (Jeansonne, 14) and was all but invincible to the invasion.
According to Chen, Song-Chuan, German control of the European continent would have been the same threat as Napoleon’s was just a century before.(145) If Britain was out of the war in 1914, it would have found itself at war with Germany in the future, having deceived its friends in a moment of need, without allies. In the situations that Britain were challenged with in August 1914, going towards was a reasonable decision. The Germans had attacked Belgium and they started to threaten France. Generally, Britain never felt comfortable with this aggressive power conquering the ports through the English.
Though, yes, there were no direct threats to the British territory, but it seemed as though in terms of British tradition, this decision made logical sense. The decision that was made by the British cabinet in the very first days of August in 1914 had overwhelming outcomes. By the time the British cabinet stressed over the choice to go to war, they had a very small choice. The cabinet’s decision was made on August 2nd, it was based on the details as the cabinet knew them, and they thought it was going to be a short war. They originally anticipated that Britain would be the only one to offer financial and naval support to France instead of a land army.
Britain’s army was small in contrast to the French, German and Russian partners. Only few could envision how the army would grow, how long the war would last and the measure of British fatalities. August 2nd was where most of the main decisions were made that began the war that had already been taken by Austria-Hungary, Russia, Germany and elsewhere. The British had postponed getting involved for as long as they could. The cabinet had privately decided to turn a blind eye and not enter the war only if Germany only got through a small corner of Belgium. But, it soon became clear that the army was determined to invade the whole country.
Could Britain have stayed out of the war? The actuality was that even though the states that remained disinterested on the outside, such as the Unite States or Italy, they eventually found themselves obligated to take sides and enter the war.