Alliance System The architect of the alliance system was Bismarck. At its heart was the isolation of France which sought revenge (revanche) for the loss of Alsace-Lorraine. The main pillars of this policy was the Dreikaiserbund which was an alliance between Austria-Hungary, Russia ad Germany. Also the Triple Alliance between Austria-Hungary, Italy and Germany.
Anglo-German rivalry The Kaiser’s attitude towards Britain was mixed as he was the grandson of Queen Victoria, so he loved and loathed Britain. Flottenpolitik antagonised relations, the German support of the Boers in the Boer War wasn’t helpful and Germany were continuingly trying to lure Britain into the Triple Alliance. But over the coming years Britain began to end her “splendid isolation” alliances with Japan, France and Russia left Germany with only Austria-Hungary.
First Moroccan Crisis Germany had a number of economic interests in Tangier in Morocco. The Germans demanded an international conference to discuss the future of Morocco, hoping a wedge between Britain and France, unfortunately the opposite happened. They also attempted to prise the Russians away from the French, this failed because the Russian foreign office did not want to damage their close relationship with the French. The episode had been a humiliation for the Germans, the fear of encirclement was becoming a reality.
Second Moroccan Crisis February 1909, the French and German governments signed an agreement to respect each other’s interests in Morocco. But there was a need for military intervention by the French after disturbances in the town of Fez in April 1911. Germany complained that this went against the agreement and backed their protest by sending the German gunboat Panther to moor off the coast of Morocco. Again, Germany attempted to prise the entente apart and again failed . In July 1911, the Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George warned Germany against further aggression. The Second Moroccan Crisis ended with Germany gaining some land in the Congo but having to accept that the French controlled Morocco.
The Balkans/Bosnia/FirstBalkans War The Balkans: The Balkans provided the spark for outbreak of war in 1914. Germany was not a centre player but was her only close ally. As the Ottoman Empire declined and the Habsburg Empire increased it gave the opportunity for nationalities such as the Serbs to assert their national identity. Serbs were Slavs which meant they were protected by Russia. Bosnia: A turning point came when Count Aehrenthal was appointed Austria-Hungary’s Foreign Minister in 1906. His view was that the best way to deal with the Serbs was to annex the regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina which the Austria-Hungarian government did in October 1908. The Russian Foreign Minister attempted to make a deal with the Austrians, but the deal fell through and the Serbs and Russians were furious. Austria-Hungary forced Russia and Serbia to recognise the annexation of Bosnia Herzegovina by threatening them with war. This was with the full support of Bülow’s government, who promised to mobilise the German forces. Basically Russia had been damaged and Germany had become involved. The First Balkans War 1912: The Balkan League was formed including Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro and in October 1912 they launched their first attack on the Ottomans. The Austrians were horrified especially when the Serbs invaded Albania. Kaiser called a meeting with his military advisors and was prepared to accept that diplomacy might win through and it did through the Treaty of London in 1913.
The 1912 War Council The Kaiser organised a meeting which included his top military advisors, Molkte, Tirpitz and Admiral Georg von Müller where the following points were discussed: Kaiser insisted that Austria-Hungary should be supported in her actions against Serbia. If Russia chose to fight back, Austria would be supported by Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania, which would leave Germany free to deal with France on land and Britain at sea. Molkte believed that a war against Russia was inevitable and the sooner the better. Tirpitz suggested that the navy needed another 12-18 months to prepare the fleet.
July Crisis On the 28th June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot by Gavril Princip of the Black Hand Gang, a Serbian terrorist organisation. Germany were happy to offer their unconditional support to Austria in the form of the “Blank Cheque”. 23rd July – Austria issued Serbia with an ultimatum. 25th July – Russia came out in favour of Serbia. 26th July – The British Foreign Secretary proposed a conference to deal with the Austro-Serb issue but Austria refused to attend . 28th July – Austria declared war on Serbia. 29th July – Bethmann-Hollweg failed to persuade the British into neutrality . Wilhelm contacted his cousin Nicholas II, with the result that the Tsar downgraded his order to only partial mobilisation. 30th July – Tsar changed his mind and ordered a general mobilisation despite warnings from Germany. 31st July – Events were now set by the Schlieffen Plan. Germany refused to request to respect Belgium’s neutrality. 1st August – France and Germany mobilise their troops for war, Germany declare war on Russia. 2nd August – German armies invade Luxembourg and demand that Belgium give them access. Britain gave France their assurance of support. 3rd August – Germany invade Belgium and declare war on France. 4th August – Britain declare war on Germany in protection of Belgium’s neutrality. 6th August – Austria declare war on Russia.
The Fischer Controversy Fischer launched a historiographical revolution when he argues that: 1. Germany had gone to war to achieve European and worldwide domination, a bid for world power. 2. Germany had hoped the “Blank Cheque” would lead to war. 3. The roots of German expansionism were to be found in the social, political and economic tensions which troubled Germany before 1914. Fischer’s evidence: Fischer bases the majority of his evidence upon a diary written by Bethmann- Hollweg’s private secretary Kurt Riezler. There were documents which outlined plans for peace negotiations. For Fischer, these plans had the support of the wider political nation. Plans for annexation that were being written down in September 1914 did not come from nowhere, they must have been already considered in July 1914. Fischer placed Bethmann-Hollweg at the centre for the drive for war and argues that the foreign and domestic policy can be seen as means of maintaining domestic dominance.
Fischer challenged While the diaries have proved useful, there are some suggestions that by some historians that they were tampered with. Another challenge is the fact there was very little evidence to suggest that the outbreak of the war constituted a grasp for world power. A group of historians including Klaus Hilderbrand and Andreas Hillgruber conclude that the reasons for going to war were defensive rather than aggressive.
Primat der Innenpolitik Foreign policy that was dictated by events outside Germany was called Primat der Aussenpolitik but Fischer turned this idea on its head and argued that it was internal pressures, Primat der Innenpolitik. For example, the disruptive impact of industrialisation caused tensions in Germany’s social and economic structure.