the threat of germany -- 1/24/23
Today's selection -- from A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin. With German economic ascendance in the early 1900s, it replaced Russia as the primary threat to Britain:
"Germany's entry on the scene … marked the beginning of a new age in world politics. The German Empire, formally created on 18 January 1871, within decades had replaced Russia as the principal threat to British interests.
"In part this was because of Britain's relative industrial decline. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Britain produced about two thirds of the world's coal, about half of its iron, and more than 70 percent of its steel; indeed over 40 percent of the entire 'world output' of traded manufactured goods was produced within the British Isles at that time. Half the world's industrial production was then British-owned, but by 1870 the figure had sunk to 32 percent, and by 1910, to 15 percent. In newer and increasingly more important industries, such as chemicals and machine-tools, Germany took the lead. Even Britain's pre-eminent position in world finance -- in 1914 she held 41 percent of gross international investment -- was a facet of decline; British investors preferred to place their money in dynamic economies in the Americas and elsewhere abroad.
|German railway network in 1861|
"Military factors were also involved. The development of railroads radically altered the strategic balance between land power and sea power to the detriment of the latter. Sir Halford Mackinder, the prophet of geopolitics, underlined the realities of a new situation in which enemy railroad trains would speed troops and munitions directly to their destination by the straight line which constitutes the shortest distance between two points, while the British navy would sail slowly around the circumference of a continent and arrive too late. The railroad network of the German Empire made the Kaiser's realm the most advanced military power in the world, and Britain's precarious naval supremacy began to seem less relevant than it had been.
"Walter Bagehot, editor of the influential London magazine, The Economist, drew the conclusion that, because of Germany, Russian expansion no longer needed to be feared: ' . . . the old idea that Russia is already so great a power that Europe needs to be afraid of her . . . belongs to the pre-Germanic age.' Russia's disastrous defeat by Japan (1904-5), followed by revolutionary uprisings in St Petersburg and throughout the country in 1905, suggested that, in any event, the Czar's armies were no longer strong enough to remain a cause for concern."