German Threat Was the End to Splendid Isolation
The Growing German threat was the most important reason for Britain ending its policy of Splendid Isolation. How far do you agree? At first examination it would seem that it was not actually the fear of Germany that prompted Britain to end their policy of splendid isolation if we take into consideration that this of fear of Germany only really came to fruition in about 1905. However it was before this that Britain had broken its so named policy of ‘Splendid Isolation’ by signing an alliance with japan in 1902 and then going on to form an entente with the French in 1904.
Certainly there are indeed other reasons other than the emerging German threat that might have forced their hand, such as the emergence of alliance’s all around the globe which had begun to upset the balance of power (Franco Russian) this may have left Britain feeling pushed into a corner somewhat so that they felt that they had no other choice but to join an alliance so it was not left behind as its own level of relative power decreased.
Furthermore with the decrease of Britain’s level of relative power (it was easily being led by the US) but most notably Germany, the fact that a state as new as Germany could grow at such a rate made the British sit up and take note. And when in 1905 during the first Moroccan crisis it was the German’s who attempted to test the new bonds between the French and the British it demonstrated not only to Britain but to the world that the German’s wanted to carve out their own chunk of glory and they were not about to let anyone stand in their way.
It was indeed between the years 1906-14 when the Anglo-German naval race was to take place. It was during this time that Germany drastically increased size of its navy, however this navy was only ever meant for short term purposes. Looking at it now it is obvious why the level of British Paranoia may be reaching breaking point at this time as a fleet of short range boats began to mass on her border, it demonstrated once again that the Germans were determined to become one of the great powers.
It could however be argued that this naval race was nothing more than an inconvenience towards the British as they in the end emphatically managed to build substantially more ships than the Germans. But it was to show once again that the German’s were without a doubt an up and coming nation and one that Britain must watch carefully and so it was here that the first feelings of fear of Germany were beginning to be felt. Moreover it was understood that the German’s did not actually ever want a war with the British and that the only reason for the assing of this fleet was as I have already said to inconvenience the British and indeed provide a certain amount of leverage over them in terms of international affairs and agreements, this began to scare Britain, so much so that Britain it would seem began to move even more out of the idea of ‘Splendid Isolation’ when, in 1912 it came to a series of military agreements with the French and actually handed over control of the Mediterranean which actually included the main route to India for the British (The Suez canal).
Although these agreements were not intended as a military alliance some historians have seen it as such, but there is no mistaking that it was definitely a move away from the policy of ‘Splendid Isolation’ that Britain had previously adopted, and it would also seem to be because of the fear of the every growing in power Germans. As Germany grew in power Britain began to realise that if it came to war that the only way in which Germany could be defeated is if Britain herself became involved with yet another alliance and so in 1907 it did this with Russia, thus forming the triple entente.
I believe that if it was not for increasing aggression of the German’s then Britain would most probably have never had to forge this alliance which once again brought it forward out of its formerly adopted policy of ‘Splendid Isolation’. Although the fear of Germany was undoubtedly important another important factor in regard to the dropping of the policy of ‘Splendid isolation’ is the dropping of Britain’s level of relative power and also trade.
The fact that other countries (USA and Germany in particular) were growing exponentially gave Britain cause for concern and she knew that sooner or later she would lose her empire if she did not act, if she continued to operate this policy of splendid isolation then not only in time would her empire collapse around her, therefore severing any trade routes she may have had with them, but the other powers would also continue to grow until eventually they are considerably stronger than her and Britain alone would be no match for Germany.
Another important factor that we need to consider in all of this is of course the influence that the Boer war may have had on Britain’s foreign policy. And when Britain eventually did emerge from that war in 1902 she emerged victorious but it had come at a cost and that cost was a great deal of pride. Although that they had in essence been victorious it is not to be forgotten that they had beaten some lowly people, not the great powers that they had defeated in the past.
Britain had to pour huge amounts of resources into this war and this was to come at a massive cost as it was to leave her extremely vulnerable in other places around the world, not least in India. Moreover this links back to the fear of Germany because it was in actual fact the German’s who were angry at Britain for fighting the Boer’s, Indeed this helped to start the path of sour relations with Germany. Not only this but Britain’s industrial power was coming under increasing levels of threat, and although they still ruled the seas it was only a matter of time before it was caught on that front also.
The seas became a contentious issue for Britain and around 1902 they realised that they would no longer be able to uphold a two power naval standard and the fear of Russia factored into this. The fact was that if Russia and Germany or Russia and France (Franco-Russian alliance) were to attack Britain at sea then her navy would be crushed. She was severely concerned about this fact and so sought the aforementioned alliance with Japan that would help her to hopefully keep both the Russian’s and the German’s at bay.
It is clear that fear of Russian along with fear of the German’s was extremely high on the list of priorities of the change in direction of British foreign policy, which in the end culminated with their withdrawal from their so called ‘Policy of Splendid isolation’. Therefore I believe that although Britain’s fear of the growth of German power was significantly important in regard to them ending their policy of ‘Splendid Isolation’ it is not the sole reason but is the most important.
The fact that they had been badly bruised by emerging with their ‘bad victory’ in the Boer war and the fact that they could no longer bear the financial strain of keeping a two power standard navy also meant that they had to drop that policy. And although it was indeed before the intervention of the German actions that the 1902 alliance with Japan and the 1904 entente with France, it is clear that the impact of the German‘s was also extremely important if not more so than the Boer war, the fear of Russia and the fear of losing trade and the routes to India.