Term Paper, 2004
18 Pages, Grade: 1,0
2 The economic rivalry
3 The personal relationship between the two monarchies
4 Germany's drive to become a Weltreich
4.1 Germany's colonial policy before
4.2 Germany's Weltx)litik
5 Germany's strive for hegemony in Europe
5.1 Hegemony vs' Balance of Power
5.2 The Tirpitz plan
5.3 The naval race
5.4 The isolation of Germany
5.5 The search for a naval agreement
6 Political incidents that greatly influenced Anglo-German perceptions
6.1 The Jameson raid and the Kruger Telegram
6.2 The 'Daily Telegraph' interview
"Hail the auspicious morn, to Prussia's throne is born a Royal heir! May he defend its laws, joined with Old England's cause, this wins all men's applause!" (Reinermann, 38). This verse was added to the national anthem of Britain in 1859 to celebrate the birth of Wilhelm II. It was an expression of the close relation between Britain and Germany, a relation which had been tightened over centuries. Only half a century later had completely vanished. The German `Cousin' had become Britain's enemy, and friendly feelings had been replaced by suspicion and hate. This development reached its peak with the first world war, with former friends shooting at each other. The cultural, economical and dynastic connections were incapable of holding the nations together, and it is logical to ask how this could happen.
Despite moments of mutual rapprochement, the relation between Britain and Germany constantly deteriorated in the years between 1888 and 1914. In contrast to works as Paul Kennedy's "The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism", this text is not supposed to explain all the single incidents that contributed to the deterioration of Anglo-German relations but to clarify the main developments which were the basis for the rise of the antagonism. Therefore the fundamental differences in the understanding of Germany's political role, Germany's economic rise and Wilhelm's personal relation with the English royalty have to be taken into consideration, and only those incidents will be discussed which had such an enormous influence on the relation between both nations that they cannot be omitted in a discussion trying to explain the growing Anglo-German antagonism will be discussed.
"In Europe there are two great, irreconcilable opposing forces, two great nations who would make the whole world their province, [...]. If Germany were extinguished tomorrow, the day after tomorrow there is not an Englishman in the world who would not be richer. Nations have fought for years over a city or a right of succession, must they not fight for two hundred and fifty million pounds of yearly commerce?"
(Saturday Review (11.09.1897), qtd. in Berghoff, 82)
As this extract from an article of the Saturday Review illustrates, Germany was regarded as a dangerous economic competitor by the British. Particularly after World War I, the economic rivalry between Britain and Germany was considered the main reason for the rise of the Anglo-German antagonism between 1888 and 1914. This assertion, however, can hardly be proven and one has to distinguish between the economic facts and their interpretations.
Before discussing the effect Germany's economic upswing had on Anglo-German relations, the reason for Germany's economic rise have to be scrutinised. First of all, the explosion of the German population, which soared from 49 million around 1890 to 65 million 1911, can be considered the main reason for Germany's economic upswing. Germany's permanently growing population and the resulting urbanisation multiplied the number of workers and the demand for goods, which logically strengthened Germany's economic power. Additionally, the German increase in population was much bigger than the British one (1890: 38 million; 1911: 45 million), thus, the effect on the economical development had to be much bigger, too (Kennedy, 293). Another reason to be mentioned was that the industrialisation started in Germany nearly have a century later than in Britain. This enabled Germany to concentrate on advanced sectors and to benefit from British achievements. Particularly in the branches of electronics industry and organic chemistry, Germany became the most important producer world wide. Last but not least, German policy supported Germany's economic upswing for instance by demanding protective duties to preserve the German market from foreign goods (Berghoff, 85).
The extent of Germany's economic explosion became most visible in the production of pig-iron and steel. In 1887, the British pig-iron production of 7.6 million tons had nearly been twice as high as the German one of 4 million, but until 1911, Germany (15.6 million) had passed Britain (10 million) comfortably. Though, the increase in the production of steel was much more remarkable. While Britain was able to rise from 2.4 million in 1886 to 6.6 million in 1910, Germany managed to increase from 0.9 million to 13.7 million (numbers in Ripper, 333p). These numbers and especially those illustrating the share of world wide export of industry products (1872: Britain 45.5%, Germany 12.6%; 1913: Britain 26.8%, Germany 24.4% (Berghoff, 83)) had great impact on the public opinion in Britain. As the British press emphasised the immense economic growth of Germany without mentioning that Britain was nevertheless developing too, Germany was regarded as an economic enemy, whose only aim was to ruin Britain's economy. Particularly when focussing on the world wide export, they neglected the fact that the total number of world wide export constantly increased and had finally doubled from 1872 until 1914 (Kennedy, 293pp). Actually, these numbers only indicate that Germany had become an economic power, which it had not been before, but not that Germany was a real threat to Britain's economy. (Kennedy, 293pp)
Besides its general economic rise, Germany gave offence to the British by exporting goods to British colonies. Germany's expanding overseas trade was considered a threat to British superiority. However, these notions were again provoked by the British press which exaggerated the influence of Germany's augmentation of its overseas trade. Germany's potential to harm British world trade is attenuated by the total numbers of export as for instance by those illustrating the import to Argentina (in 1902: Germany £ 2.3 million, Britain £ 7.8 million; in 1912: Germany £ 11.7 million, Britain £ 21.3 million). Since the same counts for China, Australia, Canada and India, which imported British goods ten times as much as German ones, the expansion of Germany's overseas trade was no threat to the British economy at all (Kennedy, 302).
Moreover, Britain benefited from the expansion of Germany's overseas trade as the transport of German goods mostly happened by means of British ships and railway. In addition to that, Britain extended its investments overseas and London strengthened its position as the financial capital of the world (Berghoff, 88). Within only twenty years, Britain's surplus in the 'invisible' trade, including shipping, banking, insurance etc., nearly doubled. The annual average surplus rose from £ 186 million in the years 1891-1895 up to £ 346 million in 1911-1913, which compensated for the deficit in 'visible' trade effortlessly (Kennedy, 295).
Nevertheless, the British anxiety about Germany's economic expansion is understandable to a certain extent especially if the British home market is brought into focus. During the time of Bismarck, Germany had mainly been exporting food to Britain. But the growth of the German population and economy altered this relation. No longer did Germany export food to such a great extent than in the years before but constantly augmented the export of manufactures to Britain. Since Germany imitated well known British products and managed to sell them cheaper than the British originals, Britain's economy felt seriously threatened (Berghoff, 85). To limit Germany's share of the British market and to support British industries, the Merchandise Trade Act of 1887 demanded that goods from foreign countries had to be labelled. Unfortunately, this attempt to impede Germany's occupation of the British market was more or less counterproductive. German goods had at that time reached such a high standard that the label 'Made in Germany' became a quality mark and actually supported Germany's expansion on the British market instead of hindering it (Kennedy, 291/294). Moreover, Britain suffered from several recessions, particularly in the years 1893/94, 1902 and 1907 until 1909, and it is rather logical the Germany was made the scapegoat for Britain's seeming economic stagnation ( Berghoff, 85).
In conclusion, the economic growth of Germany cannot be blamed a direct reason for the increase of the Anglo-German antagonism especially if one considers the fact that both nations highly depended one each other and were the most important trading partners in Europe. In contrast to the public opinion, large parts of the British industry did not considered Germany an economic enemy. The British press and the British situation itself caused a feeling of hostility although. Obviously, the antagonism between the two nations was at this point more based on interpretations than on facts.
Besides the economic rivalry, the relationship between Wilhelm II and his English relatives had big influence both on the political relation and the perception of the British and Germans. To understand this obscure relation a closer look has to be taken at the childhood of Wilhelm II.
As a result of a difficult forceps delivery Wilhelm was born with a crippled arm and as his mother Vicky blamed herself for that her relation to her firstborn son was extremely problematic. Although Wilhelm always tried to gain her affection, she brought him up with enormous severity and refused to give him the request love (Ohm, 111). This harmfully influenced Wilhelm's relation to his British relatives.
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