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'To save gallant Belgium' - To what extent was this reason why Britain went to war in August 1914?

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Introduction

'To save gallant Belgium'. To what extent was this reason why Britain went to war in August 1914? Relations between Britain and the other European powers, namely Germany and France, had been tense and forever-changing in the lead up to the war in 1914. France, Britain's natural enemy, had become increasingly cooperative and relations greatly improved, enforced by the Entente Cordiale agreement. On the other hand, the Anglo-German naval race increased tension, which had previously been almost non-existent, between the powers. Britain's conflicting obligations` and reluctance to make an alliance made matters more awkward. Britain had been making more specific commitments to France in the run up to the war, and when Germany declared war on France it put these commitments with her to the test. The threat to Belgium's neutrality provided a way out of the corner which Britain had backed itself into, and gave politicians sufficient justification to sway the public over going to war with France to whom it had reluctantly committed albeit an 'informal' alliance but none-the-less a military agreement with. ...read more.

Middle

Canal to India, which was important for trade), while France wished to take advantage of the deteriorating situation in Morocco and wanted Britain to not interfere. It was signed in April 1904, much to the annoyance of Germany who felt left out of the negotiations over Morocco. Germany put the Entente to the test during the First Moroccon Crisis, where the Kaiser deliberately landed a gunboat in Tangiers, a Moroccon port and made a speech encouraging the independence of the Sultan of Moarocco. However, the Entente proved steadfast, and Britain stood by France. At this point France was keen on making a formal alliance with Britain although it was unlikely that the government and the British public wanted it at this moment. Instead, Grey (the Foreign Minsiter) authorised naval and military conversations with France but he failed to inform the cabinet. This was the beginning essentially, of a series of 'informal' promises made to France which were not approved by the cabinet or the public, and which led to the situation in 1914 where Britain were obligated to enter into a war with France but under the pretence of saving 'gallant Belgium'. ...read more.

Conclusion

France would not have made this decisive move if it had not been sure of British support in the event of a war with Germany. As Nickelson stated, at this point, 'The government had committed itself to a guarantee which would involve England either in a breach of faith or a war with Germany'. Grey was very aware of the difficulty of the situation, and believed that the British would not support going to war as they would not see it as in British interests. He also feared a split in the Cabinet, which could essentially mean the end of their term in government, which again he did not want. When Germany gave the ultimatum to Belgium in 1914, wanting a clear passage through to France, it saved the government, as they could claim there was no commitment to France but that 'gallant' Belgium and its future were at atske and Britain had to fight for her. Belgium was no more than an immediate escape from a commitment that the government could not feasibly uphold. It was used as a reason to feed the public, and Britain certainly did not enter the war entirely to 'save' gallant Belgium'. ...read more.

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