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Why did Great Britain move away from Splendid Isolation?

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Why did Great Britain move away from Splendid Isolation? Throughout the 19th century Great Britain pursued a foreign policy aiming to maintain the "Balance of Power" throughout Europe. They carried this aim into the twentieth century, but their method of splendid isolation was coming under increasing strain. Despite a continued arrogance about her domination, Britain showed a new unease for the first time when she adopted a method of international relations imitative of other Europeans, even if her overall aim remained the same. This unease was fuelled by new imperialist intentions from strengthening powers in Europe, and the international tensions this caused were further accentuated by the emergence of alliances. At the turn of the century, problems within their own Empire gave Great Britain cause to question their own strength in depth militarily at the very time the economic importance of their Empire in the emerging international power struggle was growing. Great Britain had been the dominant force throughout the 19th century and had reached a pinnacle of imperialistic strength during the Victorian era. While she remained so unchallenged by other nations she had no reason to become involved in international affairs, other than to maintain the status quo. It was entirely in her interest to maintain the current division of strength between the Great Powers of Europe, namely Austria-Hungary, France, Russia and the emerging Germany, in order to protect her domination. ...read more.


However the threat that Germany posed was becoming ever more apparent as she first challenged and then overtook Great Britain as the leading exporter of goods. Aside from an economic challenge Germany started to pose a military challenge and eventually an obvious political one as the risk of siding with Britain would come at the expense of upsetting both France and Russia which was a becoming a costly risk. It was not however until the Boer war broke out in 1899 that Britain had any cause to doubt her military strength. Britain's military strength was absorbed by a war which lasted far longer than the British had envisaged and provoked the animosity of virtually every country in the world. Aside from this, "post mortems on the Boer war showed clearly how deficient intelligence and planning were,"3 and highlighted that while Britain's force far exceeded that which would be required for internal and smaller battles, if larger battles with Great Powers were to be necessary Britain was going to struggle. Many Britain's came to the same conclusion that, "The Boer war had only seemed to show the dangers of British isolation."4 While the Boer war highlighted a weakness in Britain's military power, the military strength of other powers was beginning to grow. ...read more.


Although therefore British methodology had changed slightly by the time of their first alliance it was largely just for show and convenience. The pact gave them an easy way of defending their own interests on home shores that were beginning to come under threat from Germany and, defending their Indian and Chinese interests in the Far East. The changing Global situation, and particularly the emergence of the Russia-France pact, which made Russia all the more stronger, was probably the main trigger of any change in policy. However the naval and economic threat of Germany and the weaknesses highlighted by the Boer war were also factors helping to provoke an actual change rather than talk of one. Despite therefore, "moments of naval rivalry, the central battle was between economies, Treasuries, central banks and stock markets rather than between armies and navies."7. However the extent of any change is not altogether straightforward, the original pact was largely for convenience and those that followed again largely for show and reassurance; Britain had merely decided it was easier to have friends than enemies. Britain's policy and underlying objective remained the same to a large extent. In short, "there may have been uneasy moments, but it remained splendid all the same."8 7- P.J. Cain and A.G. Hopkins; British Imperialism Crisis and Reconstruction 1914-1940 8- AJP Taylor - British Empire to 1902 ?? ?? ?? ?? Jenny Tyldesley ...read more.

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