How far do you support the idea that Germany was warlike and aggressive in its foreign policy in the years 1899 – 1914?

Warlike and aggressive suggests Germany wished to instigate war during this period. In 1899 she was a new country that had come to considerable power, and was trying to increase this status against European competition. Looking at the sources, three are ‘secret’, inferring the authors considered the documents true, and content in each is, therefore, to be taken as reliable. If we look at them more closely, we can consider sources four and one as more important than others, as the two authors were key in German foreign policy, von Bulow, as chancellor, had a great say in the outcome. When saying this, however, we must appreciate the chronology, and with source four much closer to the war, and being private, we should place it as more important, especially as the author is of such status.

Source one confirms Germany being important in European trade, able to challenge the trade of Britain. When compared to other sources, however, it is a public address to politicians, and so is unlikely to be doctored to the extent of falsification. It is also fifteen years before war, but Von Bulow realised movements within Europe, ones that affected Germany directly. “Power,” implies Germany as a major power within Europe, and, “prosperity,” shows the Solvereign as a major economic factor. He is, however, quick to say that this, ‘power’ is only recently gained, i.e. since unification. He is aware of the growing envy towards Germany from, “other quarters”, quarters, although purposely not named, being other major powers in Europe, especially those whose trade was directly affected through the growth of Germany’s. Von Bulow also described forces Germany needed to sustain increasing influence over the European political and economic agenda, those forces being, “power,” and, “a strong army, and navy.” We therefore learn that German forces of 1899 are not strong enough to sustain, “the battle for existence.” Which when compared to source six is certainly valid. It is no coincidence Germany raised the most army expenditure during 1890 – 1900. Although not in the stated period it is worth noting her army expenditure was second only to France in 1890, but by 1900 it had raised considerably whereas France’s had dropped. The Navy was one area where Germany was not ahead in Europe. Her expenditure was considerably less at the time of this report than two other major countries involved in this process of aggressive and warlike behaviour, Britain and France. This expenditure was, however, raised, “stretching her economic feelers” in another direction, and also trying to prevent Germany being, “the anvil.”

So basis for German superiority, in the ever-increasing competitive nature, of Europe is firmly established by 1899, and von Bulow did not wish this to lax under external pressure, but rather to increase to become the pressure. However, the pressure at this stage is not warlike, there is aggression in the economics, and the raising of sufficient force and power, but this was too early to suggest that war was definite. Also, as this address is public, any negativity is directed outside of Germany, this is the only area where credibility is questioned, but overall it is a convincing address, and one that was true in its message, of German rise post-unification.

Chronologically source two is little different but because it is secret it is important. We can also take note that because Bertie wrote it, Germany must have been on the political agenda of Britain. The source suggests it was lower on Britain’s agenda then amongst other countries, shown by the negative nature that it portrayed Germany and her European relationships. Bertie suggested Germany was indeed being warlike and aggressive throughout recent times, reinforced with, “beaten and robbed,” and suggesting deceit upon Austria a less powerful ally. The statement, “robbed,” is the correct term as Germany’s French acquisitions did not conform to the Salic Law. The source says that Germany had European interests at the time, with the Belgian Congo and the Seaboard of Holland mentioned. The Seaboard is an important point, as it would give the increasing the increasing expenditure upon the navy another base from which, if it were needed, she could launch herself. Bertie also makes it clear that Germany is very much on her own in Europe, her allies are not of real, “value,” in the context of Germany being “surrounded,” by European powers which dislike her. We already know of France, and the second paragraph adds Russia to this.

Although Bertie mentioned a, “tariff war,” that would not be enough to suggest Russia taking military action. It is interesting to note that Russia and France were closest to Germany, in terms of expenditure towards the army, a year previous to this report. This does not bear direct relevance, however, as the situation was still tolerable between them, as Bertie suggests though, the situation is tolerable, but, “dangerous.” And he makes the objective that Germany needs British support, as Russia and France have every possibility to attack her, and that in 1901, Britain’s position is more sympathetic towards France and Russia. He makes it clear he feels Germany is playing off France and Britain against each other to try and prevent this possible union, and that the same is being done towards the relationships between France and Russia, through propagandas of each country. This last admission of, “sinister designs,” may suggest that Britain was aggressive in her policy. Germany has progressed in the second part of this source from being an aggressor to being defensive, through distorting the relations of others. Bertie suggested the possibility of Britain allying with Germany, but also expresses the certainty of allying with a European power in the event of war. By committing to Germany, however, Britain would be committing to, “internal troubles,” in Austria. This may not have been favourable to Britain, and with a possible war in which France and Russia would be opposition, the situation looks less likely for Britain to ally herself with Germany.

The validity of source three can be questioned to its status as a response. It is fair that it is secret, but by being responsive, we do not know the credibility of the document to which it was responding. By analysing the wording of this we can see that he is not writing directly to Crowe, but that it is to another party. This furthers the case against the validity as the memorandum of Crowe was therefore not for the sole use of Sanderson. The opening sentence seems that Sanderson has a slight inclination toward defending the opinion Crowe levelled against Germany, but also that, because she needs defending, there must be some underlying reference. In this case it is that of, “black deeds,” but Sanderson is quick to arrange the view that Germany and Britain have indeed managed a fair relationship. This we must remember is six years after Bertie suggested that Germany was in need of a relationship with Britain to increase her chances of success in the event of war within the European question. But there is a counterbalance to the argument, in that she has been, “aggravating,” and, “sometimes with intention.” Surely then to aggravate with intention would suggest aggression upon the behalf of Germany, but not to the extent of tainting this view of Sanderson’s, shown in the fact that he argues it in the first instance. By describing the Germans as, “tight bargainers,” we can be sure that there have been deals, ones in which Britain were not favourable at first, and so the Germans were, “intensely disagreeable.” The conclusion of the sentence seems to infer that Germans as a whole are not bad, but that North Germans are worse. This source is suggestive of Britain and Germany sharing at least a relationship that works, despite the evidence of friction. Also as it comes from the Foreign Office and is a, “secret,” memorandum we can safely say that Sanderson believes these views, and that he is in a good position to know about the relationships.

I have said source four is most important. Although as aforementioned Kaiser Wilhelm II is not as influential in the outcome of the foreign policy as many within the political system, he must be viewed with distinction as the figurehead towards whom many citizens would aspire to. He realises the absolute imminence of war, and also that despite the relationship that is present between Britain and Germany she, “will sit still,” until France is involved as opposition to Germany. The situation has moved on considerably, and by referring to source six we can see that Army expenditure has raised markedly for all the Countries shown, and that those of the Triple Entante and Germany have all raised dramatically in both the army and navy expenditure. It is interesting that despite the mentioned, “Austro- Serb conflict,” which would surely be fought upon land, Austria raised her naval expenditure by 4-8 million, compared to that of Germany, which was raised by only 1-8. One would think that Germany would have a stronger case, despite the alliance mentioned, to spend on her navy to a greater extent. This may have been a small figure due to the dramatic rise over the four years on her army expenditure, which has more than doubled, confirming her status by now as an economic power within Europe. In analysing the language he refers to, “war against us,” and so this memorandum is certainly written to someone who is involved in the German set-up of foreign policy.

Also we can support that this was written before the outbreak of war. There are definite accusations against Britain for plotting this war, and by referring to Paris and St. Petersburg we are immediately aware, that these are both major cities in the other two sides of the Triple Entante. This situation leaves Germany, “encircled,” and each action she could take would result in war. Here the explanation is present for the small naval expenditure pronounced on the estimates, when he states that Germany wished to, “assure England!” The exclamation mark is vital, it summarises the feelings of Kaiser Wilhelm and the situation they are in of inevitable war. In the following sentence he writes of, “warnings,” which were toward England, what these were can’t be told from the sources, but surely to warn is to have an aggressive taint to it, although whether this taint was directed through Germany we do not know. These warnings may have been against allying with Russia and France. There is interesting irony to conclude this source, in source two Bertie accused Germany off playing the other powers against each other, and here Kaiser Wilhelm does the same towards Britain, suggesting that the evident friction in their relationship as pronounced in source three has in seven years grown considerably.

Source five has no connection to foreign policy, but showed that after the outbreak of war there was a feeling in Germany of great patriotism and national identity from at least one person, and presumably therefore from more. The last line is interesting as it implies to the reader that Germany placed too much trust in, “foreigners,” indicating that war was not actually instigated by Germany.

Source six has mainly been explained, but another point is the percentage increase of axis compared to allies. Excluding Italy from this argument axis had increased over 100% between 1910 and 1914 in the army. Although this increase is not evident in naval expenditure, this may be due to the restriction Germany laid upon herself, as described in source four. As these estimates are of expenditure at the time, Britain has increased expenditure, which may be due to the British Empire. Germany had no need for such expenditure outside of Europe and, therefore, her rises are more reflective of the situation.

Germany is certainly warlike from 1910, but so are the other major powers. It is almost impossible to ascertain who was the aggressor from the sources, as the memorandums from Britain infer it to be Germany, although each also has a slight element of support. The sources from Germany suggest others, with only source four directly referring to Britain as the aggressor. Britain had to increase her expenditure overall because of her current empire, and the navy was key to this. Germany however raised the expenditure considerably of her army, but whether this was an aggressive or defensive motive is impossible to, as the period intervals in source six do not tell us if one expenditure was raised in retaliation to that of another.


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