Britain wasn’t really expansionist when it came to continental Europe though. They had enough going on with India, Africa, Australia and Ireland. Oh, and the Middle East, I guess. I don’t suppose they would have turned away a chunk of Belgium or France if it had been positively thrown at them, but having an ocean in between them and the rest of Europe was a real advantage that would have been hard to give up. Mostly they just wanted to stop Germany sucking the rest of Europe into its orbit and becoming an irresistable superpower.
In Britain the monarchy had long since been tamed and integrated with a constitution that saw Parliament as the supreme authority.
This did not happen in Germany or Russia, where the notion of the absolute power of the King persisted in the form of a Kaiser or Czar.
I would point out that there was another Monarchy involve: The Hapsburgs and the Austria-Hungarian empire.
Of course, the French were also involved, republican, but quite ambitious imperialists themselves, expanding overseas. Britain and France were quite happy about carving up the rest of the world between themselves. Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary were right up against each other.
Thanks filmstar-en. Do you think that personal ideologies of the the German, Russian and Austria-Hungary ultimately played any significant role in the overall ideologies of the monarchist governments in inflaming tensions and prosecuting their war strategies?
Yeah, it totally is. Take over islands and use them to project power over the area you’re interested in (aka “everywhere” at that point in time) was clearly a winning strategy for Britain, and played to their strengths.
No. The UK didn’t want Germany to become the dominant power in Europe, but that had zero to do with differences in the German and UK Constitutions, and everything to do with long-standing British policy that it was not in British interests that any one power should dominate continental Europe. Similarly the UK alliance with Russia has zero to do with admiration for Russian social or political structures and everything to do with the fact the Russia would be a strategically useful ally against Germany.
Austria did consider that it had a kind of Manifest Destiny in the Balkans, I think, and of course tensions in the Balkans were the trigger for the whole thing. But the cascade effect which turned an incident in Bosnia into a continental conflagration was all about power politics and competing interests, and not at all about ideologies.
Russia was semi-unique among the monarchy/autocracy crowd in that it made an attempt pre-war to limit armaments (1899 Hague Conference). The resulting agreements were imited, in part due to German and British resistance.*
*curiously, the U.S. did not agree to clauses prohibiting use of asphyxiating gases and hurling explosives out of balloons, neither of which it employed in WWI unlike Germany, which ratified those agreements (the U.S. agreed to the ban on balloon bombing in 1907).
I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Ottomans yet … as the Ottoman’s were slowly losing their control over the Balkans, the Russians were keen on moving into, and finally getting their own Mediterranean port facilities … something the Austro-Hungarians did not want to see happen as UDS commented on …
It would be difficult to frame the conflict based upon ideological differences … it was all a big land grab …
Ideology was a tool in WWI, not a goal. The German leadership cared nothing for communism, but they sent Lenin back to Russia hoping that the Communists would de-stabilize Tsarist rule. In this they were extremely successful.
I recently got a book called The Fall of the Dynasties The Collapse of the Old Order: 1905-1922, by Edmond Taylor. It has a lot of historical and psychological background on the Romanovs, the Habsburg-Lorraine, the Hohenzollerns, and the Hamids, and how the rulers’ personalities in addition to the internal and external tensions and the maze of alliances let to WWI. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s been fascinating so far. For instance, I had not known that Nicholas II watched his grandfather die from an assassin’s bomb, or that his father was a brutal, overbearing, icy father as well as a brutal tyrant, or that the sultans of the Ottoman Empire were deliberately kept uneducated by the eunuchs who ran the harems.