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A School History of the Great War - Chapter 5

International Jealousies and Alliances

The years between 1870 and 1914 were marked by growing jealousies among the great powers of Europe. All were growing in wealth and commerce, and each looked with envious eyes upon the successes of its neighbors. In this chapter we are going to consider some of the special reasons for the growth of international jealousies during this period, and the grouping of the great nations into alliances.

Alsace-Lorraine. - At the close of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, France was humiliated by being forced to give up to Germany a large section of her eastern lands - Alsace and northeastern Lorraine. It was true that these provinces had long ago belonged to Germany. All of this territory, however, had been French for generations, and much of it for over two hundred years; and in both provinces the population was loyal to the French government and violently opposed to being transferred to the rule of Germany. But defeated France had no choice in the matter, and the provinces became part of the German Empire. France has never forgotten or forgiven this humiliation. Lloyd George, the British prime minister, in speaking of the Alsace-Lorraine problem (January, 1918) said, “This sore has poisoned the peace of Europe for half a -century, and until it is cured healthy conditions cannot be restored.” German rule in Alsace-Lorraine was unwise as well as severe. The teaching of the French language in the elementary schools of the provinces was forbidden. Military service in the German army was made compulsory despite the protests of the inhabitants, who felt a horror of some day being forced to fight against the French, whom they regarded as brothers. All important offices were filled by Germans from beyond the Rhine. The police constantly interfered with the _ freedom of the people. French newspapers were suppressed on the slightest excuse. Attempts were made to prevent Frenchmen from visiting Alsace and Alsatians from visiting France. German army officers stationed in the provinces openly ignored the rights of the population and were upheld in their conduct by the German government. As time passed the inhabitants grew more and more dissatisfied with the strict German rule. In France also hostility to Germany was increased by the conditions in Alsace-Lorraine. Frenchmen could not forget that they had been robbed of these provinces. Hope was kept alive that some day they might be won back. In the city of Paris, in the Place de La Concorde, there are eight large marble statues each representing a great city of France. One of these represents Strassburg, the chief city of Alsace. Every year, on July 14, the national holiday of France, the people of Paris placed a wreath of mourning on this statue. This custom expressed the sorrow of France for the loss of her eastern provinces, as well as her hope that some day they might be restored. Italia Irredenta. - Italia Irreden’ta in the Italian language means “unredeemed Italy.” It refers to territory adjoining Italy on the north and northeast, occupied by Italians but not yet redeemed from foreign rule. When in 1871 the kingdom of Italy took its present form through the union of former Italian states (Chapter I), Italia Irredenta remained under the rule of Austria.

Italians felt, however, that Italian unity was not complete so long as adjoining lands inhabited by Italian-speaking people were ruled by foreign governments. So they regarded these lands as “unredeemed.” Italia Irredenta in 1914 consisted chiefly of the Trentino (tren-tee’no), a triangle of territory dipping down into the north of Italy, and some land around the northern end of the Adriatic including the important city of Trieste. Both of these regions were ruled by Austria. For many years this situation led to ill feeling between the two countries. While it did not have so direct a bearing on the outbreak of the World War as the question of Alsace-Lorraine, it nevertheless largely explains the entrance of Italy into the war on the side of the Allies. Russia and the Bosporus. - Still another situation which in the years before the war was the cause of international jealousies was Russia’s long-standing ambition to control Constantinople on the Bos’porus. As Constantinople is the capital of the Turkish Empire, the continued existence of that state, at least on the continent of Europe, was threatened by Russia’s purpose. Russia has long been in need of an ice-free port as an outlet for her commerce. Archangel (ark’än’jel) in the north is ice-bound most of the year. Vladivostok’, her port on the Pacific, is ice-bound for three months of the year. Russian trade by way of the Baltic must pass through waters controlled by other countries. Naturally she has turned toward the Bosporus and Dardanelles (dar-da-nelz’) -the straits connecting the Black Sea with the Mediterranean - as the natural outlet for her trade, and this explains her desire to possess Constantinople. For centuries Russia has been so much more powerful than Turkey that she would surely have taken possession of Constantinople if the other nations of Europe had not interfered. On two different occasions during the nineteenth century England came to the assistance of the Turkish Empire and saved Constantinople from the Czar. Great Britain was led to take this action through fear that Russian control of Constantinople might endanger the safety of her own communications with India. In the years immediately preceding the outbreak of the Great War the danger from Germany made other quarrels of much less importance, and England’s disagreement with Russia over her desire for a trade outlet was forgotten. European Ambitions in the Balkans.- Russia has always felt a strong interest in the small nations of the Balkan peninsula. Their inhabitants are for the most part Slays, of the same race as the Russians themselves, and they have naturally looked upon the great Slavic empire of the Czars as their protector. There was, moreover, a pan-Slavic party in Russia, i.e. a group who looked forward to a union of all the Slav nations under the leadership of Russia. The pan-Slavic movement had its beginning in the help Russia had given these states in their revolt from Turkey. Russia’s aims and hopes in the Balkans were strongly opposed by Austria-Hungary. That state had long felt the need of seaports to the southeast and hoped, with German support, to secure an outlet on the AEgean and to control the whole course of the Danube. This purpose could be accomplished only by annexing a large part of the Balkan peninsula. The Balkan situation, therefore, brought Russia and Austria face to face in opposition to each other. It was one of the most serious instances of international rivalry in the period before the war. Italy also was interested in the Balkan question. She saw that if the Austrians should annex the Balkan lands lying to the south they would control the whole eastern shore,, of the Adriatic. Italian interests and ambitions would suffer. This fear, added to the constant bitterness caused by the problem of Italia Irredenta, inflamed the hostility of Italy toward Austria. Finally, Turkey also had an interest in the Balkan situation. She hoped to benefit by the various jealousies of the great powers. She believed that fear of a general war would keep all of them from making any move in the Balkans and so would prolong her own shaky existence as a European state. Rival Colonial Empires. - Some time after the establishment of the German Empire, her rapidly growing wealth, population, and trade led her to regret the opportunities for colonial expansion that she had missed. She cast jealous eyes upon the vast colonial possessions of other nations. She also took what was left over, -several large regions of Africa, a port in China, a few islands in the Pacific, - not nearly enough to satisfy her ambitions. South America was closed to her by the policy of the United States which is expressed in the Monroe Doctrine. In Asia, however, she secured extensive commercial and industrial concessions - the forerunners of political control - in the Turkish Empire. Germany’s desire for colonies was natural enough, but her jealousy of her more fortunate European neighbors must be considered as one of the reasons underlying her military and naval preparedness for war. Germany’s covetous attitude toward the colonial possessions of other nations led to several serious international disagreements in the years before the Great War. More than once it almost brought her into conflict with the government of the United States. An agreement had been~ made for the joint control of the Samoan Islands by Great Britain, Germany, and the United States. Germany’s attempt to enlarge her interests in the islands led to a quarrel with American officers. An American flag was seized by armed Germans, war vessels were sent to Samoa, and a naval battle seemed about to take place. A hurricane destroyed the vessels, however, before any fighting had occurred, and the three countries drew up a treaty which settled that particular difficulty (1899). Germany also resented our acquisition of the Philippines and other Spanish colonies. On the outbreak of our war with Spain in 1898, when Admiral Dewey was blockading Manila, he was spied upon by a German fleet that was half disposed to interfere with his operations. But when Dewey showed a willingness to fight, the Germans withdrew. Several years later Germany picked a quarrel with Venezuela and, in defiance of the Monroe Doctrine, bombarded a fort on her coast. Acting in conjunction with England and Italy, German warships blockaded the ports of Venezuela to force the payment of financial claims. President Roosevelt’s insistence that Germany drop her further plans of aggression, and his promptness in concentrating the American fleet in the West Indies, resulted in Germany’s accepting a peaceful solution of the dispute. In 1911 Germany tried to force France out of Morocco. Since 1904 France bad by common consent taken general charge of affairs in that country. Later Germany made objections to this arrangement. Finally, in 1911, when France was sending troops into the interior to put down disorders among the natives, Germany sent ao gunboat to Agadir (ah-gah-deer’), on the west coast of Morocco. It looked as if she intended to take possession of the port there. France protested and the affair began to look very warlike. England came to the support of France, and Germany gave up all claim to Morocco, taking in exchange about 100,000 square miles in equatorial Africa. After this humiliation the German militarists became more determined than ever to force the war which they thought would make Germany supreme over her rivals. The Triple Alliance. - The various jealousies among (~the nations of Europe which we have just considered, and particularly the general fear of the growing power of the German Empire, largely explain the strong international alliances which came into existence between i8yo and 1914, Germany, after 1870, knew that France would for many years be too weak to retake Alsace-Lorraine. All that German leaders bad to fear was that France might succeed in securing powerful friends among the other nations and that a strong combination of countries might some day challenge Germany’s supremacy on the Continent. To prevent or at any rate to counterbalance any such combination, Germany looked about for allies upon whose help she might rely in case of necessity. At first she planned a general league of friendship with the great countries lying to the east and southeast, Russia and Austria-Hungary. This combination, known as the League of the Three Emperors, was soon broken up by the growing jealousies of Russia and Austria in the Balkans. Germany, having to choose which of these two nations she would support, decided in favor of Austria. There followed a growing coldness in the relations between Germany and Russia. Germany having allied herself with Austria, looked about for another nation to give greater strength to theo combination. Her thoughts turned toward Italy, which, in case of another war against France, could attack the French southeastern border and so prove a valuable ally. For a number of years there had been ill feeling between Italy and France, and Germany counted on this feeling to bring Italy under her influence. The chief difficulty in the way of Germany’s plan was that Italy would have to abandon her ideas in regard to Italia Irredenta and enter into friendly relations with Austria, her old enemy. Italy was finally driven into this unnatural alliance by the action of France, which in i88i occupied Tunis, a land which Italy herself had been planning to annex as a colony. Italy, too weak to prevent this action -of France, entered the alliance with Germany and Austria into which she had been invited. I So it was that the Triple Alliance was established (1882), as a league, of defense against any nations which should begin an attack upon any one of the three.

The Triple Entente. - Entente (ahn-tahnt’) is the trench word for understanding or agreement. In the 4~cent history of Europe it refers to that friendly grouping of nations which was formed in self-defense against the Triple Alliance. The war of 1870 bad left France not only humiliated but weakened and isolated. The formation of the Triple Alliance put out of question the idea of a successful war against Germany to right the wrong which France had suffered. In fact it seemed to make more probable a new attack upon France. Russia also found herself in a position of isolation. Their isolation and consequent danger gradually drew these two nations together, distant as they were from one another and different as they were in government and ideas. So there was established a dual alliance between the French Republic and the Russian Empire. Great Britain bad for a long time remained outside the jealousies and combinations of the continental powers. In fact she had frequently found herself at odds with France over the rights of the two nations in Africa, and with Russia over the question of Constantinople and Russian aggression in Asia. When English statesmen discovered, however, that the German Empire was constantly enlarging her navy with a view to challenging English control of the seas, they felt that it would be well for Great Britain to seek friendships on the Continent. Old quarrels with France and Russia were forgotten. Friendly relations were established, and Great Britain, France, and Russia entered into a league of friendship known as the Triple Entente (1907).

Suggestions for Study. - 1. Locate the Bosporus, Alsace Lorraine, Italia Irredenta, Balkan peninsula, Aegean Sea.. 2. Explain the geographical importance of Constantinople. How was Russia prevented from taking it in the Crimean War of 1854 and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877? 3. Show on a map of Europe the countries in the Triple Alliance and those in the Triple Entente. Why was each alliance formed?

References. - War Cyclopedia (C. P. I.); Harding, New Medieval and Modern History; Hazen, Europe since 1815; and other European histories. For the treaties forming the two alliances, see A League of Nations, Vol. I, No. 4.