Page 1 of 1

Should Britain have declared neutrality or war in 1914

Posted: Sun Mar 16, 2014 2:56 pm
by Times Past
Should Britain have declared neutrality or war in August 1914

As the person posing the question I will keep for now keep my council but based on the known facts in 1914 rather than upon hindsight what would you have done?

There are a few political and legal certainties that you might care to consider

No one least of all the British government or its army expected to wage trench warfare or incur casualties measured in millions, that consequence is of course hindsight.

Britain had a legal obligation to defend Belgian sovereignty and similar unwritten understanding with France. But treaties are only significant if the signatories chose to abide by them otherwise as they are as General Moltke out it ‘a scrap of paper’

Britain had been natural in the Franco-Prussian War. The relevance of that fact to the events of August 1914 is itself contentious


Claire Eastwood

Re: Should Britain have declared neutrality or war in 1914

Posted: Sun Mar 16, 2014 3:15 pm
by acecat999
not from the Michael Gove "bumper book of history"

captain Blackadder: You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent war two great super-armies developed. Us, the Russians and the French on one side, Germany and Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea being that each army would act as the other's deterrent. That way, there could never be a war.

Private Baldrick: Except, this is sort of a war, isn't it?

Captain Blackadder: That's right. There was one tiny flaw in the plan.

Lieutenant George: O, what was that?

Captain Blackadder: It was B***cks.


was war inevitable? all those declining empires (Austria, Russia, ottoman, china), upstart new ones (Germany , USA, japan), even neighbours arguing miles away from it all (brasil, argentina) if it hadn't been in 1914 when would it have been.
personally I think if the british had stayed out of it france would have surrendered by Christmas.

Re: Should Britain have declared neutrality or war in 1914

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2014 9:21 am
by Sasha
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/m ... te-of-time

As the article says...
In practice, of course, every historian tries to balance out the elements of chance on the one hand, and larger historical forces (economic, cultural, social, international) on the other, and come to some kind of explanation that makes sense. The problem with counterfactuals is that they almost always treat individual human actors – generals or politicians, in the main – as completely unfettered by these larger forces, able to make decisions without regard to them in any way. And yet this simply isn't the case, as many a tyrant in history, from Napoleon to Hitler, has found to his cost.
Purely from the British POV our entire policy towards Europe for hundreds of years has been about ensuring that no single country achieves hegemony over the continent. It is practically hard-wired into the way the British body politic does business. And that is why we went to war in 1914 not for bloody Belgium. :)

Re: Should Britain have declared neutrality or war in 1914

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 7:40 am
by Layla Smart
Times Past wrote:Should Britain have declared neutrality or war in August 1914

As the person posing the question I will keep for now keep my council but based on the known facts in 1914 rather than upon hindsight what would you have done?

There are a few political and legal certainties that you might care to consider

No one least of all the British government or its army expected to wage trench warfare or incur casualties measured in millions, that consequence is of course hindsight.

Britain had a legal obligation to defend Belgian sovereignty and similar unwritten understanding with France. But treaties are only significant if the signatories chose to abide by them otherwise as they are as General Moltke out it ‘a scrap of paper’

Britain had been natural in the Franco-Prussian War. The relevance of that fact to the events of August 1914 is itself contentious


Claire Eastwood
It's my first answer on this website, and so please be light on it.

To me the chances of Britain being Neutral is almost impossible.

British - Naval Doctrine: For a long time (Even before Napoleon's Time) the British plan/strategy was to ensure that no 2 European nation should be left to become strong enough (together) to threaten British on the seas. It was crucial for Britain to ensure it's navy rules the seas, as an Island nation that's largely dependent on trade with it's Colonies. In fact by the time the World Wars started, Britain was largely dependent imports for bread as a result loosing seas to another nation could be a disaster.

Balance of Neutrality: The European Nations always wanted to ensure, what they called "Balance of Neutrality" and the British always wanted to ensure that such balance always favored Britain. All that changed with the Unification of Germany, even more so since they managed to single handedly defeat the 2nd most powerful nation (by that time) France. By the early 1900s it was quite obvious that the so called "Balance of Neutrality/power" was already broken and that not it largely favored the 'Unified German Empire' under Kaiser Wilhelm.

A Rising Threat: The German Empire to start with defeated France soundly and became the single most powerful nation within continental Europe, they started building a massive navy (that was second to non but British Grand Fleet) and finally adding more to that the German Empire is forming alliance and gaining colonial foot hold. There was a mini-cold war between Germany and Britain in science, technology, war-fare and more, all these factors made Germans and British on opposite sites and that all it was needed was just a spark or a reasonable excuse...!

All these and the massive German Industrialization were a serious concern for Britain as it's Empire and very existence was at lines, and hence the British were just a bit curiously waiting to put an end to the Rising German Threat...!