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View Full Version : UK-German relationships in the early 20th Century



maxmordon
10-14-2012, 09:33 PM
At the moment, I'm working out with an alternative history story and the Point of Divergence of one of those times is the Venezuelan blockade done by UK, Germany and Italy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuela_Crisis_of_1902%E2%80%931903

I was thinking on having an Anglo-German invasion to Venezuela making an alliance between the UK and Germany stronger and having the US fight back taking consideration of the Monroe Doctrine. So, my questions are:

1) How was the climate between the UK and Germany? Was it good enough to allow an alliance of sorts? Perhaps uniting their royal lines?

2) Would they have joined to fight the US on the sea or would UK refuse to engage in such war? How strong were the UK-US relationships?

ClareGreen
10-14-2012, 10:35 PM
Can't speak as to the rest, but I was poking at the royal stuff just recently, so...

1) The royal lines were already united. Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria and father of Edward VII was German - and so was Edward's grandmother on his mother's side. Edward VII was of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha - the royal lines don't get much more united than they already were.

Priene
10-14-2012, 10:42 PM
1) How was the climate between the UK and Germany? Was it good enough to allow an alliance of sorts? Perhaps uniting their royal lines?

Obviously, it's your history so you can write how you want, but in the years leading up to 1914 Anglo-German relationships deteriorated hugely. The Germans felt they were being deprived of the empires that the other European countries had built and the British felt threatened by the growth of the German navy. The Anglo-German Naval Race (http://www.ocean-liner.com/nationalism/anglo-german-rivalry) was a major, if indirect, cause of World War 1. In 1904 the UK signed the Entente Cordiale (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entente_cordiale) with its traditional enemy, France, principally through fear of Germany. So I'd say the earlier you set the story, the more plausible an alliance would have been.

2) Would they have joined to fight the US on the sea or would UK refuse to engage in such war? How strong were the UK-US relationships?[/QUOTE]

The two countries weren't particularly friendly at that time, but weren't enemies. The British Navy was a match for anyone at that point, so if the USA had attacked British shipping, a war would have been possible. The UK also had huge financial interests in South America and were always inclined to completely ignore the Monroe Doctrine.

But the British public wouldn't have been keen on another foreign adventure after the slaughter of the Boer War, and particularly not with a country such as the USA with whom there were so many ties.

Alessandra Kelley
10-14-2012, 11:00 PM
Have you read Barbara Tuchman's brilliant histories of that era? If not, I highly recommend them, not just as research but also because they are well worth the reading:

The Proud Tower (the years leading up to the First World War)
The Guns of August (the very beginning of the war)
The Zimmerman Telegram (just how stupid the Kaiser was, and how stupid he thought the US was)

Priene
10-14-2012, 11:23 PM
(just how stupid the Kaiser was, and how stupid he thought the US was)

He was indeed a man of quite extraordinary stupidity.

maxmordon
10-15-2012, 01:15 AM
Obviously, it's your history so you can write how you want, but in the years leading up to 1914 Anglo-German relationships deteriorated hugely. The Germans felt they were being deprived of the empires that the other European countries had built and the British felt threatened by the growth of the German navy. The Anglo-German Naval Race (http://www.ocean-liner.com/nationalism/anglo-german-rivalry) was a major, if indirect, cause of World War 1. In 1904 the UK signed the Entente Cordiale (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entente_cordiale) with its traditional enemy, France, principally through fear of Germany. So I'd say the earlier you set the story, the more plausible an alliance would have been.

It would be firmly set in 1902. As you mention, Germany was wanting to expand its empire, so the idea is that in order to repay the debt Germany would have taken control to one region of Venezuela and UK another region, possibly expanding the Guyana and Trinidad colonies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guyana) as and using the payment as a excuse to expand.

US was also worried about the growth of Germany and Roosevelt thought a war with Germany would be inminent (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/venezuela1902.htm), so no doubt the US navy would have fought back under the Monroe Doctrine, but I do wonder if the UK would have favored Germany or the US more.



The two countries weren't particularly friendly at that time, but weren't enemies. The British Navy was a match for anyone at that point, so if the USA had attacked British shipping, a war would have been possible. The UK also had huge financial interests in South America and were always inclined to completely ignore the Monroe Doctrine.

But the British public wouldn't have been keen on another foreign adventure after the slaughter of the Boer War, and particularly not with a country such as the USA with whom there were so many ties.

So, if then the US would have represented a threat to the UK interests and colonies in the region, say Trinidad and Tobago, would it be possible then a British-German alliance against the US over the control of the Caribbean?

maxmordon
10-15-2012, 01:17 AM
Have you read Barbara Tuchman's brilliant histories of that era? If not, I highly recommend them, not just as research but also because they are well worth the reading:

The Proud Tower (the years leading up to the First World War)
The Guns of August (the very beginning of the war)
The Zimmerman Telegram (just how stupid the Kaiser was, and how stupid he thought the US was)

I will look them up. :)

Priene
10-16-2012, 12:25 PM
It would be firmly set in 1902. As you mention, Germany was wanting to expand its empire, so the idea is that in order to repay the debt Germany would have taken control to one region of Venezuela and UK another region, possibly expanding the Guyana and Trinidad colonies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guyana) as and using the payment as a excuse to expand.

US was also worried about the growth of Germany and Roosevelt thought a war with Germany would be inminent (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/venezuela1902.htm), so no doubt the US navy would have fought back under the Monroe Doctrine, but I do wonder if the UK would have favored Germany or the US more.

Almost certainly, the UK would have favoured the USA. The new Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour, was pro-American, and the people regarded the Americans as cousins. Even the Monroe Doctrine wasn't particularly a problem for us, because the USA was pro-free trade and didn't threaten existing colonies. As long as the goods and money kept flowing, Britain had no problem with the USA showing its muscle in the Caribbean and South America.

Germany, on the other hand, was the pre-eminent power in Europe and was constructing a navy specifically to match Britain's. If it gained a substantial foothold in the Americas, it would gained financial power which threatened the whole empire.




So, if then the US would have represented a threat to the UK interests and colonies in the region, say Trinidad and Tobago, would it be possible then a British-German alliance against the US over the control of the Caribbean?

If the USA had attacked the Caribbean colonies, there certainly would have been a naval war - one which almost certainly would have ended in defeat for the Americans. (Knowing this, they probably wouldn't have done it, though). If you're thinking of an Anglo-German invasion of the USA, I don't think that could have happened without the USA doing something dramatic like invading Canada or joining France in a European war against the UK and Germany. (This, without the USA, was a possibility at the time, though Britain would have been more likely to sit that one out, as it did the Franco-Prussian War.)

GeorgeK
10-16-2012, 03:31 PM
At the moment, I'm working out with an alternative history story and the Point of Divergence of one of those times is the Venezuelan blockade done by UK, Germany and Italy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuela_Crisis_of_1902%E2%80%931903

I was thinking on having an Anglo-German invasion to Venezuela making an alliance between the UK and Germany stronger and having the US fight back taking consideration of the Monroe Doctrine. So, my questions are:

1) How was the climate between the UK and Germany? Was it good enough to allow an alliance of sorts? Perhaps uniting their royal lines?

2) Would they have joined to fight the US on the sea or would UK refuse to engage in such war? How strong were the UK-US relationships?

The Pig War just prior to WW1 (off the coast of Washington State) could have escallated into a full scale war between the US and UK. It was diffused by WW1 breaking out. Had there been no WW1, it could have escalated. When WW1 started basically 40% of America wanted to side with UK, 40% wanted to side with Germany. The 20% neutral were the deciding factor due to the lack of a clear majority until the sinking of the Lucitania.

Had UK and Germany not been at war, I could see the Pig War escalating between US and UK. Germany would be free to invade S. America and then under the enemy of my enemy is my friend scenario, Germany joins UK againsts US and US joins Venezuela.

All your scenario would require would be Winston Churchill dieing in or staying stationed in India and an escalation of the Pig War.


Correction: Pig War was just prior to the American Civil War
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pig_War
but had it escalated it probably would have delayed and possibly prevented the Civil War. Uk then being engaged in yet another N. America conflict probably would have been willing to concede S. American expansion to Germany in return for a non-aggression pact. So, yes it sounds plausible still.

Now if your divergence from History is after the purchase of Alaska from Russia, I'd see the Manifest Destiny idea dictating the US to unite Alaska and the lower 48 and probably negotiating with Quebec and France. Also at that time Poland and Russia were actual players so the different powers would be courting them too

Dave Hardy
10-16-2012, 09:00 PM
That's a tricky one as you have to disentangle deep-seated interests from hot-button flash-point issues.

Popular opinion in the UK had focused on the Anglo-Russian rivalry in Central Asia (the Great Game). By the 1860s the Brits had about all the wanted, or could take, while the Russians were just getting started. Invading India over the Roof of the World with the deserts of Turkestan and all their restive natives at their back was about the last thing a tsarist army would have tried, but it certainly got a lot of British writers worked up.

Britain also had an issue with France, the Fashoda incident providing quite a bit of alarm.

The Boer War provided an ugly shock for Britain, the world did not actually love their empire. The US got a similar surprise when we decided to liberate Cuba and the Philippines in the name of freedom. :sarcasm

Interestingly, the Germans snapped up Spain's pacific island colonies in a hasty sale that was ramrodded through to forestall US occupation. We snatched Guam, but the Carolines were sold to Germany (and ended up in Japanese hands, which would prove a grim obstacle in the 1940s...). The US and Germany also had a show-down over Samoa (IIRC) at one point, but all the warships got wrecked in a hurricane before they could do much but flex their muscles.

So, maybe the Russians & their French allies decided they didn't need the UK. That might push the UK towards Germany which already had some tension with the US. You need something to poison the well for the US & UK, but that's a bit more digging...

maxmordon
10-20-2012, 07:46 AM
Thank you, guys. I think with this I have enough to paint a realistic enough sceneario for what I'm looking for!

:)

blacbird
10-20-2012, 08:23 AM
Read Barbara Tuchman's now-classic history of the run-up to and beginning of WWI, The Guns of August. which deals in great detail with the Brit-German relationship at the time. The British royalty was, in fact, German by fairly recent ancestry. They changed their surname from Hanover to Windsor as a direct result of anti-German sentiment among the British populace. Her book begins with the death of King Edward in 1910, and what that event portended for a crisis in Europe already known to be looming. Kaiser Wilhelm pined for some rapprochement with Britain, so he could freely invade France, via neutral Belgium, then did almost everything he could to piss off the Brits, including brutal reprisals on Belgian civilians.

In short, the Brit-German relationship was not good, and was scary.

caw

Priene
10-20-2012, 11:16 AM
They changed their surname from Hanover to Windsor as a direct result of anti-German sentiment among the British populace.

They had a much more stupid surname than 'Hanover'. They rejoiced under the surname Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (http://www.royal.gov.uk/historyofthemonarchy/kingsandqueensoftheunitedkingdom/saxe-coburg-gotha/edwardvii.aspx).