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History Questions Not Worth Their Own Thread VIII

Discussion in 'World History' started by Flying Pig, Jan 22, 2017.

  1. Owen Glyndwr

    Owen Glyndwr La Femme Moderne

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    The era is termed the "Early Modern" for a reason.


    The Vandals themselves spoke an East Germanic language, and Procopius refers to the Vandals as being part of the "Gothic Nation"
     
  2. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    I think you missed the 'Poland is in North Africa' joke....
     
  3. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish Hawks4life

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    I never understood that joke/meme but I REALLY hate it.
     
  4. Owen Glyndwr

    Owen Glyndwr La Femme Moderne

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  5. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    To explain - back in the day we had a bajillion threads about whether Poland was in Eastern Europe or Central Europe. In the end, we decided that everyone was wrong and that Poland was actually in North Africa.

    It is also one of the best in-jokes OT has ever created, up there with They Stoled My Camera and Pants.
     
  6. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish Hawks4life

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    I never found it funny, frankly.
     
  7. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    Oh, it was never funny. That's what makes it funny.
     
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  8. HSC

    HSC Chieftain

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    I've been lurking on this forum for far too long, so I decided that it was time to create an account and actually contribute :)

    I've been reading Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power by Christopher Clark (Penguin Books, 2009) and towards the end of the chapter on Wilhelm and Foreign Policy (1888-1911), I ran into something that was incredibly eye opening and raised many questions which I'll ask here. But first, here's what Clark says on pages 212-217:
    The first and most obvious question that arises from this is: was Germany's "encirclement" inevitable no matter which German government or its policies were in place due to geo-political, commercial, and strategic interests? Was there any plausible way that these interests would be changed?

    Was there any way Germany could have reasonably courted a great power alliance within the political constraints of the time (e.g. Germany could never give up Alsace-Lorraine to France for example due to the many overwhelming security, economic, political, and prestige reasons for not doing so)? Was there anything Germany could do to make her alliance more valuable to the other powers?

    Essentially my question is, how could Germany have reversed its diplomatic fortunes and isolation in the run up to the First World War?

    Thanks everyone,
    -HSC
     
  9. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish Hawks4life

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    The only way this is a legit joke is if Sid Meier's makes a reference in a civ game. It's entirely possible: he already listened to Perfection's spam when he included the Giant Death Robots in Civ V.
     
  10. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    This is, arguably, worth its own thread! :p There's a very large historiography of the outbreak of the First World War.

    My personal take on these questions - was it possible for Germany to have a more favorable diplomatic position than it was actually in in 1914 - is "maybe yes, but also no".

    First, the "no".

    Most historians would agree that the alliances and agreements the British foreign office of the early twentieth century pursued were done in order to neutralize military threats to Britain's colonial possessions. While the USA, Japan, Russia, and France all possessed the ability to militarily threaten British colonies, Germany did not and could not develop such a power. In addition, there was a powerful xenophobic anti-German bloc at the British Foreign Office, especially from ~1902 on, that made meaningful cooperation very unlikely. Pretty much everything else about the Anglo-German relationship - the kaiser, Edward VII, the Daily Telegraph, the Haldane mission, German negotiating tactics, even the High Seas Fleet - is a red herring. And while many of the individual steps on the British path to entering the Great War were extremely avoidable or mutable, all of them were British actions taken irrespective of anything the Germans could realistically have done.

    Some French governments were willing to indulge in limited cooperation with Germany over colonial questions but not end their security rivalry in Europe. Whether this was due to the size and power of the German military, the issue of Alsace-Lorraine, France's wounded national pride over the defeat of 1870, or some other reason differs depending on the historian; however, what does not change is the general conviction that Germany could not meaningfully alter the relationship with France. That change would have had to come within France, with the ascension of politicians who could engage with the Germans meaningfully on the basis of the status quo.

    German relations with Russia actually might have been possible to...manage effectively. "Patch up" might be too strong a term. Russo-French financial ties were significant in a way that relatively illiquid Germany could not easily supplant. Russia and Germany fought some tariff battles, especially over the "Grain Invasion", that increased hard feelings and decreased opportunities for cooperation. And large segments of the German and Russian governments simply did not like each other. However, financial considerations condition, but do not determine, diplomatic ties, and there were plenty of Russian and German statesmen who liked the other country just fine. The balance of competing long-term effects on Russian policy favored an alliance with France, but it's possible to see that changing...but hard to see it changing too much based on German policy decisions. The Germans tried about as hard as they could in 1905 to secure an alliance with the tsar during his meeting with Wilhelm at Björkö, but the Russian cabinet convinced him to disavow the signed treaty after consultation. Nikolai and his ministers would have needed an additional push from somewhere else.

    That's a lot of "no". However, the "yes" matters, too.

    While British alliances were primarily based on neutralizing security threats, what the alliances actually did was more like a duct-tape solution. Japan and Russia still had strategic interests that were not about to go away, and serious friction broke out between the British and both parties before August 1914. In particular, the Russian invasion of Iran in 1911 caused major problems for their relationship with the British, while the temporary Russian window of insecurity that made a British alliance valuable in 1907 had disappeared by 1914. It's entirely possible to imagine the Russians and British abandoning their close relationship within a few years had fighting not broken out. The (second) rise of Joseph Caillaux in France also points to a possibility for the Germans to have cooled off an antagonistic relationship.

    I don't know if that means that Germany's alliance would have been valuable to other powers. But it does point to a possible - far from certain - way out for the Germans. Unfortunately, as Clark himself argues in The Sleepwalkers, the multiplicity of crises developing in the Entente's internal relationships - the return of Caillaux, the impending civil war in Ireland, the confrontation over Iran, etc. - made war more likely, not less. The fragility of the alliances made it more important for statesmen to try to defend them. Absent a serious crisis in the summer of 1914, maybe they would have collapsed anyway, but that didn't happen.
     
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  11. Arakhor

    Arakhor Dremora Courtier Moderator

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    Are you sure Sid Meier was even involved in Civ V?
     
  12. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish Hawks4life

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    I thought he was involved in all civ games? :dunno:
     
  13. HSC

    HSC Chieftain

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    Wow, thanks Dachs!

    Why is it that France (which had a much smaller navy than Germany) had the ability to threaten Britain's colonies and Germany could not develop such a power? Could the German's never "win" the naval race, that is create an even bigger fleet than historically (say add in Hollman's cruisers to Tirpitz's Battleships) to deter the British? Even if that were not enough on its own, would it, paired with say a Russo-German alliance (or "detente" even) be enough to tilt the scales?

    From what I remember reading from The Sleepwalkers was that Edward VII was a complete Germanophobe and was responsible for placing the anti-German bloc in key positions in the Foreign Office.

    How important was it that Buelow withdrew his support for the treaty after Wilhelm changed it? Also, how important was it that the Reinsurance Treaty was not renewed by Germany? Had Bismarck been around a few more months and the treaty renewed, how long would it have lasted? What are some "butterflies" that would've resulted? Britain drawing closer to the Germany?

    Have you read The Lost History of 1914 by Jack Beatty? Great book concerning counterfactual scenarios where WWI doesn't occur in the way it did, or at all.

    What was the correct policy for Germany re Britain then? Was conciliation the best course as Bethmann pursued? Or would an actual militaristic, aggressive policy by Germany been enough to deter Britain? Or would it drive her closer to the Entente? In addition to protecting the colonies, Clark points out in The Sleepwalkers that British perception of German weakness and vast overestimation of Russian strength is what drove Britain to a policy of appeasement with Russia and antagonism with Germany. Had Germany, for example, vastly expanded her army (say much larger than what the Reichstag would realistically approve) and aggressively supported Austria in all matters, have forced Britain to appease Germany as well? This is very confusing because Britain almost didn't intervene historically, but the Liberal Imperialists narrowly won out in the end. Had Grey been forced to resign in 1913 like he almost did, it is hard to imagine Britain intervening.
     
  14. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    France had the ability to threaten Britain's colonies on land more than by sea. Strong French army detachments were posted in Algeria, West Africa, and Indochina that could have caused trouble that the British could not easily counter. The Germans had no such ground forces in their colonies and no real means to support them, and their colonies were often far from places where they would threaten the British anyway. In addition, while the French navy was smaller than that of the Germans, the French did possess the means to engage in cruiser warfare worldwide against British trade from their network of relatively developed naval bases. The Germans, by comparison, did not configure their fleet to fight a cruiser war from their colonies; they mostly designed their fleet to fight in the North Sea. It wouldn't have made any sense for them to do anything else, because without access through the North Sea, Germany could not easily support a global cruiser force or colonial war.

    Besides, it's difficult to imagine the Germans investing more than they already did in a fleet that would have had no purpose other than to...try to ally with Britain? The logic doesn't really track. It would be pretty hard to sell the Reichstag and naval public opinion on the notion of spending a zillion Mark on ships that would be expressly there not to be used. And some sort of Russo-German agreement might have lent some weight to Germany's potential usefulness to the British, but in that sort of situation it would've made a lot more sense for the British to just deal directly with the Russians.
    Yeah, Edward sponsored the likes of Francis Bertie and Eyre Crowe. I don't think I'd go so far as to say he was "responsible" for their power and influence, but his support helped them a lot.
    Bülow's threatened resignation was about an issue that, while it had meaning, didn't necessarily sink the concept of negotiation with Russia. The Russian cabinet, however, objected to the mere idea of a meaningful deal with Germany. Lamzdorf and the other ministers were the real obstacle to an agreement.

    There are a lot of historians who think that the Reinsurance Treaty's non-renewal was a humongous deal. Clark refers to it as the single most important foreign policy decision of Wilhelm's reign. I don't really agree. Russia was not a close ally of Germany in 1890. The Reinsurance Treaty did not suddenly resolve the tension that the Eastern Rumelian crisis caused between the two governments. Instead, it made immediate Russian intervention in a Franco-German war less likely, and that was about it. Herbert von Bismarck said that the treaty pretty much just bought Germany six weeks in the event of war. Those six weeks were a very meaningful advantage, but they did not constitute a close relationship. Effectively, the treaty was the result of Bismarck attempting to paper over the gaping cracks in the Russo-German relationship that were opening during the reign of Aleksandr III and it did not have much chance of surviving for very long. He himself helped to destroy the treaty's chances of renewal in 1890 during the maneuvering that led to his ouster.

    On the other hand, Russo-French capital flows were increasing and positive diplomatic contact between the two countries was improving. Bismarck actually helped that process along, too, with his Lombardverbot restrictions on German capital flows to Russia, but he didn't cause it. There were long-term causes to the French alignment that had little to do with German policy. With that said: was failing to renew the treaty a poor decision? Absolutely. It was made on questionable grounds and had a lot more to do with the internal politics of Germany's ruling officials than it did with sensible diplomacy. Would it have suddenly made Russo-German relations perfectly fine? Eh, probably not. The Russian foreign minister, N. K. Girs, was under serious pressure to abandon the deal as well. He wanted to sign the Reinsurance Treaty again in 1890 largely as a form of covering his back against his political enemies in the Russian cabinet. This does not speak strongly for the durability of such a treaty.

    By 1905 a lot of the considerations that made the Russo-German power relationship so fraught had changed. The shock of the Manchurian War and France's courting of Russia's antagonist Britain helped push the tsar closer to Germany, while the Russo-Austrian antagonism that had made the Reinsurance Treaty necessary in the first place had significantly abated since the 1897 agreement to keep the Balkans "on ice". And yet agreement still wasn't possible, at least not without an additional push of some kind. I just don't know.

    So yeah, I personally don't think that the Reinsurance Treaty was enough of a big deal to be The Thing that set Russia on the road to war with Germany. (Hell, there probably was no such thing.) But there are plenty of very intelligent historians who do, and on reasonably good grounds. If your intention is to write alternate history, like your comment about butterflies implies, you could do worse than the Reinsurance Treaty.
    I have not. Thank you for the recommendation.
    I genuinely don't know. These are deep waters, and it's difficult enough to try to diagnose the causes of what actually happened without trying to lay out overall policy recommendations.

    It's much the harder to do this for polycratic Germany because of the fact that it's almost impossible to detect any coherent policy in the Wilhelmine leadership for any length of time.
     
  15. HSC

    HSC Chieftain

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    I'm not looking to write alternate history (although I do make maps from time to time) however I'm trying to evaluate Germany's foreign policy through counterfactual analysis. If even today, with all we know now, it's still extremely difficult to see Germany pursuing any diplomatic options on her own that would improve her position, perhaps those, such as Conrad, Moltke, and Falkenhayn, that argued for Präventivkrieg weren't the loons that they are often made out to be in the histories? Perhaps they were right? Why should Germany rely on the goodwill of other powers and not secure her own security? Frederick the Great would have agreed.

    On the other hand, perhaps we're being sucked into the loop of determinism, that is to explain something we point to what caused it, and what caused it, and get so bogged down in the details of the chain of events we can't see it happening in any other way? Perhaps the Butterfly Effect would account for things we cannot explain. By the way, Dachs, what is your take on the whole parallel universe/multiverse/different timelines stuff? What's your view on chaos theory? If you ran a simulation of the world 1000 times starting on a random date, in this case, June 15th 1888 (Wilhelm II's accession), would we see the same, historical result every single time, or would we see many crazy implausible results, such as Waldersee becoming Kanzler, Germany launching a pre-emptive war against Russia in 1905, Britain willing to pay for Germany's alliance and never signing the Entente's?
     
  16. Arakhor

    Arakhor Dremora Courtier Moderator

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    Edward VII was half-German (and not in the he's a Hanoverian, duh sense, either), so I'm not sure it's correct to refer to him as a Germanophobe.
     
  17. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    There is a lot of space between "the diplomatic hostility evinced by Entente powers before the outbreak of the First World War was largely out of German control" and "Germany should have declared war because, uh, it would have made everything better somehow".

    I am in no way arguing here that the First World War was inevitable either in its actual form or some sort of modified form. I would say that that is the opposite of what I actually think.

    Firstly, I think that all governments involved in the July Crisis, including the German government, had the ability to pull back from the brink and made the positive choice not to. All governments also badly mismanaged the crisis if avoiding a general war was their aim, which in some cases it was.

    Secondly, I think that, while the German government's control over what the eventual Entente powers thought of it was either very limited or nonexistent, that is usually true of most such situations in international politics. It is rare to be able to will an alliance into being through sheer bloody hard work. That doesn't mean that those constellations could not have changed through other, more unexpected means. Perhaps a Russian victory in the Manchurian War, for example, could have strengthened the tsar's hand, deepened Anglo-Russian antagonism, and allowed for an alternative avenue for national ambitions than the Balkan route that would bring Russia and Austria-Hungary into collision. Nobody at the Wilhelmstraße could have caused that to happen, but it had the potential to improve Germany's strategic situation considerably.

    Finally, and related to the first two points, I believe that avoiding the July Crisis somehow, whether through historical accident preventing the Habsburg assassinations or through proper alliance and crisis management, bade fair to allow some form of diplomatic realignment.
    It's fun to play games with it and sometimes useful when discussing causation. I'm mostly interested in plausible alternatives.
    It is.
     
  18. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish Hawks4life

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    How the hell did the Nazis take themselves seriously with their “we are for the Aryan race” thing while allying with the Japanese who are far from being blue eyed, blonde haired people?

    While murdering countless people in the holocaust who were just as white as they were?

    (This is a completely serious question)
     
  19. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    I understand the short answer to be, they didn't really take the "Aryan" stuff all that seriously. It was an ideological tool that helped place their political project in a grand historical narrative, but didn't really inform that project on a practical level. References to Aryanism are inconsistent in Nazi propaganda, and mostly appear in the context of distinguish "Aryan" Germans from "Semitic" ones. The Nazis were fundamentally German nationalists, and that was always the core of their ideology and rhetoric; how they dealt with non-Germans, even with German-speakers from outside the historical boundaries of Germany, was informed primarily by pragmatism and existing prejudice rather than by grand racial theories. There was never even an official definition of who or what constituted an "Aryan", except that ethnic Germans did, and ethnic Jews did not.

    Later accounts have tended to over-emphasise Nazi racial theory for a variety of reasons, but one of them is because it helped distinguish bad Nazi racism from good Allied racism. The horrors of Nazism turned a spotlight on the racist attitudes that still predominated among Westerners and especially among their political leadership, and emphasising the specific weirdo quack-theories which nominally underpinned Nazi racism helped distance them from the supposedly empirical racism of Britain, France and the United States. This proved ultimately unconvincing, but there was enough of an effort made that Aryanism came to occupy a place in popular imagining of Nazis disproportionate to its actual role within the Nazi regime.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
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  20. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    I was wondering, just how wealthy was imperial Germany, for it to even be able to fund a naval race against the British Empire?
    I know that it looks like Germany had gone through an economic miracle, and (together with the US) gained upon, even surpassed or was about to surpass, the British in industrial production. But doesn't that discount the massive wealth controlled by the british through their empire?

    The UK may have been surpassed by early 20th century Germany on some technical and economic fields (chemistry, perhaps steel production?) but it seems to me that it was still far ahead overall, in terms of overall technical and industrial capabilities. The british islands were small but very developed, Germany was a large country with extremely backwards swaths of land and a predominately agricultural population, still undergoing the phase of fast urbanization with all the attendant misery?
     

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