Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source3
A telegram from the British Foreign Secretary to the British ambassador in Germany, 1 August 1914
(Catalogue ref: FO 438/2)
  • Sir Edward Grey sent this telegram to the British ambassador in Germany, Sir Edward Goschen. Grey was the British Foreign Secretary.
  • Europe was very tense at this time. Since the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914, tensions between the great powers had been increasing. There were concerns that Austria-Hungary would attack Serbia, leading to Russia helping Serbia. This would then pull France into war on Russia's side and Germany into war on Austria's side.
  • The British were most concerned about what Germany's plans were. Goschen had been asked to find out exactly what Germany was planning for Belgium. He had not been given a clear answer.
  • This telegram gives a strong sense of the unease over Belgium being felt in Britain. It is difficult to tell how far public opinion would influence government decisions. However, this private telegram between two officials suggests that public opinion was important.
  • The telegram also shows that Germany was anxious to get an assurance from Britain that it would stay out of the war. Britain is refusing to commit itself one way or the other. Some critics have said this was one reason why war actually broke out in 1914. If Britain had committed itself to France, then Germany might not have attacked. However, plenty of other historians dispute this viewpoint.
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