Germany and England, 1740-1914

Germany and England, 1740-1914

Bibliographic Details

Princeton University Press. 1916

Book Review

The title of this work is misleading, for it fails to make clear either what the content or the purpose of the volume is. The author, who is Assistant Professor of History in Western Reserve University, has, however, produced a book much more interesting and valuable than the reader would infer from this heading. In the short space of fifteen chapters the writer has given us a complete and fascinating story of the chief European diplomatic activities during the quarter of a century preceding the war, which either had a bearing on, or led up to, this great conflict. In spite of the proximity of the year 1916 to the period under discussion, and of the atmosphere of partisanship which hovers over all parts of the earth at this time, he has handled the subject in an eminently historical and unbiassed fashion. Dr. Schmitt describes the numerous intricate and delicate international questions over which all the disputes of the past twenty years have arisen, with justice and fairness to all parties.

Introduction to Germany and England, 1740-1914

He points out clearly the main features of each problem and the different point of view taken by each participant in the discussion. And he explains the foreign policies of Germany and Great Britain, the aims and methods pursued by each, together with the measure of success or failure attained by each of these states in recent years. Among the voluminous literature on the war, which has appeared up to date, no other single volume is better adapted to giving the general reader and the student a clearer view of the conditions leading up to the great conflict than this book of Dr. Schmitt. It ought to become a standard work on the period with which it deals.

Context of Germany and England, 1740-1914

We are pleased to note the lucid and interesting style, which will commend the book to many people. It is a satisfaction to see an increasing number of the younger historians produce volumes which are as readable and attractive in form as they are learned and accurate in contents. For it is no longer true that histories to be valuable must be “dry-as-dust,” or a mere procession of accurately related incidents told in chronological order. Dr. Schmitt's book would have been stronger, if his grouping of chapters had been arranged so as to give a continuous story of the same topics of discussion.

Thesis Statement

For instance, he separates the account of the European competition in the Near East, giving most of it in Chapter 10 on “The East East” and the rest in Chapter 12 on “The Eve of the War.” And the story of the Moroccan conflict is divided between Chapter 9 on “The Triple Entente” and Chapter 11 on “Agadir and Its Aftermath.” Then his account of certain diplomatic “incidents” loses force because of the omission of important final details, or a tendency to slur over some vital facts. For instance, his story of the “Near Eastern Questions” would have been materially improved if he had given in detail the “initialed” agreements between England, Germany, France, and Russia concerning the commercial partition of Turkey, which had been satisfactorily concluded by June, 1914, assuring Germany of the lion's share of the economic development of the Ottoman Empire. Again, in writing of the diplomatic rapprochement between France and England in 1904, he fails to give due weight to the series of earlier agreements between these states concerning their African possessions, conducted between 1882 and 1899. And, in discussing the “German Empire,” he gives more space to Emperor William II, and less to the lack of political acumen and foresight among the German people, than the best authorities probably would give. It is unfortunate that the publishers did not put better maps in the volume; and possibly Dr. Schmitt could have materially improved his book, if he had delayed its publication for a year or so longer, until he could have had access to some documents not accessible when he was writing. However, we congratulate him on his excellent volume, which so effectively disposes of the various “myths” and “claims” concerning the causes of the war. It is recommended as a valuable work, useful alike to the student, the general reader, and the expert in international affairs.

Book Review Details

This legal book review was published in:

The American Journal of International Law,Vol. 11, No. 1 (Jan., 1917), pp. 237-239

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