The Great Power Chess Game

I thought i would lighten the tone of all this Syria stuff with a piece of work produced a few years ago, one of my first bits of academic writing. Ironically its about another crisis which threatened military action  in North Africa and the Middle east.  

I hope you guys enjoy. 


The Moroccan crisis was in effect split into two parts.

The first being the Tangier Crisis, between 1905 and 1906, which was  over the political statues of Morocco.

The second crisis, over the port of Agadir where the aim was to directly intimidate France into forming an alliance with Germany over British Naval expansion. The main principle aim of the two crisis, was to try to damage or break any links between the New Entente members of  Great Britain, and France who were two historic enemies.

The idea that Germany could see was that the Entente Cordiale, “is nothing more than a frame of mind, a view of general policy which is shared by the by the governments of two countries, but which may be, or become, as vague as to lose all content.”[1] Which states that the alliance in effect didn’t mean that the two countries, had to help each other in a war against Germany .

The Kaiser wanted to test how strong this alliance was and to see if he could sway the two old enemies against each other; these were the main motives of Germany during the incidents. Also to a side not it was to see how strong the German Alliance was with Austro-Hungary.

To this Extent, the Tangier crisis in 1905 provided Germany the perfect chance to test their motives to see if there was a strain on the alliance, due to that Morocco, at that time was going under a process, of becoming a protectorate of the Third Republic, the Kaiser decided to test this Entente; because of the recent involvements with the British in Africa and the Far East, meant that old Imperial rivalries may surface again. The idea was conceived by German Chancellor Bernhard von Bulow, and he suggested that the Kaiser should visit Morocco to try to get the country on Germany’s side if there was ever a war in Europe. The Kaiser did land in Tangier and with a marching band went through the streets he declared that “that he was visiting an independent sovereign state” [2] which shows the Kaisers determination to gain allies against the Entente Powers, and try to upset the balance.

The Germans believed the British would be unwilling to go to war with France, if it wasn’t in their best interests.

More ever it looked like with this crisis that a war couldn’t be avoided, and French and German troops were mobilised. British Foreign Minister Edward Grey stated with this build up that “ If there is a war between France and Germany it will be very difficult for us to keep out of it.” [3]he is also stated in saying that “the French will never forgive us”[4] This in affect showed how the British were willing to stand alongside the French in affect it made the Entente stronger it did in reverse what the Germans wanted, the Kaiser stated that “The Coalition is here in fact” “England has in affect made an offer of armed support to France”[5]

This shows that the Kaiser understood that Germany’s position which was created to try to break the Entente had failed, mainly due to Great Britain’s support of France. With the statement given by Edward Grey it confirms the Kaiser fears and assumptions that the plan had in affect failed.

With this failure the Algeciras Conference, was devised to settle the dispute, but in sense this again turned against Germany.  It did expect the members of the triple alliance to stand by its side. In one account Austro Hungary which affirms the relationship between, the two countries but the one major difference would be Italy “ Italy’s failure to support Germany spotlighted the weakness of the once mighty Triple Alliance” [6] this shows that Italy was unwilling to fight on Germany’s side ,as eventually they would join the allies in World War one.

It really does show that one of Germany’s motives for the crisis had backfired, and in fact made them into a weaker position than they were before the crisis. “Germany not France, had been publicly humiliated” [7] even the fledgling United States was against Germany it showed how badly their plan had back fired.


Germany hoped this wouldn’t happen again, and the Agadir Crisis was this time a different approach by Germany, with a rebellion in Morocco, the French were prepared to send troops into the country, Germany saw this as a breach of the Algeciras Conference, so the Germans saw this a chance to stand up against France and try to win back some colonial concessions of France, and also it would give a strong feeling towards the population of Germany; due to the upcoming elections in 1912.  A gunboat called the panther was sent to the port of Agadir to demand compensation.

In fact there was outburst amongst its alliance members as this act was not in Austro- Hungary’s best interests. “ It demonstrated that the alliance with Austro-Hungary would not be worth much” [8] showing that the whole venture which could have lead to war, would have left Germany on her own against the entente, which because of the crisis became stronger. In reality it weakened the Triple alliance, and strengthened the Entente. As Britain became closer to France as they saw Germany as a threat to British Naval Supremacy. “ I say emphatically that peace at the price would be a humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure”[9] shows that the UK was determined to stand by France in any manner they even promised, to protect Frances northern sea routes and the channel from an feature German Threat.

Germany aims in in both crisis was trying to split the Entente to try to and isolate France or try to turn Great Britain  against France using there old ex colonial rivalry. In principle it would have worked, but it shows the motives that Germany had going into these crisis’s actually backfired, and begin to show weakness within the triple alliance itself. This would lead to disputatious conclusions for Germany in the coming great war.


William Carr A History of Germany 1815-1945,

Sir Robert Ensor, England 1870-1914 The Oxford History of England Vol 14

K.A Hamilton, Great Britain and France, 1911-1914 .in F.H Hinslet (ed.), British foreign

Policy under Sir Edward Grey (Cambridge, 177)

Gordon Martel, The Origins of the First World War Third Edition

John Holland Rose The Cambridge History of the British Empire, Ap Newton, 1929




[1] K.A Hamilton,  Great Britain and France, 1911-1914 F.H Hinslet (ed.), British foreign policy Under Sir Edward Grey (Cambridge, 177)

[2]  Gordon Martel, The Origins of the First World War ,p63, Third Edition

[3] Gordon Martel, The Origins of the First World War ,p64, Third Edition

[4] Gordon Martel, The Origins of the First World War ,p64, Third Edition

[5] John Holland Rose The Cambridge History of the British Empire, p544,Ap Newton,1929

[6]  William Carr A History of Germany 1815-1945,p227

[7] William Carr A History of Germany 1815-1945,p227

[8] Gordon Martel, The Origins of the First World War ,p70, Third Edition

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Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 1, 2013 11:24 am

Very interesting. An enjoyable read.

September 1, 2013 11:44 am

Good post.

Read massie’s dreadnought.

September 1, 2013 2:15 pm

I am in the process of reading that now, trouble is i end up reading it in bed when tired, so forget half of what I read, I need to start reading it first thing in the morning, and then to also write up some basic notes too, but so far its an amazing book, really feel like im there watching people make all their decisions

September 1, 2013 2:41 pm

Dreadnaught – 300 pages to go. Second time trying to finish it – not because its rubbish its just massive! Excellent read though.

El Sid
El Sid
September 1, 2013 3:04 pm

Am I the only one reading this as the “Agadoo Crisis”?

“She laughed and whispered to me, yes come tonight to the bay” – and then start pushing pineapples, shaking trees and grinding coffee?

September 1, 2013 7:35 pm

Massie’s works are dense, no doubt.

Content is great, attention required is enormous.

Mary Smith
Mary Smith
September 2, 2013 6:31 am

Enjoyed reading this, having been to the places mentioned, Algeciras in particular is a great place and the Victorian hotel there, built by the British for their railway employees is full of memories of World War 2 when it was full of spies keeping an eye on the movement of shipping in the Straits of Gibraltar.
However, it just goes to show what can happen when you try to mix Europe and Africa ! They’re just not homogenous !

Kevin Brent
Kevin Brent
September 3, 2013 4:34 am

Superb reading!

September 5, 2013 7:28 pm

“It is telling in that what is supposed to an age of shared sovereignty and greater multi-national co-operation, many large institutions like the EU or NATO are seemingly completely irrelevant in putting their views across. This crisis perhaps helps reinforce that baring a major change in the international system, the nation state, not the institution will remain the ultimate negotiating power. “