Morocco Crisis

Morocco Crisis
   One of a string of international incidents that threatened to embroil Europe in war before 1914. In April 1904, France and Britain resolved some of their longstanding differences over Morocco and Egypt. When France attempted to enforce a reform program in Morocco in early 1905 and to extend its influence in the region, Germany decided to challenge France and provoked an international crisis. Arguably, Germany was less concerned for its economic interests in the region than for its international prestige. Resentful at not having been consulted by France and Britain over Morocco and worried about the recently concluded Entente Cordiale, Germany wanted to demonstrate that it was a power that could not simply be bypassed on important colonial matters. Friedrich von Holstein, a senior figure in the German Foreign Office, felt that Germany could not allow its “toes to be trodden on silently.” The German Chancellor, Bernhard von Bülow, persuaded a reluctant Kaiser Wilhelm II to land in the port of Tangiers on March 31 to stake Germany’s claim and to ensure the Sultan of Germany’s support.
   In addition Germany sought to undermine the Entente and to intimidate the French. During the ensuing diplomatic crisis, Germany insisted on the dismissal of the anti-German French Foreign Minister Théophile Delcassé and even threatened France with war. In 1904–1905, the Russians were losing their war against Japan, and in January 1905, revolution further weakened Russia, so that France could not rely on Russian support during the crisis. Germany’s bullying had the opposite effect, however, and led to a strengthening of the Entente. At the international conference at Algeciras in 1906, convened at the insistence of the German government, Germany was diplomatically isolated and unable to achieve its aim of limiting the extension of French interests in Morocco.
   During and after the crisis, Germany began to feel the full effects of its own expansionist foreign policy. British involvement in a future war was now more likely and as a result, Italy, allied to Germany and Austria since 1882, would be a less reliable ally, for it would be unable to defend its long coastlines from Britain and might therefore opt to stay neutral in a future war. France also looked on Germany as a likely future enemy. Far from splitting its potential enemies, Germany had only managed to strengthen their resolve to oppose Germany if necessary.
   See also <>; <>.
    Anderson, Eugene N. The First Moroccan Crisis, 1904–1906. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1966;
    Joll, James, and Martel, Gordon. The Origins of the First World War. London: Longman, 2006;
    Rich, Norman. Friedrich von Holstein. Policy and Diplomacy in the era of Bismarck and Wilhelm II. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964..

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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