Tuesday, April 26, 2011

History of the Twentieth Century: Up to 1913.

I'm continuing to read The History of the Twentieth Century and have so far reached 1913 which seems a sensible place to stop and have a think.

History was dominated by the machinations of the Great Powers - Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Austro-Hungary, Turkey, the United States and Japan. Between them they owned practically the whole world. There were small Portuguese and Belgian Empires, but the Spanish Empire had been lost to the United States. The sick man of Europe was undoubtedly Turkey. The Ottoman Empire, which included the Arab lands and the Balkans had once extended to the Gates of Vienna, but nationalistic fervor in Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Albania had meant that it had to withdraw its hegemony in the Balkans. Serbia, in particular, protected as it was by Russia as a fellow Slav state, was keen to gain its independence. Roumania did not involve itself in the first Balkan war but managed to mop up territory when it ended. The Greeks were the biggest gainers winning part of Macedonia, Thrace and many of the islands.

Austro-Hungary was itself beset by nationalist uprising. Poland and Czechoslovakia were weary of being part of the Empire. Meanwhile the Empire saw itself as protector of Roman Catholics outside its borders, so that Croatia and Slovenia sought protection from Turkish Muslims and Serbian Orthodox alike. They have long memories in the Balkans so that after the death of Tito the same towns involved in the 1900s were again prominent in the news; towns like Pristina and Sarajevo.

In Africa, the German colonies continued to be a drain on their economy, the British colonies were well controlled apart from South Africa, which was now running itself and had adopted racist policies of which Britain did not approve. Gandhi had emerged as a champion of both black and Indian races in South Africa, but after the Boer war Britain was reluctant to send troops on behalf of the Blacks. France had its own troubles in North Africa. While Egypt was under control, the same could not be said for the rest of North Africa. Morocco saw a succession of assassinations requiring French troops to restore order. In Libya the Italians sought an Empire of their own by fomenting discontent in both Tripoli and Benghazi, then as now, the centers of two different tribes.

In Russia the attempted revolution of 1905 left the Tsar in autocratic power. The Duma was a talking shop without much influence. It allowed subject nations like Poland, Finland, and the Baltic states to have their say without anybody listening.

Meanwhile the United states was growing in power so that its manufacturing output by 1913 exceeded that of Britain, France and Germany combined.

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