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Naval Threat: Document Comparison (exercise 2)
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Follow the links to these documents, then return to this page for our question section.
Document A is an extract from an article which appeared in the Westminster Gazette on 18th May 1908. It discusses the state of opinion in Germany and Britain about naval expansion.
Document B is from a report submitted to the Government by A. J. Dawson, a director of Vickers, the British armaments firm. Dawson had been in Germany and had many dealings with the German government, and he was reporting on his impressions of the mood and attitude he encountered.
- Document C
is from a memorandum to Fisher, the First
Sea Lord (most senior Admiral of the Royal Navy), from A. W. Bethell, the Director of British Naval Intelligence.
Bethell was writing to Fisher because in a speech at a public banquet Fisher's
great rival, Lord Charles
Beresford, had said that the launch of HMS Dreadnought ought to have been kept secret. Bethell laid down a number of reasons why it had been right to make it public.
- Look at Documents A and B. Compare the views they give on: a)
German public opinion; b) the views of Germany's leaders.
- The British government in 1908-09 needed to know about German
attitudes and German policy. Which of these two documents might
they have taken more seriously?
- Now consider the same question, but this time from the point
of view of a modern historian: a) which of Documents A and B is
the better historical evidence of German attitudes? b) what do
they tell us about British attitudes?
- Compare the arguments in Documents B and C about Germany's likely
ability to bear the cost of naval expansion. Which argument
do you find more convincing?
- How strong is the evidence in Document C against the German
case stated in Document A, that Germany only began to build
dreadnoughts in response to British moves?
- To what extent, and why, do Documents A and B differ in
their views of whether or not Germany was planning to attack Britain?
- Describe the language and tone which these three documents use to describe
the Germans. How important do you think this is?
- To what extent do these documents support the theory that
British policy towards German naval expansion was based on a
mixture of unreasonable fear and anti-German prejudice?