By the late nineteenth century, the saying that the “sun never sets on the British Empire” was a truth. Stretching from the Pacific Islands to the tundra of Canada and from the stormy North Sea to the Cape of Good Hope, the British had carved out a massive sphere of influence. However, the price was high. Imperial rivalries had place the British and the Russians in Asia on collision course. Similarly the North-South and East-West imperial expansion of Great Britain and France respectively almost escalated into war at Fashoda in the Sudan. German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck helped prevent some of the conflicts with the Berlin Conference dividing Africa between the various imperial powers. After Bismarck’s dismissal in 1888, Germany embarking on a fleet expansion program, and a search for colonies, imperial rivalries flared up again. All imperial powers treated their imperial subjects with racial disdain. The Belgian Congo is the most prominent example of an imperial power slaughtering the indigenous population, however the German’s acted just as badly against the Herero People in their Southwest African colony. Clouded in Rudyard Kippling’s “White Man’s Burden,” imperial powers were to uplift and enlighten native people, which hardly ever took place. Imperial competition heightened the national rivalries and national pride, but squabbles over a patch of desert were insufficient to cause a all-out European war.


In 1905, Germany tested the new cooperative spirit between France and Great Britain in the First Moroccan Crisis, opposing the inclusion of Morocco in the French sphere of influence. Despite the French government being furious at German mingling in imperial affairs, British unwillingness to make the issue a cause of war forced France to accept the a conference mediation. The conference confirmed French dominion and isolated Germany among the European powers. In 1911, when France made Morocco a protectorate, Germany again got involved, causing the Second Moroccan Crisis. Wilhelm II dispatched the small German warship Panther to Agadir (Panter Sprung) and demanded that France ceded its part of Congo to Germany. Despite Germany having no claim to Morocco,the incident ended peacefully with German recognition of the protectorate and a 100,000 square miles piece of the French Congo for Germany. The Second Morocco Crisis furthered German isolation.

By Dr. Niels Eichhorn