Sir Edward Grey said ‘The Lights are going out all over Europe and I doubt we shall see them lit again in our lifetime’
There’s a ‘Lights Out’ campaign for keeping lights off tonight between 10 and 11pm.
I’m not sure about commentating the 100th anniversary of ‘The Great War’, it was folly and slaughter.
Grey held the office of Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916. Possibly Imperial Britain’s real zenith of power, the heights of wealth, colonial and otherwise. A period where Britain’s naval power was at it’s height, dreadnoughts and the like.
Britain was part of the treaty system, through the Entente Cordiale signed before Grey came in to office. Much of the focus of that was spheres of influence in their colonial possessions rather than in Europe.
The signing of the Anglo-Russian Convention in 1907 gave both powers stability in Central Asia where the ‘Great Game’ of expansionism had both Empires focused on territories such as Persia and it’s oil resource.
Again, Empires and spheres of influence.
The triple entente wasn’t exactly easy bedfellows but all shared a wary concern about the growing power of Germany for their own reasons.
The lights Grey talks of going off were in a Europe of Spain, France, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy and Russia.
On the fringes, smaller states of Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
The Ottoman Empire limped on with a foothold in Europe as well as the near east.
A simpler list of nations then, as the continental great powers were multinational.
Grudges were held over from the Franco-Prussian war of 1871. It tipped the ‘European Balance of Power’ to the newly united Germany. The concert of Europe system had eroded away anyway and statesmanship was unlikely to stop war.
War was thought necessary by some, a settling of rivalries. It was thought it would be short.
It wasn’t. It was long, bloody and pointless.
It created nations from the peace of Versailles and the death of empires. Poland reappeared on the map, new states such as Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. The Baltic nations appeared. Ireland fought for it’s independence.
Secular Turkey was created from the Ottoman Empire, the Greeks fought for their independence. The mandates in Syria and Lebanon and Mesopotamia and Palestine were also created.
Much of the shape of modern Europe stemmed from the Great War and it’s aftermath.
I’ve kept my light on as I disagree with Grey, his Europe of Empires couldn’t have lasted, war would have came and the settlement of Versailles wasn’t fair enough to stop a second even more destructive war from happening.
The Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt tweeted this morning
@carlbildt: The day a century ago when the lights went out all over Europe – and were not lit up again until 1989. A day to remember and to reflect on.
I agree, the Nazis and Soviets followed Versailles however indirectly . A divided Europe the consequence. Light flickered between the world wars but were brutally put out again.
There’s still war in Europe tonight in the east, in Ukraine. People are suffering in Gaza.
Grey’s words aren’t to be celebrated. They were timely and notable.
End of wars are worth reflection and respect. The starts of conflicts? I don’t think so.