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The Land of Plenty: Southern Africa in the 19th Century
"...despite Frere's recall to London, the disastrous Basuto War had only strengthened the Free Republics as well as Zululand and effectively ended the Confederation Scheme forever, and British South Africa was weary and politically polarized. Tensions between Anglo and Afrikaner residents continued to rise, and the government of Saul Solomon [1], while liberal and committed to good native relations, was unable to stave off the broader cultural forces that seemed to demand the Dutch-descended Cape Afrikaners choose between their unique heritage and loyalty to the Empire. While the new Colonial Secretary John Bright cared little for South Africa beyond straightforward objectives passed down from the Prime Minister's office such as "don't start unnecessary, poorly-planned colonial wars or impose schemes upon localities without a plan in place," there was still tension with the Anglo political class in Cape Town that viewed Boers as illiterate barbarians nearly as savage as the Natives, and the Dutch-descended who had lived in South Africa for generations. It was in the aftermath of Frere's stormy tenure as High Commissioner that the attempt to full Anglicize British South Africa and erase Dutch cultural influence began, a universal Afrikaner identity began to emerge, that many of the Cape Afrikaners began to reconsider their disinterest in partnership with the Boer Republics, and that South African society began to polarize..."

- The Land of Plenty: Southern Africa in the 19th Century


[1] Rather than Sprigg, who was generally a disaster

(Someone with knowledge of South African history is more than welcome to correct me on the evolution of Cape Dutch identity vis a vis the Boers. I have some ideas here for the long term, we'll see how they go...)
 
Hartington: Britain's First Modern Prime Minister
"...the first Hartington ministry was among the busiest in British history up to that time, plowing ahead with a robust and in many ways radical programme. Calling back to the contemporary usage of the term "Age of Questions," Lord Hartington himself said proudly as the Reform Act of 1879 passed the House of Commons with wide support "It is time we finally answered those questions we keep being presented." Helping him along the way was infighting among the Tories - it was Sir Stafford Northcote, the former Chancellor, who became the Conservative leader in the Commons. Though hardly the aristocratic anti-progressive of many of his peers, Northcote did not represent the kind of break with the Carnarvon era that the Conservatives perhaps needed, and a young group of "Tory democrats" who supported a number of reforms became influential within the Commons, becoming known as the "Fourth Party." [1] These included Lord Randolph Churchill, John Gorst, Sir Henry Drummond Wolff and, most prominently, Arthur Balfour, the nephew of Lord Salisbury, who though not the leader of the Conservatives in the House of Lords still held sway after his decade-long stewardship of the Foreign Office. Churchill in particular became a loud voice for a new kind of Toryism, of an alliance between the upper and lower classes based on nationalism, paternalism and a political programme not unlike what France's Napoleon IV would call the "national contract." They did not oppose "the mob" enjoying the franchise, indeed they welcomed it, and believed an appeal to the conservative culture of the average Englishman with support for their economic interests would hold both the gauche, noncomformist Liberals at bay as well as the burgeoning socialist movement that truly terrified the Tory aristocracy. For Northcote and the "old gang" that included contemporaries like Michael Hicks Beach, R.A. Cross, and other veterans of the Carnarvon years, this was a potential route back to power - and so thus the Tories, now safely in opposition, helped shape the Reform Act of 1879 and acquiesced to its passage, which was not as smooth in the Lords but passed nonetheless with Granville's fervent whip. The Reform Act brought nearly a million Englishmen into the electorate, in one swoop one of the greatest enfranchising events in world history; it also redistributed the boroughs at long last, granting Britain's booming industrial centers more of a voice.

The Reform Act was the plainest and easiest win for Hartington's cabinet. Its maiden budget, presented by Childers, lowered the infamous Hunt tariffs and also reduced taxes and duties on a variety of commonly purchased goods, to some considerable controversy. Reforms would be made in those early years to the British Army, to the judiciary, and the establishment of a formal Civil Service in Her Majesty's name, thus professionalizing the bureaucracy. In 1880, Hartington would shepherd through the Commons his second great electoral scheme, the Ballot Act, which provided for a secret ballot for the first time in Britain. This earned considerably less Tory support than his previous efforts. [2]

In the first years of his ministry, Hartington also changed the relationship between the Prime Minister and the public. Buffeted by the substantial National Liberal Foundation, he conducted dozens of interviews with the press every month, attended various NLF events around the country, traveling on Britain's robust train network to every corner of the island, and made sure to be photographed repeatedly at such events. As newspaper readership became more and more common in the working and middle classes, Lord Hartington came to be a consistent presence in the public mind in a way previous Prime Ministers had not. No longer was the head of Her Majesty's Government tucked away in Whitehall, confined to the Cabinet room at Downing Street or cloistered within the smoky halls of Westminster. Now he was a face, a name, a voice, who could be accessed and seen by throngs of people - provided, of course, that they supported the Liberal Party through its new and sophisticated for its time organ, the NLF [3]. It was thus that in the closing of the 1870s, the modern Premiership had been born..."

- Hartington: Britain's First Modern Prime Minister


[1] This is as in OTL, where the Tories had to figure out where to go next after their drubbing in 1880 after the Disraeli years. Here, with even less reform over the 1870s sans Dizzy, they really need some soul searching...
[2] Policies lifted largely from Gladstone's first term as PM. We'll get more of his second stint later on in the Hartington years, in future updates
[3] Of course, seeing as Joseph Chamberlain basically built the NLF, this all... redounds, let's say, to his benefit in many ways. Stay tuned...
 
Hendricks: America's 20th President
"...despite Hendricks' private isolationism, the President did little to intervene with his intrepid Secretary of State and so Cox continued in the tradition of Republican Hamilton Fish in setting the stage for the United States to abandon its historical isolationism starting in the 1880s. Cox's primary focus was to deepen and improve relations with the Three Neighbors whom the United States shared land borders with - the Confederate States, Canada, and Mexico. The easiest of the three was, ironically considering two decades of frosty relations, the Confederacy, where the political class was eyeing the fall 1879 elections and the end of the economic and diplomatic malaise of the Isham Harris era. Cox dealt not with Harris's own Secretary of State Wilkinson Call, but rather instead with amiable governors of Southern states, most curiously Alabama's George Houston and Arkansas' James Walker. The defrosting of trans-Ohio River relations was effectively completed by Cox, to the point that the 46th Congress was persuaded to slightly lower the tariff on Confederate goods from 45% to 30%. In a visit to Mexico City, Cox brought with him American investors to see the country's growing factories and large-scale railroad investments, and was hosted privately by Emperor Maximilian himself. In Canada, Cox set the stage for negotiations on fishing rights both in the Bay of Fundy as well as in the Puget Sound, and it was the first sign of a potential receding in Anglophobia within the Democratic Party, only for it all to be dashed by President Hendricks speaking later in 1879 in support of Irish nationalism, which outraged the British government to the point that their minister to Washington was nearly withdrawn..."

- Hendricks: America's 20th President
 
alternatehistory.en
"..."How do we prevent the Spanish Insult from becoming another Spanish Ulcer?"

I think you have your answer right there in a quote allegedly uttered by Nap 4 himself. I've done a fair deal of research into Belle Epoque-era France and I've always come away with the conclusion that as long as the Young Eagle didn't start taking crazy pills, the French government would not have risen to the insult. He may have been only 23 but he'd been Emperor for five years, was very comfortable in his own skin, and had most importantly learned when to listen to Bazaine and when to tell the Iron Marshal when to screw off. This was no long the France of "Le Trois" (primarily since Eugene Rouher was in poor health and only marginally involved in governance at this point), there was a virile and vital Emperor who had his own ideas and ambitions, and starting a war with Spain that could escalate into a general war was not something he had planned. In this sense perhaps the world was fortunate that the Insult occurred in December, and that the French military establishment was (understandably) leery of starting a war in the middle of winter and trying to breach the Pyrenees while they were draped in snow. The months separating the incident and potential mobilization allowed passions to cool even as the French press screamed for war.

There are other reasons a war would have been profoundly unlikely, beyond the fact that the Young Eagle was probably France's most competent sovereign since the Sun King. Spain was uninterested in war as well, and it was they who had caused the fracas with AMC's loose lips (and the future King Carlos Jose's, for that matter). It's worth pointing out that institutional memories of the Peninsular War ran even deeper in Spain than France. A conflict even half that scale would have undone all the progress made since the Glorious Revolution that had driven the Bourbons out and opened the door for the Carlists to come in and be morons again.

Lets say that cooler heads don't prevail, though, and that at the spring thaw France mobilizes. They're essentially isolated from the start - the Iron Triangle was a defensive treaty, and Spain making the mistake of publicly trying to isolate Paris is not an offensive act of war. The Triangle was also clearly designed to surround Germany and Italy in case of future conflict. So France would be entirely on its own. Now, the French Imperial Army of 1879 is not the lackluster and easily overwhelmed force that Nap 3 tried to fight off the Prussians with in 1867. MacMahon's reforms had taken, and the thousands of miles of new railroad track laid in France in the 1870s was designed specifically to allow rapid deployment and logistical support modeled on the Prussian model. That said, a problem - Spain is not conducting an offensive into France, so they are purely on the defensive, and as Spanish history shows, the geography of Iberia is perfect for defensive war or even guerilla actions. Spain's military experienced this firsthand in taking two years to stamp out the Carlists. France's first problem would be running up against the Pyrenees, where Spain is well aware of where the easiest crossing points are, and has spent the last half-decade fortifying them under Prime Minister Serrano's initiative (fear of a Bourbon Restoration had permeated Spanish military and political thinking since Leopold took the throne. They had prepared for this potential conflict specifically). The casualties trying to cross the Pyrenees, even against an inferior military, would make fighting the Germans a decade earlier seem like a walk in the park. Even once France breaches the mountains and the fortresses defending said mountains, they would still have to contend on a rough march to Madrid plagued by a Spain that would certainly fight back irregularly in addition to any divisions deployed to defend the road to the capital. And if Napoleon IV tries to install Don Alfonso de Borbon as King, well, now we have memories of Joseph Bonaparte flooding back. There was a substantial Legitimist faction in Spain, yes - but even Canovas, the head of the Conservative Party in the Cortes, was not suicidal enough to back a King, even a Bourbon one, imposed on Spain by *France*. All that would do would be to further legitimize Leopold in the eyes of the Spanish public, and this was already a King who had driven Dixie from Cuba in spectacular fashion and crushed the Carlists.

France would eventually have to leave Spain once other powers intervene, probably before they've even fully crossed the Pyrenees. Nap 4 could probably find Carlist bands to use as his own irregular catspaws in Iberia but they were scattered and demoralized enough by 1879 that it would take some time to get those glorified bandits whipped into fighting shape again. Germany would be highly unlikely to invade France, but it would at least blow smoke and bluster, enough to get Britain's attention. Even if this alt-Nap 4 was foolish enough to get pressured into war by Bazaine (head of the war faction in government), he would pay attention if both London and Berlin started making noise that it was time to cut out the war. So you're left with him needing a scapegoat - almost certainly Bazaine - and the likelihood of a status quo white peace with apologies and indemnities. This denies France seven years of Bazaine's continued partnership with Nap 4, possibly butterflies the war in China [1], and seriously damages the Emperor's standing with the French public. The Young Eagle may have been very popular in 1879, the year of his wedding, but he was not untouchable, as the Bastille Centenary a decade later would show [2], and there was, as always, a substantial portion of the French street that was strongly revolutionary and republican, and by 1879 in many cases outright socialist. An embarrassing loss probably gives you another May '68 at minimum.

So no, I don't think a war was as likely as some claim. Escalation would have likely lead to arbitration by other Great Powers, as was customary at that time, and there would have certainly been an intervention once France had wasted a few thousand young men on the slopes of the Pyrenees. A Bourbon Restoration after the Battle of Havana was never, ever going to happen. Outside of some cranky Basques and Catalans, Leopold was an enormously popular symbol of the reversal of seventy years of Spanish decline. The Spanish Insult was just that - an insult, and the adults in the room swallowed their pride, apologized, and moved on..."


- Comment by TommyBoy22 on "WI: The Berlin Affair leads to Franco-Spanish War," 8/10/2020, alternatehistory.en

[1] Flash forward
[2] Another flash forward
 
Through the Chapel: The Life of Eugenie de Montijo, Empress of France
"...underrated in the diffusion of tensions between Madrid and Paris in early 1879 was the Dowager Empress's Spanish heritage. The heir to one of Spain's most important peerages, Eugenie conducted silent diplomacy through backchannels with friends from back home, conducted in large part in secrecy as she wintered at her estate in Biarritz. Despite her longstanding friendship with Isabella, Eugenie assured her contacts in Spain that her son had no designs on the Spanish throne or in effecting a Bourbon restoration; indeed, his goal was a peaceful Europe free of war, and his only continental ambition was one his mother shared, that being the restoration of the Pope to Rome from Malta. In this, he had Spain's sympathies - the ultrareactionary Carlists may have lost, but the Spanish bishops leaned ultramontanist and the liberal government in Madrid had never pursued any course of action even a tenth as radical towards the Church as what the confiscatory, aggressive Italian governments had done.

As tempers cooled into the spring, Eugenie devoted herself also to the grand planning of her son's July wedding, to be paired first with a private civil service in the Tuileries followed by a wedding in Notre Dame to be attended by all of Europe's important royalty, thus making France once again the center of European politics. Plans to have Pope Leo XIII himself conduct the marriage fell through, but it was nonetheless one of the grandest - and most expensive - weddings in European royal history. And, of course, Eugenie was at the center of the proceedings, attracting nearly as much attention as her son and the new Empress Maria Pilar..."


- Through the Chapel: The Life of Eugenie de Montijo, Empress of France [1]

[1] Title of source is a reference to what Eugenie de Montijo allegedly said to Napoleon III when he courted her. He asked, "What is the road to your heart, my lady?" and she replied, "Through the chapel, sire." She was a really devout and conservative Catholic, which didn't always benefit her husband's reign
 
Alright... I finally did something smart and outlined what my next 9 (!!) updates are going to be, all in the 1879/1880 wheelhouse. Like I said at the beginning of Part IV, as I work my way through the last two decades of the 1800s I might not be quite as strict with my month/year structure, since we're entering one of the most unusually stable, peaceful and prosperous periods in human history up until that point (well... sort of. Belle Epoque historiography whitewashes a loooooot of nasty stuff), so the updates will probably be a little looser with the storytelling.
 
The Lion of Edinburgh: Prince Arthur, the Empire and the Twilight of the Victorian Age
"...the marriage of the Queen's eldest surviving son to a Prussian princess of a cadet Hohenzollern line, Louise Margaret, took on additional importance with the newly-ensconced Friedrich III on the German throne. Arthur, having represented his mother at the new Kaiser's coronation, had already struck up a friendly rapport with his brother in law, and was severely disappointed that his elder sister, Empress Victoria, did not travel to London for the wedding. His nephew, the Prince Waldemar, had been struck with a dangerous bout of diphtheria, and his mother refused to leave his side [1]. The Queen was quite dismayed that her eldest child would not be returning to London either, thus continuing the pattern where she had avoided visiting Britain for fear of the reactionary German press that despised her during her time as Crown Princess [2]. Arthur entertained the Kaiser at Windsor Castle before the wedding, and sized up his nephews Wilhelm and Heinrich, commenting that the Crown Prince was "a sour young man who did little but demean his mother and seemed profoundly contemptuous of this country;" as for the younger brother, Arthur observed, "already at this young age he is fascinated by the Navy and seemed to be disappointed that I was an Army man, and not an officer of the Royal Navy he plainly admires. Beyond that, this Prince Henry is relaxed in a way his brother is not, casual even." Arthur's wards, the Prince of Wales Albert Victor and his brother George, became chummily acquainted with Heinrich, to Arthur's delight; Wilhelm spent little to no time with either of them, allegedly dismissing them to his father on the journey back to Berlin as "soft children, like all these Englishmen."

Noticeably absent from the wedding was Napoleon IV, in what was seen as a profound snub by the French crown; in diplomatic missives, it was explained that the Emperor was merely focusing on preparations for his own grand wedding and was managing the war scare with Spain. Some of the hard feelings were ironed over during Napoleon's post-wedding European tour with his young bride, when he did indeed visit London and spent a whole week with the Royal Family, though Arthur's mistrust for the "Young Eagle" never quite dissipated..."

- The Lion of Edinburgh: Prince Arthur, the Empire and the Twilight of the Victorian Age


[1] IOTL this sickness takes Waldemar's life, at the age of 11
[2] An OTL fact. The German press detested Victoria (and to a lesser extent her husband), though in a future update we'll explore his reception by the German people under the circumstances of his elevation to the throne
 
An OTL fact. The German press detested Victoria (and to a lesser extent her husband), though in a future update we'll explore his reception by the German people under the circumstances of his elevation to the throne
techically she hated prussia when she come, considered it inferior to london and england respectly, so the hate was mutual.
 
techically she hated prussia when she come, considered it inferior to london and england respectly, so the hate was mutual.

Granted Prussia was sort of an overmilitarized backwater in the late 1850s compared to being the center of the German Empire two decades later, so it's hard to blame her. It wasn't until right around now that Berlin started to really become Berlin
 
Granted Prussia was sort of an overmilitarized backwater in the late 1850s compared to being the center of the German Empire two decades later, so it's hard to blame her. It wasn't until right around now that Berlin started to really become Berlin
Still she should keep her views privates, she didn't and liberals, republicans and socialist got a field day with that, that is why i don't drank the friederich III kool aid, have he be the british plant he was, he would ended up with the hohenzollern overthrowed of prussia and the Wettins or Witelbasch as the new german emperor
 
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Still she should keep her views privates, she didn't and liberalism, republicans and socialist got a field day with that, that is why i don't drank the friederich III kool aid, have he be the british plant he was, he would ended up with the hohenzollern overthrowed of prussia and the Wettins or Witelbasch as the new german emperor

Also, and this is personally just my opinion, I think his liberalism is considerably overstated, as I'll explore in future updates (same goes for the purported "liberalism" of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, FWIW, another trope that pops up a lot)
 
Also, and this is personally just my opinion, I think his liberalism is considerably overstated, as I'll explore in future updates (same goes for the purported "liberalism" of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, FWIW, another trope that pops up a lot)
Depends..we might never knew, he could be a kaiser a see the mess prussia and germany is and just handled everything to bismarck, or try to meddle and infurated all his supporters and embold his detractors.
 
Ireland Unfree
"...the heightening of the Land War took place against the backdrop of the 1879 famine, which while not even close to severe as the infamous ones that depopulated the island, was still a shock to the agrarian culture. Of course, the response from London was decisively different than the one that had accompanied the potato blight in the mid-1840s; the Hartington Cabinet organized aid rapidly, even before Parnell and the IPP raised pressure in Parliament, and the rail network developed in Ireland over the 30 years prior allowed supplies to reach the west in days rather than weeks. The Irish community in America was able to support family in the Old Country with remittances. All in all, it was a far cry from the apocalyptic conditions of 1845.

Nonetheless, the famine only served to raise the temperature on the island as people panicked and the tenancy crisis became more acute. Hartington and his ministers knew they would have to pass a bill,
something, to appease the Land League and Parnell's parliamentary bloc. With their electoral mandate they had already eliminated religious tests in the country's universities, primarily due to nonconformist pressure to open up Oxford and Cambridge but also secularizing and consolidating Ireland's educational institutions into a single University of Dublin [1], but the subject of Ireland was still profoundly polarizing in anti-Catholic England, even a decade after the Sydney Affair, and despite being more conciliatory than the "never a bloody inch" Carnarvon Cabinet, the Liberals still had public opinion to consider, and policy that yielded too much to Ireland - to Fenianism in particular - would be the death of any government. [2]

The Land Act of 1879, then, in tandem with the Church of Ireland Act which officially disestablished the Church of Ireland and ended the requirement of Catholics to pay tithes, was the first attempt by the Hartington ministry to address the complaints of the Irish tenant class. Much of the push for the act came from the old liberals Gladstone and Bright, who would have preferred a bill that went even farther; Hartington, of an old aristocratic line himself, understood that threatening the landlords would be a nonstarter in the House of Lords. In the end, the Land Act that passed was watered down, barely made a difference and may even have been counterproductive [3]; had it been paired with broader land reform, unpopular in both the Commons and among the peers, perhaps it would have had more teeth. Parnell and his men were unsatisfied, and Hartington heard much grumbling from within the party even as both measures passed both Houses with modest Tory opposition. Across the Irish Sea, the land strikes and irregular guerilla activity continued, and Home Secretary Harcourt and Irish Secretary Forster began to discuss what kind of response they would need to roll out against the IRB and Land League to pacify the violence that was now entering its third year..."


- Ireland Unfree

[1] In OTL, trying to do this in 1871 nearly brought down Gladstone's government. Doing this before the Church in Ireland Act and tying it to banning religious tests at Oxbridge defangs it a bit
[2] If you're still wondering what could potentially bring the Tories back to power in about half a decade, @Curtain Jerker , here you have it
[3] More or less like the OTL 1870 Irish Land Law, only here passing after another decade of escalating tensions, in a Britain much less sympathetic to Ireland (as if that's possible!), within Irish parliamentarianism more organized, and during a famine.
 
Why would the Liberals be stupid enough to coddle the Irish here? Especially ITTL when Anglo-Irish relations are significantly worse than they are OTL? Did they all wake up one morning and drink lead paint for breakfast?

I understand famine relief. That makes sense and fits with the sort of aristocratic paternalism that was in vogue in the 19th Century. I don't understand why the response to the famine is a half-assed Land Law.
 
Why would the Liberals be stupid enough to coddle the Irish here? Especially ITTL when Anglo-Irish relations are significantly worse than they are OTL? Did they all wake up one morning and drink lead paint for breakfast?

I understand famine relief. That makes sense and fits with the sort of aristocratic paternalism that was in vogue in the 19th Century. I don't understand why the response to the famine is a half-assed Land Law.

Since I’m not super well versed on 19th century British history (though this project has dramatically changed that - I didn’t know who Gladstone or Salisbury were until a few months ago 😬) I’ve generally tried to draw from OTL where I can.
OTL, there was generally agreement in all wings of the Liberal Party that *something* needed to change with Irish land tenancy to quiet the bubbling nationalism there. It was Gladstone going all-in on Home Rule, a nonstarter even with Radicals like Chamberlain, that really broke things down

(this is my read of the Irish Question as it pertains to the Liberals at least. It wasn’t a problem that could or would just go away on its own)
 
Since I’m not super well versed on 19th century British history (though this project has dramatically changed that - I didn’t know who Gladstone or Salisbury were until a few months ago 😬) I’ve generally tried to draw from OTL where I can.
OTL, there was generally agreement in all wings of the Liberal Party that *something* needed to change with Irish land tenancy to quiet the bubbling nationalism there. It was Gladstone going all-in on Home Rule, a nonstarter even with Radicals like Chamberlain, that really broke things down

(this is my read of the Irish Question as it pertains to the Liberals at least. It wasn’t a problem that could or would just go away on its own)

I understand that but ITTL the Irish are perceived to be far more hostile and terrorist-ic than they were in OTL. The Liberals have to know that doing anything to appease them is an absolute political non-starter even if it is the right move. ITTL there's been far more and more deadly Irish attacks in England and against English citizens abroad - including a Prince if I'm remembering right. That would make it so that even if land reform is the right move (ad it probably is, don't get me wrong) it is even more of a political land mine and only very dumb politicians would attempt it.
 
I understand that but ITTL the Irish are perceived to be far more hostile and terrorist-ic than they were in OTL. The Liberals have to know that doing anything to appease them is an absolute political non-starter even if it is the right move. ITTL there's been far more and more deadly Irish attacks in England and against English citizens abroad - including a Prince if I'm remembering right. That would make it so that even if land reform is the right move (ad it probably is, don't get me wrong) it is even more of a political land mine and only very dumb politicians would attempt it.

You’re remembering exactly right! I made the 1868 attempted killing of Prince Alfred in Sydney successful.
All I’ll say is that the toxicity of the Irish Question, and London’s attempts to defang it without giving too much of an inch, is going to be... a theme over the next few decades
If nothing else, home rule is a complete nonstarter ITTL, and that’ll have big implications for both the Liberal Party and Irish nationalism writ large
 
Chessboard: The Splendid Isolation and British Foreign Policy
"...an experienced hand holding the final office of his distinguished career, Granville sought not so much to reshape Britain's foreign policy approach so much as to reinvigorate it and discover new avenues to defend London's interests both on the Continent as well as in Asia and, increasingly, Africa. The embarrassing outcome of the Basuto War invited a rethinking of Britain's approach to the Dark Continent; Granville, who was generally not regarded as an imperialist, viewed French control of the Suez Canal as detrimental to British interests in Africa and preferred finding native African allies to vassalize similar to the Indian princely states that composed much of the Raj. [1]

Granville's first order as Foreign Secretary was to find a peaceful conclusion to the Second Anglo-Afghan War and with a peace treaty establishing Afghanistan's borders, continue to find buffers between Russia and India. Indeed, Russia was one of the "Triumvir," as Granville referred to them in a memorandum to Lord Hartington in early 1880, the three foreign states that "ought to dominate our attention in matters of state beyond the Home Nations." [2] Russia's "turn from Europe," as it became known during the ensuing two decades, was not necessarily as welcomed in London as it was in Istanbul, Vienna or even Russia's nominal ally Germany. As the Bear gazed east, at China and Persia in particular, Britain felt the need to counter Moscow's ambitions. But Granville took a different view; that while Russia's interest in the Straits had perhaps been solved in Britain's favor, there were critical medium-term issues, chiefly among them France.

It was well known at the Foreign Office that Granville took the view that his predecessor had been too sanguine about French prospects in the wake of their loss in the Luxemburg Crisis and ensuing war with Prussia; Salisbury had seen Germany as a potential European hegemon and acted accordingly. Granville, while including Germany in his Triumvir, was much more alarmed by French expansionism overseas. In the space of a decade, France had reinvigorated her military both at home and in the Foreign Legion, dramatically improved her navy's power projection capabilities, and now controlled the quickest route to Asia - and, most importantly for Britain, India. Napoleon IV's father had been an Anglophile but the Young Eagle's opinions seemed much murkier; an arch-conservative Catholic who also supported free trade and "national contract" paternalism of the kind that would soon be championed by the Tories in Britain. Granville's difficulty reading the young Emperor, who was over 40 years his junior, led to his insistence on having French newspapers shipped to his office regularly, and for French businessmen and dissidents alike to visit upon him when they were in London. Most alarmingly for Granville was the French bank Société Générale, which he referred to as, "the hybrid of the French Treasury and the French Foreign Ministry, in one building." Société Générale controlled most of the Suez Canal Company; it was the lead investor in most Ottoman debt, along with Union Générale and the Banque de France; it underwrote nearly a quarter of France's railway expansion, which had been nearly as rapid as that of Germany or the United States in the 1870s as a priority spearheaded by retired General Patrice MacMahon; and it was increasingly an important institution in Austrian and South American finances. With Algeria firmly in French hands, and the substantial Ottoman Navy patrolling the eastern Mediterranean where French influence was rising, Granville remarked bitterly to Hartington in one meeting that the Med was becoming "a French lake." Countering French influence in Europe and abroad became the north star of British foreign policy, much as it had been three-quarters of a century earlier.

In this sense, Britain slid back into her most comfortable role, one perfected over centuries - finding ways to drive wedges between continental powers to avoid any single hegemon blocking them out of Europe. Russia's diplomatic isolation after the Treaty of Berlin removed one potential obstacle to British interests, but France remained an even greater threat. Granville adopted a two-pronged strategy for this, one he spelled out only in private diaries. The first was to improve relations with Germany's new Emperor Frederick III, married to Queen Victoria's eldest child and regarded as an Anglophile (of course, Frederick's liberal tendencies and admiration for England were, much like both Napoleon III and his son, much overstated both in contemporary and historical assessments). Germany had only a protectorate in Cambodia and close ties to the Kingdom of Siam in terms of overseas colonial interests; while it would gradually add new territories in Africa and Melanesia over the next decades, its minimal fleet and domestic concerns [3] made it less of a potential competitor to Britain than the French. In this sense, Britain sought not an outright alliance but a revival of the Concert of Europe - ad hoc friendships of convenience, to counter issues as they arose and to avoid a general war on the scale of the post-Revolutionary Napoleonic Wars. Despite strong anti-Turkish sentiment, Granville also forged ahead with plans to deepen ties with the Ottomans, both to improve access to the Straits and to shift them out of fully being within the French sphere. And finally, the use of "the periphery" to check France
and Germany or Russia. Under Granville's watchful eye, the Foreign Office - and, at its urging, British finance and industry - was to find purchase in states such as Portugal, Spain, Greece, Morocco, and Norway, the last one particularly important as Granville worried about Bismarck's well-known plans on creating a Scandinavian state mirrored on Belgium or Austria..."

- Chessboard: The Splendid Isolation and British Foreign Policy

[1] Generally, I am personally swayed by the argument that the Scramble for Africa was driven largely as a European response to Britain's 1882 Egyptian takeover. Since that won't happen here - France is essentially in sole control of Suez and the Ottomans come out of 1878 much stronger and can re-project power in NE Africa, and Cecil Rhodes didn't have access to the Kimberley diamond fields since they're in Boer hands (and thus no potential Cape-Cairo Rail nonsense), we'll see a very different Africa
[2] Was this term in use at the time? If not, please correct me.
[3] Our next update
 
Frederick and Victoria: Consorts of Germany
"...the Empress' influence over her husband had always been plain, but it had become dangerous now in an era where he had to rule, and specifically, had to rule through Bismarck. The coming collision between the two strong-willed men had its first preview when Bismarck requested that Fritz request his wife to cease her denunciations of Adolf Stoecker, a Lutheran pastor famed in Germany for his anti-Semitic campaign and leadership in the burgeoning volkisch movement. Demanded that Jews be barred from high office and immigration, Stoecker had emerged as a popular figure among much of the Prussian officer corps, on university campuses and had even earned some friends at court in Berlin. Bismarck personally viewed Stoecker as little more than a useful tool to play off against other power blocs in Germany; having abandoned his National Liberals to throw in with an alliance of Conservatives and the Catholic, pro-Rome Center Party in order to ban socialistic activity, Bismarck was always on the hunt for new friends.

The opposing political views of Emperor and Chancellor bubbled to the fore over a lunch in which Frederick demanded Bismarck lean on his friends in the German press to stop them from their vicious critiques of the Empress; he further goaded the Iron Chancellor by remarking to him that the new Concert of Europe that Bismarck had imagined post-Treaty of Berlin was already a failure. Bismarck had remarked that there were five great powers in Europe - Germany, Austria, France, Britain and Russia - and Germany must always be aligned with two, against the others. Fritz countered that Germany was aligned with none - the treaty with Russia was due to expire and the liberal Kaiser detested the autocratic St. Petersburg government [1], and France and Austria surrounded Germany and were in a well-known, but officially secret, defensive alliance. Fritz, who like Bismarck was skeptical of the idea of a large overseas empire despite emerging agitations in the German street, suggested a partnership with Britain, which would surround France and align with Britain's traditional rivalries. Bismarck dismissed the idea, partially because it came from Fritz, and partially because he thought it was Victoria's idea.

And so the relationship continued to deteriorate, as many had predicted it would thanks to the Chancellor's efforts throughout the 1870s to isolate the then-Crown Prince. Germany was trapped by the egos of her two most powerful men, of a Chancellor who was used to ruling without question and a Kaiser who had his own visions and ambitions..."


- Frederick and Victoria: Consorts of Germany

[1] Realize in hindsight I've been using Moscow as a shorthand for the Russian regime. Whoops!
 
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