What if Britain had stayed out of WW1?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by nuggetsfan112, Aug 8, 2019.

  1. nuggetsfan112 That radical centrist

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    After watching a debate on youtube on the subject, I became intrigued with this scenario. If Britain had stayed out of the war, could the Schlieffen plan have worked? It seems likely that the central powers would've won the war. What would the public opinion in Britain be like. Would people be in favour of a new German dominated Europe? Would the Bolsheviks still rise to power? I think this would be a good twist to the popular, What if the Central Powers won WW1? trope.
     
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  2. LucaTheDevilCat My Timelines make Hitler look like a liberal

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    Assuming WW2 doesn't happen (I think Germany planned to punish France lightly, thus avoiding a major communist/fascist movement in France hell bent on revenge) Decolonisation would be a slower, gradual and more relaxed and peaceful process. We may not have Apartheid or the Rhodesian Bush War or Algeria among other things. There would be sizeable white minorities on the continent. The world would be richer but at the same time poorer. America will become like OTL's China but not much else, confined to it's bubble of isolationism, Britain may do the same.
     
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  3. Roosevelt Yankee In Dixie

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    More than likely Germany defeats France and Russia by 1915. Belgium, Ukraine, Poland are carved out as puppets for Germany. Britain and Germany will engage in an arms race and potentially a war between each other in the next decade or so.
     
  4. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

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    1. As Niall Ferguson has (rightly, I believe) argued, Britain would save itself a vast expenditure of blood and treasure, with all the social and economic consequences that follow. On the other hand, It's soon going to have its hands full in Ireland.

    2. Germany would win, but it would take at least a couple campaigning seasons. Even without the BEF in play, the Schlieffen Plan just was not logistically sound. The right wing just penetrates a little further in the initial push.

    3. With Britain out, so is Japan, which means Germany keeps its Pacific/Asia colonies.

    4. Italy also likely stays out, but Turkey sure doesn't.

    5. A Russia knocked out earlier, and a France that sues for peace at around the same time, seems awfully likely to butterfly away the Bolshevik Revolution, but not the collapse of the Tsarist regime. Kerensky won't feel the need (or ability) to stay in the war, and Lenin won't be getting a cushy free train ride.

    At any rate, it seems like we've tossed this question around a number of times around here...
     
  5. Marc reformed polymath... Donor

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    One of the very debatable notions is a "reasonable in victory" German Empire. The other side of the trade is that by the early 1900's German leadership was of the school that excess is not nearly enough.
     
  6. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    The Excess faction gets a free ride for a few years. But the benefits fall short of claims. Post war malaise & the Depression leave them discredited.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2019 at 5:24 PM
  7. nuggetsfan112 That radical centrist

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    Personally, I think that Russia would turn into a Constitutional Monarchy, and that Britain would support more subversive means of opposing the German hegemony on the conflict. Also, what and where would military tactic and technology advancements take place?
     
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  8. DougM Well-Known Member

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    Odds are without England/Japan and most likely Italy. Germany can retain better relations with the US so has a better chance to keep supplies and food going.
    Also odds are with England and the US neutral that France will be open to one of those counties acting as a moderator in peace negotiations so you probably get a more reasonable treaty as it will most likely come sooner before either side has collapsed completely.
     
  9. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back

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    Without the easy enemy of the 'Horrible Hun' domestic issues of the Irish Ulcer and militant Suffragettes doing Arson and Bombings continue to increase.

    Even without the BEF, the Germans still won't do as well as 1870. WWI armies need for more logistics than 40 years earlier, and the German logistic system was cracking when the Race to the Sea occurred. They just don't have enough shipping to invest Paris
     
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  10. Istariol Well-Known Member

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    And you base this on what exactly?!

    The "excess-demands" after WW1 where the consequence of years of a war of attrition and were (among other reasons) an attempt to ensure security of supply for the future.
     
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  11. Marc reformed polymath... Donor

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    The personalities of the Prussian ruling class; the Septemberprogramm; the evidence of their demands in the East during their window of success: the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and all that Junker jazz...
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  12. Istariol Well-Known Member

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    The central goal of the Septemberprogramm 1914 was formulated in the introductory statement:
    "Securing the German Reich to West and East at any time. For this purpose, France must be weakened so that it can not re-emerge as a great power, Russia is pushed from the German border as far as possible and its rule over the non-Russian vassal peoples are broken."

    In detail that meant:
    The program saw a number of direct territorial changes. This included the acquisition of the ore mining areas around Longwy-Briey in Lorraine. In Belgium, Liège and Verviers were to be ceded to Prussia. Luxembourg should lose its independence, become a German federal state and be extended to include Belgian territories.
    [...]
    Further questions were initially excluded. Although it was thought about a Central African colonial empire, but this is not further specified. In particular, the Russian question was adjourned.
    The postulated Mitteleuropa = Centraleurope was in essence an customs union not so unlike the EU today, admitably with direct german leadership which wasn't even a new idea in 1914.

    So one can say the Septemberprogramm had an mostly defensive character.

    More importantly, the document had never received the status of an official, binding political statement and was not signed by the emperor.
    And the demands from the Alldeutschen (Pan-Germans) were seen unreasonable in the beginning of the war.

    Source:
    Gerhard Ritter: Staatskunst und Kriegshandwerk. Das Problem des „Militarismus“ in Deutschland. Band 3: Die Tragödie der Staatskunst. Bethmann Hollweg als Kriegskanzler (1914–1917). München 1964, p. 44 und 47 und 52.
    Karl Dietrich Erdmann: Der Erste Weltkrieg. München 1980 (= Gebhardt: Handbuch der deutschen Geschichte Band 18), p. 219.


    Brest-Litovsk was 1918 AFTER years of war it's aims are much more a product of the war!
     
  13. The Gunslinger NQLA agent

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    I think that the only way to get a neutral Britain is to avoid the Schlieffen Plan altogether. The only way (and even that is debatable) for Britain to remain neutral is to avoid the invasion of Belgium.
     
  14. Thomas1195 Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget the Volkisch and nationalist ideals in Germany. Oh, and "life unworthy of life" originated in Germany and predated the Nazi IOTL.
     
  15. Thomas1195 Well-Known Member

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    The EU does not involve blatant land grabbing.
     
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  16. Saint_007 The King Of Nothing

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    Facing a German hegemony on the continent would be something the British wanted to avoid at all costs. It would have found an excuse to try and curb Germany's expansion, especially since Wilhelm II was rather blatant in challenging Britain across the seas. Sooner or later, Germany was going to have a showdown with Britain, and the British rather it happened while they had allies and Germany didn't.

    EDIT: The Irish question had been brewing for a long, long time, but the British handling of the 1916 Easter Uprising was the last straw. What should have been a simple "march in and round up the insurgents" act through clever peacekeeping forces deployment and careful police work was instead handled by artillery, one of the most inaccurate ways to suppress a revolt and one that caused a massive amount of collateral damage. The subsequent actions carried out by the troops, embittered and made cruel by two years in the trenches, exacerbated the issue, causing many Irish to have legitimate grievances against the British.

    With a gentler and more careful hand, we could have seen a Home Rule system in Ireland. Instead we got the jump up into a full-on independence movement.
    This is true. Though Britain's greatest contribution was the success of the embargo and the great weakening of Germany's economy.
    Not quite. While Britain and Japan could be nominally neutral, the Japanese were expanding, hungry, and eager for their little slice of colonialism. They'd find an excuse to start grabbing someone's stuff in the Far East if they thought they could get away with it.
    Italy would stay out until it finds a reason to join - or feels the CP are sufficiently weakened. It has claims on some Austrian territory and is a rival to AH in the Adriatic, and weakening its age old enemy would be a good thing.
    Certainly plausible.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
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  17. anotherlurker Well-Known Member

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    Neither does Mitteleuropa, the land grabbing comes before, same as with the EU.

    Anyway, an early victory changes very little in the grand scheme of things, it's not costing France a generation of its youth and it does not shatter Russia. The peace of Brest-Litowsk is used as an example of what the Germans would do, but it's rarely mentioned that before this the German offer to Russia was very lenient, just Poland and Lithuania ceded, only after the Russians rejected this obvious "get out of jail free" card did the Germans go for total dismemberment.

    So chances are that the mid 1915 peace will be very lenient, and thus of little consequence. A few years unrest in Russia and France and it's back to pre WW1 politics.
     
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  18. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    Generally, the longer a war goes on the more each side advances its demands to be presented to the loser upon victory. As the sacrifices increase so do the demands for spoils to "pay" for the sacrifices. This was true on both sides in WWI. What the Germans would have demanded or did demand (see Brest-Litovsk) in 1917/18 was substantially more than what they would have demanded in 1914 or 1915. I agree that the only way to keep Britain out is for Germany not to march through Belgium. While Britain preferred a balance of powers on the continent, selling war to the British public on that basis was not a winning idea - the Germans violating the treaty they had signed and the "Hunnish rape of Belgium" was the required spark.

    If the UK is neutral, Japan could declare war against Germany and would probably be able to snap up at least some of the German Pacific Islands or concessions in China. However the British won't be keen on this, and I could see the USA allowing German ships operating against Japan coaling and provisioning in Hawaii or the PI - a neutral USA could live better with German presence in the Pacific where friction was low, than Japanese expansionism - and racism comes in of course. If France goes down hard I could see Japan making moves against French possessions offering to "buy" them on the cheap to a cash strapped France (reparations to be paid) and very likely restrictions on the French Navy.
     
  19. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

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    Well, in this case, they did avoid it at "all costs." Because defeating German continental hegemony (or what they perceived to be such) cost them over a million dead (the utter gutting of an entire generation of British men, especially when you add in the 1.7 million wounded, many crippled for life), and their financial, maritime, and naval supremacy for all time - and, before long, the empire, too.

    But given the obvious divisions within Asquith's cabinet, it's clear that not all British decision-makers in 1914 perceived hegemony to be at stake, or if they did, that defeating it would be worth the cost in blood and treasure. Edward Grey's views were not universally shared in London, even if they did happen to prevail in August 1914.

    I do think Ferguson is right to ask: Was it really worth the price Britain paid?

    I don't necessarily disagree. But I do think that the pressure and distraction of the war contributed to the harshness of the response.

    If Britain is not in the war, it cannot just table the question of home rule which was coming to a head (via the Government of Ireland Act 1914) in 1914.

    I don't disagree with the basic characterization. But Britain's entry into the war gave the Japanese not only the excuse they needed to enter the war (via the alliance treaty) to grab German spoils, but also the assurance that Germany would have zero chance to interfere given that they would be blockaded by the Royal Navy, to say nothing of the greater assurance that German victory was now less likely, or at worst likely to be enormously costly and long in coming.

    It seems evident based on what we know of Japanese cabinet sentiment that they would have been forced to sit back, watch and wait for a while - and the war might be over before they could find an opportunity to go to war with Germany on their own hook.

    More likely, Tokyo takes the opportunity instead to expand their position in Manchuria and China.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
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  20. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

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    The Septemberprogramm wasn't even an official policy of the German government.