In the beginning of the 20th century, France appeared to be a great and powerful nation in Europe. She had two main preoccupations concerning her foreign policy: on one hand France wanted to reinforce and expand her colonial Empire; on the other hand she had the will to maintain and strengthen security in Europe. That is how France created a new diplomatic system which tried to reach those two goals. Théophile Delcassé embodies this new French system.
Théophile Delcassé became Foreign Minister at the age of 46 in June 1898 and he left this post in 1905. At the start Delcassé was considered as a pro colonial and nationalist politician, he wanted - for example France to conquer extra-European territories.
However, the rivalry between France and Great Britain on the colonial level and the fear of Germany did not allow Delcassé to apply a strict expansionism policy. His foreign policy had to consist in building an alliance network in order to secure France. Delcassé wanted to build a synthesis between an overseas expansionism and security for France in Europe: This foreign policy is called Delcassé's Grande politique.
[...] Those main elements had strongly weighed on the negotiations. Nevertheless, the rapprochement was put in place. The French fleet visited Kronstadt in July 1891. Two months later, a general policy convention was concluded: by exchanging secret correspondence, both the governments affirmed the friendship of their countries and promised they would consult each other if one of them was to feel threatened. The decisive step was the signature of a military convention in august 1892, ratified by the Russians in September 1893, by the French in January 1894. [...]
[...] A new orientation of the French-Italian connections actually begins with Delcassé: - In 1896: a treaty signed between the 2 parties stipulates that Italy recognizes Tunisia as French protectorate, and in exchange Italy gets economic advantages. - In 1898, a trade agreement is signed to terminate the customs war. - In December both countries make a secret agreement by which France assures Italy that it will not oppose any more to the realization of the Italian aims in Tripolitaine, whereas Rome grants France the right to intervene freely in Morocco. [...]
[...] The link-up with Italy Indeed, the third stage of the "Grande politique" of Théophile Delcassé is to complete the French network of alliances by turning to the Italian neighbor Nevertheless, in the arrival of Delcassé to the Quai d'Orsay in 1895, several factors seem to complicate the possibility of a link- up between these two countries First of all, we should not forget that since 1882, Italy was a part of the network of alliances of the German enemy which was weaved by Bismarck.- The Triplice, alliance was strengthened by its renewal in 1887. [...]
[...] So the whole aim of Delcasse's rapprochement with Russia was to be prepared in the event of a war against Germany, as well as against any other nation in the beginning . As it evolved, the alliance between Russia and France would give birth to the Triple Entente, which later was a decisive factor in the trigger of the First World War. II - The resolution of the colonial dispute with the British The second part of Delcassé's policy is concerned with the relations with London The scramble for Africa between France and Britain During the late 19th century, Africa was rapidly being occupied by European colonial powers. [...]
[...] These two lines intersect somewhere in eastern Sudan near Fashoda (present-day Kodok), explaining its strategic importance The Fashoda incident and its resolution A French force of 150 set out from Brazzaville under Major Jean-Baptiste Marchand with orders to secure the area around Fashoda as a French protectorate. After an epic 14-month trek across the heart of Africa they arrived on 10 July 1898. On 18 September, a powerful flotilla of British gunboats arrived at the isolated fort, led by Lord Kitchener and also Horace Smith-Dorrien. [...]
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