What were Bismarck's thoughts on Great Britain and the idea of an alliance with the Brits?

redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,783
Stockport Cheshire UK
#12
Britain during Bismarck's time in office was basically isolationist in it's dealings with Continental Europe and was on good terms with the various German states for the most part, so I doubt Britain was of much interest to him while he was attempting to unify Germany.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,029
SoCal
#13
Britain during Bismarck's time in office was basically isolationist in it's dealings with Continental Europe and was on good terms with the various German states for the most part, so I doubt Britain was of much interest to him while he was attempting to unify Germany.
What about afterwards, though?
 
Feb 2016
4,434
Japan
#19
Britain actively objected to most of his landgrabbing especially towards its traditional friends Hanover and Brunswick.

He didn’t hold the British to be a threat. They were in his eyes a ocean power not a land power and their ships were of little use/concern to him.

An alliance was highly unlikely, and in all honestly not wanted by either power.
 
Likes: Futurist
Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
#20
Britain actively objected to most of his landgrabbing especially towards its traditional friends Hanover and Brunswick.

He didn’t hold the British to be a threat. They were in his eyes a ocean power not a land power and their ships were of little use/concern to him.

An alliance was highly unlikely, and in all honestly not wanted by either power.
I don't think Britain gave two shits about Hanover or Brunswick in the timeperiod we are talking about. "Britain has no permanent friends or permanent enemies - only permanent interests." - Palmerston (the same Palmerston, who also did not do anything when Bismarck did his landgrabbing). Sure, they might have filed an offical complaint but they were never going to do anything about it, and the British have a nice and oppurtunistic tradition of selectively enforcing their alliances as it suits their geopolitical interests. Besides, Prussia and Britain were also traditionally on cordial terms, in a way (if not as strongly).

Otherwise I broadly agree with your post in the sense that he didn't percieve Britain to be a threat, but I think Bismarck might have been mildly friendly rather than uninterested in the British. At the Berlin conference Bismarck was apparently impressed by Disraeli stating "Der alte jude, das ist der mann!" I think Bismarck appreciated Britain, as it was the only European power that did not have a latent conflict with interest with Germany. And in fact, if you look at the kind of policy Bismarck pursued, it was broadly speaking very similar to what Britain had historically done (and kept doing during the 1800s). Limit the amount of war, avoid encirclement and try to stabilize the overall situation.

There was a natural commonality of interests, but no - an explicit alliance would not have worked probably. Both were too independent, and given Britain's antagonisms with Russia etc. together with the provocation of Russia and France, with their much greater armies might have effectively encircled Germany. Germany would have provoked France and Russia in exchange for... what exactly? The same army he would have had arrested...? The British did not have enough skin in the game in continental Europe to be a viable alliance partner, otherwise I think they might have tried it.

On the other hand, given how Bismarck's policy turned out when Wilhelm II kicked him out maybe he would have actually done a better job of pursuing closer ties.