Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The sinking of the RMS Titanic - some background.

One hundred years ago today the Titanic left Southampton on her maiden voyage, bound for Cherbourg where she arrived at 6:35 pm. Into what troubled European waters did she thus set forth?

The Pax Britannica which had allowed their Lordships at the Admiralty to rule practically supreme for almost one hundred years, whilst maintaining something almost akin to world peace, was clearly coming to a close.

To counter the threat of German ambitions in its dreadnought battleship building programme four super-dreadnought Orion class battleships had been ordered in the 1909 Liberal Party's so-called "people's budget".The "Entente Cordiale" with England's long-term enemy France had been agreed and Kaiser Wilhelm II had made his intentions clear with a failed invasion attempt aimed at The Wash, the Kruger telegram on the Jameson raid and the Daily Telegraph affair of 1908. and the emergence
While the British Empire appeared to be still near its peak, centres of political power were shifting, eg with the emergence of Milner's Kindergarten. The essentially German British Royal Family were then also approaching the difficulties which would inevitably come to a head at the outbreak of The Great War in 1914.

The Royal Navy still controlled the seas, the British Army garrisoned and maintained order across the Empire, the Colonial Office administered its affairs and the Government led the country whilst still then under proper parliamentary control, other forces, however, were also at work. Although Cecil Rhodes had died ten years before the departure of the Titanic, his contradictory attitudes towards Germany and his own legacy to Britain's policies in Africa had but barely begun to play out. The presence of W.T. Stead (dubbed by Matthew Arnold as the father of modern journalism) and first trustee of the Rhodes estate on board the Titanic, must also be considered as significant and will be explored in my next posting on the sinking of this significant and prestigious vessel.

Footnote: Interestingly the influence of All Souls Oxford in considering British Foreign policy continues to this very day, can be seen in this morning's post to John Redwood's Diary, where to add strength and perhaps authority, to an article on the Euro, he describes himself as follows: "Distinguished fellow of All Souls College Oxford" see here.

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