UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The course of Anglo-Russian relations from the congress of Berlin of 1878 until the Anglo-Russian convention of 1907. Fraser, Murray McVey


At the beginning of the present century, Anglo-Russian rivalry was perhaps the most important factor in the international situation of the day. At that time it seemed sound doctrine to believe that Britain and Russia were bound to remain implacable enemies for an indefinite period of time. Nevertheless, seven years after the century had begun, these two apparently irreconcilable rivals had reached an agreement, which, if not cordial, was none the less real, and which relegated their well-night century-old rivalry to the realms of history. The animosity which was characteristic of Anglo-Russian relations throughout this period had its origins in the Near East during the last part of the eighteenth century, as a result of Russian efforts to obtain control of the Straits of Bosphorous and of the Dardanelles from the Ottoman Turk. However, the rise of revolutionary France put an end temporarily to this newly-born rivalry, and forced the two countries into a partnership to meet a nation who was a vital threat to both, with the defeat of Napoleon, though, this partnership dissolved and the rivalry appeared in a more intense form than before. Throughout the nineteenth century it spread successively from the Near East to Central Asia, and finally to the Far East. However, shortly after the coming of the twentieth century, both countries discovered they had a common rival in Imperial Germany, whose growing power now made her the leading European power on the continent. As in the case of revolutionary France, the two countries resolved to forego their rivalry in order to meet a common peril. Hence the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, From the British side, the material for the study of Anglo-Russian relations throughout this period is on the whole adequate. The original British Documents for the years 1878 - I897 are not available, but those for the years 1898 - 1907 are contained in the general collection "British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898, - 1914". There is also much material available in the memoirs and biographies of the leading British statesmen. On the Russian side, however, there is much to be desired. A certain number of official documents have been published in a spasmodic and desultory manner in the "Krasny Archiv", but much which is pertinent has been withheld. Only a few documents are available in English translation. The memoirs of émigré Russian diplomats, while available in so far as they go, suffer from the fact that they were composed in exile, with little else save memory to serve as a guide. As a result, there is much on the Russian side which is, and likely will remain unknown. Nevertheless, there is enough Russian material extant which, taken in conjunction with the British material available, is sufficient to enable the determining of the course followed by Anglo- Russian relations with a reasonable degree of certainty. In summing up, it should be emphasized that Anglo-Russian rivalry flourished most vigorously when neither country was menaced by a strong European power. When a strong power emerged which threatened to dominate the continent of Europe, this rivalry temporarily ceased. Since both Great Britain and Russia had developed immense empires in Asia in close proximity the one to the other, it was perhaps only natural that they should be serious rivals. Nevertheless, they both remained powers whose major interests lay in Europe. Here, in Europe, if the Near East be excluded, the vital interests of the two countries did not conflict. Both countries were interested in maintaining the status quo in Europe, as they clearly recognized that a Europe organized under the hegemony of another single power was a mortal threat to both. It can therefore be said that both Great Britain and Imperial Russia considered the maintenance of the European balance of power as essential to their long-term interests, and were prepared to forego their mutual rivalry to maintain it.

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