|Part of Causes of World War I|
A column of French troops on the move in a tented encampment in Morocco, 30 March 1912.
|Events leading to World War I|
The Agadir Crisis or Second Moroccan Crisis (also known as the Panthersprung in German) was an international crisis sparked by the deployment of a substantial force of French troops in the interior of Morocco in April 1911. Germany reacted by sending the gunboat SMS Panther to the Moroccan port of Agadir on 1 July 1911. Negotiations between Berlin and Paris resolved the crisis: France took over Morocco as a protectorate in exchange for territorial concessions to Germany from the French Congo, while Spain was satisfied with a change in its boundary with Morocco.
Anglo-German tensions were high at this time, partly due to an arms race between Imperial Germany and Great Britain, including German efforts to build a fleet two thirds the size of Britain's. Germany's move was aimed at testing the relationship between Britain and France, and possibly intimidating Britain into an alliance with Germany. Germany was also enforcing compensation claims, for acceptance of effective French control of Morocco.
In 1911, a rebellion broke out in Morocco against the Sultan, Abdelhafid. By early April, the Sultan was besieged in his palace in Fez. The French prepared to send troops to help put down the rebellion, under the pretext of protecting European lives and property, dispatching a flying column at the end of April. On 8 June, the Spanish army occupied Larache, and three days later Ksar-el-Kebir.
On 1 July, the German gunboat SMS Panther arrived at the port of Agadir, under the pretext of protecting German trade interests. The larger Bremen-class cruiser SMS Berlin arrived days later, replacing the gunboat. A German civilian, Hermann Wilberg, seventy miles to the north, journeyed south to be rescued only to arrive three days after the Panther. There was an immediate reaction from the French and the British.
The British government attempted to restrain France from adopting hasty measures and to dissuade her from sending troops to Fez, but failed. In April, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey wrote "what the French contemplate doing is not wise, but we cannot under our agreement interfere." He felt that his hands were tied and that he had to support France.
The British became worried by Panther's arrival in Morocco. The Royal Navy had a naval base in Gibraltar, in the south of Spain. They believed the Germans meant to turn Agadir into a naval base on the Atlantic. Britain sent battleships to Morocco, in case war broke out. As in the First Moroccan Crisis, British support of France showed the strength of the Entente Cordiale.
German financial crisis
In the midst of this crisis, Germany was hit by financial turmoil. The stock market plunged by 30 percent in a single day, the public started cashing in currency notes for gold and there was a run on the banks. The Reichsbank lost a fifth of its gold reserves in one month. It was rumored this crisis had been orchestrated by the French finance minister. Faced with the possibility of being driven off the gold standard, the Kaiser backed down and let the French take over most of Morocco.
On 7 July, the German ambassador in Paris informed the French government that Germany had no territorial aspirations in Morocco, and would negotiate for a French protectorate on the basis of "compensation" for Germany in the French Congo region and the safeguarding of her economic interests in Morocco. The German terms, as presented on 15 July, while containing an offer to cede the northern part of Kamerun and Togoland, demanded from France the whole of the French Congo from the Sangha River to the sea, to which was later added the transfer of France's right to the preemption of the Belgian Congo.
On 21 July, David Lloyd George delivered a speech at the Mansion House, London in which he declared that national honour was more precious than peace: "If Britain is treated badly where her interests are vitally affected, as if she is of no account in the cabinet of nations, then I say emphatically that peace at that price would be a humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure." The speech was interpreted by Germany as a warning that she could not impose an unreasonable settlement on France.
By 4 November, Franco-German negotiations on the Treaty of Fez had led to a convention under which Germany accepted France's position in Morocco in return for territory in the French Equatorial African colony of Middle Congo (now the Republic of the Congo). This 275,000 km2 territory, known as Neukamerun, became part of the German colony of Kamerun. The area is partly marshland (where sleeping sickness was widespread), but gave Germany an outlet on the Congo River. Germany ceded to France a small area of territory to the southeast of Fort Lamy (now part of Chad).
France, subsequently established a full protectorate over Morocco (30 March 1912), ending what remained of that country's formal independence.
Rather than scaring Britain into turning towards Germany, increased fear and hostility drew Britain closer to France. British backing of France during the crisis reinforced the Entente between the two countries (and with Russia as well), increasing Anglo-German estrangement, deepening the divisions which would culminate in World War I.
It has been argued that this incident led Britain's Home Secretary Winston Churchill to conclude the Royal Navy must convert its power source from coal to oil, in order to preserve its supremacy. Until then, the locally abundant coal was favoured over imported oil (mostly from Persia), but the speed and efficiency offered by oil convinced him that "Mastery itself was the prize of the venture." Subsequently, Churchill was asked by Prime Minister H. H. Asquith to become First Lord of the Admiralty, which he accepted.
The crisis led Britain and France to conclude a naval agreement by which the Royal Navy promised to protect the northern coast of France from German attack, while France concentrated her fleet in the western Mediterranean and agreed to protect British interests there. France was thus able to guard her communications with her North African colonies, and Britain to concentrate more force in home waters to oppose the German High Seas Fleet.
In Western European history, the Agadir Crisis remains the best-known example of gunboat diplomacy.
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- MacMillan, Margaret. The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914. Random House, 2013. p. 439.
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- Quoted in M.L. Dockrill, British Policy During the Agadir Crisis of 1911 from F.H. Hinsley, British Foreign Policy Under Sir Edward Grey (Cambridge, 1977), p.271.
- "TWO WAR CLOUDS MENACE EUROPE" (PDF). The New York Times. 6 July 1911. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
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