A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 24

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THE WORLD DRIFT TO WAR


European intervention set up a protectorate in Madagascar, which island was later annexed. But all the various European Powers, including Germany, who had hitherto felt no call to colonial expansion, had suddenly realized that Africa was the only division of the earth's surface still open to appropriation, and that the British, with a northern base in Egypt, a southern base in Cape Colony and sundry starting points on the western and eastern coasts, would by mere force of circumstances absorb the interior and leave nothing for anyone else to appropriate unless they made haste to anticipate her.

The precedents of the 18th century, when France and Great Britain had fought each other to a finish for America and India on the hypothesis that there was not room for both, were not promising. In Africa after all there was room for everyone; and so between 1880 and 1890 a series of treaties or compacts was entered upon, partitioning the Dark Continent into protectorates or spheres of influence appropriated to one or another of the European stales, though not without leaving occasions for acute controversy in the future.

In 1888 the emperor William I died at the age of ninety; three months later his son Frederick I followed him, and his grandson William II became the German kaiser. The German empire had been achieved through the never-failing loyalty of the old man and his great chancellor to each other. What might have befallen if Frederick had not been already a dying man when he succeeded to the imperial crown none can say, for it was notorious that there were many points on which emperor and chancellor did not see eye to eye; but during those months there was no breach between them. On Frederick's death it seemed at first that Bismarck’s ascendancy would be unimpaired, but the new kaiser believed implicitly in himself; he had ideas of his own which were not Bismarck's, and in 1890 William "dropped the pilot," and took the management of affairs into his own hands. The world did not know what to make of Germany's new master and his passion for unexpected activities and startling pronouncements, which were occasionally somewhat nerve-racking; but it was, on the whole, inclined to regard them as temperamental eccentricities which must not be taken too seriously.

One thing, however, was clear. Bismarck had striven to the last to placate Russia and prevent any rapprochement between

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