Britain's alleged balancing
British collective insecurity provoking DIVIDE ET IMPERA
Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Dortmund. Since January 1923, Belgian and 🇫🇷 (colonial) troops kept Weimar Germany's rechtsrheinische territories occupied. Weimar faltering in the transfer of reparations caused Paris and Brussels to use this as an argument for crossing the Rhine and marching all the way up the Ruhr. This intrusion came in addition to the Armistice and Treaty of Versailles occupations of Rhineland border territories which the British army marched in together with Belgian forces and its Entente partner.
On 11 August 1923, when any consumer in either republican or occupied Germany had to pay a few hundred thousand, if not millions of marks for a single bread, Great Britain sent a note to these mainland allies. According to London, they had acted in conflict with international law: The Rhineland occupations were said to be illegal.
We cannot deny that this allied controversy went down in school and history books. Though one of Germany's most recent scholarly works, Lena Mörike's Nationale Geschichtspolitik, left it untouched.(1)
In the fourth year following the ratifications of the dictated Treaty of Versailles, Britain's inter-Allied note seems to convey detente. It looks like showing comprehension, if not compassion, for a subjugated or collectively weakened and humiliated Germany coping with the process of transition to a democratic republic at the same time.
What is being left out in the bulk of school and history books that are mostly written in the tradition of Anglo-Saxon historiography, be it in Germany or concerning the collectivity of thirty (25 states and five of Britain's colonies) victorious powers at the end of the First World War? (2)
For the answer it is always beneficial to look at history, not the least its contemporary manifestations. Both time frames of historiography and the historical events apply to the following case containing a covertly propagandistic performance. As of February 1919, Britain had no other interest than pursuing conservative policies ("reactive", Dr. Connor Mulvagh, The Irish Partition and the Treaty of Lausanne 11 Aug.! Glasgow lecture). Months before the French conference host was able to secure vital interests in the treaty concept, that is in spring, the British Imperial Delegation as a total newcomer at the stage of international relations and the British Delegation under the lead of David Lloyd George were able to demolish the German colonial empire. No aspect of Germany's overseas assets would be left out, be it traffic or the living of its pioneers, that is its actually one and only generation. It took these double delegations about four weeks to secretively "decolonize" the transforming and internationally isolated Armistice partner. It bothered neither the Empire forces searching for independence in a conditional bond with the motherland nor its sub-imperialism introducing war cabinets that their colonial machinations meant a complete breach with the 1918 ceasefire agreement.
Now go back to 1923 and the British memorandum on Weimar's occupied Ruhr. In order to contain the risk of nationally revisionist movements in Germany, the British did their best to restrain their allies from actions such as the military campaign with colonial troops into the industrial heartland of the decolonized state. A less revanchist Weimar or a moderate stance of its nationalists and revisionists would definitely serve Britain's interests. What the Lloyd George imperialists as much as the even more opportunist sub-imperialists from the settler colonies in the southern hemisphere overlooked, was that their divide-et-impera policies against the mainland Europeans brought systemic insecurity for all of Europe (and the world – après une guerre mondiale).
✍️ Peter de Bourgraaf
(1 & 2) Lena Mörike. Nationale Geschichtspolitik. Der Versailler Friedensvertrag in der 100-jährigen Erinnerung in Schulbüchern aus vier Nationen. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2022, 118, 124.