The Agadir Crisis of 1911

The Agadir Crisis of 1911

The Agadir Crisis of 1911 is often referred to at the Second Moroccan Crisis. It followed on from the First Moroccan Crisis and demonstrated the fragility of diplomatic relations in Europe. It is seen as one of the medium-term causes of World World One because of its effect in destabilising the relationships between the major European powers.

Morocco had already been the cause of diplomatic sparring in Europe. Germany had suffered a diplomatic setback in the Algeciras Conference of 1906, whilst Britain had moved closer to France. In the five years since the First Moroccan Crisis both France and Germany had developed a more nationalistic outlook. In Germany politicians had lost their influence to senior military figures, whilst nationalism had strengthened in France. This added the tensions that fuelled the Agadir Crisis.

Agadir is a coastal city in the southwest of Morocco. The First Moroccan Crisis was temporarily resolved by the 1906 Act of Algeciras, but tensions were still rising in Europe. Germany had been preoccupied with building up its navy and as result France had far more influence in Morocco.

Meanwhile, the German government wanted a better share of Morocco’s economic potential.Germany and France signed an agreement in February 1909 that acknowledged France’s special interest in Morocco. In return, France promised not to interfere with Germany's commercial interests there. However, it soon became clear that France wouldn’t allow Germany to have an input on the building of a new railway in Morocco.

Pre-colonial Morocco. Rabat, 1911. Loading of the French artillery to the crossing of the Oued Bou Regreg
Pre-colonial Morocco. Rabat, 1911

Morocco was in the midst of social unrest which led some tribes to rebel against Sultan Hafid as well as the French. French forces were attacked by rebel tribesman near Casablanca from 1911.

Germany was convinced that if France sent more troops into Morocco to restore order, they would be used to assert French authority throughout the country. In turn threatening Germany’s mining interests in the South of Morocco.

As the situation in Fez became increasingly worse, France decided to deploy more troops. In May 1911, 20,000 French, Colonial and Moroccan soldiers arrived in the city. This was successful in calming the activity of the rebels.

Some Germans saw this as a reason for Germany to pursue an aggressive policy against the French in Morocco. However, Kiderlen-Wächter needed a plan that would both placate the hawks in Berlin and avoid provoking an aggressive French response. His plan was to send German warships to Agadir and Mogador ostensibly to defend German citizens in Morocco. Wilhelm expressed concern about the plan but he did not refuse to support it.

Kiderlen-Wächter allied with Jules Cambon, the French ambassador in Berlin. Cambon was also faced with hawks in Paris who wanted to take advantage of the crisis. When the Germans sent gunboats to Agadir it was interpreted as nothing more than a statement by France and Britain. Discussion between Kiderlen-Wachter and Cambon centred on Germany’s interest in the French Congo in exchange for French control over Morocco.

On 20 July 1911 The Times published an article about Germany’s desire for the French Congo. It claimed that no British government should allow such a move as it would threaten British interests in sub-Saharan Africa. The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, upped the pressure when he gave a speech in which he stated that if Germany gained what she wanted in Africa “it would be a humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure”.

The British hawks were encouraged by the media, which reported that the Royal Navy had been put on full alert.  Foreign Secretary Grey responded to the speculations by denying that Royal Navy warships would be sent to Morocco.

In November 1911, Germany and France came to an agreement on their positions in Africa.

France gave over 107,000 square miles of land to Germany, and in return she gave 6,450 square miles of land in the Upper Cameroons. But neither of these were profitable.

What part did the Agadir Crisis play in the outbreak of World War One?

For Britain, the episode illustrated the full extent of Germany’s imperialist ambitions. These concerns over Germany’s agenda increased distrust within Europe.

The crisis also stoked up feelings of nationalism and fuelled militarism in Germany. The approach of Kiderlen-Wächter was criticised in Berlin and a more aggressive and militaristic approach to diplomacy became popular and then the norm. Moreover, the French belief in ‘elan’ was reinforced and the approach of Jules Cambon rejected.

See also: The Bosnian Crisis

MLA Citation/Reference

"The Agadir Crisis of 1911". HistoryLearning.com. 2015. Web.