Event Date: 21 March 2014
Moore Building Lecture Theatre
Royal Holloway, University of London
Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX
Lord David Owen – Hidden Perspectives: The Military Conversations 1906-1914
In a new book, Lord David Owen focuses on the military and diplomatic conversations that took place in the run up to World War I, beginning with January 1906, when the Prime Minister, Campbell-Bannerman, and the Foreign Minister, Edward Grey, agreed to allow the General Staff to talk with the French High Command about sending an expeditionary force to France in the event of a German attack. Neither the Cabinet nor Parliament was informed. In Spring 1912 Haldane, the Secretary for War, went on a mission to Berlin to see if an agreement could be reached to slow German naval expansion. Sadly to no avail – despite Harcourt, the Colonial Secretary, promoting a land deal for Germany in Africa as an incentive. Recently unearthed historical evidence has shown that a further attempt to negotiate with Germany was under way when the war started. All this time, however, there was a hidden perspective of key diplomats, alongside the Foreign Minister Grey, that contributed to the feeling that there was a moral commitment to send troops to the continent. There are obvious echoes of the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War.
Lord Owen will talk about these hidden perspectives and his conclusion, as a former Foreign Secretary, that the carnage of World War 1 was avoidable: the war could have been prevented or stopped much earlier.
Lord David Owen served as British Foreign Secretary from 1977 to 1979. He became the European Union co-chairman of the Conference for the Former Yugoslavia, along with Cyrus Vance, the former US Secretary of State; together they produced the Vance-Owen Peace Plan in January 1993. He was the Chancellor of the University of Liverpool from 1996 to 2009. His publications include Balkan Odyssey (1995) and The Hubris Syndrome: Bush, Blair and the Intoxication of Power (2007). He sits in the House of Lords as a crossbencher.