A Last-Minute Private Peace Initiative: Albert Ballin’s Mediation Efforts between Germany and Britain, 1908-1914

In: The Hague Journal of Diplomacy
Author: Lior Lehrs 1
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  • 1 Taub Center for Israel Studies, New York University, New York, NY 10003, United States

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As relations between Germany and Britain were deteriorating during the years 1908-1914, Albert Ballin, a German businessman, became concerned and decided to promote Anglo–German talks on naval arms limitations in order to halt the naval arms race and improve relations between the two states. This article analyses Albert Ballin’s — and his British friend Ernest Cassel’s — private peace initiatives during the years 1908-1914 as a historical example of ‘unofficial diplomacy’ long before this term was discussed in International Relations literature. It examines the tools and conditions that created the basis for Ballin’s initiatives and explores his role in the diplomatic processes between Germany and Britain before the First World War. Ballin’s and Cassel’s unofficial, persistent peace efforts had some effect on the official diplomatic sphere and led to official negotiations, but they ultimately failed in their attempt to promote an agreement or to prevent the war.