British Foreign Policy 1870 - 1914: A Summary
The main aims of British foreign policy were
1. To maintain the balance of power in Europe and to prevent one country or group of countries becoming too powerful. Traditionally France was seen as the main threat in this regard e.g. Napoleon.
2. To protect its naval superiority over any other European country. The British army was small and her power rested on the strength of her navy that was the largest in the world. It was this determination that led to a serious breakdown of relations with Germany as she built up her navy to rival the British one.
3. To protect and expand her colonial Empire. France was traditionally her rival.
4. To defend the sea routes to India (Suez canal and South Africa) and to prevent landward encroachment towards the subcontinent by Russia.
5. To prevent Turkey from collapsing and Russia expanding her influence in the Balkans at Turkey's expense.
During the 1880s and 1890s Britain had pursued a policy of avoiding alliances that involved any sort of military commitments. This policy was known as "Splendid Isolation" and it was most associated with the figure of Lord Salisbury, prime-minister for most of this period.
However the Boer War (1899-1902) had exposed Britain's lack of a reliable ally and proved she had very few friends. This allied to the growing might of Germany, caused Britain to abandon her policy of isolation.
In 1902 she formed an alliance with Japan mainly directed against Russia. In 1904 she settled her colonial differences with France and the Entente Cordiale was formed.
Partly as a result of French encouragement she did the same with Russia in 1907. This alliance between the three nations became known as the Triple Entente but as Joll notes "relations...