When the Archduke Franz Ferdinand is shot and the alliances are 'switched on' there was still questioning in the British Government as to whether they would be involved in the ensuing conflict or not. The Ententes with France and Russia did not necessitate military action, they were only understandings and could impose no obligations on Great Britain, but perhaps these ententes resembled alliances by 1914 and Britain felt a real obligation to go to war. This essay will examine to what extent Britain's entry into the war was a result of her ententes with Russia and France.
Great Britain had many reasons besides the ententes to go to war; self interest was a major one. Great Britain had to consider the possibility that Russia and France might win (Eyre-Crowe memorandum) and what they would do to Britain afterwards. Also there was the fact that if Britain remained neutral and Russia and France lost, they could have Germany to contend with anyway.
The Treaty of London between Britain and Belgium was perhaps a stronger incentive for war than the ententes, as this treaty had promised military action (as opposed to the agreements) if Belgium's neutrality was compromised; although there was a clause in this Treaty which would provide Great Britain with a way out. This stated, "We are not bound to join in a General European war to defend the neutrality of Belgium."
It is unlikely however that this back door would ever have been used. Belgium was a convenient excuse for war should one be needed, the post war settlement indicates Belgium's interests were hardly paramount.
Aside from the ententes with France and Russia there was the possibility of territorial gain to encourage Britain to declare war. The humiliating defeat at the hands of the Boers had shown...