The fact that there was limited land and these countries were all striving for land, to add to their empire meant that there was a potential for conflict among these powers. These 'imperial concerns' were outwardly emphasized in the incidents which took place in Africa in the 1890's. The African agreements of 1890 which were a series of agreements over African territories, signed by Britain along with other European powers in order to avoid conflict over territories in Africa, this highlights, how imperial concerns ultimately guided foreign policy.
Salisbury, not wanting to risk military confrontations in Africa, wasting valuable resources in maintaining the Imperial British presence in Africa; initiated these agreements, illustrating the affect imperial concerns were having on British foreign policy. As well as these agreements with the European powers in Africa, two other incidents; between the French and the British also effectively display how colonial concerns were loosely guiding British Foreign Policy.
The first occurred in 1896- 98; this was the re-conquest of the Sudan; Salisbury wanting to capture the Sudan, to keep it under British control and Neutralise the possible threat to Egypt from France, although "British control of the Sudan was assured, […] the French still had hopes in the area" (Norman Lowe). This lead to the Fashoda Incident in 1898, Salisbury wanting to neutralise French ambitions in the Sudan from threatening trade: the result was "viewed as a personal triumph for Salisbury"- Norman Lowe. These few incidents, in Africa illustrate how imperial concerns directed British Foreign Policy, the British not wanting to be drawn into conflict initiated the African agreements, but realised that conflict was necessary in order to preserve their imperial strength.
This British imperial strength however, was being challenged by a new power- Germany. "…the years between 1880 and 1910 had become a much more formidable rival to Britain in Many areas of economic production" Germany's economic competition was "widely regarded as unfair and, therefore, an important source of irritation". (Derrick Murphy), by analysing the trade relationship between the two countries we will be able to determine how imperial concerns were affecting, Britain's 'economic foreign policy, with Germany.
When describing the 'trade relationship' between these two countries it is apt to say, that both were heavily reliant on each other, in 1890 British imports from Germany totalled a 26 million pounds and British exports to Germany 19.2 million pounds, in the year 1905 the British imports from Germany had doubled to 53.8 million pounds and the British exports from Germany had increased by one and a half times to 29.7 million. Although the exports from Britain to Germany were not as dramatic as that from Germany to Britain; it can be recognised that Germany was heavily dependent on the British Empire for materials "Britain had remained the leading market for German exports throughout this entire period" (Paul Kennedy).
Germanys percentage of world trade was growing fast; Britain's 'mature economy' had lost six percent of world trade from 1880 to 1913 where Germanys economy had grown by three percent. "Germany was able, by utilising steam, electrical and rail power, to achieve growth rates which were higher than those of a 'mature economy' like Britain's […] Germany's industrial expansion was, in many respects, in the more advanced and qualitatively superior sectors of the economy" (Paul Kennedy).
The 'trade rivalry' between the two countries was that a long list of particular industries and firms felt themselves in a struggle with their British or German counter parts, their were complaints on either side that each had an unfair advantage however a great number of these complaints were from Britain concentrating on the 'unfair' German Tariff system, in a report by the Tariff commission in sectors such as agricultural machinery trade within Germany from Britain 'Duties had gradually close the market' from heavy taxing from the Germans.
Britain's policy, had till then been, naively, one of free trade however As Andrew Thompson comments "Just as one individual- Richard Cobden- is now synonymous with the repeal of the Corn Laws so another- Joseph Chamberlain- is identifies with the campaign for tariff reform" He felt that Britain should expand imperial trade, advocating the use of tariff's to allow Britain's economy to flourish. This sole issue would dominate British politics for nearly a decade. The tariff reform league was set up to rally support for this issue. It's mandate was to "advocate the employment of the Tariff with a view to consolidate and develop the resources of the empire."
Support for Tariff reform and the rise of Anglo- German antagonism was sector dependant e.g. "it surely is significant that neither […] Birmingham machine makers joined the various Anglo-German friendship committees whereas Lancashire mill owners did." (Paul Kennedy) the reason being that Germans was heavily taxing British goods entering Germany, in sectors where Germany's economy was reliant, mainly new industries such as machine making. Conclusively, imperial concerns, such as foreign trade aboard was affecting foreign policy within Britain, proposals for a new tariff system within Britain were being debated; an incident which depicts how these imperial concerns were affecting Britain's foreign policy can be seen in 1903, when due to 'anti German fever' Britain withdrew its support for a Berlin- Baghdad railway scheme.
This Anglo- German antagonism, was also felt in, politics. The new German Chancellor began to steer Germany into a 'New Course'; this 'new course' commonly referred to, as 'Caprivi's new course' were the new policies introduced by the latest German Chancellor. "He sought to disengage the Reich from the web of international commitments which had been spun by Bismarck" (Eric Wilmot) with this new attitude in mind parallels can be drawn with the way Salisbury conducted his foreign affairs- conveniently although misleadingly dubbed 'splendid' isolation.
With Germany conducting its foreign policy differently, the Reinsurance treaty with Russia was not renewed; as a consequence of this in 1894 Russia concluded an alliance with France "the Franco- Russian Alliance stated if either power was attacked by Germany, then the other would come to her aid" (Eric Wilmot). In the "early 1890's relations between Germany and Britain were very cordial" (Eric Wilmot) These German aspirations of an alliance led to what Paul Kennedy describes as 'colonial marriage' the Heligoland- Zanzibar Treaty of 1890 it was as Paul Kennedy comments "The high point of Salisburian colonial policy […] whereby, in exchange for the [insignificant] island of Heligoland, Britain gained Zanzibar and large tracts of East Africa" wrongly perceiving that Britain want to become part of the triple alliance realising that Britain in 1894 was uninterested in the restrictive commitments of a formal alliance, Caprivi resigned, leaving Germany isolated from the majority of Europe.
In 1896 causing great offence to Britain, Kaiser Wilhelm II writing to the Boer leader congratulating him for resisting the 'Jamison raid'. "The Kruger Telegram caused outrage in Britain and took Anglo-German relations to their lowest point for many years." (Eric Wilmot). Within the turmoil of German politics emerged a new idea pursued by the Kaiser: Weltpolik- simply the desire for colonies "second only to Britain as the world's largest trading and commercial nation […] this strength was not reflected in the size of her over seas empire" (John Lowe) the view was that, the possession of an large overseas empire, outwardly demonstrated the power a country held; describing the feeling within Germany Eyre Crowe believed that "public opinion continue with one voice to declare: we must have real colonies". It was this desire- 'Weltpolitik'- the desire for colonies; lead to Germanies desire for 'Mittelafrika' merely the possession of the middle of Africa.
This new world policy led to the Portuguese colonies agreement of 1898, Britain not wanting to risk conflict in the event of a fall of the Portuguese empire, signed a secret clause that they would share the Portuguese colonies of middle Africa which John Lowe conjectures "seemed to offer the prospect of more substantial colonial gains which might have made reality of German aspirations to dominate 'middle Africa'." Lastly Salisbury not wanting the encumbrance of a colony in China, yet still desiring to maintain trade with the region, at the Kaiser's suggestion, "an Anglo- German convention was signed, sometimes know as the Yangtze Agreement. Both promised to maintain the 'open door' in China to the trade of all nations and to check foreign aggression."