Entente Cordiale


Entente Cordiale
(1904)
   A “friendly understanding,” the Entente Cordiale was an agreement signed on April 8, 1904, between France and Britain resolving longstanding colonial grievances. The agreement initiated a policy of Anglo-French cooperation and served as the embryo for the Triple Entente between Britain, France, and Russia during World War I.
   Before the entente, Britain focused on maintaining a policy of “splendid isolation” from continental European affairs, and France became increasingly preoccupied with the preservation of its security after its 1871 defeat by Prussia, which subsequently unified a German state. A temporary shift in German policy, emphasizing relations with Britain, prompted Russia to fear isolation. France, seeking an ally against Germany, sought an 1891 Russian entente and eventually signed a military pact in 1894 that became a cornerstone of foreign policy for both countries.
   Recent developments in Egypt had strained France’s relations with Britain. The khedive declared bankruptcy in 1876, and a system of Anglo-French control, using an international financial commission, worked to eliminate Egypt’s debt. But in 1882, an uprising prompted Britain to secure the Suez Canal. When France refused to assist, Britain occupied Egypt unilaterally and dissolved dual control. A humiliated France used its creditor position to complicate British attempts to reform international financial control. French foreign minister Théophile Declassé believed that Britain would negotiate over Egypt if pressured at a vital location. He chose Fashoda on the upper Nile River, but the venture led to another humiliation in the Fashoda Incident of 1898. After Fashoda, France altered its Egyptian policy from confrontation to compensation and focused on Morocco to complete its North African empire and to improve its Mediterranean position.
   Fear of German naval expansion and tension with Russia, meanwhile, made France attractive to Britain. In 1903, King Edward VII of Britain and French President Émile Loubet made reciprocal state visits to mend Anglo-French relations. Negotiations between Paul Cambon, French ambassador, and Lord Lansdowne, British foreign secretary, then ran from July 1903 to April 1904. The talks involved Madagascar, the New Hebrides, Newfoundland fishing rights, Siam, and West Africa. At the center of negotiations, however, was the future of Egypt and Morocco. Britain jettisoned its Moroccan ambitions in return for promises of free trade lasting 30 years. France agreed to give Britain a free hand in Egypt and to refrain from Mediterranean coastal fortifications that could menace Gibraltar. To prevent a German alliance, Britain also argued Spain’s Moroccan interests needed consideration. Subsequent German behavior in the Moroccan Crisis of 1905 served to deepen Anglo- French collaboration and led to the military conversations of 1906–1914. An Anglo-Russian entente followed in 1907, establishing a spheres-of-influence understanding in Afghanistan, Persia, and Tibet, but also paving the path toward formation of the Triple Entente and ultimately an alliance that confronted Germany with a two-front war in August 1914.
   See also: <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Andrew, Christopher. Théophile Declassé and the Making of the Entente Cordiale. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1968;
    Dunlop, Ian. Edward VII and the Entente Cordiale. London: Constable, 2004;
    Rolo, P.J.V. Entente Cordiale: The Origins of the Anglo-French Agreements of April 8, 1904. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1969.
   ERIC MARTONE

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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