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Unwilling to war: Rethinking Sir Edward Grey’s foreign policy and role in the July Crisis

Basford, Steven C. (2020) Unwilling to war: Rethinking Sir Edward Grey’s foreign policy and role in the July Crisis. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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Within the extensive historical discourse on Sir Edward Grey’s tenure as Foreign Secretary (1905-1916), he is considered one of those ‘men of 1914’ responsible for the onset of the First World War. The assertion is that Grey’s ‘own’ policy-making contributed to the July Crisis and that his failure to act resulted in Britain’s decision to go to war. In assessing the scholarship on Grey, this thesis will determine if his role and decision-making power as Foreign Secretary have been overstated by examining four key policies and his ‘five crises’. This thesis aims to critically analyse the extent of Grey’s agency in shaping foreign policy in the preceding years that led-up to the July Crisis and the War. To achieve this aim, it utilises an adapted model that provides a theoretical lens for evaluating Grey’s leadership style and the ‘five crises’, but also clarifies the definition of these ‘crises’. The model draws on Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory and Charles Hermann’s Situational Cube. The findings refute the claim that Grey forged his ‘own policy’, as he inherited policies that were already defined and planned for as part of a continuation of a broader imperial strategy for foreign policy-making. In demonstrating Grey’s preference for diplomacy in foreign policy, this thesis highlights the complexity of his role in policy-making and defines his leadership style as democratic. Grey’s belief in and reliance upon the ideal of a ‘Concert of Europe’ and the value of Ambassadorial conferences were instrumental in his success until 1913 but proved inoperative and futile in 1914.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Global Studies
Supervisor(s): Webster, Andrew
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