The Spectator

The Spectator at war: Commercial possibilities

From The Spectator, 22 August 1914:

IT is gratifying to find that the public is rapidly waking up to the fact that other prospects than those of universal unemployment arise out of the present war. The daily papers of this week, instead of talking of the necessity for relief funds, have begun to talk of the tremendous commercial possibilities revealed for Great Britain by the collapse of Germany’s oversea commerce. The main cause of that collapse everybody now understands. It is due to England’s possession of superior sea-power. In addition, it must be noted that many German manufacturing concerns have been obliged to shut down because their work-people have gone to the front. This factor would have affected German commerce even if Germany had kept the seas open, and it has the additional dis- advantage for her that it robs her of the chance of carrying on land commerce with the few countries of Europe that still remain neutral. It must also very greatly interrupt her purely internal commerce, and deprive her people of the means of creating wealth with which to pay for the war.

What we are mainly concerned with, however, is the possibility of taking Germany’s place in the oversea markets which she can no longer supply. The interests at stake are enormous. Germany has been building up at an even more rapid rate than Great Britain herself an export industry, a large part of which goes across the seas. Indeed, the growth of German exports has been so rapid in the last few years that if the present war had not occurred it is quite possible that they would shortly have exceeded British exports. The figures are very striking, and can best be put in tabular form :—


From 1903 1908 1913
£ £ £
United Kingdom 290,800,000 377,104,000 525,461,000
Germany 246,551,000 314,627,000 504,000,000

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