The Sources of Status-quo Seeking: Pre-World War I Britain and Interwar France

  • Jason W. Davidson


Declining states face two fundamental choices. They may either adopt status-quo goals—they may seek to preserve the status quo beyond their own borders—or they may be reclusive with regard to the status quo—they may be unwilling to bear costs to defend the external status quo and seek only to preserve their own territorial integrity. In this chapter, I examine declining states’ choices between status-quo seeking and reclusion. The first case is Britain from 1899 to 1912. In prewar Britain, the dominance of Britain’s allied coalition and the intensity of the German threat led it to adopt status-quo goals against the preferences of an important domestic group—the Radicals. The British case demonstrates that intense security concerns can overwhelm powerful internally oriented groups. The second case is interwar France. During the 1930s, France’s intense security concerns—rooted in German rearmament and aggressive behavior—drove it to consider committing to defend the status quo in Central Europe. However, its inability to find other states willing to aid it in defense of the status quo and the preferences of anti-status-quo pacifist groups led to the failure of these efforts and France’s reclusive stance toward the status quo. The interwar France case shows that declining states facing an unfavorable balance of allied resolve are unlikely to become status-quo seekers.


Foreign Policy Security Concern Foreign Minister Social Spending Entente Power 
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© Jason W. Davidson 2006

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  • Jason W. Davidson

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