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Causes Of Wwi Controversy Question
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Controversy Question Notes Causes of WWI and extent of German blame 'Slithered' Into War:
• 1930s consensus view All Great Powers to blame, PM Lloyd George said great powers
'slithered over the brink into the boiling cauldron of fire' + in his 1934 diary said, "we
muddled into war"
• 1951 FrancoGerman historians' commission accepted views of 1930s consensus that everyone, nobody, to blame, BUT due to a desire to build peaceful relations after WWII
• Carl Erdmann Germany slipped into war in 19144, Riezler (Hollweg's private secretary)
diaries show Germany hadn't been planning for war
• AJP Taylor (1969 War by Timetable) Mobilisation timetables of great powers
(inc.German Schlieffen Plan) led to inevitable drift to war that nobody wanted, but quickly
descended into war with one 'spark' (assassination)
• Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand set off unforeseen chain of events
• Alliance system contributed meant one declaration of war led to full European conflict
• Military plans (inc.Schlieffen) necessitated immediate countermobilisation, quickly led to
war. AS Russian military told Tsar on 30 July he could not downgrade full mobilisation to
partial, which then necessitated straight away German mobilisation due to the Schlieffen
• 3 weeks after 'Blank cheque' no indication of war, Kaiser went on Yachting holiday (clearly
not expecting war) while 23 July Lloyd George said in parliament that AngloGerman
relations the best they'd been for years. (until same day AH issued Serbia ultimatum….) Aggressive German foreign policy:
• Germany originally blamed in TofV with war guilt clause, article 231
• Fritz Fischer (1961, Germany's aims in the first world war) Germany went to war to
achieve world domination + 'place in the sun' w/expansionist aims. Hoped the 'blank
cheque' would lead to war. Argues annexationist plans in September programme a
continuation of prewar plans.
• David Blackbourn (1997 History of Germany) Germany had aspirations to world power, far exceeding ambitions of any other nation. But, furthering Fischer's argument, Blackburn
adds that that war aims were shared by civil servants, politicians +civilians, not just military
+ so larger consensus over these aims than some admit to.
• John Rohl (1995 Germany) Adds element of calculation + war calculated to be brought
about through Balkan crisis, as this would mean German people could be fooled into
thinking 'barbarous' Russia to blame + sooner better to prevent Russia from further
expanding + strengthening army.
• Holder H. Herwig (1992 Industry, Empire and the First World War) Great powers don't 'slither' into war, but only go into war after "carefully weighing the advantages and
disadvantages" in a "calculated risk".
• Schlieffen plan shows LT desire + planning for European war
• 1896, Kaiser sent telegram to President Kruger of the South African congratulating them in
victory of GB in Boer War
• Flottenpolitik + German naval expansion
• Longstanding desire for 'place in the sun' + 'Mitteleuropa' (German dominated Central
Europe) + colonial expansion shown through Weltpolitik
• Kaiser refused to compromise on naval race, couldn't broker deal in 1912 w/Lord Haldane
to improve relations
• Backed AH with 'blank cheque', hoping war would eventuate
• GVT shaped by Kaiser w/ministers (+ Bulow as Chancellor) that shared vision of Weltpolitik
• Arms race led by Germany
• BH to Austrian ambassador, "If war must break out, better now than in one or two years'
time, when the entente will be stronger."
• Tirpitz war memo April 1912
• QuarterMaster memo War to solve internal problems:
• Fischer (1969, War of Illusions) War to establish world dominance + keep domestic
peace, w/1912 War Council used as evidence that path to war already decided (+
September programme). At war council, Kaiser said AH should be supported in actions
against Serbia + not a problem if Russia went to war as war already inevitable. Fischer
endorsed negative version of 'Sonderweg' or special path, 19C + early 20C G history saw
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