Causes of World War One
In the introduction to a recent survey of the origins of World War I, the author begins with a quote from British scholar C. V. Wedgwood:
"The war solved no problems. Its effects, both immediate and indirect, were either negative or disastrous. Morally subversive, economically destructive, socially degrading, confused in its causes, devious in its course, futile in its result, it is the outstanding example in European history of meaningless conflict."
Although Wedgewood was not writing on the 1914-1918 War, but on the Thirty Years' War in the Seventeenth Century, the sentiment expressed is relevant. Europe was never to recover from The Great War. It destroyed ...view middle of the document...
While most West German scholars and politicians were willing to accept Hitler's-if not Germany's- responsibility for starting the Second World War, they proved remarkably unwilling to confront the possibility that the same could be said of the First World War."
The study of the origins of the First World War is still relevant to students today. While the divisions of Europe into the two major blocks of the Cold War seem to be over, the whole world is again preoccupied with the Balkans. It might be comforting to think that nations jusT "slither" into war as Lloyd George says below, but human beings make the decisions or fail to make the decisions which lead to or prevent wars.
Among the factors which set the stage for The Great War were:
Militarism, Arms Races, and War Plans
Domestic and Human Tensions
Psychological Fear of Loosing One's Allies
Exhaustion from Relentless Crises & Tensions
Cultural Dispair & Fatalism
Willingness to Risk War for Minor Goals
The crutial turning points in the short range were:
The Assassination of the Archduke and His Wife
The German-Austrian Conference at Potsdam on July 5
The Austrian Ultimatium and Their Declaration of War
The Mobilizations: Austrian, Russian, and German
Variety of Opinion:
Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles said that Germany and her allies were to blame for the outbreak of the war:
"The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.
David Lloyd George, who became the Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1916, has written in his memoirs:
"How was it that the world was so unexpectedly plunged into this terrible conflict? Who was responsible? . . . The nations slithered over the brink into the boiling cauldron of war without a trace of apprehension or dismay."
Harry Elmer Barnes, an American scholar, reacted sharply to the Versailles verdict by blaming France and Russia for the outbreak of hostilities because of their motives:
"The chief objects of Russian and French foreign policy, seizure of the Straits and the return of Alsace-Lorraine, could be realized only through a general European war.... In estimating the order of guilt of the various countries we may safely say that the only direct and immediate responsibility for the World War falls upon Serbia, France and Russia, with the guilt about equally divided."
Sidney Bradshaw Fay, another American, presented a more scholarly case for revision of the Versailles conclusions. Fay wrote that that no one country or person was responsible:
"None of the Powers wanted a European War.... Nevertheless, a European War broke out. Why? Because in each country political and military leaders did...