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ORIGINS OF THE GREAT WAR (1870-1914). 1 “The First World War was a tragic and unnecessary conflict. Unnecessary because the train of events that led.

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Presentation on theme: "ORIGINS OF THE GREAT WAR (1870-1914). 1 “The First World War was a tragic and unnecessary conflict. Unnecessary because the train of events that led."— Presentation transcript:

1 ORIGINS OF THE GREAT WAR ( )

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3 “The First World War was a tragic and unnecessary conflict. Unnecessary because the train of events that led to its outbreak might have broken at any point during five weeks of crisis that preceded the first clash of arms, had prudence or common goodwill found a voice; tragic because the consequences of the first clash end the lives of ten million human beings, tortured the emotional lives of millions more, destroyed the benevolent and optimistic culture of the European continent, and left, when the guns at last fell silent four years later, a legacy of political rancour and racial hatred so intense that no explanation of the causes of the Second World War can stand without reference to those roots. The Second World War, five times more destructive of human life and incalculably more costly in material terms, was the direct outcome of the First…” – John Keegan, The First World War 2

4 Unification of Germany  1862 Otto von Bismarck was appointed prime minister of Prussia  Real Politik- “politics of reality” The advantages of war did not justify the risks involved Bismarck wages three wars to unify Germany:  Danish War of split provinces b/w Germany and Austria  Austro-Prussian 1886 (7 Weeks’ War)- Northern German Confederation  Franco-Prussian War united Northern and Southern Germany; loss of Alsace-Lorraine  King William I was named Kaiser of the Second German Empire

5 1. nationalism 2. alliance system 3. Imperialism 4. militarism & “arms race”  An analysis of these causes suggests war was inevitable and out of the hands of human actors. “Nothing is inevitable until it happens.” - A.J.P. Taylor, British historian 4

6  pan-Slavic nationalism was one of the few causes that Russia’s ruling classes supported (religious, cultural similarities) – Russia was horribly disunited in the early 1900s  Since gaining independence from Ottomans (1886), Serbia desired to unite the Slavic peoples in a “greater Slavia” (Yugoslavia) – many Slavs lived inside the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Russian support of these peoples were the real menace.  A series of crises and small wars rocked the Balkans in 1908, 1912 and 1913 – in each case, Russia backed down from supporting the Serbians.  Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia in 1908 to prevent nationalist uprisings on its borders. 5

7 “Europe today is a powder keg and the leaders are like men smoking in an arsenal…A single spark will set off an explosion that will consume us all…I cannot tell you when that explosion will occur, but I can tell you where…Some damned foolish thing in the Balkans will set it off.” - Otto von Bismarck, 1890s 6

8 7  Nationalist movements in the Balkans were a threat to the stability of both Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.  The collapse of Ottoman rule in the Balkans was viewed from Moscow as an opportunity to expand south into the Mediterranean.

9 Central Powers (Triple Alliance) 1. Germany 2. Austria-Hungary 3. Italy (had territorial grievances with A-H)  After 1870, Bismarck had always maintained a skillful policy of avoiding encirclement by being in an alliance with at least 2 of the continental powers, thus always isolating France.  After 1890,Kaiser Wilhelm II’s foreign policy (“place in the sun”), support of Ottoman Empire, and allowing Russian alliance to lapse, forced Germany to rely more on their alliance with Austria- Hungaryplace in the sun 8

10 Triple Entente(not an alliance) 1. France (mutual defense alliance with Russia) 2. Russia (industrial assistance and investment from France to counter Germany) 3. Britain (distrusted Russian ambitions in Mediterranean, but left with no alternative) 9

11 Entente (not an alliance)  German foreign policy, empire-building after 1890 and creation of a naval fleet was viewed in London with concern. This drew them into a closer association with France (almost went to war in 1898 in Fashoda – but found diplomatic solution. By 1904, France and Britain had an understanding or “entente”). Fashoda  Britain was feeling pressure of economic competition from Germany and losing prestige. This sense of insecurity caused them to abandon “splendid isolation” and become more involved in the continent.  After 1905 Revolution and humiliation against Japan, Russia relied heavily on French capital and expertise to modernize, industrialize and improve her armed forces (this was an alliance of polar opposites) France needed a strong ally on Germany’s eastern border 10

12  This political cartoon shows the German perspective of the Anglo-French entente. John Bull (Britain) is shown being escorted away from a possible friendship with Germany by the prostitute (France). The sword hidden under the German’s cloak suggests there will be future consequences for this foolish decision. 11

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14  Heightened competition to acquire colonies that provide ports, materials, and markets  Social Darwinism and Racism- “White man’s burden”  Britain viewed Germany as a threat to its global empire and prestige as the leading economic power in Europe.  Fearing encirclement, Germany twice attempted to break up France and Britain’s relationship by threatening French imperial ambitions in North Africa (Morocco, 1905 and 1911). In the Second Moroccan Crisis (1911) Germany used “gun boat diplomacy” to gain territorial concessions in the Congo from France. “Mansion House Speech”- David Lloyd George- Britain would not allow Germany to pressure France Events further pushed France and Britain together 13

15  Russia had fought a series of wars since 1870s against the Ottomans and supported the cause of Serbia nationalism for strategic reasons – it would help them gain influence in the Balkans and gain access to the Mediterranean.  Austria-Hungary was in survival mode, and Serbian nationalism and terrorist organizations inside the empire threatened its existence, but were not powerful enough without Russian support to seriously disrupt the empire. Russia was not prepared, nor willing to fight over the Balkans in 1908 (Bosnia) or (Balkan Wars) – so Serbian ambitions were unsuccessful.Balkan Wars 14

16  Germany financed a railway in the Ottoman Empire and increasing its military expertise and capital to the Turks.  The German plan involved pushing Russian influence out of the Balkans, cutting Russia off from the Mediterranean by control of the Dardenelles, and in opening up a way for Germany to expand towards the Persian Gulf and India. 15

17  Historians claim that the expectation of war and militarism among the citizens of the Great Powers made general war more likely.  By 1914, Europe was two heavily armed power blocs. Most states had adopted compulsory military service and had millions of trained reservists.  “gun boat diplomacy” and the exercising of military power was a legitimate means of solving international disputes in the 19 th century. Why should it be different now? 16

18  Anglo-German Naval Arms Race - Germany had tried, but could not maintain, to build a navy to rival Britain. According to American military strategist, Mahan, naval supremacy was the key to global domination throughout history.  Germany’s attempt to build a massive fleet was viewed as an act of aggression in London, but by , Germany had abandoned these plans – the army was more vital to its survival, and the build up of battleships too expensive.  It is far fetched to claim the Anglo-German arms race as a significant cause of the war, but it did indicate Britain’s sense of insecurity and likely help to push her closer into the Franco- Russian entente (especially since the 1905 Russo-Japanese War had temporarily eliminated Russia as a naval rival in the Mediterranean). 17

19  By 1914, many of Europe’s military leaders were convinced that war was inevitable – a sense of pessimism prevailed.  Given the existing tensions, all states had developed detailed war plans that relied on precise timing and railway schedules to gain the advantage of speedy mobilization (this is what won the Franco-Prussian War, 1870).  Germany, maintaining a policy of trying to keep the largest army in Europe, was by 1914 struggling to keep pace with Russian build up and advantages in manpower.  Germany’s high command were worried that within a few years Russia would have finished military upgrades, would be more industrialized and would have completed its railways into the western frontier – Germany would be doomed, according to Germany’s military strategists. 18

20  Historians generally recognize that some long-term developments played a role in the outbreak of war in 1914: 1. Franco-Prussian War ( ); “the German Question” 2. Collapse of Ottoman Empire & Balkan independence movements; “the Eastern Question” 3. Russo-Japanese War and 1905 Revolution 4. Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia (1908) 5. Balkan Wars ( ) 19

21  Those who argue convincingly that Germany was most responsible for the conditions that created a general war point out a recklessness and aggression that was apparent long before 1914: 1. Moroccan Crises (1905, 1911) 2. Naval arms race and military build up 3. Seeking “a place in the sun” – empire building in Asia and Africa 4. Ambitions in the Middle East was a threat to Suez 5. Provided Krupp artillery guns to Boers and Afrikaners in Boer War; Kaiser’s public support for Britain’s enemies in the war “..it must be granted that [Germany’s] policies had for some years been rather peremptory, arrogant, devious and obstinate.” - Palmer, Colton, Kramer, A History of the Modern World 20

22 1. Germany:  Rise in political power of socialists; demands for greater democratization and power-sharing was feared by traditional elites and industrialists.  Successful war would unify the people 2. Austria-Hungary:  Very multi-ethnic population. Successful war against Serbia and Russia would give them dominance in the Balkans and end nationalist disturbances. 21

23 3. Russia:  Tsar had recovered from 1905 by allowing a Duma (parliament) but had been restricting its powers. Increasingly relied on middle class and working class for industrialization, but did not want to share power or reform government. In the last years before war, the Duma’s powers were curtailed.  Russian Empire contained hundreds of minorities and were disunited. Attempts to “Russify” minorities had failed.  Civil unrest and strikes had rocked Russia in the last years before the war. Successful war would unify the people behind the Tsar and avoid future revolution. 22

24 4. France:  Had been rocked by military scandals, strikes and labor unrest.  Industrial growth and population growth were stagnant and faced a bleak future. 5. Britain:  Support for socialist Labor Party growing amidst declining economic growth.  Had suffered some shocks to its prestige and was losing ground to USA and Germany as the prime economic power. German exports were challenging British economy. 23

25 1. June 28, Sarajevo, Bosnia – Franz Ferdinand and his wife assassinated  Gavrillo Princip, a Serb nationalist, supported an encouraged by the Black Hand, a terrorist organization hoping to cause a war that would free Slavs from the Hapsburgs.  Franz Ferdinand was a moderate reformer who might have found compromise and allowed nationalist autonomy within the empire. This would potentially have frustrated Serb goals.  No direct link to official Serbian government involvement has ever been proven – Serbia’s civilian government did not want war (having just fought in two Balkan Wars) 24

26 2. Austria-Hungary could not let Serbia go unpunished and retain prestige as a “great power”. Meant to send a message to nationalists. 3. Russia had backed down in previous Balkan crises and felt it could not back down in this one. 4. Germany had mounting paranoia about the improvement of Russia’s armies, and the dependability of their weak ally – leaders feared war with Russia or France, not rising out of the Austro- Serbian dispute, might not result in Austria-Hungary on Germany’s side? 25

27  July 28 –Austria-Hungary declares war with support of Germany and the “Blank Check”  August 1 – Germany declared war on Russia. Britain still refused to declare position to France.  August 3 – Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium.  August 4 – Britain declared war on Germany  WORLD WAR ONE HAS BEGUN!!! 1 st international war of the industrial revolution; total war 26

28  Geographically “encircled” by France and Russia, Germany feared being cut to pieces fighting a two-front war.  The Schlieffen Plan was to remedy this situation by attacking and defeating France first, because Russia would take longer to mobilize, then putting troops on trains to meet the Russians. This had two important consequences: 1. The plan necessitated Germany to involve France in a continental war in any conflict involving Russia, thus making a wider war more likely in a local conflict involving the Balkans. 27

29  Germany’s Schlieffen Plan was designed to outflank France’s army and capture Paris in six weeks, but required an impossible rate of speed to move men and materials.  August 4 th they started their attack and made it 20 miles outside of Paris by September  Halted at the Battle of the Marne  Western Front 28

30  millions of sacrificed men for little gains; example 10 months at Verdun for 300,000 lives  Trench Warfare Trench Foot Frostbite Rats Poison Gas 29

31  Mobile War  Russian were beat out of Germany but later pushed the Austrians out of Serbia  Italians leave the Triple Alliance and attack Austria in May 1915  Germans come to the aid of Austria and also eliminate Serbia from the war in September of

32  Allie strategy to attack the Ottoman Empire and the Dardanelles along with establishing a supply line to Russia  Feb Led by British, French, Australian, and French troops  Turned into a stalemate and by the time of evacuation (December) 250,000 had died 31

33  The question of war guilt has been the focus of historical controversy ever since the Paris Peace Conferences in Our readings represent the two basic positions on the issue: 1. Palmer, Colton, Kramer, argue that the war was not Germany’s fault and therefore the verdict at Versailles in 1919 was flawed: “..it is not true that Germany started the war, as its enemies in 1914 popularly believed...” – Palmer, Colton, Kramer, A History of the Modern World, p J.A.S. Grenville takes the traditional view that Germany and her allies were primarily responsible and therefore the verdict of Versailles was a justifiable one: “The responsibility for starting the conflict in July and August must rest primarily on the shoulders of Germany and Austria-Hungary…” - J.A.S. Grenville, A History of the World, p. 59.  Which position is best supported by the evidence? 32

34  Key historians who argue that Germany was at fault: 1. A.J.P. Taylor, British historian  “war by timetable argument” – war plans, mobilization schedules, railroad itineraries put events beyond the control of the diplomats in the final days of the July Crisis  however, the war plans were necessary because of Germany’s reversal in foreign policy after Bismarck’s retirement (1890) in which Germany became increasingly aggressive and allowed alliances to lapse, leading to encirclement 2. David Fromkin (Europe’s Last Summer) argues that Germany deliberately used the assassination as a cause to start a global war  The war was no accident. German military leadership were convinced that by , Germany would be too weak to win a war with France, England and Russia – this was a war desired by Germany, especially von Molke.  also argues that in all countries, but particularly Germany and Austria documents were widely destroyed and forged to distort the origins of the war. 33

35  Key historians who argue that Germany was at fault: 3. Fritz Fischer, German historian – the “Fischer controversy” is at the centre of the Great War origins debate  link between domestic fears of the German power elite (capitalists & Junkers) and the expansionist aims of the Reich  the Prussian elites wanted war since 1912 (the year of sweeping socialist gains in the Reichstag) and manipulated the Austrians into using the Casus Belli (lawful cause of war) created by the assassination of Archduke into starting WWI  uses Bethmann-Hollweg’s plan (September Program, 1914) for annexations and economic mastery of Europe (Mitteleuropa) to argue that Germany planned the war to avoid democratization and gain hegemony over central Europe – is this “bad history”?  continuity between the war aims of the Reich in 1914, and Hitler’s Nazis in the 1930s, and therefore there was something inherently rotten about Germany in the 20 th century 34

36  Key historians who argue that “structural factors” are to blame: 1. Paul Kennedy, argues that Germany took the offensive against legitimate and real threats. 2. James Joll argues that interlocking system of alliances was responsible, but points to other pressures such as domestic problems. 3. George Kennan argues that the French-Russian alliance made war inevitable – any Balkan quarrel would erupt in war 4. Arthur Stoessinger argues that ultimately it was the system of decision making in all of the Great Power governments that caused the war – a handful of arrogant, stubborn and careless leaders dragged millions into war. 35

37 “Finally, one is struck with the overwhelming mediocrity of the people involved. The character of each of the leaders, diplomats, or generals was badly flawed by arrogance, stupidity, carelessness, or weakness. There was a pervasive tendency to place the preservation of one’s ego before the preservation of the peace.” - Stoessinger, Why Nations Go To War 36

38  Key historians who focus away from Germany: 1. Arno Mayer – equally distributes blame, but Austrians were especially desperate for war.  advocates that all of Europe - not just Germany - was beset by domestic disturbances; all conservative European statesmen consciously used popular nationalism and edged closer to war to preserve their social systems from political opposition parties 2. Samuel Williamson argues that Austria’s role has been overlooked. The decision to wage war was ultimately Austria’s. 3. Barbara Tuchman argues that careless and belligerent Russian mobilization turned a local crisis into global war. 4. Niall Ferguson refutes the notion that militarism, imperialism, nationalism or the arms race made war inevitable – British policy in the decade before 1914, but especially British diplomacy under Sir Edward Grey created a global conflict from the local crisis. 37

39 “…Behind the ‘governments’ – the handful of men who made decisions in Berlin, Vienna, Paris and St. Petersburg – stood populations willing to fight for republic, king and emperor. Only a tiny minority dissented. For the largest socialist party in Europe, the German, the war was accepted as being fought against tsarist Russian aggression. The different nationalities of the Dual Monarchy [Austria-Hungary] all fought for the Hapsburgs, the French socialists fought as enthusiastically in the defence of their fatherland ruthlessly invaded by the Germans…” - J.A.S. Grenville, A History of the World 38

40  Explain why “the mere narration of successive crises does not explain why the chief nations of Europe within a few days became locked in combat over the murder of an imperial personage”. Why did a world war break out in 1914?  In what ways, and with what results, was nationalism both a unifying and destructive force in the nineteenth and early twentieth century?  To what extent was Germany responsible for starting a global war in 1914? “The lights are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” – Sir Edward Grey, August 4,


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