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Did Germany Deliberately Bring About A Major War In 1914, And If So Why Didn't She Do So Earlier?

2543 words - 10 pages

This title question deals with a highly controversial and very sensitive issue especially for the German people. The outbreak of a First World War in 1914, and the horrors which it unleashed stimulated a hot debate on the question of 'war guilt.' It is possible to imagine that people felt they needed to place blame somewhere, and therefore that the Versaille Treaty requiring Germany to repay costs after the war was a manifestation of this. Conversely, many Germans during that period (as well as others to this day) vehemently believed that the German people were not to blame, that the war was an inexorable and unwitting result of factors out of the control of the individuals in power. It is also possible to imagine that this belief was to safeguard a desirable perception of themselves. Britain's claim for German innocence in later years could have only been said to maintain good relations with her. These biased perceptions on both sides make it difficult to view past accounts of whether Germany deliberately caused the war as objective. This may be the case especially for the generation who lived through the war (such as Gerhard Ritter,) the next generation of historians therefore could be perceived more likely to deliver an objective story. This essay will outline some of the arguments given for and against Germany's aims of war up to 1914 in three categories of themes. It will then give the arguments for why the situation in 1914 was the moment Germany took to precipitate war.Why might this question be important for us in the present? Eric Hobsbawm states that it is to help us understand past causes of war and recognise similar situations in the present. He continues "If we are interested in why a century of European peace gave way to an epoch of world wars, the question of whose fault it was is... trivial..." (1987: 310) This is true, but still, perhaps in answering this title question, it helps to reveal more undoubtedly the true underlying causes of this war.Fear of encirclementThere are arguments that Germany's entrance in to the war were due to fear of 'encirclement' by the other Great Powers. France would be antagonistic because of the annexations by Germany of Alsace and Lorraine in 1871 (revanchism), Britain would be because of the competition in naval construction, the desire for economic hegemony disputes and envy, while Russia's Pan-Slavism also threatened a fight. This was a widely held view among the public in Germany. We see this in a statement made in The German White Book (a document created in 1914 testifying to Germany's innocence in causing the events leading to war):A morally weakened Austria under the pressure of Russian pan-slavism would be no longer an ally on whom we could count and in whom we could have confidence, as we must be able to have, in view of the ever-menacing attitude of our easterly and westerly neighbours. (Snyder, 1958:83)This sort of 'preventative war' although would have still been caused by Germany would...

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