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Historiographical Debate Over The Origins Of The First World War.

1593 words - 6 pages

A discussion always at the forefront of historiographical debates is that of the origins of the world wars. This paper will be examining the debates that specifically concern WWI, and its origins by analyzing three prominent perspectives. Fritz Fischer and his book Germany's Aims in the First World War, Gerhard Ritter's A New War-Guilt Thesis? and The Illusion of Limited War: Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg's Calculated Risk, July 1914, by Konrad H. Jarausch.Arguably the most controversial view to emerge from the historiographical debate over the origins of the First World War belongs to Fritz Fischer. A German historian, Fischer in the 1960s published his book Germany's Aims in the First World War, reviving the 1920s idea that Germany was largely to blame for the First World War. The strength of his case lies in the large amounts of primary evidence he had collected to support the argument that Germany sought to establish itself as a world power, and that the great war was merely the continuation of the nation's weltpolitik from the late nineteenth-century.Fischer conveniently linked Germany's aims in WWI to the aims of Nazi Germany in WWII, gaining popular support from those still reeling from the shocking events of the Second World War. He denounced the German claim that the war was defensive or preventive, by noting that the German government had used the assassination of the Archduke of Austria-Hungary as an excuse to attack Serbia and Russia. [1] According to Fischer, Germany had almost complete control over the political maneuvers of Austria at the time, and was directly responsible for the ultimatum issued to Serbia. Furthermore, German diplomats went to great lengths to ensure that Germany did not appear to know anything of the actions Austria-Hungary had taken. Fischer provides evidence of this in a letter shared between German foreign ministers, "[Germany] will point to the absence of the Emperor…and of the Chief of the General Staff and the Prussian Minister of War…as evidence that Austria's action has come as a surprise to her…" [2] Responding to the unexpected ultimatum, Britain called for mediation. Yet, Fischer claims that not only did Germany "sabotage" any attempts at peaceful negotiation, it hastened Austria into taking military action against Serbia. Proof of this is in the fact that the Emperor did not even look at the Serbian response to the ultimatum until a day after its delivery, having already decided on military action against the Slavs. [3]Fischer devoted much time revealing Germany's attempt to manipulate Russia prior to the war. When Germany realized that a 'localized' conflict was not possible, their new objective became pitching the blame directly on Russia, thus ensuring British neutrality in the case of a continental war. One way they achieved this was by waiting to mobilize only after Russia, causing the other country to seem aggressive. Fischer cites German diplomats numerous times outwardly...

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