The Origins Of The First World War

2048 words - 8 pages

The Origins of the First World War

The study of diplomatic history has led to many different theories on
the origins of the First World War. Each historian focuses on
different aspects of the events preceding the war. In viewing them
from a different time periods, many come to radically different
conclusions. For example, the theory of German responsibility proposed
directly after the war was soon revised with the release of various
diplomatic documents. Many historians then went so far as to place
primary responsibility on France and Russia. However, following the
Second World War many historians again stressed German responsibility.
The complexity of the events surrounding WWI allows for much
interpretation and speculation, making a definitive theory virtually
impossible. However, the study of contradicting theories allows for
some insight into the causes of WWI.

Barnes

The concept of war guilt was formulated directly after the First World
War as justification for indemnities demanded primarily from Germany.
However, Barnes believed that the initial provocation for the war was
created by the secret alliance between Russia, France, and Serbia,
surmised that the majority of the war guilt could be assigned to them.

Since 1870, European politics had been characterized by secret
alliances and rivalling military and imperial expansion. These
elements combined created an environment inclined to war, but do not
justify its outbreak in 1914. Previously, all the military alliances
in Europe had been passive, defensive agreements. However, in 1912,
the Franco-Russian alliance was altered to become an offensive treaty,
through which the Russian and French diplomats, Izvolski and Poincare
respectively, hoped to achieve the repossession of Alsace-Lorraine,
and control of the Straits. They understood that it would require a
general European War to achieve these aims, and therefore planned
their provocation in such a way that as many countries as possible
would be drawn in, with the majority on their side. Archduke Franz
Ferdinand’s tour of Serbia proved the perfect opportunity, and with
the Serbian governments knowledge, they arranged for the Archduke’s
assassination. As predicted, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria took
action against Serbia, sending an ultimatum intended to provoke a
local conflict. As yet unprepared for conflict, Russia and France
advised Serbia to temporarily agree to the ultimatum. For the next
month, France and Russia openly counselled diplomacy, while secretly
continuing military preparations. One month after the assassination of
the Archduke, and after securing the support of Germany, Austria
declared war on Serbia. As Austria and Germany did not intend for a
general European war, Germany attempted to have the Russian
mobilization stopped. When it became...

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