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Government 50: Origins of World War I

Government 50: Origins of World War I

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Published by Alexander Taylor
These documents were used as a supplement originally at Yale University and then in the Topics of International Relations Course at Dartmouth College. The course was taught by Allan C. Stam.
These documents were used as a supplement originally at Yale University and then in the Topics of International Relations Course at Dartmouth College. The course was taught by Allan C. Stam.

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Published by: Alexander Taylor on Sep 23, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/13/2013

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1
THE ORIGINS OF THE FIRST WORLD WARI.
 
WORLD WAR I IN PERSPECTIVEA.
 
Why care about WWI?
1.
 
Cause versus free choice2.
 
Weird event or signal for future?
B.
 
Single event which determines course of history for Europe in the20th century.
1.
 
Beginning of drop of Europe as center of power, signalsemergence of US as a great power.2.
 
Beginning of the end of colonialism3.
 
Rise of Soviets as a power (leads to fall of Romanovs)4.
 
End of the 19th century, Victorian age, belief in Man’sperfection.5.
 
Loss of faith in industrial revolution as improvement of mankindwhich leads to a loss of faith in man himself.
C.
 
In 1890 Europe was a nice, quiet place. Things were cool.Question: how could such a great war emerge from such anuntroubled world?D.
 
WWI unleashed an avalanche of violence that pervaded the 20thcentury.E.
 
Ask three questions of these events (and other wars):
1.
 
What caused the war?
i.e. what conditions, events, or actionsmade the war inevitable?2.
 
Who caused the war?
What states, or political groups or personswithin states?3.
 
Why did these actors choose the war?
What expectations andintentions animated their actions? Were they trying to cause war?Expecting to cause war?
 
2
F.
 
FOUR COMMON EXPLANATIONS FOR WWIG.
 
"Germany caused the war." Three main variants are offered:
1.
 
The minimalist Germany-blaming view
: Germany risked a great war inJuly 1914 in order to make gains for the German/Austrian alliance.Germany preferred the prewar status quo to a general war, but didknowingly risk a general war.2.
 
The intermediate Germany-blaming view
: Germany preferred acontinental war to the prewar status quo, but preferred the prewar statusquo to a world war (a war against Britain, France, and Russia). (This isthe view of "Fischer School" moderates, exemplified by Imanuel Geiss.)3.
 
The maximalist Germany-blaming view
: Germany preferred even aworld war to the prewar status quo. (The extreme "Fischer School" view,)
H.
 
"Russia, or Serbia, or Britain, or France, or Austria caused the war."
1.
 
During 1919-1945 many Germans alleged that Britain organized theencirclement of Germany and conspired to cause the war. Germany,they said, was wholly innocent.2.
 
Sidney Fay and other scholars have put prime responsibility onAustria and Russia; some also focus on Serbia; some blame Franceand Britain for not restraining Russia more firmly; some suspect thatFrance egged Russia on.
I.
 
"Crisis bungling caused the war."
1.
 
In this view no European power willfully risked war. Europeanleaders simply mismanaged the July crisis.2.
 
"Russia began pre-mobilization without realizing that mobilizationmeant war, or that partial mobilization against Austria wasimpossible."3.
 
"Austria failed to give Russia its evidence showing that Serbia wasresponsible for the death of the Archduke. Had Russia known Serbia'srole it would have sympathized more with Austria's position."4.
 
"British leaders (Grey) did not realize that mobilization meant war;hence they unwisely failed to restrain Russian mobilization."5.
 
"German leaders (Jagow) falsely assured Russia that Germany wouldtolerate Russian partial mobilization against Austria."
J.
 
"The explosive military situation caused the war."
1.
 
In this view the widespread belief in the power of the offense and thegeneral embrace of offensive plans primed the world for war. Thisexplosive military backdrop magnified the dangers posed by a minorcrisis and the usual crisis blunders it produced.
 
3
II.
 
BACKGROUND TO WAR: EUROPE 1890-1914A.
 
The Powers' Relative Strength:
1.
 
They ranked as follows: (1) Germany; (2) Britain; (3) Russia;(4) France; (5) Austria-Hungary; (6) Serbia.
B.
 
Social Structure and Domestic Politics in Europe, 1890-19141.
 
Oligarchy and fears of upheaval in Europe. Russia andAustria on a collision course in Balkans.a)
 
Russia
(1)
 
has revolution in 1905. Regime was weak,agrarian based economy in an emergingindustrial age.(2)
 
High proletariat unrest. Intellectuals alienatedfrom society and politics. Compare to howBismarck had been willing to make liberalconcession during 1870’s.(3)
 
Slavophile opinion holding state together. Leadsto need to back Serbs.(4)
 
1909 Bosnia crisis Russia is spanked and losesface. Leaders decide better to have war abroadthan revolution at home.
b)
 
Austria-Hungary
(1)
 
2nd sick man of Europe (Turkey is 1
st
)(2)
 
Multiethnic state, many nationalities. Serbs,poles, Czechs, Rumanians, Hungarians, etc.Austrian wealth based on industrialdevelopment, Hungary’s on agrarian.(3)
 
Fears that liberal reforms will tear country apart.(4)
 
Sees existence of independent and pan-SlavicSerbia as a threat to existence of A-H.(5)
 
Domestic politics here may have been guidingforce behind policy of conquest in Balkans.

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