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Why did conventional historians blame Germany for the breakout of the WW1?

  1. Apr 26, 2011 #1
    Didn't Austria-Hungary start the war after the murder of Sarajevo?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 26, 2011 #2


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    I hadn't heard that conventional historians mostly blamed Germany. That's not what I learned in high school.

    Either way, the murder of the Archduke Ferdinand may have been the straw that broke the camel's back, but it wasn't the root cause.

    Have you read the wiki on this?
  4. Apr 26, 2011 #3
    As in 'War Guilt' clause, I thought conventional blamed Germany for the cause of the war. Conventional historians have a propensity to accentuate the immediate cause of a historical event (this is my opinion so it might be wrong)
    What did you learn about this?
  5. Apr 26, 2011 #4


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    According to the wiki on it, the "war guilt" interpretation was invented by German politicians. The exact same clause existed in the treaties for the other combatants but didn't generate that interpretation. So I don't know what "conventional historians" you are talking about.
  6. Apr 27, 2011 #5
    conventional historians mean the historians who made historical judgement firstly, am I right? So in this case, historians who recorded the affairs right after the war
  7. May 13, 2011 #6
    The concept of German "war guilt" certainly prevailed at the Versailles peace conference of 1919. I think what Germany was most guilty of was losing the war. France in particular was deeply aggrieved by the loss of Alsace-Lorraine in 1871 and the fact that the main theater of the fighting in WWI was on French soil. Invading Belgium was bad PR for Germany, but the world knew that Germany was going to invade Belgium as early as 1905. Both France and Prussia-Germany had designs on Belgium from at least the mid 19th century. Under Napoleon I, all of the Low Countries were an integral part of the French Empire and Napoleon III wanted the same thing.


    WWI was predicted almost from the moment the Franco-Prussian War ended with a victory for the newly created German Empire (proclaimed by Bismark in Versailles of all places). A series of alliances followed with members pledged to go to war if any ally went to war. By 1914 it was the UK, France and Russia on one side, and Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy on the other. (Most people don't know about Italy because it didn't enter the war in 1914. In 1915, it came in on the side of the Entente (France et al)).

    In short, WWI was a pile of explosives waiting for a match. It was the direct consequence of almost a millennium of power politics in Europe that would culminate, not in WWI like nearly everyone at the time believed (or at least hoped), but in WWII.

    In WWI Germany was no more guilty than any other nation (IMO). It was a major power in a crowded continent of major powers that were used to settling things by going to war. I don't think any mainstream historian today assigns Germany any special war guilt for WWI.
    Last edited: May 13, 2011
  8. May 21, 2011 #7
    Great analysis S W VC - good to hear from someone that knows what they are talking about.
  9. May 22, 2011 #8
    Thanks croghan, but when it comes to history, it's about what historians write as much as what actually happened. The view of WWI is much different today than it was in say 1920. At that time, it was the standard view that Germany was guilty and needed to be punished. It lost territory, had to pay huge reparations, had much of its remaining territory occupied (watch on the Rhine) and had its army limited to 100,000. Its currency and economy collapsed and Bavaria was briefly ruled by a Marxist-Soviet style regime. Germany's allies (Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire) were broken up and the British and French colonized the Mideast (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq).

    In Russia, a former Entente ally, a civil war to overthrow the Bolshevik regime (Lenin,Trotsky, later Stalin) raged with the help of the Entente allies. US forces participated with occupations of Vladivostok and Murmansk, two key Russian ports. The newly revived Polish state was nearly overrun by Red forces which were eventually turned back. It was the first "Red Scare".

    When you look at this turbulent time, it's easy to see how much events of this period helped shape the modern world. WWII and the Cold War have their origins in the aftermath of WWI as does the current situation between the West and the Muslim world.
  10. May 22, 2011 #9
    You are undoubtedly aware that, as with most people, my definition of a good analysis is one that agrees with me. :devil:

    The carnage of WWI when I began school (I recall that one week we sang God Save the King, then a week later that was changed to God Save the Queen, to give a time to it) was attributed to the famous M-A-I-N causes: militarism, alliances, industrialism and nationalism. Throw in that the general staffs were not even prepared to fight the last war, like they are supposed to be, but the one before that. They ignored the lessons of the American Civil War with Gatling and his gun. (Let alone charging Light and the worse, Heavy Brigades.)

    I have always seen a connection to that and the Peter Seegar song that was banned from the Smothers Brother's Show: "Knee deep in the big muddy, and the big man says to move on......" - so tactics have not improved all that much. Can you spell SURGE?:cry:

    Then the theory was that it was acquisition of colonies. The Germans had a very aggressive colonial policy, even if Bismark wanted no part of it - the Berlin to Baghdad railroad being just one phase, but they were busy little devils all over the world - even to committing a major (what is now called Holocaust) slaughter in S.E. Africa to solidify their gains. (and making the, just fresh from the Boer War, British Empire very nervous.)

    About the 'white' forces in Russia, there is a pecular story about a Czech force that got caught on the wrong side of the line established at Brest Litovsk and refused to surrender their weapons to the communists - they eventually commandeered a train on the cross Russia RR line and arrived home by way of the USA.

    Not sure how important ideological differences were. All of Europe had a strong socialist streak - as indeed it took occupying troops to quell successful socialist revolutions in Germany and Hungary after the defeat. "Reb scares" and commies under the bed were a more ruling class icing to cover the cake of seizing, primarily, the oil of the mid-east and other resource rich colonies, than a real concern The very Conservative (and conservative) Mr. Churchill ended up on the wrong side of government with his warnings of the coming communist doom.

    No argument about:
    save that the Muslem thing was a late comer on the scene - France in WWII needed all sorts of Muslems, primarily from Algeria, in battling Mr. Hitler - so they were not primarily seen as opponents, but as allies.
  11. May 24, 2011 #10
    Arab nationalism was awakened by the break up of the Ottoman Empire. Arabs felt suppressed under centuries of Turkish rule, but their national ambitions were thwarted by the imposition of European neo-colonialism after WWI. At least the Turks were Muslim. New, mostly straight line, boundaries were drawn across the Mideast defining the modern colonial creations of Iraq, Jordan, Palestine (British), Syria and Lebanon (French). Earlier, European powers had established "protectorates" across North Africa: Egypt and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (British), Libya and Somalia (Italian), Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco (French).

    Two other events during WWI or its aftermath with relevance to the current situation: the Balfour Declaration (1917) indicating British support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine; and the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928.
    Last edited: May 24, 2011
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