[....] my few comments
June 28 1919. Versailles Treaty signed on anniversary of Sarajevo murders. Germans indignant over Article 231 and war guilt. Basis for reparations. German Foreign Office established department to dispute the matter, the "Kriegsschuldreferat" with two offshoots. Significant one was the Zentralstelle zur Erforschung der Kriegsschuldfrage" or Central Office for Researching the War Guilt Question. Wave of revisionism followed, mainly in Germany and the US. The effort failed but few reparations were paid and it was all overtaken by the rise of the Nazis. A.J.P. Taylor revived the anti-revisionist case in the 1950s as did the work of Albertini. German and French historians concluded in 1952 that no one was to blame. In 1961, Fritz Fischer's "Griff nach der Weltmacht" upset the apple cart. Rejected doctrine of "patriotic self censorship" and argued that there was a degree of continuity 1914 to 1945. Vicious row followed. Interest continues but best work being in German, it is little known in the US so that classical revisionism is what is mostly taught in American schools. Purpose of book is to provide a brief, readable guide to the debate. Tries to avoid polemic but subject still has its importance.
Will identify six keys.
Chapter 1. The July Crisis
Reviews [accurately] the course of the crisis and identifies six keys. First, the degree of Serbian involvement. Second, the German blank cheque. What did the Germans intend? Did they approve the severity of the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia? Third, what influence did the French have on Russian policy up to the latter's general mobilisation? Fourth, Grey's reluctance to warn Germany of the risk of British intervention. Fifth, Bethmann's apparent reversal on 30 July. Was it really to hold back Austria or only to shift the blame on to Russia? Sixth, did Russian general mobilisation really make war inevitable?
All concerned by war guilt question and all published quickly collections of diplomatic documents, the "Colour Books". None comprehensive and many highly selective.
Chapter 2. The High Tide of Revisionism.
Colour books plainly inadequate. Germany published the collection of documents made by Kautsky and in late 1920s forty volumes of "Die grosse Politik der europäischen Kabinette". Others followed suit, the British in 1926-38, the French, for July 1914, in 1936 etc. Russia gleefully published everything it could find which would discredit the former regime which the Germans duly published as "Die internationalen Beziehungen im Zeitalter des Imperialismus. Etc etc. But a full set for all was not available till the late 1930s so that the revisionism of the 1920s was based only on "Die grosse Politik" which was limited to German documents, was very selective, contained various falsifications and was organised by themes making it difficult to use.
The German Revisionists.
A journal published by the German Foreign Office on the war guilt question was edited from 1923 to 1937 by Alfred von Wegerer, a Foreign Office official, a fact not disclosed to the public. His version was simple. Sarajevo was a Serbian plot, Austria had to be supported but Germany never encouraged the Austrians. Britain was wrong not to have held back France while Russia saw her chance to get control of the Straits but made war inevitable by mobilising. No individual state was wholly responsible, a theme which others were to adopt, although Germany was wholly innocent. His work did not age well since it ignored the document collections which became available later. Count Max Montgelas, aged 54 in 1914 after a career in the German Army, was more subtle. With Schücking, he edited the Kautsky documents. His book, "The Case for the Central Powers" (English version, New York 1925) exonerated the Serbian government as such and thought Germany had made three mistakes, too much confidence in monarchical solidarity, a belief that France and Russia were not ready for war and too much faith in British neutrality but he admits Germany was willing to back Austria and to risk war even when it knew of the contents of the ultimatum to Serbia. The Entente Powers were criticized but less so than with Wegerer. He did not blame Grey for misleading Lichnowsky and thought it would have been natural enough for the Russians and French to have consulted together during the St Petersburg visit. However, his attempt to show that German policy in the last week was genuinely pacific and moderate depends upon the omission of certain documents which show that the real objective was to ensure that Russia bore the blame although he did not make much of Russian mobilisation, all in all, a fairly respectable job for an amateur historian. No professional historians took up the task so it was all left to Wegerer and Montgelas.
The American Revisionists: Harry Elmer Barnes.
(About here, the author wonders why American historians all have three names while British historians all have three initials).
Langdon is thoroughly critical of Barnes' book "The Genesis of the World War" (New York 1925), describing it as an "angry polemic" and "vitriolic" and attributed its success to the climate of isolationism then prevalent. Austrian and German reaction to a Serbian plot were both fully justified, the Russians and French were full of aggressive intent and Grey sought to "destroy Germany's navy, ruin its trade and appropriate its colonies". His work was welcomed in Germany but American reaction was more cautious, commenting critically on his intemperance, shaky methodology and use of evidence.
The American Revisionists: Sidney Bradshaw Fay.
Fay, a colleague of Barnes at Smith College at the time, began attacking Article 231 of the Versailles Treaty as early as 1920-21 and published his "The Origins of the World War" in two volumes in 1928. He then moved to Harvard where he taught the revisionist case for "decades". Although he exonerated the Serbian government, he gives the German government "the benefit of every doubt" while not absolving Germany completely eg that the damaging telegrams from the Austrian ambassador in Berlin repeating the German wish that Austria should move quickly are explicable in the light of the Ambassador's age and his being a militarist. But he does blame Berchtold and thinks Germany was foolish to give him a blank cheque. But then he thought the French did likewise with the Russians. He is fairly sympathetic to Grey's reluctance to speak too bluntly to the Germans. Overall, he is most severe on Austria-Hungary and least on Britain. In general, he thought there was plenty of blame all round so that the claim of German sole responsibility could not be sustained. The book is well argued and fair-minded. It was well received and is still read today.
[One tiny problem. Langdon says Fay had only Die Grosse Politik and the final volume of the British Documents. But his book was published in 1928 and the last BD volume came out in 1938. So ?? But Fay also had the Kautsky collection]
[Apart from some brief asides, Langdon does not mention the French revisionists amongst whom was the almost demented Demartial. He also seems to forget that the excellent English language version of the Kautsky collection was published by the Carnegie Foundation in 1924.]
Chapter 3. The Antirevisionists Respond.
Wide divergencies amongst the revisionists and also amongst the antirevisionists.
Germany. Hermann Kantorowicz
Professor of criminal law and legal history at Kiel University, he was a member of the investigating committee of the Reichstag and wrote an opinion, "Gutachten zur Kriegsschuldfrage 1914", based on the "colour books" and the Kautsky collection, in 1923. It ran counter to government policy, was suppressed and was published only in 1967, the author having died in 1940. Thought guilt of Serbian government unproven, German support for Austria knowingly risked war, Bethmann meant well but was ineffectual, Russian-French collusion unproven, Russian mobilisation a mere technicality, Grey innocent. Thus lion's share of blame rested on Germany and Austria. "A masterful blending of historical and juridical analysis". Commented that in the climate then prevailing, historians could not try to tell the truth but had rather to be "patriotic".
France: Pierre Renouvin.
French historians much affected by domestic politics since Poincarè still active. None wanted to undermine the Versailles Treaty because of fears for French security but few wanted to endorse Poincarè's current policies. Awkward. Renouvin worked on the production of the French "Documents Diplomatiques" series and in 1925 published his "Les origins immèdiates de la guerre". Lived to 1971 and had a brilliant academic career.
Argued Serbian government effectively innocent but that the Central Powers consciously risked war. Germans knew in advance of content of the ultimatum to Serbia. Refrained from speculating about Russian --- French contacts at the St Petersburg meeting but stated the little that was known. Refused to accept that Grey was trying to entice Germany into war by concealing Britain's real intentions. Thought Bethmann's object was to secure that the war would be fought under the best possible conditions. Maintained that the sole reason for Russian general mobilisation was that they had realized that partial mobilisation was impossible. Whereas German mobilisation did mean war. But thought that Germany would have been satisfied with a diplomatic victory although willing to risk war to achieve it.
United States: Bernadotte Everly Schmitt
From Chicago, like Fay, but stayed there. His book, "The Coming of the War, 1914" came out in two volumes in 1930. Debate of "heroic proportions" in the early 1930s with Fay, the latter maintaining that all were guilty and Germany less so than Austria-Hungary and Serbia while he contended that Germany's guilt outweighed all the others and thus validated the basic premise of Article 231.
Generations of American students and scholars have known little more than the work of Fay and Schmitt, remaining innocent of that of Albertini and Fischer. Fay more or less won, being more readable. Sympathetic to Serbia, Schmitt thought the Germans knew what Austria intended and accepted the risk of war. Others took similar decisions but the Kaiser and Bethmann were the first to take such decisions. French-Russian expressions of solidarity only the normal diplomatic language of the time and not particularly significant. Thought it a pity Grey did not speak more strongly sooner but could understand why he had not. Bethmann tried to mislead Grey about mediation and was more concerned to throw the blame on Russia than to prevent war. Thought Russian policy was erratic and general mobilisation too precipitate but also that it made no real difference. Germany appeared belligerent because it was belligerent.
So in Europe, Wegerer and Montgelas were opposed by Renouvin and in the US, Fay and Schmitt dominated the field but the rise of the Nazis rendered them all irrelevant.
Italy: Luigi Albertini
Formerly editor of the Corriere della Sera and a Senator, Albertini worked for ten years to produce the definitive account. Had available most of the major document collections and obtained interviews with many of the surviving personalities. The result was "a tour de force of diplomatic history" and "a masterpiece". "Le origini della Guerra del 1914 was published in Milan in 1942-43. Died just as first of four volumes appeared and so never actually finished the fourth. Published in English in 1952- 1957. An "indispensable storehouse of information and sage appraisal" and, with it, the antirevisionist position achieved apotheosis. He thought the Serbian government innocent and that Berchtold was an incompetent driven along by the Germans. The famous telegram, "one of the most damning documents on German responsibility for the war" from the Austrian ambassador to Berlin of 6 July was, according to Hoyos, actually drafted by him. But he doubted if Germany actually wanted preventive war and simply miscalculated and could easily have restrained Austria. He believed Poincaré was opportunistic but did not plan war. He criticized Grey for not speaking strongly to Germany sooner and argues that the reasons for his not doing so were just as much in operation after he spoke as they were before. Bethmann resorted to duplicity to try to keep Britain neutral [certainly true but could this go some way to explain Grey's hesitancy?] and failed to realize the impact that the Austrian declaration of war on Serbia and opening fire on Belgrade would have on Russia. As for the blunder of Russian general mobilisation, Albertini thought Sazonov simply did not know that for the Germans mobilisation really did mean war. [There seems to have been a fairly general pattern of civil politicians not knowing much about military practicalities.] He attributed the greater part of responsibility to the Central Powers while reserving some blame to the Entente mainly for their mistakes. Overall, "a marvellous historical resource for which all scholars of the period remain in his debt".
England: [he meant Britain] A. J. P. Taylor.
The meeting of American and Soviet troops on the Elbe [and of British and Soviet troops at Wismar] settled the issue for the time being. German and other historians could write about the Nazi era without going further back but in 1945, 1954 and 1969, Taylor produced three books, "The Course of German History", "The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918" and "War by Timetable: How the First World War Began", all seeking to discern a consistent pattern of German aggression. He made the usual antirevisionist case but differed in that he thought that a threat of British intervention would not have deterred the Germans or encouraged the French or Russians. The critical moment was the declaration on 31 July of Kriegsgefahrzustand (Danger of Imminent War) and the Schlieffen Plan. "All were trapped by their military preparations and the Germans most of all". Much too monocausal and almost a British equivalent of Barnes but a pleasure to read.
Thus far, the debate had dealt only with traditional diplomatic history but in 1961, Fischer's "Griff nach der Weltmacht" appeared.
Chapter 4: The Hamburg School.
Fifty three in 1961, Fischer was known principally for his work on German church history and had pursued his career under the Nazis. Post war, a spell in Britain and the US awoke his interest in the historiography of the First World War. Returning to Hamburg, he gained access to the archives held in East Germany, thereby infuriating other German historians especially Gerhard Ritter. Disputes over his articles on German war aims resulted in the first two chapters of his first book dealing with the responsibility issue.
"Griff nach der Weltmacht" published in 1961 ["Germany's Aims in the First World War" New York 1967] "forever altered the perspective and outlook of readers". It contained a vast amount of new material and constituted a "powerful indictment of German conduct" even if it concentrated on Germany and almost completely ignored other countries. Miscalculating on British neutrality, Germany sought either a major diplomatic triumph or a successful war and consistently pursued those aims. Even once that miscalculation was revealed, Bethmann's attempt on 29 and 30 July to change course and to induce the Austrians to do so as well were the product of momentary panic not of a profound alteration in strategy. Bethmann's other overriding consideration was to carry along the German Social Democrat Party and for this it was essential that the blame should fall on Russia. This was the first expression of the "Primat der Innenpolitik" [Primacy of Internal Politics].
Personal and vitriolic attacks followed. Criticism of errors was mostly misplaced. Minor errors were corrected in later editions and in the second book but many were disputes over interpretations of documents, not errors as such. Other historians than the Germans joined in criticism of Fischer's concentration on Germany. One complaint, that it was not a balanced portrayal of the crisis was in itself justified but explicable since the first two chapters were intended only to set the scene for the discussion of German war aims. Others claimed that Marxist methodology was employed, largely based on suspicions as to why Fischer had been given access to the East German archives, was less justified but cost Fischer dear in loss of official support. Some thought the real purpose was to undermine the "official" West German view of Germany's innocence in 1914. His demolition of the case for Bethmann Hollweg caused great offence in that he argued, with a great deal of evidence, that Bethmann constantly gave way to the extremists because he was one himself.
Fischer argued that German policy was deliberate and consistent throughout the crisis and that there was no rift between the civil officials and the soldiers. This was bad enough but he went on to argue that it was all entirely consonant with the aims and ambitions of the German public at the time. In demolishing the revisionist case, he also called in question the desire for German reunification, an unforgivable sin even if it was not then in prospect. It did not help that Fischer's book was well received abroad where many thought Germany still had to come to terms with its authoritarian as well as its Nazi past. As Sebastian Haffner said "..Fischer's book not only relates history, it makes history".
The Hamburg School: Imanuel Geiss.
A disciple of Fischer, Geiss produced in 1963-4, a very valuable compendium of the relevant documents. ""Julikrise und Kriegsausbruch 1914" and another, in English, in 1967, "July 1914. Selected Documents" some 75% shorter. Again complaints were raised about concentration on Germany and selectivity but Geiss had found yet more hitherto unpublished documents. However, while determinedly anti-revisionist and supportive of Fischer, Geiss is not entirely consistent in some of his arguments.
The Hamburg School: Fischer and "War of Illusions"
The second book, in 1969, went further still in tracing the roots of German policy in 1914 back to the attitudes and behaviour of German elites at the turn of the century. His interpretation of the "War Council" of December 1912 was and is much disputed but he had found some new evidence which he used to good effect. One such is the lie about where Bethmann Hollweg was when the Austrians came to Berlin seeking support. They were told he was on his estates when he was in fact in Berlin. Another was Bethmann's consultations with officials on July 18 --- 20 concerning mobilisation. The war was not preventive but a deliberate attempt to smother social tensions at home and to achieve hegemony.
Chapter 5: Opposition to Fischer.
More impact in the rest of the world than in the US where the standard revisionist history mostly continued to be taught. The controversy that erupted in Germany was equally unknown to Americans, largely because little of it was translated and few American historians were competent in German. In Germany, the net effect was a slow shift in opinions as historians accepted the indisputable parts of Fischer's work while continuing to argue the rest.
Gerhard Ritter. (University of Freiburg)
A soldier in the First World War and the doyen of German historians, Ritter was anything but an apologist for Germany pre 1914 and especially opposed those who argued for "patriotic self censorship". He had attacked the Schlieffen Plan and had been part of the resistance to the Nazis yet he fiercely opposed Fischer, largely because Fischer had destroyed Ritter's view of Bethmann as a well meaning but, in the last resort, ineffectual man. He attacked him in public and professional gatherings and paid special attention to Fischer's arguments in the second volume of his four volume work "Staatskunst und Kriegshandwerk", 1965-68, English version "The Sword and the Sceptre", 1970 [the fourth volume was posthumous] on the problem of militarism in German history. Criticizing Fischer for interpreting every doubtful document in the sense most unfavourable to Bethmann, Ritter seems to have fallen into the opposite trap and, while disagreeing with Fischer, was not able to refute him. Like Fay, he thought that the "blank cheque" given to the Austrians was a fundamental mistake but nothing to support this view has come to light and it is not now accepted. A decent and honourable man, he was the prisoner of his own past and could not accept that it had all been much worse than he had believed. His major work, "The Sword and the Sceptre" is still very much worth reading. [My notes on it are in the UKANS archives, somewhere back around 1999].
Karl Dietrich Erdmann (University of Kiel)
Erdmann edited and published in 1972 the Riezler diaries after many tribulations. [Riezler had been the friend and confidant of Bethmann especially during the July crisis]. Allegations followed of suppression and selection which were never satisfactorily refuted. Erdmann had earlier shared Ritter's view, that it was all a hideous and tragic accident, but the Riezler material brought him almost to agree with Fischer. However, he did not accept the cardinal role played by British neutrality nor the importance Fischer attached to the "War Council" of December 1912. His conclusion was that Bethmann was a conscientious, honourable official who, in despair at what he saw as Germany's encirclement, risked war but did not intend it. [ One wonders how Erdmann dealt with what Bethmann said in a letter of 17.1.18 to Prince Max of Baden. "(Germany) became the object of vengeful envy on the part of the other Great Powers, largely though not entirely by her own fault". ] Nonetheless, he thought Bethmann was, like many senior Germans of his time, full of social Darwinism and dreams of domination, a view which nowadays is common to both the Hamburg school and their opponents.
Wolfgang Mommsen (University of Düsseldorf)
In his early thirties [born 5.11.30, died 11.8.04 --- heart attack when swimming in Baltic] when the Fischer controversy broke out, Mommsen was free of personal engagement with the past. He produced (regrettably some of his work, like so much from German historians at the time, is available only in German and is unknown in the US) a particularly good analysis of the different positions adopted by his colleagues and published his own views in 1966 --- 69. Essentially, he thought German policy in 1914 was "an opportunistic reaction to an unanticipated but not unwelcome crisis which gave Bethmann and Wilhelm the chance to embark on a preventive war to break Germany's encirclement...." One oddity is that Mommsen quotes from the Riezler diaries to the effect that if the war were limited to Austria and Serbia, Germany might then be able to come to an agreement with Russia at Austria's expense. But he did not say how this would fit with the general belief that Germany had to support Austria, her only remaining real ally.
Andreas Hillgruber (University of Cologne)
Little known in USA. Interested principally in German "Sonderweg" or why was German national development so different. Argued Bethmann deliberately risked war but did so out of fear of future rather than desire for aggressive expansion. Thought that that came only later when Hindenburg and Ludendorff gained power. [Thus did not really differ all that much from Fischer].
Egmont Zechlin (University of Hamburg)
Again, little known in the USA. Several years older than Fischer and his colleague for some twenty years, Zechlin did not believe Bethmann counted on British neutrality or that war was planned as early as 1912. Believing that Britain would remain neutral meant believing that the Franco-Russian alliance would break up or that Britain would not object to the invasion of Belgium and the subjugation of France. Moreover, the Eastern Question had been the stuff of politics for generations and no reason to suppose that a drastic change in the Balkans could be achieved without interference from other Great Powers. He regarded the war that broke out as "preventive defence" rather than aggressive and expansionist. Langdon believes that both Fischer and Zechlin, in trying to understand German policy in the July crisis, assumed too readily that it was rational. [Again, in fact, the differences between Fischer and Zechlin turn out to be really quite small.]
In the debate, not much has changed since the early seventies. Certainly, Fischer caused a drastic change in German historiography.
Chapter 6. The Debate outside Germany.
Publication of Albertini in English actually inhibited debate, being so overwhelming in its erudition and, by asserting the war guilt of the Central Powers while being critical of Poincaré, Grey and Sazonov being acceptable to both revisionists and antirevisionists alike. The debate raging in Germany over Fischer was little known outside Germany until James Joll discussed it in 1966 and the debate extended further.
Stage One. 1966-1970
Dedijer's "The Road to Sarajevo" exonerated the Serbian government and has not since been challenged. Fritz Stern thought Bethmann was motivated by fear rather than lust for conquest but that the fear was unjustified and that he therefore bore a major part of the responsibility. Konrad Jarausch, in his biography of Bethmann, thought he was pushed by the soldiers into believing that Germany was in danger and that the policy of support for Austria was one of "hideous risk" but not "premeditated aggression". His aims were not aggressive but all the means adopted were offensive. Before Fischer, such a view of Bethmann would have appeared extremely harsh. Arno Mayer, writing about the same time, laid more stress on German internal problems and thought Bethmann's major concern was to carry with him the German Social Democrats. L.C.F. Turner, in Australia, brought back into focus the military side. While critical of Serbia, he thought the German blank cheque to Austria was foolish. He also criticized Poincaré and Grey but especially Bethmann in that he tried to change course too late. Neither Jagow nor Sazonov understood the consequences of mobilisation but the Russians were particularly foolish since they had no need to mobilise and that a threat to do so would have been sufficient. Even partial mobilisation, which he thought would have been possible, would have had the same effect if it had been attempted. Moltke's sudden panic, explicable in the light of his discovery that Austria would give priority to attacking Serbia so endangering the Schlieffen Plan, mattered because it served to convince Bethmann that there was no alternative to a general European war.
Stage Two, 1970 -1977
Joseph Remak's disliked Fischer's emphasis on German policy and thought the war was actually the third Balkan war. Serbia was at fault but German policy was much too risky. France may have been indiscreet but that really changed nothing but no German in his right mind can have believed in British neutrality. Only German mobilisation really meant war and Russian did not but only the Balkan wars with the success they brought to Serbia really lay at the root of it all. A highly conventional approach it won little support elsewhere. Paul Schroeder thought Remak was asking the wrong question. Several crises had been surmounted earlier so why not in 1914? Because the stresses and strains in the European state system finally became too great. He blamed Britain for failing to understand how far Austria was the stabilizing factor and that the effect of British pre-war policy had been to weaken Austria when it should have been to bolster Austria just as Turkey had been supported. Although there was general agreement about German responsibility, the argument now turned to the more subtle factors and the actions of others. Berghahn, in "Germany and the Approach of War" differed from Fischer in that he thought Bethmann genuinely hoped for a diplomatic victory short of war but soon got it wrong. Russian mobilisation was merely the pretext. Michael Gordon in 1974 tried to compare the internal drives within Germany and Britain but could find little in the latter to amount to the use of war for internal reasons unlike the former. He concluded that Geiss, like other members of the Hamburg school, was nearer the mark in looking at the "psychological, emotional, political, economic and military factors in German life as the propellant behind the plunge into war". He thought Germany had three choices, "Kleindeutschland" ie Bismarck's Germany, "Grossdeutschland" ie all the German speaking areas including German Austria and a German dominated "Mitteleuropa" and that Fischer was right in saying that the third was chosen and war was the means to attain it. Ulrich Trumpener thought the German General Staff were well informed about the actions of other armies [were they? At one point they thought the British Grand Fleet was at Hull when it was already at Scapa Flow. They also thought British Territorials were committed to serve overseas when they were not] and that at least one reason for Moltke's panic was mobilisation in Belgium. This at least casts doubt on Fischer's claim that war preparations began in 1912. [Does it? By July 1914, all preparations thought necessary by the Grossegeneralstab could have been completed and there was nothing to do but press the button]. Zara Steiner in the companion volume "Britain and the Origins of the First World War" could see no internal pressures towards war in Britain and doubts the effect of the knowledge of Anglo-Russian naval talks in that the Germans must have known that because of Asian disputes, relations between Russia and Britain were bad. Like Bethmann, Grey also miscalculated, believing until too late that Germany could be brought to play the same role as in 1912. And so the debate went on, largely on issues raised by the Hamburg school.
Stage Three: Since 1980.
Much work trying to blend the many different aspects. At time of writing, only James Joll came close to doing so. Fischer had minimized Austrian guilt by ignoring it but Samuel R. Williamson Jr thought Austria had not needed any urging by Germany and had already decided on aggressive action before Sarajevo, which fortuitously provided not only the pretext but removed from the scene the only senior Austrian capable of resisting the drive to war. Argued cogently and in great detail, his work "restored Austria-Hungary to its proper role as a leading belligerent in 1914". David Kaiser thought that Fischer had never demonstrated a causal link between German domestic policy and the events of 1914 and that the real reasons for war lay abroad and not at home. Bethmann, although fearful of the internal effect of war, despaired of Germany's deteriorating position and was not pressed by the military. He even ensured that useful allies against war, such as Tirpitz, were away from Berlin at the critical time. In so doing, "Bethmann circumvented the decision-making structure of the German government". The Entente side received more attention, beginning with Dominic Lieven in the St Martin's series. The Tsarist government was less exposed than most to public opinion which was, in any event, less warlike than elsewhere. The Russian right wing feared the internal effect of war. Although the Russian diplomats were sympathetic to Serbian nationalism they opposed the Black Hand because they knew Serbia needed a pause in which to draw breath after the Balkan wars. Paléologue was not at fault because his actions were perfectly consonant with French policy since 1912 and Grey was no more forthcoming with the Russians than with the Germans but Sukhomlinov misled ministers as to Russia's ability to withstand a long war. Again in the St Martin's series, J. F. V. Keiger looked at French policy and actions. Concluded that revanchism has been grossly overestimated and that France was simply unlucky at being on the receiving end of German aggression.
Poincaré was prudent, not aggressive. Gerd Krumeich, working on the Poincaré diaries, argued that the return to three years service was motivated by the German Army law of 1913 and the need to reassure the Russians that France was a valuable ally. But for all his re-examination of Poincaré's role, he concludes "...the ultimate reason for his support for Russia was not irresponsible 'playing with fire' or 'warmongering' but years of fear of Germany's world-wide aspirations and aggression". James Joll, in various works, examined a whole range of remote causes but more or less accepts Fischer's version of the events of July 1914. An interesting point is that states were often more worried by their allies than by their likely enemies eg the Germans hated the thought of having to absorb millions of Roman Catholics if Austria were to break up. Unlike Zechlin, he did not think an Anglo-Russian naval agreement should have worried Germany, quoting Grey who said "...in a war against Germany, the Russian Fleet could not get out of the Baltic and the British Fleet could not get in". Neither the Kaiser nor Bethmann knew, until too late, of the planned coup de main on Liège and the "War Council" of December 1912 is important because it showed the state of mind of those present.
Continuing argument should not obscure that tacit agreement now exists on most aspects.
Key Issue 1. Serbian complicity.
The plot was certainly Serbian inspired but not by the government which learnt of it too late but did try to warn the Austrians. [ IIRC Dedijer thought it was Bosnian in origin rather than Serbian. Besides, was the weapon used by Princip provided by Serbia or not?].
Key Issue 2. German conduct to 23 July.
After Sarajevo, German policy, to shore up Austria, alter the balance in the Balkans and possibly split the Entente, was settled before the Austrians asked for support. Both the civilians and the soldiers were in favour. The terms of the ultimatum to Serbia were known in Berlin and, if thought necessary, there were opportunities up to the last moment to influence them. As Ritter sardonically suggested, Bethmann was indeed an irresponsible gambler who lost his bet.
Key Issue 3. French policy towards Russia.
No one now accepts the Barnes' argument that France and Russia conspired to force war on an unsuspecting Germany. [But we know of one who does !] . [All following said earlier] Poincaré 's policy was prudent but certainly not aggressive.
Key Issue 4. Grey's reluctance to warn Germany.
Central to thesis that the war arose from misunderstanding ["slithered into it"] , now generally agreed that Grey could have spoken earlier but maybe because he thought the current crisis looked very like that of 1912 when Germany had collaborated with him in stifling it and that he spoke only when he realized that Germany was intending to go all the way. And then it did not work but probably would not have done anyway. Bethmann might have realized that Germany was heading towards a war she could not win and would have pulled Austria back but none of this was Grey's fault. [And the German soldiers did not care either way].
Key Issue 5. Bethmann's last-minute efforts to restrain Vienna.
They were probably sincere but were certainly ineffectual, leaving too little time for Berchtold to respond. [And were contradicted by Moltke's direct communication with Conrad].
Key Issue 6. Russian mobilisation.
No longer thought so important. Generally accepted that mobilisation meant war only for Germany and everyone else saw it as a negotiating tactic. [So did Jagow when he said partial mobilisation would not upset the Germans, at least until he was told otherwise unless he was trying to trick the Russians into it]. Russia had to do something and if partial mobilisation was not possible, general it would have to be. But there is nothing in this which adds up to aggressive intentions.
All the authors reviewed were trying to be objective though some more than others. None possessed a complete and coherent answer but we nowadays know a great deal more about the course of the crisis in July 1914 than any of the actual participants knew.
[ Fair point but it is often forgotten that after Sarajevo, on 28 June, nothing much happened until the delivery of the Austrian ultimatum on 23 July and only nine days elapsed before the declaration of mobilisation by Germany on 1 August.]