Bid for World Power?: New Research on the Outbreak of the First World War

ISBN : 9780198792413

Andreas Gestrich
476 Pages
138 x 216 mm
Pub date
May 2017
Studies of the German Historical Institute London
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Over fifty years ago the German historian Fritz Fischer published his famous book Germany's Aims in the First World War. It departed from the established consensus that many countries and governments had a shared responsibility for the outbreak of the war, and put the onus primarily on Germany. The book initiated a fierce international debate which Fischer seems to have mostly won. By the middle of the 1970s many of his controversial positions had become mainstream. More recent research, however, started to question this consensus again. Many scholars moved away from focusing on the responsibility of individual countries or politicians and turned to the complex structures and mechanisms of the international system. How does this 'systemic' perspective alter the importance Fischer's findings and interpretations? This volume brings together the latest research by many of the most prominent historians of the First World War from a wide range of countries and it presents the most important trends and results of recent international scholarship, frequently based on new archival findings unavailable to Fischer at the time. By concentrating on key controversial areas of his arguments and asking which of his assumptions and interpretations still stand the test of new research, the essays in this book provide an excellent and focused overview of the complex history of the outbreak of the war. However, they also demonstrate that no clear new consensus has emerged so far regarding a comprehensive explanation for what still has to be seen as the 'great seminal catastrophe' of the twentieth century (G. F. Kennan).


1 Andreas Gestrich and Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann: Introduction

I German Auskreisung or Einkreisung (Self-Exclusion or Encirclement)?
2 Frank Nagler: Auskreisung? The Anglo-German Antagonism and the Tirpitz Plan
3 Matthew S. Seligmann: 'The Greatest Danger to this Country that Exists': German Plans for Commerce Warfare in British Naval Thinking
4 Andreas Rose: 'Two rival syndicates.' The British Service Departments and the German Naval Threat: Towards a Fritz Fischer-like Approach to British Foreign Policy

II New Evidence on the Decisions for War: Germany and Austria-Hungary
5 John C. G. Rohl: War Premeditated? The 'War Council' of 8 December 1912 Revisited
6 Stig Forster: Russian Horses: The German Army Leadership and the July Crisis of 1914
7 Gunther Kronenbitter: Austria-Hungary's Decision for War in 1914

III New Evidence on the Decisions for War: France and Italy
8 Gerd Krumeich: ' . . . rat das besturzte Frankreich zum Frieden . . .': France's Armaments and Military Situation in July 1914
9 R. J. B. Bosworth: Italy's Wars of Illusion, 1911-1915
10 Matthew Johnson: Peace and Retrenchment? The Edwardian Liberal Party, the Limits of Pacifism, and the Politics of National Defence

IV New Evidence on the Decisions for War: Russia and the Balkans
11 Bruce W. Menning: The Mobilization Crises of 1912 and 1914 in Russian Perspective: Overlooked and Neglected Linkages
12 Christopher Clark: The Balkan Inception Scenario: Serbia and the Coming of War in 1914
13 Alexandre Toumarkine: Fritz Fischer and the Ottoman Empire: Illusions on the Bosporus?

V The War Aims of the Central and Entente Powers
14 Keith Neilson: The Foundations of British War Aims in the First World War
15 David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye: Russia's War Aims

VI Revolutionizing Policies in the First World War
16 Jennifer L. Jenkins: Jihad or Nationalist Uprising? Germany's 'Programme for Revolution' in the Middle East
17 John W. Steinberg: The Peace at Brest-Litovsk: Forgotten or Precedent-Setting Peace?

VII Continuities in German History
18 Gerhard Hirschfeld: From One War to the Other: The Impact of the First World War on the Second World War
Notes on Editors and Contributors

About the author: 

Andreas Gestrich read history and Latin at the universities of Berlin (FU) and Tubingen. He is a social historian and has published widely on the history of the family, of poverty, and of the welfare state in modern Germany and Europe. He taught at the universities of Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, and Wurzburg before he was appointed full Professor of Modern History at Trier University in 1997. Since 2007 he has been Director of the German Historical Institute London. He has also published on German youth in the First World War, and edited volumes on violence in twentieth-century warfare and on nineteenth- and twentieth-century pacifism.; Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann read history, philosophy, and geography at the universities of Bon, Berlin, and Hamburg, where he worked with Fritz Fischer. In 1962 he won a scholarship to Oxford where he did his doctorate. He taught at the universities of Sussex and Oxford 1970-2005 and was Visiting Professor at universities in America, Namibia, and East Germany.

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