What are the main argumentsagainst the proposition that Germany was responsible
for the outbreak of war in 1914? (Notes and summary)
Europe 1871-1990(textbook –directly taken):
-They stressed the validity of Germany’s fear of encirclement and sought to lay greater
emphasis on French desires to regain Alsace –Loraine, and Russian designs upon
-Austria started a crisis in the Balkans; Germany was trapped due to close links with
-Ritter accepted that it was sadly true that the civil authorities had steadily abdicated their
responsibilities in the face of military pressures during the reign of Wilhelm I, but argued
that this did not amount to the premeditated aggression.
-Zechlin argues that Bethmann-Hollweg’s objectives were defensive, aiming to break the
diplomatic encirclement which he believed to be stifling Germany.
-Koch’s emphasis has been upon Germany’s fear of isolation, and upon the concern of its
leaders with the consequences of staying out of the conflict.
-Some blamed it on other states or the alliances
-Austria and Serbia have been blamed for being most irresponsible and the cause of the
“third Balkan war” which became the First World War.
Origins of the First World War (directly taken):
-New research has confirmed that Britain, France and Russia did not want war in 1914, but
they were willing to fight rather than allow their allies to be beaten.
-New research had also confirmed that the Austrians were determined to use force against
Serbia and they saw little chance for avoiding war with Russia.
-In 1997, Holger Herwig concurred: “the leaders in Berlin…saw war as the only solution.
-France, Britain and Russia were just reacting to Austria’s aggression towards Serbia
Other sources (directly taken):
1) War was seen as inevitable at that point by many countries, not just Germany. There was
a peacetime draft. Britain and Germany, for example, saw each other as natural enemies.
Russia and Austrian relations deteriorated. Austria was tensely watching Serbia grow in
power and was waiting for their chance to strike.
2) Germany hardly had other choices to not enter the conflict. After the breakdown of the
Bismarckian system, Austria-Hungary was the only ally. Russia, France, and England
became allies to oppose Germany's growing power. In the event of the assassination,
Austria was determined to declare war on Serbia. With the mobilization of Russia to help
Serbia, the possible consequence of Austria being defeated would cause Germany's power
to decline. This idea certainly contributed to Germany's decision to offer its support to
Austria and declare war accordingly.
3) Although Germany knew in that in supporting Austria they were risking a European war,
they expected to win. The Schlieffen plan was aimed at primarily defeating France in just a
few months. They believed that Britain would not be entering the war (it was dealing with
industrial unrest, a possible civil war) and did not expect other non-European countries to
enter as well.
(Taken directly from):
To summarize yes Germany is responsible for part of the blame, but I don’t think Germany
is to fully blame for WWI. It was all the major powers’ fault, they all went to war, they all
had human weaknesses and all found a reason or cause to fight/ create enemies. Some
blame Serbia because if the Serbian didn’t kill Ferdinand then Germany wouldn’t have
issued a blank check to Austria, leading Austria to feel powerful due to their support and
blinded by thinking other countries would be sympathetic. Others believe that Austria
wanted to attack Serbia to control them, etc. and the fact that a Serbian killed Ferdinand it
gave Austria a reason to attack. Some people think Austria overreacted to the assassination
or think that Austria pulled Serbia into war once they issued an impossible ultimatum.
Others believe that Kaiser’s ‘blank check’ contributed to the war or that Germany was
avoiding isolation. The fact that France lost Alsace-Loraine and got involved gave them
motive to get Alsace-Loraine back. The fact that Russia came in fully mobilized might seem
to cause others to have acted irrationally. Many believe Austria and Russia just acted out
defensively. Austria wanted to control the Serbians so that an assassination and revolt
doesn’t happen, but Serbia called to Russia for help, and Russia, even if they didn’t want
war, defended their ally, which people would blame the alliances for war. There are many
factors to the war, everyone interprets things differently. I don’t think there was a turning
point that started the war, because there isn’t one action that caused all the Major Powers
to go to war, every little thing lead to another than finally lead to war. Austria was attacking
Serbia, Russia was defending Serbia aka fighting Austria, Germany declared war on Russia
defending Austria, France attacked Germany and Britain got involved because France got
involved. So it’s all based alliances and the decision makers of the countries and the
different motives and the want or protection of prestige. “Precious Prestige”