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As demonstrated by these five historians, the theories on the primary cause of WWI are extremely varied. While both Schmitt and Taylor

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Introduction

The Origins of the First World War The study of diplomatic history has led to many different theories on the origins of the First World War. Each historian focuses on different aspects of the events preceding the war. In viewing them from a different time periods, many come to radically different conclusions. For example, the theory of German responsibility proposed directly after the war was soon revised with the release of various diplomatic documents. Many historians then went so far as to place primary responsibility on France and Russia. However, following the Second World War many historians again stressed German responsibility. The complexity of the events surrounding WWI allows for much interpretation and speculation, making a definitive theory virtually impossible. However, the study of contradicting theories allows for some insight into the causes of WWI. Barnes The concept of war guilt was formulated directly after the First World War as justification for indemnities demanded primarily from Germany. However, Barnes believed that the initial provocation for the war was created by the secret alliance between Russia, France, and Serbia, surmised that the majority of the war guilt could be assigned to them. Since 1870, European politics had been characterized by secret alliances and rivalling military and imperial expansion. ...read more.

Middle

According to Fay, the secret preparations of military measures threatened Germany and Austria, and later the mobilization of Russia caused Germany to declare war. Taylor A.J.P. Taylor placed primary responsibility for WWI on Austria and Germany. The Germans welcomed the war when opportunity came. They believed that they could win the war at the time; Germany also felt power over Austria-Hungary. The Balance of Power broke down when the Russo-Japanese War weakened Russia. As Russia slowly regained its power, the Germans were fearful that the Balance of Power was being recreated. Germany thus declared war before Russia took any actions. Germany did not enter into war to defend themselves like the other powers, but they entered the war for a decisive victory for its own sake. Austria Hungary blamed the Serbs for the South Slav discontent on the failure to solve Austria's national problems. Even though Germany and Austria decided on war with different motives, the two decisions together caused a European war. Taylor believed that the Triple Entente - Britain, Russia, and France, entered the war simply to defend themselves. The Russians fought to preserve the free passage of the Straits, a reasonable intent as the Russian economy largely depended on this passage. France fought to retain a position in what it hoped would become the most influential power in Europe, the Triple Entente. ...read more.

Conclusion

In an ominous chain, each European country mobilized, one after another, so as not to be the left unprepared in the event of a General European War. The Alliances dictated the side of each country in the war, pitting the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente against each other. Great Britain was the last to be drawn into the war. It could not avoid involvement for the sake of the balance of power against Germany; however, the German invasion of Belgium provided the perfect excuse for Britain to enter into the war. As demonstrated by these five historians, the theories on the primary cause of WWI are extremely varied. While both Schmitt and Taylor believe in the balance of power, Taylor believes its breakdown was a partial cause of the war, while Schmitt argues that attempts to maintain it was the cause. Fay and Seaman hold contrasting beliefs about responsibility within the Triple Alliance, but Fay maintains Austrian responsibility and independence from German control and Seaman blames Germany for its own, and Austria's involvement. Taylor and Seaman agree that Germany entered the war with no decisive war aims, but disagree on Germany's level of responsibility. Taylor and Barnes contradict each other entirely, Taylor maintaining the original theory of German responsibility, and Barnes placing primary responsibility on France, Russia, and Serbia. Through studying these contradicting theories, one can obtain a clearer, more complete picture of the possible causes of the First World War. Kari Chastko Rose Chang ...read more.

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