The origins of World War I have caused more interest and controversy than any other topic in the history of modern Europe.
It's not enough to focus on the war alone as a cause of the century's horrors.
The beginnings of Communism and Nazism can be traced back to the early 19th century.
The reasons that the war continued for so long and at such a terrible level of destruction is not only the origin of the outbreak of the war.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June of 1914 was the beginning of an intense scrutiny of the events of the summer months of 1914.
The outbreak in early August seems to be the result of accident and personal incompetence as opposed to impersonal forces or dark designs by national leaders, despite the fact that found forces were making a general war more likely.
The near-hysterical enthusiasm for war that erupted in early August, gripping a large part of the general population in most countries, suggests that it was the people who were responsible for this war.
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The decline of liberal, rational values and the growing fascination with violence have been discussed in previous chapters.
The concert of Europe idea and its replacement by a growing anarchy in international relations are stressed in most accounts of the beginnings of World War I. European hypernationalism was driven to new extremes by the raw passions of the people.
There was a decline in the willingness of nations to discuss their common interests.
Even the conferences that were supposed to promote peace were marked by half-hearted follow-through.
Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy were on one side of the Triple Alliance and France, Russia, and Britain were on the other in the generation before the war.
Historians argue that a local conflict touching on the interests of a single major power would not remain local but would draw in the other major powers because of the balance of power.
The idea of the balance of power has been present for a long time.
The Ottoman Empire was in a state of disrepair by the turn of the century.
The Ottomans were proving incapable of ruling effectively so Austria-Hungary and Russia wanted to take over.
Bosnia-Herzegovina was occupied and administered by Austria-Hungary since 1878.
Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908, intensifying suspicions about the dual Monarchy's long-range ambitions.
The form in which the independence of the Balkans could be achieved was anything but clear.
The Italians had a clear geographical definition of their state as well as a common religious (Catholic) past, even though they were formally united in a political sense.
The South Slavs didn't know which people would be included in a future state.
The Croats and Slovenes used Roman script, whereas the Serbs used a script based on the Cyrillic alphabet.
The Croats and the Slovenes were Catholic and associated with the Habsburg Empire, whereas the Serbs were Orthodox.
In Bosnia, other South Slavs embraced Islam, reflecting the long rule of the Islamic Turks.
There was a South-Slav nationalist mystique in certain parts of these populations.
By 1907 three traditional enemies, France, Russia, and Britain, had agreed to work with each other.
The Tripleente was based on friendly intentions and uncertain significance in a future crisis.
The Triple Alliance was formed by Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.
The English and Germans, as members of the vigorous Germanic race, were natural allies of Britain up to the mid-1890s.
It was awkward because Britain's Celtic peoples, Welsh, Irish, and Scots, were not Germanic.
It was hard to ignore or forgive the bumpstiousness of Wilhelm.
He continued probing and provoking after the Kruger Telegram episode.
Germany's decision in 1898 to build up its navy was the most important step in alienating the British.
Many Germans believed that a large navy was necessary to defend their newly acquired colonies.
German leaders believed that a powerful navy was necessary for any great power.
British foreign policy said that Britain needed to maintain a navy that was stronger than the next two nations combined.
In the next decade, Britain and Germany would pour national resources into a naval arms race.
The two most dynamic and industrialized in Europe became increasingly fearful.
The period from 1816 to 1914 has often been called a century of general peace, but from the late 1890s to 1914 there were a number of limited wars.
One of the constant diplomatic crises of the period was caused by Wilhelm II, who tended to push the members closer to one another.
Two confused wars broke out in the Balkans in 1912 and 1913, each with the potential to become a general war.
World War I has been referred to as the third Balkan war.
In the early summer of 1914, Europe's major nations faced one another in two armed camps, the tempers of each rubbed raw by events of the previous ten to fifteen years, their armies bristling with weapons of a destructive capacity that exceeded anything in the past.
Considering the powerful impersonal forces and the light, one can easily conclude that a general war was inevitable.
The theme of previous chapters has been the Faustian dilemma of European history - the remarkable dynamism, creativity, and productivity of Europeans, which reached a peak in the decades immediately before 1914.
In his writings and speeches before 1914, the great leader of the twentieth century described war as beneficial and unavoidable.
"We are not meant to find peace in this world," he said.
In the same way as irresponsible war-mongers, Churchill and Wilhelm II were denounced by their detractors in the same way.
Emile Zola wrote that it is only the warlike nations that have prospered from war.
As soon as a nation disarms, it dies.
If one focuses on the decisions made in the summer of 1914, the sense of the war's inevitability will diminish.
The scrutiny of those decisions suggests that many of Europe's leaders did not want a war.
They took steps to prevent it and were surprised when it broke out.
The evidence shows that the majority of Europe's population didn't want a general war.
Large numbers of socialists took part in antiwar demonstrations in July 1914, threatening a general strike to prevent war.
The socialists and others on the left blamed capitalism for the rising tensions between states, but some observers argued that European capitalism had bound Europe's economies together in common interest that general war would be irrational.
Germany's highest military leaders had concluded that a general war was inevitable and that the time was ripe for one in 1914.
The events of the summer of 1914 offered opportunities that would not likely arise again, as the likelihood of a German victory in such a war was diminishing.
They were able to make it seem to the German population that Germany was fighting a defensive war against Russia and that France was also fighting a defensive war against Russia.
Europe's other powers were determined to block that destiny.
France, Russia, and Britain were trying to choke Germany.
Germany's military leaders were worried about Russia's growing industrial strength because of its large population.
In evaluating the actions of European leaders by the summer of 1914, the issue of "accident" also arises.
It is tempting to conclude that if the heads of state had been men of higher quality, war might have been averted.
The accidents of birth made it clear that Nicholas II and Wilhelm II were in power at this crucial time, while Franz Joseph was approaching his eighty-fourth birthday.
The generals and nationalist politicians who actually wanted war had an easier time because of the lack of competent heads of state.
Immediately after the war, it was important to point an accusing finger at those responsible for starting the conflict.
Finger-pointing from the perspective of the twenty-first century seems wrong.
The war's origins are too complex to make a simple judgement of guilt or innocence, as would be done in a court of law.
There is a hierarchy of responsibility in courts of law.
Even if we are dealing with multiple defendants, individual and national, we can still evaluate the war's origins in that spirit.
In each country, the decision to go to war was not made by any individual within a short period of time but rather by a group of people who had differing opinions.
By focusing on the decisions of leaders in the summer of 1914, we are asking how European elites, 99 percent male, made history, and ignoring the role of the great mass of the population.
Even though the elites were used to working without public scrutiny and contemptuous of the ignorant, popular opinion had to be taken into account even if only to be manipulated.
In the case of World War I, individual acts from below made history.
On June 28, 1914, at Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a young Bosnian Serb named Gavrilo Princip met the Habsburg heir and his wife.
In his nineteen years, Princip had experienced many personal hardship, failures, and rejections, coming from a poor family of nine children.
He was determined to demonstrate his courage and manliness because of his lack of physical appearance.
He joined the Black Hand, a secret nationalist organization, in 1912 because he had conceived a fanatical devotion to the cause of South-Slav nationalism.
Austria-Hungary's rule in Bosnia-Herzegovina was objected to by members of the Black Hand.
Training, weapons, and bombs were given to Princip.
He was given poison capsule so that he could commit suicide after the assassination, so that he wouldn't reveal anything about the Black Hand.
The assassination didn't go according to plan.
An initial bomb failed to do much damage, and then Princip found himself standing next to the archduke's carriage, as its driver took a wrong turn.
Princip fired at point-blank range, hitting Ferdinand in the neck and his wife in the stomach.
The crowd around him prevented Princip from shooting himself in the head.
Gavrilo Princip was paraded by his Austrian abductors after he killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Understanding Gavrilo Princip is one of the difficulties in evaluating the war's origins.
He expected no other-worldly rewards, no dark-eyed angelic maidens to care for him throughout his life.
The act of political murder set in motion a series of events that sucked Europe's major powers into it.
Serbia was seen as a little-brother to Russia and the leaders of that nation felt honored to come to Serbia's defense.
The world war was necessary to punish the Serbs.
Germany's long-standing Schlieffen Plan, involving an initial attack to the west on France, Russia's ally, to be completed within six weeks, and then rapidly moving military units across Germany to the eastern front, was brought into action by Russian Mobilization.
After Austria-Hungary's declaration of war, Germany followed with its own declaration of war, followed by France and Russia, and finally Britain.
These decisions seem less connected up- close.
They found the murder of the archduke to be a useful pretext for war.
The Austrian statesmen were not driven by grief and righteous indignation in attacking Serbia, since they were not seen as liberators by many.
The leaders of Serbia's government didn't directly cause the assassination, but some lower officials had contact with the Black Hand.
Historians now have evidence that the Chief of the German general staff, Helmut von Moltke, concluded that war was inevitable and that the summer of 1914 was preferable to a later date.
Historians are less certain that Russia's leaders felt compelled to support Serbia because of the humiliations of the Russo-Japanese war and the two Balkan wars of 1912-13.
Nicholas had reason to support the idea of severe punishment for assassins since he and his father had been the target of many assassination attempts.
Alexander II, Nicholas's grandfather, had been assassinated along with two of Nicholas's ministers.
A number of Europe's royalty, higher nobility, and leading political figures were killed by bombs and bullets.
Nicholas had become emotional about the matter in 1914.
The leaders of Austria-Hungary believe that South-Slav nationalism, if allowed to grow, would mean the end of the dual monarchy.
Germany's fear of an industrializing Russia now seems overwrought, but without question the prospect of Russia's notoriously brutal "Cossack hordes" streaming into Germany awakened the deepest kinds of fears throughout Germany's population.
There is little doubt that Germany's military leaders exaggerated the consequences of Russian military action in order to justify the steps that they had already taken toward war.
The dread of fighting a two-front war against Russia and France was related to Germany's plans for war.
Germany's strengths include its internal lines of communication, its efficient and well-developed railroad lines, and its well-trained military.
The plan was named after General Alfred von Schlieffen, who had retired in 1906 and died shortly before the war.
His idea was to concentrate Germany's forces on the western front, attacking France in a sudden, broadly sweeping action, with a massive concentration of forces on the right or northern flank, rushing southward toward Paris and achieving victory within six weeks.
The bulk of the German forces were to be moved back to the eastern front to face Russia after they crushed the French.
It was a daring concept but highly complex in its details and even more so by the German army since it left so little room for error.
German forces were marching through Belgium.
Most historians agree that the British considered it against their interests to allow Germany to defeat France again, which could mean German control of the coast along the English Channel.
A wave of frenzied enthusiasm for the war rolled over most countries as the armies began to move out.
The show of patriotism was what the conservative right had been hoping for.
In Germany, soldiers boarding trains to the front were accompanied by marching bands, cheering crowds and women with flowers and kisses.
The general strikes that socialists had threatened came to nothing.
The leaders of the party declared their support for the Germans.
There were barely believable scenes of national reconciliation in Russia, such as the fact that the notorious antisemite Vladimir Purishkevich entered a synagogue and embraced its rabbi.
The belief by nearly all participants that they were fighting a defensive war and facing imminent invasion from fearsome enemies was the reason for these often bizarre enthusiasms.
It was assumed that the war would be short and decisive.
There was something mystical about the patriotic fervor of August 1914.
Observers have seen in it an expression of psychic release from the previous years.
The rancor and mundane existences of many had been ended by the emergence of shining vistas of national unity.
Many young idealists joined the fight after being described as "golden-haired youth unprepared for the long littleness of life."
Jean Jaures, the widely revered French socialist leader who in late July had led a crusade against the threat of war, was assassinated by a nationalist fanatic.
Charles Peguy let out a savage howl of satisfaction when he heard about Jaures's murder.
He had once been an ally of Jaures in defending Alfred Dreyfus, but the French nation had become his mystique, and within a short time he would find his own chance for heroic self-sacrifice: A German bullet smashed into his forehead at the Battle of the Marne, killing him He was older than forty years old.
The war would be decided by Germans.
If the Schlieffen Plan was a success and France was defeated, there was no hope for the Entente powers.
The plan worked according to plan, but the Germans were within fifteen miles of the French capital by mid-August.
The guns of war could be heard in the distance.
The battle of the Marne, in which Peguy died, was known as the "miracle of the Marne" because French forces, aided by a small British contingent, retaliated and forced the German armies to fall back.
Both armies struggled to outflank one another, resulting in a long line of entrenched forces from the Swiss border to the English Channel.
The lines remained the same for more than three years despite repeated attempts to break the stalemate.
The French had developed their own plan, known as Plan XVII, which involved a concentrated offensive effort in the northeast, where the German forces were thought to be weak.
The French forces were stopped at the German border because Plan XVII was less successful than the Schlieffen Plan.
In the course of the Marne counteroffensive, Von Moltke, who was broken in health and spirit, resigned and was replaced by General Erich von Falkenhayn.
Germany's generals had to face the consequences of a long war on two fronts.
Time seemed to be on the side of Britain and Russia in the war, as they were able to use the resources of their worldwide empire.
The way in which German forces developed in East Prussia in late August and early September ranked among the most brilliant in the history of modern warfare.
At the battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes, German forces killed, wounded, or captured a quarter-million Russian troops.
The war on the eastern front continued until December, when Russia's armies switched to the defensive.
The west developed trench warfare because of the large distances of the eastern front, but the east never did because the Russians were not well-equipped.
The final death rates were similar to those on the western front.
After seeing their country overrun in the first days of the war, the Serbs retaliated and regained their capital city, Belgrade.
Russian troops were taking over parts of Austria.
Austria-Hungary faced its own two-front war.
There would soon be a third front.
In August, Italy declared its neutrality, saying that the treaties it had signed with Germany and Austria-Hungary applied only to a defensive war.
Under the terms of a treaty signed in April, the Italians would declare war on Austria-Hungary in May and against Germany in August in order to acquire a long-contested area of "unredeemed Italy."
In the first year of war, new fronts opened up.
The leaders of the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers in October because they were afraid of the designs of the Entente to partition their empire.
Russia was cut off from its western allies because of the Ottomans' closing of the Dardanelles, a strait connecting the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.
In March 1915, the First Lord of the Admiralty decided to send a large force to open the straits.
Around 80,000 French and smaller numbers from Australia and New Zealand were included in the force.
One of the lowest points in the career of the man was when the troops sent by him were trapped by the Turkish forces at the battle of Gallipoli.
There were about 200,000 casualties on the side of the Turks and another 200,000 on the side of the Entente side.
The Dardanelles were closed and there was no chance of a short war.
There was a new era of European history.
The issue of the origins of World War I, and in particular responsibility for it, produced a huge and contentious literature for many years.
The period from the opening stages of World War I to the eve of the defeat of Nazi Germany was covered in Part IV.
The first and second world wars were the most ruinous stages of the period.
The Great Depression of the 1930's spread despair and desperation to most of Europe's countries within a decade after the uneasy peace of 1919.
The verities of liberal parliamentary rule and free-market capitalism, as well as the viability of the nation-state system of Europe, were questioned after the outbreak of World War II.
Nazism and Bolshevism had roots in World War I.
"No Hitler, no Holocaust," it has been argued.
Europe was locked in a suicidal conflict in World War I.
The collapse of the Russian Empire and the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian and German empires were the result of the war.
Civil war in Russia continued until 1921 even after formal peace between the major powers.
Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1934 and the civil war in Spain in 1936 were some of the brutal wars that took place over the next two decades.
After the collapse of tsarist rule in March 1917, the efforts of the Provisional Government to continue the war and reestablish order proved futile.
The takeover by the Bolsheviks in November of 1917 was a shock to many of the rest of Europe, and for years afterwards, the meaning of that takeover was widely misunderstood.
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The European Civil War was caused by the misunderstanding that the Bolshevik leaders were unsure about what they had accomplished.
Joseph Stalin emerged victorious after a power struggle among his lieutenants following the death of Lenin.
The collectivization of agriculture and a five-year plan for rapid industrialization were some of the changes that took place in Soviet Russia from 1928 to 1934.
In the late 1930s, another kind of revolution rolled across the Soviet empire, involving mass arrests and show trials that eliminated a large proportion of those leaders of the party who had been in place since 1917, as well as sending untold thousands of ordinary citizens to prison camps.
The peace settlement of 1919 was not a real settlement.
It seems like it was designed to assure a future war.
The economic recovery by the mid-1920s was short-lived.
Settlements in the Middle East were unsatisfactory to the native populations.
The League of Nations and Europe's liberal-democratic nations would become obvious weaknesses by the mid-1930s, in failing to prevent Mussolini's aggressions in Ethiopia or Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War.
Hitler's takeover of Germany in January 1933 resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of most leaders of the left, but violence and death in Germany from 1933 to 1939 remained on a smaller scale than in those years.
The so-called "Final Solution" to the Jewish Question, as well as the Nazis' treatment of prisoners of war, came to rival in wanton cruelty and brutal disregard for human life what had been going on in Russia since 1917.
The interwar years saw the rise of charismatic leaders on the right, such as Mussolini and Hitler, with imitators of various sorts and varying successes in most countries.
The term "Communist" was formally adopted by Stalin's leadership after Mussolini came to power in 1924.
A cult of leadership grew up around both Stalin and Lenin.
After Germany fell to Nazi rule, violent clashes of these new ideologies and the countries ruled by them were inevitable.
After early December 1941, the United States was drawn into a world war after Europe took up what would be called "total war" again.