Having just written a 4000 word assignment on why Britain went to war in 1914 I feel closer to the evidence than I would otherwise. I drew entirely from the hundreds of original documents now available, largely compiled with editorial comment from the likes of John Röhl, Annika Mombauer and Imanuel Geiss. I blame Kaiser Wilhelm II and Reichs Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg entirely – aided and abatted by Motlke and Jagow while Britain, through our Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey tried to get the powers around the conference table – anathema to the desires of Germany who pushed Austria-Hungary into a fight knowing that it would draw in Russia, then France … though hopefully not Britain.
Map of Europe in 1914 (as envisaged by the New York Times in 2013)
As I write this, Russian military forces are massing at the border with Ukraine and armed men have seized government buildings in the Crimean capital, hoisting a Russian flag over the regional parliament building. A regional conflict threatens confrontation between Russia and other European powers.
Sound familiar? Perhaps because I recently finished reading The Sleepwalkers, Christopher Clark’s much-praised history of how Europe ended up going to war in 1914, the parallels with the events of that July are just a bit disturbing. The question that arises after reading his meticulously-researched and detailed account of the diplomatic manoeuvrings in the months and days before war broke out is whether today’s architecture of international communication and dialogue via the UN and the European Union will help us avoid the disaster that befell Europe after a little local…
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