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Harvard University Press.

Christopher Clark, France and the Origins of the Great War

ISBN Published 24 November Who was responsible for the First World War? That Germany was largely to blame has become the established view, but Sean McMeekin points his finger at a different culprit, Russia.

Ambition in the East

His thesis is supported by his research in the Imperial Russian archives, accessible since the fall of the Soviet Union. The prevailing consensus argues that Germany, which had planned for the prospect of fighting on two fronts against France and Russia in any future war, was increasingly alarmed by Russia's growing military potential. Convinced that time was not on their side, German politicians and generals used Austria-Hungary's desire to punish Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as an excuse to bring about a pre-emptive war with the Russian Empire, thus - as France was bound to come to Russia's aid - turning a minor dispute into a general European conflict instead.

McMeekin argues, however, that it was Russia, rather than Germany, that used the crisis to deliberately launch a war with Austria-Hungary and Germany. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article.

The Russian Origins of the First World War

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About De Gruyter

Close Figure Viewer. Finding the answer to this question has exercised historians for years, and arriving at a convincing consensus has proved impossible.

The Russian Origins of the First World War

Satirical drawing by R. Ferro [Cupidity - Greed] 'Cupidity', a satirical drawing showing the hands of men from countries involved in World War One, arguing for control of the world. The need to fight a defensive war Establishing the responsibility for the escalation of the July Crisis into a European war — and ultimately a world war — was paramount even before fighting had begun.

The governments of Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary tried desperately to ensure that they did not appear to be the aggressor in July and August This was crucial because the vast armies of soldiers that would be needed to fight this war could not be summoned for a war of aggression. Socialists, of whom there were many millions by , would not have supported a belligerent foreign policy, and could only be relied upon to fight in a defensive war.

Populations would only rally and make sacrifices willingly if the cause was just — and that meant fighting a defensive war. Treaty of Versailles Extract from the Versailles Treaty, stating that 'Germany accepts the responsibility [ The Fischer school challenge to the revisionist consensus There was little reason to question this comfortable orthodoxy after New questions but no new consensus In recent years this post-Fischer consensus has in turn been revised.

After years of debate, every conceivable interpretation seems to have been advanced. In some of the most recent publications, even seeking to attribute responsibility, as had so confidently been done at Versailles, is now eschewed. Such doubts did not trouble those who sought to attribute war guilt in and during much of this long debate, but this question will need to be asked as the controversy continues past the centenary.