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The First World War: Triggers



The Causes of the First World War: The Fritz Fischer thesis

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In 1961 Fritz Fischer maintained that Germany was responsible for the 1st World War and that there was a clear line of continuity between the foreign policy aims of Imperial Germany in 1914 and Nazi Germany in 1939. In 1897 Weltpolitik started. Fisher maintains that Germany "embarked on a course aiming at nothing less than parity with the British world empire, if not more." However, Fisher thesis may assume that there was more direction to German foreign policy than there really was. Between 1898 - 1901 British overtures for alliance were rejected. This caused Britain to sign an alliance with Japan in 1902 and an entente with France in 1904. Crises in Bosnia (1908 -9), Morocco (1911); Balkan Wars (1912-13) did not result in continental war. During this period there were also genuine efforts to improve Anglo-German relations. But at the same time German diplomacy during the Bosnian crisis was high-handed, and supplementary naval laws of 1906 and 1908 significantly strengthened the Germany navy. Bethmann sought rapprochement with Britain. Britain wanted a reduction of German naval strength; the German's wanted a promise of neutrality in the event of an attack by France or Russia; the demands on both sides were too great. The Second Moroccan crisis strengthened the Anglo-French entente - Britain perceived Germany as the bully. Fisher maintains that German humiliation in the Second Moroccan Crisis created bitterness. During the Balkan Wars of 1912 Germany held a war council on 8 December 1912. Clearly, Germans were planning for war and Moltke was saying "war sooner than better". Early months of 1914 saw a sharp decrease in Russo-German relations. Probably, the Germans were not planning the war, but they may have seen war as inevitable. The structuralists accept that Germany was responsible for the war; they see it as a response to accumulating domestic pressures - the Prussian elites's attempt to preserve power in the face of the Social Democrats. Stürmer argues that the exposed geostrategic position of Germany must be seen as one of the vital factors in the making of German foreign policy. It is probably at the least that the German leadership was responsible for the worsening international atmosphere up to 1914 and the escalation of the July crisis into war.
Contents of
The First World War: Triggers

1 The Balkan Wars, 1912-13
2 The July Crisis, 1914
3 The Causes of the First World War: The Fritz Fischer thesis

Related articles: (1) First and Second Moroccan Crises, (2) The First World War: Triggers