The Origins of the First World War

By Ruth Henig | Go to book overview

2

The historical debate

The European war which broke out in August 1914 was expected to be a short one. The German Crown prince looked forward to a ‘bright and jolly war’. No European government had made extensive economic or military plans for a prolonged struggle—the Russian Ministry of War in 1914 was typical, in preparing for a struggle of two to six months. Belief in the power of the offensive to deliver a rapid knockout blow to the enemy was strong, though developments in military technology since 1871 should have suggested otherwise. Furthermore, it was assumed that the economic consequences of a lengthy conflict would be so ruinous that European countries would be brought to their knees by financial chaos within months. Sir Edward Grey, in July 1914, had speculated that a European war involving Austria, France, Russia and Germany ‘must involve the expenditure of so vast a sum of money and such interference with trade, that a war would be accompanied or followed by a complete collapse of European credit and industry’. In declaring war against each other in 1914 the European great powers envisaged a series of short, sharp, military encounters, to be followed presumably by a general conference of the belligerents, which would confirm the military results by a political and diplomatic settlement. The confident British expectation that its expeditionary forces would be home by Christmas was echoed in the other capitals of Europe.

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The Origins of the First World War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Introduction - To the Third Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Timeline of Key Events xix
  • 1 - The Origins of War 1
  • 2 - The Historical Debate 33
  • Annotated Select Bibliography 60
  • Index 63
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