From Kaiser to Fuhrer: WWI Controversy (2)

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  • Created on: 06-06-14 14:31
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2.1: The historical debate
The Fischer Thesis
1. Fritz Fischer's 1961 `Germany's Aims in the First World War', 1969 `War of Illusions'
2. Germany had a plan for European domination prior to the war
3. They had an aggressive foreign policy and pursuit for war
Arguments Germany was responsible
1. Under Kaiser Wilhelm II, Germany pursued European hegemony
2. Before WW1, Germany's foreign policy was nationalistic and militaristic
3. Bethmann played a key role in starting war
4. Germany planned for war
5. Germany antagonised the Great Powers in the years leading up to war
6. Germany took decisions in the July Crisis that led to war
Arguments Germany was not entirely responsible
1. No evidence of long-term plan of aggression
2. Germany was just reacting to encirclement
3. Other European powers contributed to the conflicts before the war
4. The Alliance system created tensions between nations before the war
5. Britain, France and Russia built up weapons before the war
6. Germany was not responsible for the July Crisis
7. Other powers contributed to cause the July Crisis to escalate

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Did German have a long-term plan for European hegemony?
1. 1890s+ Germany sought colonial expansion and dominance in Europe, and sometimes
Eastern Europe
2. Naval expansion and imperial possessions of Africa
3. 1896+ Kaiser built government on ministers who would advocate Weltpolitik (von Bulow)
4. Can be seen as confrontational
The Schlieffen Plan 1905
1. Can be interpreted as a plan for a war of aggression, as it entailed unprovoked attacks on
Belgium and France
The War Council 1912
1.…read more

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Did Germany destabilise peace in Europe before 1914?
Antagonising Russia
1. Kaiser allowed Reinsurance Treaty to lapse in 1890 and began seeking relations with the
Austro-Hungarian Empire
2. 1908, in Bosnian crisis, Germany supported Austria's annexation of Bosnia, which
antagonised Russia who wanted an international conference
Bosnian Crisis
1. Ottoman Empire declining in the Balkans
2. 1878+ Serbia independent and Austria had informal control over Bosnia
3. Serbia regarded Austria as imperialists
4. 1908, Austria annexed Bosnia into the Empire, Russia and Serbia furious
5.…read more

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Did German actions in the July Crisis of 1914 cause war in
The July Crisis and the `Blank Cheque'
1. 28 June 1914, Franz Ferdinand of Austria assassinated by Serbian nationalistic organisation,
the Black Hand
2. On 5-6th July, encouraged by Ludendorff and Hindenburg, the Kaiser and Bethmann gave full
support to the Austrians in their tough reaction towards Serbia, despite no evidence that the
Serbian government had assassinated Ferdinand
3.…read more

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The actions of others and the European system
The actions of others
1. Britain participated in the naval race with Germany, creating the Dreadnought in 1906 which
provoked the Third Naval Law in Germany
2. France expanded her army
3. Russia's mobilisation in July 1914 pushed Germany to carry out its Schlieffen Plan
4. Austria independently created an international crisis in 1908 by annexing Bosnia, which
antagonised Russia
5.…read more

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Possible interpretations
Interpretation A: "The war was caused by a German desire for European hegemony."
1. Germany pursued a war to become a dominate power in Europe (The War Council,
September Programme and the Schlieffen Plan)
2. Germany deliberately destabilised European peace and sought confrontation with the
Entente (naval race with Britain and the Moroccan Crises with France)
3.…read more


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