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`Calculated risk' `A planned and executed war of aggression'
· It has been suggested by historians, like Pogge von Strandmann, that the German · Fischer's interpretation had been massively
leadership undertook a `calculated risk' to strengthen Germany's domestic and influential.
diplomatic situation. · He maintained that German policy of Weltpolitik
· He des not believe that the Kaiser and Bethmann actually planned the war, though from 1897 was consciously working towards
he maintains that German foreign policy was a consistently expansionist one before expansion.
1914. · He believed that the German leadership from 1911
· Significantly, he thinks that in July 1914 Germany assessed war as a viable option ­ consistently pursued a policy aimed at fighting a
one seen as a limited war, mainly because it could be won. European war as a means of achieving world-power
status for Germany.
· There is, however, little evidence suggesting that
Germany was actively planning an offensive war
from as early as 1911 is limited.
Was Germany really responsible
for pursuing a war of aggression
and conquest?
`An offensively conducted defensive war'
· Critic to Fischer for over-emphasising Germany's
aggressive and expansionist tendencies.
· They have revived the view from the inter-war `Escape Forwards'
years, that Europe had stumbled into war. · Structuralist view (i.e. Wehler) are strongly influenced by Fischer.
· They have suggested that 1914 was an · They place their emphasis on domestic factors and highlight the crucial effects
`offensively conducted defensive war' by of the accumulating domestic pressures in 1912-1913: the budget deficit, the
Germany resorting to a preventive strike as an growing political power of the Social Democrats and the Zabern affair.
attempt to break free from the pressures brought · They see these events as indicative of a fundamental internal crises which
about by diplomatic isolation and the threatening encouraged the prusso-German elites to pursue a war policy as a means of
power of Russia. deflecting political opposition and thereby preserving their own threatened
· This has most recently been taken further and position.
placed on an even more abstract level by · Referred to as the `escape forwards' theory
Sturmer, who argues that the exposed · Some of even further and suggest that the Kaiser Reich was virtually
geostrategic position of Germany must be seen `ungovernable'; that it had become `a polycracy of forces' which counteracted
as one of the vital factors in the making of each other and made coherent decision-making impossible.
German foreign policy. · This suggests that structure of the Kaiserreich was so chaotic that the pursuit of
an offensive war policy was effectively beyond the government's capability.…read more

Slide 2

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· It must be remembered that the outbreak do the First World War happened in the context of Europe at the turn of
the century. Powerful forces ­ technological, economic, ideological and demographic ­ were at work and they
helped to shape the international situation and make the war possible. However, to emphasis the primacy of such
long-term factors is dangerously close to suggesting that the war was somehow inevitable.
· An interesting modern comparison might be that all the ingredients existed from the late 1940s to the late 1980s
for another worldwide conflict, but the flashpoints of the cold war never did actually develop into a Third World
· It I difficult to escape from the conclusion that the German leadership must shoulder the major responsibility for
both the worsening international climate in the years before 1914 and also for turning the July crisis of 1914 into
a European war.
· Weltpolitik and the ham-fisted diplomacy that accompanied it contributed to an increase in international tension
and, by 1907, to a deterioration in Germany's position.
· Significantly, in the following years there was no real attempt by Germany to overcome this. There was no
willingness to compromise as a way to encourage conciliation and trust or to improve the prospects for peace.
Instead, German foreign policy was generally of a warmongering nature that was prepared to take risks. In part,
this was made necessary by Germany's determination to stand by its one remaining reliable ally, Austria-Hungary.
· This policy and approach came to a head in the German response to events in the crisis of July 91. From early July,
Bachmann chose a policy that involved taking calculated risks in the hope of winning a diplomatic victory that
would decisively weaken the Entente. To this end, the crises was deliberately worsened and there were no
attempts at constructive mediation.
· All this was done because it was believed that the failure of diplomacy would lead to a war with the Entente
powers, which, in the view of the general, Germany could win.
· Thus, when Russia did mobilise in July 1914, Germany willingly accepted the challenge, declared war on Russia and
France and began to implement the schiliffen Plan.…read more


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