How responsible were Germany for the outbreak of the First World War?

HideShow resource information

Domestic pressure/Primar Der innerpolitik

Wehler-'Escape Forwards'/Primar Der Innerpolitik

This theory was developed by Wehler who was a student of Fischer, hence worked from his ideas, but believed Fischer placed too much of the blame on German aggression.

Wehler believed that the outbreak of war can be explained by the increasing socio-economic problems facing Germany in this period.


In 1912, the SPD became the largest party in the Reichstage, the conservative elites began to feel their position in society was threatened hence pushed for war in an attempt to secure their own position within society.

The Zabern Affair 1913-This led to the chancellor Bethmann-Holloweg getting a vote of no confidence from the Reichstag, despite this the Kaiser did not dismiss him, yet the chancllors position was now threatened. This can be a reason to explain why the chancellor pushed for war.

1 of 7

Domestic pressure/Primar Der innerpolitik continue

The Daily Telegraph Affair 1908-09-This left the Kaiser in a awkward position, with the Reichstag calling for limitations to his power. Although this materialised into nothing, it suggests that Kaiser may have felt his own position within Germany was vulnerable.

The economic situation in Germany was declining-the budget deficit. By 1914 the economic situation was awful the budget was in the red. The attempt to pass insurance taxes in 1905 had failed, leaving Germany heavily in debt.

Against aggression-Evidence can be used to prove this theory and weaken the theory of aggression by recognising that the 1897 policy of Weltpolitik despite being exansionalist had not caused war in any of the years in which it had been a policy. Why 1914? Domestic issues.

Finally some have gone as far to suggest that there was no way Germany could have planned for war due to the chaotic polyocratic system which can be seen by the fact the chancellor was not present at the War Council meeting of December 1912.

2 of 7

German Aggression, Fischer theory

German Aggression

Fischer theory-based on German expansionalist approach to foreign affairs. He believed due to Germany striving to become a world power status country, Germany pushed for a European war. He based his evidence on the September programme, which had drawn up limitations and treaties which Germany would place on other European countries when they won the war.


Policy of Weltpolitik 1897-showed Germany had an aggressive foreign policy long before the start of the war.

First Morrocan crisis 1905/06-Showed Germany were intending to stir up relations and challenge powers of Europe. However it humiliated Germany and strengthened the British and French relations.

Balkans wars: 1st war in 1911, led to the Kaiser calling for the War council meeting, and spoke of the inevitability of a European war. It also showed Germanys support of Austria and their preperation for war if neccassary.

3 of 7

German Aggression, Fishcer theory continued

2nd war: Austria sent an ultimatum to Serbia, which was supported by Germany, showing they were prepared to go to war over Austria. This in turn was avoided, however from this point on the great powers began to increase their arms.

July crisis-Blank cheque of July 5th 1914- shows German unconditional support for Austria, and highlights their aggressive nature. They also suggested the harsh ultimatum and were pushing for was until the last minute.

War council meeting December 1912-Shows aggression as Kaiser said prepare to support Astria, if Russia mobilise=war. Moltke 'sooner the better' idea. Tirpitz warned against war suggesting that they werenot ready.

Naval race with Britain-created tensions with Britain showed that Germany were attempting to build up their navy to rival the British

Kruger telegraph-1896-Kaiser supporting Kruger against British in Boer war, gives his congratulations.

Schlieffen plan-war planned since 1905

Germany declared war on both Russia and France

4 of 7

Calculated risk-Strandmann theory

Strandmann theory-calculated risk

Basically this idea highlights the fact Germany did not plan war but were aggressive, however by 1914 they had weighed up the options and war seemed like a viable option as they potentially could win. It was the idea it was the best time for Germany to go to war.


War council meeting 1912-Moltke 'sooner the better', shows the hapazard nature, and highlights that by 1912 many leaders believed war was the best optionas it could be won.

Arms race 1913-the French and Russian mobilisation to the level they wanted would not be ready for another 2 to 3 years, which suggested to Germany that they had a short term advantage, and pushed for war.

The fact that Weltpolitik had not led to war in the years previously suggests that Greman aggression on its own was not the factor which took Germany to war.

5 of 7

A defensive war

An offensively conducted defensive war-Sturmer

This idea is that Germany did not plan war but entered into war to protect their position in Europe. They felt encircled due to their geostrategic position, so tried to prevent a war on 2 fronts.


The Schlieffen plan, drawn up in 1905, could have happened at any point but did not. It shows Germanys long term fear of encirclement and facing a war on two fronts

The fall of Bismarcks alliance system: By 1907 Germany was practically isolated in Europe despite Austria. The Triple Entente of 1907. The 'nightmare coalition' of France and Russia in 1984. Germany were encircled by the Allies.

Many of the crisis prior to the war, Germany was trying to weaken relations between France and Britain such as the second morrocan crisis on 1911.

Russian mobilisation on the 31st of July meant that  had little choice but to declare war, and put into action the Sclieffen plan.

6 of 7

A.J.P Taylor timetable

A.J.P. Taylor, War by timetable

This theory concludes that mobilisation had to be specific and was fixed by railway timetables. It is the idea that it took time to get supplies and troops to the front line, so once one country started mobilising the others had to, to ensure they were prepared for war.

Modifying the timetables was not easy, which meant that mobilisation had tonbe exact to ensure that a country was not defesless against another. This suggests why the Schlieffen plan was designed a long time before the war and was so precise in the time it should take to knock out France.

7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all The rise of Germany from 1871 resources »