Historical POV for WW1


Fritz Fischer

1961 'Griff Nach Der Weltmacht'- Germany's aims in the first world war.

  • Germany went to war for worldwide domination like Hitler did with the Nazis.
  • Germany wanted the 'blank cheque' which was given to Austria to result into war
  • The roots of this tension were in economic, social and political tensions which troubled Germany pre1914.


  • Bethmann Hollwegs plan for 'security of the German Reich in the West and East for all imaginable time'> International domination
  • Hollweg's private secretary's archives outlined plans for peace negotiations before war- Fischer says these plans were made my politicians, military leaders and industrialists before the outbreak of war.
  • 'September Plans' where plans of annexation were already being written out
  • Also> Places Hollweg at centre. > Doesn't diffrenciate between expansionist and moderate politicans>Linked fp and domestic p together- saying it was about maintaining dd.
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Examples of Fischer's world dominance case study

  • Wanted France to be weakend and Russia thrust back as far as possible from Germany's Eastern Frontier.
  • Wanted France to be annexed and impose a commercial treaty on France to make them financially dependant
  • Reduction on Belgium's statehood- Luxembourg- Annex.
  • Holland was to have a close relationship with Germany.
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Fischer's 2nd Book

- War of Illusions> Greater relationship between German domestic tensions and fp 

  • GG used war as a solution to difficult internal problems & the idea that there was a strong will to war.
  • > Attention drawn to Admiral Muller reffering to a meeting between the Kaiser ad advisers Dec 1912 that if a German attack on France happened, Britiain would come to French aid.
  • Emphasis on the social and political structures of Kaiser's Germany> emphasis on the power hungry anti modern anti democratic Junkers who felt their social position to be under threat from the forces of social democracy.
  • Germany's leaders were culturally pessimistic and needed to break encirclement ^^
  • War in 1914 was a bold leap foward to establish German dominance.
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  • Validity of the war council in 1912 and the extent to which it supports the view Germany was planning for war since that time
  • Were German leaders policies really aimed at expansionist ambitions or did they result from insecurity?
  • Ritter-whilst civil authorities abandoned their responsibility, this did not amount to premeditated aggresion.
  • Egmont Zechlin- Despite the calculated risks Hollweg took, they were essentially defensive aims
  • Actions of other states
  • Allainces
  • How military commanders caused war
  • Encirclement Theory e.g. Anglo Russian entente. GFP was obssesively trying to break this encirclement. >Defensive, rather than offensive.
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Encirclement theory & Hans Ulrich Wehler

  • Europe had seen no major war for decades.
  • Diplomatic arragement of Europe
  • E.g. entente, Cordial of Russia, France and Britain formed against the triple alliance of Germany, Austria Hungary and their unreliable ally- Italy.

Hans Ulrich Wehlher (similar to Fischer)

  • Disruptive impact of industrilisation caused tension in Germanys Social and Econimic structure
  • Junkers, financiers and industrialists resisted attempts by MC to gain grater political power through the Reichstag.
  • Growth of the SPD- Challenge e.g. winning 110 seats in 1912.
  • Diverted outwards into fp and dp to preserve seats
  • Judgement> Scapegoat?
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Marxists- Lenin

  • Policies of all powers pre 1914 were agressive- directly because of capitalism
  • War caused by economic rivalries by cliques of organised finaciers
  • Strong Anglo- German commercial rivalry- ships e.g. naval arms race
  • Scramble for Africa etc
  • Traditional desires for prestige e.g Germany's desire to expan


  • Why didn't the USA become involved?
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AJP Taylor

  • Hitler was an 'oppurtunist'- he did not intend to start WW2.
  • He wanted expansion, but was no different from any German leader
  • This was a product of what the German people wanted and not something unique
  • FP did not change from Bismark to Hitler
  • In War By Timetable, evaluated plans and actions of military and civillian leaders prior to ww1.
  • Concluded that war was inevitable because of the military planning put in place.

Woodrow Wilson/ David Llyod George

  • Selfish Greed & secret diplomacy of Pre war 1914 caused war

The League of Nations would be the only solution

  • H Burnes & Sidney Fay
  • > Fay blamed the Serbian gov and thought Germany should not have promised Austria help
  • Fay> Russian mobilisation was the last catastrophe leading onto German mobilisation
  • Reckless policy of A-H> Germany did not plan/want war.
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Ruth Heing- Austria and Nationalism

  • Tensions in Eastern Europe as a result of political frontiers- caused conflict between Austria Hungary and Serbia
  • Austria's external policy in the years before 1914 as primarily defensive- aimed at peace keeping
  • > Undermined by the collapse of Turkish empires
  • After Balkans, serious conflict became inevitable

Some look at Austria's attempts to show Serbia as agressive and totally reckless.

  • Austrian policy became more desperate after Germany backed out of war
  • German decision making
  • Germany decisive to profit diplomatically and militarily.
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