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THE ORIGINS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 November 2006

TALBOT C. IMLAY
Affiliation:
UNIVERSITÉ LAVAL, QUÉBEC, CANADA

Abstract

Anticipating total war: the German and American experiences, 1871–1914. By Manfred Boemeke, Roger Chickering, and Stig Förster. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Pp. ix+506. ISBN 0-521-62294-8. £55.00.

German strategy and the path to Verdun: Erich von Falkenhayn and the development of attrition, 1870–1916. By Robert T. Foley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Pp. xiv+316. ISBN 0-521-84193-3. £45.00.

Europe's last summer: who started the Great War in 1914? By David Fromkin. New York: Knopf, 2004. Pp. xiii+368. ISBN 0-375-41156-9. £26.95.

The origins of World War I. Edited by Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. xiii+552. ISBN 0-521-81735-8. £35.00.

Geheime Diplomatie und öffentliche Meinung: Die Parlamente in Frankreich, Deutschland und Grossbritanien und die erste Marokkokrise, 1904–1906. By Martin Mayer. Düsseldorf: Droste, 2002. Pp. 382. ISBN 3-7700-5242-0. £44.80.

Helmuth von Moltke and the origins of the First World War. By Annika Mombauer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Pp. xvi+344. ISBN 0-521-79101-4. £48.00.

The origins of the First World War: controversies and consensus. By Annika Mombauer. London: Pearson Education, 2002. Pp. ix+256. ISBN 0-582-41872-0. £15.99.

Inventing the Schlieffen plan: German war planning, 1871–1914. By Terence Zuber. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Pp. xi+340. ISBN 0-19-925016-2. £52.50.

As Richard Hamilton and Holger Herwig remark in the introduction to their edited collection of essays on the origins of the First World War, thousands of books (and countless articles) have been written on the subject, a veritable flood that began with the outbreak of the conflict in 1914 and continues to this day. This enduring interest is understandable: the First World War was, in George Kennan’s still apt phrase, the ‘great seminal catastrophe’ of the twentieth century. Marking the end of the long nineteenth century and the beginning of the short twentieth century, the war amounted to an earthquake whose seismic shocks and after-shocks resonated decades afterwards both inside and outside of the belligerent countries. The Bolshevik Revolution, the growth of fascist and Nazi movements, the accelerated emergence of the United States as a leading great power, the economic depression of the 1930s – these and other developments all have their roots in the tempest of war during 1914–18. Given the momentous nature of the conflict, it is little wonder that scholars continue to investigate – and to argue about – its origins. At the same time, as Hamilton and Herwig suggest, the sheer number of existing studies places the onus on scholars themselves to justify their decision to add to this historiographical mountain. This being so, in assessing the need for a new work on the origins of the war, one might usefully ask whether it fulfills one of several functions.

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Review Articles
Copyright
2006 Cambridge University Press

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