Thursday, 7 August 2014

End of Crisis, Beginning of War

Having finally reached the end of the line in our July Crisis Project, and in the process now feeling like I'm able to live my life without constantly thinking about these people, I feel like a blog post is in order to give you a chance to put faces to the names of these statesmen and to see the list of sources I used for my work.

First is Gavrilo Princep, who assassinated the Archduke and his wife and began the July Crisis.

Next up we have his mark and the man who had plans for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand. 

Next up we have Franz' uncle Franz-Josef, the incumbent emperor at the time of the July Crisis, and the man who signed off on numerous early orders that would prove so instrumental.
Next we have Austria's Foreign minister Leopold von Berchtold, whose declaration of war on Serbia on 28th July precipitated much of the crisis, but not all of it!

And who can forget Stefan Tisza? The man wholly responsible for delaying Vienna's response time!

And who can forget Count Alexander Hoyos? The Austrian who acquired the 'blank cheque' for his state and ensured that Germany would support the Habsburgs in *whatever* transpired.

Helmut von Moltke the younger was living in his uncle's great shadow. Helmut the elder had overseen the defeat of France in 1870, now Germany surely hoped that lightening would strike twice with their second iteration of the military Moltke family. Though ardently pro-force and determined to stick to the war policy as planned, and unable to improvise, Moltke's control of events are almost always overstated by historians, who see Moltke as the conception of Germany in the pre-war years. Moltke was bellicose and would later prove himself hopelessly blind to foreign opinion when he insisted on the violation of Belgium, but he didn't control the country, and spent more time complaining that the 'two old women' of the Chancellor and Kaiser were restraining his hand and embarking on a weakly paciffist course.

Theobald Von Bethmann Holweg served as Germany's Chancellor from 1909-1916, and thus had a fundamental part to play in our story. The crisis would bear witness to the collapse of his life's work, as he had keenly pursued a policy of reapproachment with Britain on the basis that the naval race between Germany and Britain had wound down by 1914.
Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II, who this project will hopefully rehabilitate a tad in your eyes, is pictured here. As someone who tried to negotiate for peace till the very end, Wilhelm is interesting because for so long he was portrayed as the boogeyman of the era, and even I fell victim to this portrayal in my last special on the July Crisis. Sorry about that Willy.


Wilhelm's third cousin lived in St Petersburg and was in fact the Tsar on Russia. Tsar Nicolas II was a weakly willed man, but was also a man who loved nationalist rhetoric and hated war; two strangely incompatible traits that would lead to his internal struggle later on to sign the mobilisation order.
Nicolas' Foreign Minister was Sergei Sazonov, the Russian statesman who would later insist on general mobilisation to the approval of Russia's war party, even after Nicolas cancelled it the previous day.
These Russians met their French counterparts over the course of the summit from 20th-23rd July. Here is pictured Raymond Poincare, France's President and a determinedly bellicose man when it came to the issue of defending the entente's interests. He was, interestingly, from Alsace, born there in 1860, and remembered the invasion of German troops into his homeland for the rest of his life.

Rene Viviani was the French PM, who accompanied Poincare to the summit. A relatively new appointee to the office, Viviani was a pacifist and had to be persuaded regularly by Poincare of the need for the Russian alliance. He would become a determined supporter of the bellicose French course, much to Poincare's undoubted happiness.

A British statesmen who must receive a mention was Sir Edward Grey, the thoroughly pre-occupied British foreign secretary during the July Crisis. Consistently behind on events and distracted by Ireland, one could make a case for Grey's unawareness of how bad things on the continent really were in 1914. His bias towards the entente is obvious when one notes how willing he was to believe the Franco-Russian picture of events, which was doctored to suit the entente's need to have a Britain that was on side with them. His battle to convince his government of the need to intervene would not be won by the time Germany invaded Belgium, and because of that German act the whole process became far easier to attain.

After listing the folks responsible, the time has now come to list the sources I used. I of course cannot account for everything, and certainly used some accounts more than others, but the vast majority of what I used is listed here. Note in particular Christopher Clark's book the Sleepwalkers, and Sean McMeekin's book July 1914. Both were stellar works and helped me greatly; should you happen to own these books you'll likely notice that I drew upon their arguments and conclusions considerably for my project. I am indebted to them for their hard work, and I would highly recommend you check them out.

  • Sean McMeekin, July 1914. 2013.
  • Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. 2012.
  • Geoffrey Wawro, A Mad Catastrophe: the outbreak of world war 1 and the collapse of the Habsburg Empire. 2014.
  • James Joll & Gordon Martel, The Origins of the First World War. 2013.
  • Roderick McLean, Royalty and Diplomacy in Europe 1890-1914. 2007.
  • Richard Ned Lebow, Forbidden Fruit: Counterfactuals and International Relations. 2010.
  • Thomas Otte, July Crisis, the world's descent into war, Summer 1914. 2014.
  • Dale Copeland, The Origins of Major War. 2001.
  • Brian Higgins, Historians and the July Crisis of 1914: An Historiography of the Origins of the First World War. 1987.
  • Richard F. Hamilton, Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917. 2004.
  • William Mulligan, The Origins of the First World War. 2010.
  • Daniel Allen Butler, Burden of Guilt: How Germany Shattered the Last Days of Peace, Summer 1914. 2010.
  • Winston Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918. 1930 (republished since).

Thankssssssssssssss for reading and listening!


  1. This episode was one of the best history podcasts I've ever heard. Your thought processes and analysis, you changing your conclusions from what you had decided before, and presentation of the and summing up of the July Crisis was extremely interesting. Thank you. I have to ask: is there a book in this? If so, allow me to pre-order a hardcover, autographed, first edition. Please keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks for your kind words history friends. At the mo I am not in the position to publish or release any kind of book, though I'll never say never for the future!

  2. Thanks for the July Crisis series. Very detailed and very compelling. Keep up the good work.


  3. Thank you very much Zack, You have expanded my understanding of this very important time period. I am very grateful to you. This series sounded like a masters thesis to me ;)