Origins of WWI

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If you would like to see a detailed timeline with lots of historiographical pointers you might find this helpful. However, it is only a draft:

Origins of WWI – rough guide to historiography and timeline

History Today
100 Years On – The History Today armistice centenary ebook.

Web resources
There are innumerable resources on the origins of WWI.  Here are a few starters:

A good place to begin is John D. Clare’s site, which is aimed at GCSE but provides a good foundation for further reading. Be aware that if you do start here that this can be simplistic in places and you will need to develop a more nuanced appreciation of the issues.

At the other end of the sophistication spectrum is the International Encyclopaedia of the First World War which is good both for causes and the course of the war itself.

Useful links may be found on the website for the German History Society.

It is well worth exploring the following reviews of Christopher Clarke’s The Sleepwalkers:

‘The Sleepwalkers’ and ‘July 1914’ – The New York Times

The Sleepwalkers How Europe Went To War In 1914  Essays in History

Thomas Laqueur reviews ‘The Sleepwalkers’ by Christopher Clark · LRB 5 December 2013

Christopher Clarke giving a public lecture:


Again. Note around 26-27 mins in, Clarke talks about the Franco-Russian alliance and how this changed in the years before the war, particularly after the 1912-13.


Yet another Clarke lecture can be found here (sound quality not great)

If you are interested in the intricacies of the debate over the Schlieffen plan, you could start with Terence Zuber’s webpage on the debate.

On the issue of Russian military planning, you might try the Encyclopedia of World War I

Graphic illustration of Schlieffen style planning and the reality of what happened after the war began.

There is no necessity to look at sources in the Pre-U outlines, but you may be interested in reading one or two of the following:

  1. Anglo-German Treaty [Heliogoland-Zanzibar Treaty] (July, 1, 1890) This treaty temporarily settled colonial disputes between Germany and Great Britain. It recognized Tanganyika as a German colony; in return, the Germans abstained from further encroaching into British….
  2. Admiral von Tirpitz to Admiral von Stosch (February 13, 1896),explains the importance of a fleet in taking German influence beyond its borders, and would force British recognition of the importance of Germany’s friendship.
  3. The Krueger Telegram (1896)
  4. Bulow’s speech introducing Weltpolitik to the Reichstag (December, 1897)
  5. Kiaochow agreement – between Germany and China (March 6, 1898) giving Imperial Germany extensive privileges and rights around the port of Kiaochow.
  6. Bulow’s speech to the Reichstag following his appointment as chancellor – expresses his ideas for dynamic foreign policy (1899)
  7. Memo regarding the significance of the ‘risk fleet’ from the Budget Department of the Reich Naval Office, February 1900
  8. The Schlieffen Plan, December 1905
  9. English perceptions of German foreign policy in January 1907
  10. Daily Telegraph Affair (1908)
  11. Alfred von Kiderlen-Wächter on his Foreign Policy Goals (1911)
  12. The War Council Meeting (December 2012)
  13. An Appeal by the German Army League, February 1912. The German Army League [Deutscher Wehrverein] was founded to promote the expansion of the German army. It had a loud voice in the parliamentary debates of 1912 and 1913, during which significant increases in the size of the German army were decided upon.
  14. The size of the Army between 1890 and 1914, compared with the Navy
  15. “The blank cheque”: Ladislaus Count von Szögyény-Marich (Berlin) to Leopold Count von Berchtold (July 5, 1914)
  16. Germany and the Ultimatum: Heinrich von Tschirschky and Bögendorff (Vienna) to Gottlieb von Jagow (July 10, 1914) This memorandum from Heinrich von Tschirschky and Bögendorff (1858-1916), the German ambassador in Vienna, to his superior in Berlin, Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow (1863-1935), illustrates the hesitancy of the Austrian government in presenting the ultimatum to Serbia. Wilhelm’s marginalia suggests his rash and desultory approach to decision-making. By inserting a quotation from Frederick the Great at the end of the memorandum, he indicates his aversion to diplomatic consultations as well as his frustration regarding Germany’s options.
  17. The army intervenes in the crisis: Helmuth J. L. von Moltke to Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (July 29, 1914) General von Moltke pushed for preemptive German mobilization against Russia. He accepted the likelihood that this step would bring the French into the fray. Moltke regarded a two-front war as inevitable. His thinking reflected a growing fatalism on the part of many military leaders who believed that Germany’s position had weakened steadily since the beginning of the century.

Another good collection of sources can be found here

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