Decisions For War By Richard Hamilton And Holger Herwig

1190 WordsOct 25, 20175 Pages
Decisions for War, 1914-1917 by Richard Hamilton and Holger Herwig investigates the origins of the First World War detailing individual country’s reasons for entering the war. Historians at War by Anthony Adamthwaite explores how scholars have understood the origins of the Second World War throughout varying times and differing national view points. Both works share a common theme of determinism; a retrospective notion placed on historical events by historians that Europe was inescapably predestined to go to war and that nothing nor anyone could inhibit that. Both remark that this popular approach does a disservice into the explanation of war as it does not accurately depict the economic and social agency present in Europe at the time. In…show more content…
H&H reject the cliché thesis of a “slide into war” as elites had the agency to declare war. War does not simply happen; there is a strict procedure of declarations that cannot materialize out of nowhere. Because people have agency they have the authority to decide on their future. In the sense of war, this means they have the choice to either participate or not. H&H argue that there was no inevitability of war since formal declarations would need to be drawn up by some individuals. For example, “Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914.” Commonly believed to have been inspired by the recent assassination H&H contend that the declaration of war was nevertheless “the end result of a careful, well thought out, and rational process.” Moreover, the assassination was not the only reason for war but rather an interest in a fragmentation of the Balkans. Whatever the case, this rational process dismisses a fatalism of war in Europe as Austria-Hungary ultimately chose to go to war. This process is mirrored in the other four major powers; Germany, Russia, France, and Great Britain demonstrating that they too had agency when declaring war. Expanding upon this further, H&H investigate whether or not the deterministic idea that countries were pushed into war by a general enthusiasm from the public by documenting newspaper sources. Traditionally believed, nationalism became overwhelming for the elites who could not resist

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