Russia Paves Way to World War I Slaughter

HALF A CENTURY ago, the controversy over which country was responsible for the outbreak of World War I seemed to have been settled. The “war guilt” clause of the Treaty of Versailles, which put the blame on Germany, had long been discredited. German and French historians had met and agreed that history textbooks in their respective countries should make it clear to students that no one country was to blame more than any other. Surveys of international relations, most notably A.J.P. Taylor’s classic The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918, published in 1954, tended instead to portray the plunge into the twentieth century’s seminal catastrophe as an automatic process in which decision-making was largely taken out of the hands of politicians and statesmen by the military plans each country had in place: contingency planning became ineluctable reality once mobilization orders, involving complex and elaborate troop movements across large distances by railway, had been issued. In Taylor’s phrase, it was “war by timetable.”

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