Austria-Hungary and Fischer's Thesis

Essay by madsol7A, October 2014

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More devastating than any previous war, and the first genuinely global conflict, the Great War brutally welcomed the world to the 20th century. Historians in abundance have extensively studied the subject, providing their own conclusions as to who they believe is "to blame". Germany's role --and the amount of blame that should be apportioned to it-- for the occurrence of the First World War is widely debated; leading the charge that Germany was responsible for tipping Europe into a global war was Fritz Fischer. Fischer's groundbreaking revelation argued "Germany has deliberately instigated World War I (WW1) in an attempt to become a world power." While Fischer's thesis initially appears very compelling given his analysis of source documents, further examination reveals that events leading up to WWI, and the role played by other states, paints a more nuanced picture of the complex reasons. I will argue that on a re-reading of key historical analysis of the causes of war, Austria-Hungary is first among the equals in tipping the continent into a global conflict.[1:

Moses, John "Fischer, Fritz" pages 386-387 from The Encyclopaedia of Historians and Historical Writing edited by Kelly Boyd, Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1999 page 38]

In 1961, Fritz Fischer published his first novel, which generated extensive debates on the primary agent for war. His thesis compellingly argues Germany's for guilt for along three broad themes: imperialist drivers, social and political concerns, and military pressures. [1: Fritz Fischer's novel Griff nach der Weltmacht: Die Kriegzielpolitik des kaiserlichen Deutschland 1914-1918 was translated into English in 1967 under the title Germany's Aims in the First World War. Its publication revived public interest in the First World War and the topic of blame.]

Weaknesses in Fischer's overall argument are evident when we look closely at each theme. First,