Talk:Causes of World War I

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Former good article nominee Causes of World War I was a History good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
May 1, 2009 Good article nominee Not listed


There seems to be a major contradiction here. First, the article states:

"The new French President Raymond Poincaré, who took office in 1913, was favourable to improving relations with Germany.[7] In January 1914 Poincaré became the first French President to dine at the German Embassy in Paris.[7] Poincaré was more interested in the idea of French expansion in the Middle East than a war of revenge to regain Alsace-Lorraine."

So, 1913 and early 1914, Poincaré is more or less a dove who wants to improve relations with Germany and is not terribly interested in Alsace-Lorraine.

Yet a few paragraphs later in the article, the next section about France, reads:

"Prime Minister and then President Poincaré was a strong hawk. In 1913 Poincaré predicted war for 1914.[19] In 1920 at the University of Paris, thinking back to his own student days, Poincaré remarked, "I have not been able to see any reason for my generation living, except the hope of recovering our lost provinces (Alsace-Lorraine; Poincaré was born in Lorraine)."

and bobby died

"(In France) A "good old war" was seen by both sides (with the exception of Jean Jaurès) as a way to solve this crisis thanks to a nationalistic reflex. For example, on July 29, after he had returned from the summit in St. Petersburg, President Poincaré was asked if war could be avoided. He is reported to have replied: "It would be a great pity. We should never again find conditions better."[17]"

So in 1913 and 1914 Poincaré is not merely a hawk but obsessively, almost maniacally so. Could someone who understands the situation better than I please make some edits to better explain: Did he change his position? When and why? Was he simply keeping his options open and earlier on responsibly trying to prevent war, yet in so doing coming to the conclusion it was inevitable? Might it have been his own contradictory statements that undercut his efforts to make peace? Is this he or someone else rewriting history after the fact? Were his earlier actions and statements designed to trick the Germans as to France's intentions? We need something more here to elucidate the context of these contradictions, as to what he indicated and/or people actually had reason to believe at the time, even as it is relevant to history what he said later (though should again be clearer whether this is presented as a complete break with the reality of his earlier statements). Thanks, Abrazame (talk) 06:27, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

I read the article recently, and I completely agree with you. This article badly needs to be clarified. I hope that somebody who knows something about this topic (which isn't me) will step up to the plate and make the necessary additions to this article in order to clarify the seemingly contradictory statements. It has been over 4 months since you entered these comments, and it appears that nobody has responded. That is why I am sending out a 2nd request that somebody edit and clarify this article.JDefauw (talk) 02:09, 3 June 2012 (UTC)JDefauw

i tried to clarify some of the ambiguity on such an important topic as the causality of the great war; i would have done better had english been my native language, hope it'll suit. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:06, 22 July 2012 (UTC)

Your contribution is greatly appreciated. Thank you. Over the next week I will work on improving it. We will also need to supply references (books that verify what is being stated in the article). I will work on that as well. If you can recommend any books or journal articles, that would help as well. I think that more people should be interested in this topic.JDefauw (talk) 02:01, 22 July 2012 (UTC)JDefauw

Thank you for the language check, i had feared my english would be too frail for a debate so punctilious. I believe my viewpoint on the subject is accurate enough but most of the knowledge i got for WWI is Milza and Bernstein's Histoire du XXe Siècle, Fritz Fischer's War aims of Imperial Germany and Pierre Renouvin's La Crise européenne et la Première Guerre mondiale and his short book on WWI in the Que- sais-je collection. I have had trouble with referencing previously, as i wrote the french article of general Henri Mordacq notably. How can one support a thesis when another reference could disagree entirely on the matter? wikipedia indeed is demanding... Thank you for your interest nonetheless. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:38, 23 July 2012 (UTC)

Wikipedia may not be as demanding as you think. The goal that we are striving for is to create articles in which every significant point of view is stated. However, I am sure it is not normally the responsibility of one or two editors to make sure that every significant point of view has been stated in a given article. Wikipedia is a work in progress. Other people can always add more material to the article.
I think that your contribution to the article provided a more balanced perspective than the material that was in the article before. The material that was there before vastly oversimplified what the situation was in France prior to WWI. Also, it is not necessary to provide references for everything that we contribute, only those statements which are likely to be called into question and challenged by another contributor. At the same time, it is not a good idea to leave an entire section without any references. So even though English Wikipedia has a preference for English sources, I would still recommend that you provide citations to your French sources (and I saw that you had one English source as well). Over time, we may be able to add more English sources.
If anything I say is not clear, you can ask a question on my user talk page.JDefauw (talk) 21:51, 23 July 2012 (UTC)JDefauw

The Funeral of the Archduke and his wife[edit]

I added a bit about the funeral of the murdered couple, as any attempt to derail peace is a step towards war. Kaiser Bill did indeed try to stop this whole mess but the other Kaiser wouldn't let him.Ericl (talk) 19:26, 11 November 2013 (UTC)

I removed it and you reverted me without addressing my reason for removal. Please don't do that, it is not how wp:BRD works. No doubt the assassinations precipitated the July Crisis. That is extensively discussed in the article already. But the idea that the handling of Sophie's funeral was a major factor on the road to war is a fairly novel one. This is one of the most-analyzed months of all human history. We should not be creating our own synthesis of what mattered, nor should we cherrypick obscure sources. If we can't find a reliable source which ranks that factor as significant in the overall development, we should not include it, per wp:UNDUE. LeadSongDog come howl! 16:42, 20 December 2013 (UTC)

Background: "France"[edit]

The first section Background states the relationship between Europe, Russia and the Balkans. This particular sentence, "To reinforce this point, R. B. Haldane, the Germanophile Lord Chancellor, met with Prince Lichnowsky to offer an explicit warning that if Germany were to attack France, Britain would intervene in France's favour," suddenly talks about 'attacking France'. Shouldn't this be clarified? Dongiello (talk) 22:53, 26 January 2014 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 30 January 2014[edit] (talk) 21:21, 30 January 2014 (UTC) Change date on paragraph one to 1912.

Not done: The war began in 1914.
Dmelc9 (talk) 22:27, 30 January 2014 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 28 February 2014[edit]

The following sentence needs to be deleted or rephrased:

"On January 17, 1964 Ritter wrote a secret letter to the West German foreign minister, asking him to deny Fischer a passport to the United States, a request that was granted".

This is a muddled sentence with a bizarre logic: What exactly is meant by "deny Fischer a passport to the United States"? The travel-bound country can deny entry and the passport-issuing country can revoke a person's passport. Neither of which seems to have happened.

I cannot find any source which states that the West German foreign minister revoked the passport of Fritz Fischer. In the German Wikipedia entry it says that public funding for the trip was withdrawn and that the trip was cancelled for this reason; for this there are plenty of sources.

The issue is quite important because an article in the Daily Telegraph has now claimed that the West German government revoked the passport (not explicitly but quite possibly making use of this Wikipedia page). As far as I can see revoking a valid passport is totally illegal under the German basic code, hence the seriousness of the matter. (talk) 05:45, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

that muddled passage was removed long ago. Rjensen (talk) 06:56, 28 February 2014 (UTC)
Sometime before May 2010, when the Historiography of the causes of World War I was hived off into a separate article. - Arjayay (talk) 09:32, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

Causes for Germany?[edit]

You go to war only when you feel injustice. What exactly German people felt unjust about their current situation? The article lists only their supposed goals (of their higher ranks specially), but it omits their perceptions of injustice; goals are not enough to risk life and defeat morals. Do I misunderstand something? - (talk) 11:11, 5 July 2014 (UTC)

I don't see how 'morals' or 'justice' have anything to do with the pursuit of power. Can you explain your reasoning? --MAI 742 (talk) 11:16, 27 July 2014 (UTC)

The common perception in Germany was that it was encircled by enemies and therefore had to act loyally and come to the aid of its only remaining powerful ally, Austria-Hungary. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:07, 8 August 2014 (UTC)

First section too one-sided[edit]

I think the "Background" section is too one-sided. Putting all the blame on Germany/Austria (to the point of claiming that the war was basically planned beforehand) doesn't correspond to current historical understanding. At least some statements should be put into a more conditional and less definitive form. (E.g. that Germany before the war could have improved relations with France but didn't want to, preferring war.) Sorry, I don't have the background to contribute to a rewriting, just wanted to point it out. Greetings, (talk) 14:33, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

our job as editors is to report what the current scholarship has to say--and scholars (including Germans) are tough on Germany. Rjensen (talk) 10:13, 8 August 2014 (UTC)

Berlin Bagdad Railway[edit]

In this section, the closing statement (of the resolution of the issue by the summer crisis) could be referenced, and say as well exactly what was resolved - the financing? the anticipated ecomomic consequences? the imperial concerns?

BCameron54 07:04, 17 August 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for adding a reference that states an agreement was made - I added others which source and detail the content of the agreement. Better to say that the issues were addressed, than were resolved - but happy to agree this was contextual background, not part of the summer crisis.

BCameron54 17:34, 17 August 2014 (UTC)

My reading of these references do not suggest agreement and closure. Documents limiting the railway were signed, which underline the issue. Your presumption of settlement or resolution is an inference, and your reference is a simple didactic statement without content. My reference states "However these agreements, at the last eleventh hour, just prior to the outbreak of the Great War, were not turned into practical actions, but remained to be unreal." These issues remained in the background, and could not have been 'resolved' by a signature, as the rivalry and the railway and its implications remained. With respect, I do not think your categorical statement is balanced, rjenson, and revision without discussion is unjustified. The railway remained a manifestation and context of the rivalry, as evidenced by the British creation of Kuwait, the British presence in Mesopotamia during the war, and the post-war treaty which awarded the railway to Britain.

BCameron54 03:37, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

the issue was closed in June 1914 says McMurray, Jonathan S. (2001). Distant Ties: Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and the Construction of the Baghdad Railway. p. 101.  . Margaret Macmillan's The War that ended Peace (2013) pp 540-41 calls it detente. Otte July Crisis (2014) p 149 says the aqreement solved the RR issue. Clark, Sleepwalkers (2012) says the agreement "did much to neutralize tension over the Baghdad Railway." ( p 338). It is true that old books written before the archives opened in the 1920s assumed it was a cause of the war, but scholars now have seen the documents. To my knowledge no historian in recent decades says the RR issue played any rule in the debates of July that led to the war in August. I am not sure what recent scholarship that BCameron54 is relying upon??? He needs to tell us. Rjensen (talk) 14:51, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

Racism and lebensraum[edit]

Some authors point out to German demands to pursue lebensraum and racism against Slavs as one of the causes of the war. The German Emperor himself spoke of the need of "holy war against Slavs" and one of German chancellors before the war argued that war is necessary to ethnically cleanse Slavic populations further East. It won't be a problem finding these sources and this should be added to German domestic policies.--MyMoloboaccount (talk) 11:24, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

There used to be a section on this exact topic, but it seems to have been cut at some point. I've cut and pasted it from an old version. It isn't properly cited, and could probably be tightened up, which may be why it was cut, but I'll have a look around for good sources. Thanks for pointing this out.Peregrine981 (talk) 09:32, 29 September 2014 (UTC)
Thank you. I will work on this further.--MyMoloboaccount (talk) 12:20, 30 September 2014 (UTC)
This is a claim that is mainly supported by Russian nationalists. In fact, the German Empire aimed to create buffer states in Eastern Europe. These states should be independent, but governed by a "German-friendly" regime. The Slavic population should not be evicted from their country or something else. Differently from the WWII, there is no evidence that the German government wanted new "lebensraum" for the German "race". On the other hand, the German Emperor spoke about a war against the Slavs before the beginning of the WWI (I think it was in 1912). But you have to consider that Russia joined the Entente in 1907 (resp. in 1892) and there was a conflict between Austria and the Balkan Slavs. So, the anti-Slavic sentiment of the German Emperor was not a cause of the war (it was just the result of the conflicts which caused the later war). Similarly, it is inadequate to say that Wilson joined the war due to his anti-German sentiment.-- (talk) 14:36, 30 September 2014 (UTC)

Editing Restriction?[edit]

This is one of those pages that could use some sort of editing restriction in my book. Just a restriction to registered users only would be great. Iamheredude (talk) 03:37, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

I agree, although I would extend it to autoconfirmed. Anonimski (talk) 08:13, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

social darwinism[edit]

The treatment of Social Darwinism is inadequate. It's much more complex, as many ministers found in Darwin the evolution of cooperation. And there's the related phenomenon of Muscular Christianity. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:56, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

Indeed it starts bad right from the start, "Social Darwinism was a theory of human evolution loosely based on Darwinism". It's actually more adequate to say that Darwinism is a theory of evolution loosely influenced by a set of elitist Victorian values. The term is essentially anachronic. Funnily enough, Wikipedia's article on SD actually tries to diminish the anachronism with a literal quotation of the words "social darwinsm" being used in a different sense altogether, with "Darwinism" being more synonymous with "evolution" than with "by means of natural selection". At least the article also mentions the term is problematic and has inconsistent definitions. If I'd vote for anything, it would be to dig deeper into more specific terminologies and avoid the SD label altogether anywhere it's not a direct quote pertinent to the subject (and in the SD article itself). To me, it seems somewhat of a leftist version of "gender ideology", which, as the rational wiki puts it, is a right-wing "is a snarl word and straw man argument." It's POV-ish/loaded and a poor, historically imprecise construct.

Semi-protected edit request on 18 October 2015[edit]

Please edit or remove the graphic: European military alliances shortly after the outbreak of war.

This is because a) it does not show what it says, namely: the European military alliances shortly after the outbreak of war. For example, it shows the Germans allied to the Italians, whereas the Italians remained neutral until 1915 when they entered on the allied side. Rather it shows historic agreements of vastly varying different types between European countries. b) The graphic confuses matters by suggesting that the "treaties" between Britain and France are somehow equivalent to the alliances between Germany and Austria for example. The "friendly understanding" between France and Britain settled colonial disputes, whereas the Germany and Austrian treaty is one of mutual defence. c) The term Triple Entente is given equivalence to the Triple Alliance. In doing so it suggests that Britain went to war because of a treaty obligation with France, whereas the situation was more complex that that - Foreign Secretary Grey entered into secret agreements with the French without the approval of the cabinet. Modern historians are wary of giving equivalent status between the so-called Triple entente and the Triple Alliance. d) It falls into the controversial theory, now dated, that "Alliance systems" lead to the war e) Many people believe, quite wrongly, that France and Russia are allied to Britain prior to the war and the graphic reinforces that error f) Any graphic on the causes of the first world war page, should show the international situation prior to the outbreak of war, not after it — Preceding unsigned comment added by Keith Johnston (talkcontribs) 19:23, 18 October 2015 (UTC)

Black Hand[edit]

change ((Black Hand)) to ((Black Hand (Serbia)|Black Hand))

Yes check.svg Done Cannolis (talk) 14:05, 23 October 2015 (UTC)

causes of the first world war[edit]

The Sarajevo incident is not a major cause of the war Gareth Madzivire (talk) 16:23, 17 January 2016 (UTC)

The Sarajevo incident would be the assassination of the Archduke and his wife, yes? This was definitely a weighing factor in the leadup to the war, and absolutely should remain in this article even if it were merely viewed as a casus belli for Franz Joseph (Austria-Hungary) to invade Serbia. Zjohn4 (talk) 17:57, 6 February 2017 (UTC)

The wavering Tsar[edit]

Dear Mr. Johnston, yesterday I added more precise details, with references. It is not done to delete text with references and replace them with unreferenced text. This looks like forgery to me. The timeline should be adjusted. By the way you don't have a profile nor a talkpage. Taksen (talk) 07:35, 4 September 2016 (UTC)

I will use this case to complain about you and others that work in a similar way. Wikipedia should check their edits. It became a sort of Reader's Digest. All the experts were scared off in the past and seem to be uninterested.Taksen (talk) 08:20, 4 September 2016 (UTC)

In the morning of 29 July [O.S. 16 July] 1914 the wavering Tsar signed both a partial against Austria and a general mobilization with Austria and Germany. A flurry of telegrams between the Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Tsar[1] led to the cancellation of Russian general mobilization; the Tsar chose a partial mobilization in the evening.[2] Then Nicholas II met with protests from Sergei Sazonov.

Sazonov, Grand Duke Nicholas, and Poincaré were against peace, according to Vladimir Sukhomlinov. (Goremykin and Alexander Krivoshein begged the Tsar not to lead the army and leave the capital.) According to Samuel Hoare: "I believe myself that, had he [Sazonov] not insisted upon general mobilisation on July 30th, the Emperor would have continued to hesitate, and Russian mobilisation … would never have been possible".[3] On July 30, 1914, the Russians ordered a general mobilization, fearing the consequences if they only mobilized on a partial basis, given the complexity of the operation and the amount of time it would take to have every part of their armies in the right place. The Tsar expected Germany would never attack Russia, France and England combined, but all "muddled" into World War I. Germany demanded that Russia would cease the mobilization but Russia refused. On Saturday 1 and 6 August Germany and Austria declared war to Russia.


Thank you Taksen. I have removed your edits again for the following reasons:
1. The original text is within the timeline, and this is crucial to understanding the narrative. The new text introduces subjects which are out of narrative order, which is confusing. I am referring to: "Germany demanded that Russia would cease the mobilization but Russia refused. On Saturday 1 and 6 August Germany and Austria declared war to Russia." These facts are dealt with in the text below that section, and we must avoid duplication.
2. Your statement that Russia, France and England muddled into war cannot be demonstrated, indeed it the point of the entire article to explain how this happened.
3. Your addition of the Old Style date is not relevant unless we plan to add Old Style dates to all of the dates, which would be distracting and confusing. If this was an article about the battle of Ulm I could see why you would wish to include Old Style dates as confusion around the dates was critical to the misunderstanding between the Austrian and Russians.
My overarching philosophy is guided by the fact that the entirety of this article remains too long and there are too may extraneous facts as it is. So it is necessary to keep only to the most important facts and in the correct order. The most important fact is that Russia ordered general mobilisation. It is important to maintain this discipline or the article will begin to break down (again) and return to the poor state it was in at the start of last year.
I respect the fact that we may not agree on this. I am quite happy to take this to arbitration if you continue to reverse my edits. I am a reasonable man, as my old tutor Sir Hew Strachan always told me.
Johnston — Preceding unsigned comment added by Keith Johnston (talkcontribs) 22:06, 15 September 2016 (UTC)
Could someone keep an eye on this guy User:Keith Johnston. This is the second time he removed my details. He does not say it is untrue, but tries to simplify the complex details, and leave out two days in the July Crisis, where it becomes clear the Tsar was wavering and was pushed by Sazonov to accept general mobilization. Unbelievable. Users without a profile are suspicious; and should not be taken serious. It is difficult to check their contributions. He does not know where to sign, and how to reply. He obviously is an amateur promoting his limited view on the subject.Taksen (talk) 06:04, 16 September 2016 (UTC)
Update: Thank you Taksen. This is the second time you have removed my edits without raising this with me or giving reasons.
I have given reasons for my editing above, and these remain true. The origins of WW1 are probably the most complex historical event ever, so it is important that the article remains disciplined. You have asked users to check my contributions and raised the issue that I am promoting a limited view. I would welcome you to check my contributions. In my humble opinion I have made substantial improvements to this article which at one point was bloated, dated and confusing. As to my views, I can only state that I am a graduate of the University of Glasgow where I studied military history under Sir Hew Strachan. My specialism was World War One. I have remained up-to-date with the literature particularly, but not limited to, the latest works by Margaret MacMillan and Christopher Clarke.
I am happy with briefly noting the addition of the Tsar wavering - which was in my original edit which you removed some time ago, but the other commentary I object to for the reasons given. I would also state that there is separate article on the July Crisis which you may wish to add to. Bear in mind that this article is about the long term and short terms causes, so necessarily it should not be as detailed as the article on the July crisis.
I would appreciate if you would deal with the issues at hand, rather than attacking me personally. If you wish to take this to resolution I am also happy.
Johnston — Preceding unsigned comment added by Keith Johnston (talkcontribs) 07:44, 16 September 2016 (UTC)

The "Other factors section"[edit]

The "other factors" section is a collection of statements generally unconnected to any cohesive narrative or argument about the causes of the war. I am minded to delete the entire section as it confuses the reader. I do not argue that the statements are untrue or unreferenced. I welcome amy views before proceeding — Preceding unsigned comment added by Keith Johnston (talkcontribs) 12:03, 16 September 2016 (UTC)

Robynthehode Reverted this edit requesting: "You should wait for other editors to discuss your proposed edits before taking action". I have waited three weeks for additional editors to comment and there have been no additional comments. If there are additional comments please make them on this section on the talk page. Please do not revert these edits without giving reasons on this talk page. Thank you. Keith Johnston (talk) 19:30, 9 October 2016 (UTC)

Seems reasonable to me. Let other editors contest your deletion of section here if they want to.Robynthehode (talk) 20:26, 9 October 2016 (UTC)

Delete. It makes no sense to me...looks like random excerpts mostly from Fromkin. The reviews of Fromkin are not too friendly--he promises a lot but does not deliver much (Moltke was responsible for the war!) The Historical Joural 2006 p 1270 says: " As a study of the origins of the First World War, Europe's last summer does not succeed in the end in combining the short term with the long term, the role of contingency with that of determinism" Rjensen (talk) 20:55, 9 October 2016 (UTC)

Page is a mess, promises much but delivers only in part - help required[edit]

This page remains a mess. Much of the introduction does not match up to the text - for example militarism and nationalism are claimed to be important factors in the causes of the war but are not considered separately in the body of the article. The explanation for the war ends with British entry - what about Ottomans, Romania and USA? This is a general plea for assistance in working on this page. It is too big and too controversial a subject for one person to work on.Keith Johnston (talk) 21:18, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

Let me be more specific:

The introduction promises analysis of:

Militarism (Is it included? NO, not included esp important as it relates a willingness by all the major powers to risk war): A complex web of alliances and alignments (YES): Imperialism (Yes but poorly done): the growth of nationalism (NO): the power vacuum created by the decline of the Ottoman Empire (Only tangentially): Unresolved territorial disputes (YES): the perceived breakdown of the balance of power in Europe (Linked to Ottomans above, so not explicitly): convoluted and fragmented governance (NO): The arms races (Yes in part but fails to mention Ottoman-Russian naval race): Military planning (YES): Misperceptions of intent (e.g., the German belief that Britain would remain neutral) - A bit but doesn't included proper discussion of the most fundamental misperception - That Russia would remain out of a conflict with Serbia: Fatalism that war was inevitable (There is a section on social darwinism, but it failes to make any explicit connection to the causes): The speed of the crisis (Yes): Delays and misunderstandings in diplomatic communications (NO):

The sections on German domestic politics and French domestic politics are underwritten, and there are nonsense phrases such as "The situation in France was quite different from that in Germany; in France, war appeared to be a gamble."[!] There is no section on Russian policy drivers (although arguably they are well covered in the narrative).

The structure of the introduction should match the structure of the article, but does not. This is not a surprise on wikipedia where there is no one overarching editor, but still its a point worth making.Keith Johnston (talk) 12:49, 14 March 2017 (UTC)

Moltke-Schliffen plan and Cult of Offensive-War by Timetable sections[edit]

The Moltke -Schlieffen plan section in almost no respect provides any additional wisdom into the cause of WW1. While it is reasonably informative as to the Schlieffen plan itself, it fails to make proper reference to how the plan impacted the causes of the war. In addition to being besides the point it is also too long. This article must be disciplined and have brevity if its to achieve its stated objective, as the Causes of WW1 is commonly regarded as one of, if not the single most complex historical question ever. I intend to make significant changes to this section and incorporate it into the section above- War by Timetable. Please engage with this talk page section on changes to that section.Keith Johnston (talk) 21:24, 13 March 2017 (UTC)