Tag Archives: Austria-Hungary

Pan-Slavism and the Origins of the First World War

While the growth of Slav nationalism in the Balkans can be said to have led to increasing tensions in that area, and indeed can be seen to have caused the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the designated beginning of the July Crisis of 1914, it is not the necessary condition which plunged the European continent into what Lloyd George called ‘the abyss’. Rather, other factors in the run up to war – such as the war plans of the powers and the aggression of certain states, notably Russia and Germany – were the determining factors in the eventual continental conflagration.  Continue reading

Did the System of European Alliances Cause the First World War?

The tangled web of European agreements and alliances has proven a permanent feature of the literature which has sprung up around debating the causes of the First World War. This school of thought gained prominence in the 1920s, when there was a general move towards internationalism and some small regrets about tarring Weimar Germany with the brush of its predecessor’s responsibility for beginning the Great War. Nevertheless, and despite this seeming datedness, the theory attracts a lot of support; tales of systemic failure, it could be argued, diminish individual responsibility and make people and nations feel better about their own role in events. There are other opinions on the matter, however, which range from blaming the actions of a single power – most often Germany – to blaming abstract concepts such as militarism, nationalism and even, as Christopher Clark writes in his book The Sleepwalkers, a ‘crisis of masculinity’, which is held to have caused European diplomatic and political leaders almost to destroy themselves and their nations out of little more than a collective sense of psychological necessity. Continue reading

Who Gained More From the Dual Alliance: Germany or Austria-Hungary?

The 1879 Dual Alliance between Austria-Hungary and Germany proved initially fortuitous for both signatories; Austria-Hungary gained validation and support, and the new German nation gained a vital ally in its ever-complicated quest to isolate the revanchist French and garner international standing. But after the removal of Otto von Bismarck from the Chancellorship in 1890 – commemorated in Punch with the famous illustration entitled ‘dropping the pilot’ – this balance began to go awry. Bismarck’s successor, Caprivi, referred to the alliance as the ‘cornerstone of our foreign policy’ and this state of affairs began to favour Austria-Hungary more than her northern neighbour. Finally, the alliance served to damage and destroy both powers in the European maelstrom of the First World War. Continue reading