TODAY, looking back on more than half a century of study, I am more than ever impressed by the tremendous impact the World War of 1914-18 has had upon world developments of the next fifty years.  The war ushered in a period of international political and social change unequaled in history.  At the same time enormous innovations in electronic and genetic sciences occurred and the speed of transportation was enormously increased with the use of the automobile and the airplane.

The World War also opened a new age of violence that contrasted greatly with the era of comparative peace that had preceded it.  In this earlier period, from 1815 to 1914, peace generally prevailed in Europe except for some “local” wars that were fought with traditional weapons, were comparatively short-lived, and wreaked small destruction.  Most of Asia and of Africa were still tolerably quiescent under the colonialism imposed by European imperialist powers.  Diplomatic relations were strictly secret and were conducted unhurriedly by trained officials who kept in touch with their home governments by means of couriers and coded letters rather than by telegraph.  After 1914, however, the “little” wars exploded into global conflicts that raged for several years and were fought with new weapons like submarines, tanks and air missiles that caused terrific losses of life and property.  At the same time, in Asia and Africa, the yellow and dark-skinned populations, no longer quiescent, began a struggle to end all European colonial domination and to establish their own independence and power.  In the conduct of international relations the wisdom and caution of experienced ambassadors was often undermined by special envoys who lacked sufficient international knowledge and by the increasing tendency of top authorities to make statements by radio to the whole world, thereby disturbing the secrecy of diplomatic negotiations.

During the turbulent half-century that began in 1914, the causes of the war and the responsibility for its outbreak have remained problems of high historical interest and of deep political importance.  The subject has given rise to a great mass of controversial literature, which may be said to fall into three periods in each of which the scope and value of the work was more or less dependent on the evidence available to the writers.

In the first period, 1914-19, persons writing on the immediate causes of the war were largely dependent on apologiae made by men who had held responsible political positions at the outbreak of war, and on the so-called “color books,” small and highly selective collections of diplomatic documents, that were issued by each of the principal governments involved.  These writings were intended to prove the wisdom and honesty of the conduct of each and throw on others the blame for starting the war.  Much of this literature of the first period was also badly warped by wartime hatred, prejudice, and political propaganda.  The assertions put forth by writers on the side of the ultimate victors were summed up by the Versailles Treaty, which implied that the war was caused solely by the aggression of Germany and her allies.

The second period, 1920-30, was notable for the publication of astonishingly full and reliable collections of diplomatic documents relating both to the crisis of July 1914 and to the events of the preceding forty years.  The unprecedented and extensive public revelation of secrets from the archives was begun by the German Republic.  Other governments soon followed her example.  The German and French collections each eventually comprised some forty volumes and dealt with international relations as far back as the Franco-Prussian War.

After long and careful study of as much of this valuable material as had already appeared in print, I published in 1928 the present two-volume work, The Origins of the World War.  The first volume is devoted to the underlying causes of the war during several decades, and the second volume to the hectic diplomatic crisis which precipitated its outbreak in 1914.  I tried to maintain as fairminded and scholarly attitude of mind as possible, leaving aside earlier controversial literature and basing my account entirely on the new documentary evidence.  The result was highly gratifying.  Reviewers generally praised it as an important and interesting historical survey of the much-disputed question of responsibility for the war.  It consequently had a large sale and was published in German, French, and Russian translations.  A noted Soviet historian (V. Chvostov in Istorik Marksist, Vol. 18-19, 209-216, 1930) castigated me as a decadent bourgeois historian, probably paid by Wall Street, who completely failed to understand that the true cause of the war was “finance capitalism.”  To prove his point he quoted parallel passages from Lenin’s writings and from my book, but he concluded his long review more favorably, saying that it was the best book in any language, that it ought to be used in all Russian schools and universities.  The Soviet government printed an edition of 50,000 copies.

I published a revised two-volume-in-one edition of my book in 1930.  This edition took note of the documentary and other material that had appeared since the first edition two years earlier.

During the third period, since 1930, the French and the British have completed their invaluable documentary collections, the Russians have extended theirs, the Austrians have published nine volumes of diplomatic material for the years 1908 to 1914, and the Italians have issued the first volume of a series.  The total amount of this new evidence revealed since 1930 is perhaps equal to that of the preceding period, but its fresh importance to the historian is much less.  That is to say, it has added relatively little to the account which I gave in my revised edition of 1930 or which Professor Bernadotte E. Schmitz gave in his valuable two-volume work, The Coming of the War, 1914 also published in 1930.

His work is more severe in its judgment of Germany than mine, and it deals mainly with the outbreak of the war in 1914, rather than with the earlier underlying causes.  But the general picture that emerges from both books is not likely to be much modified by later archival revelations, biographies or monographs, though some minute details may be added to the picture and obscure points may be clarified.

The intense scholarly and popular interest in the causes of war in 1914 naturally abated somewhat as attention became absorbed in the second war.  But during the past decade it appears to have revived, judging from the increased sales of my book and the publication of many new ones on the subject.  Two of these are notable.  Luigi Albertini, The Origins of the War of 1914 (London, 1952-57 translated from the Italian, deals mainly with the immediate origins and is the most detailed and probably the most authoritative account so far written, but its three large volumes, averaging nearly 700 pages each, are somewhat repetitious and sometimes prejudiced.  Fritz Fisher, Griff nach der Weltmacht (Hamburg, 1961), deals severely with, Germany and tends to assume that Germany’s undoubted annexationist policies after war broke out are evidence of her policies prior to the war.

It had been my intention eventually to completely rework my revised edition of 1930.  This would have enabled me to cut out passages in which I had expatiated at length to establish certain views that have been generally accepted by historians and no longer need such explanation.  Such, for instance, is the chapter on the Potsdam Council in which I definitely demolished the widely accepted myth that the Kaiser had deliberately plotted the war at a meeting with his top officials at Potsdam.  The space thus saved I hoped to use for a fuller discussion of such causes as economic factors, the influence of the press, the psychology of certain officials, and, of course, the inclusion of the results of new documentary revelations and the researches of other historical scholars.  But the press of other work caused me to postpone this intended revision until declining eyesight made it impossible.

Therefore, when The Free Press proposed reprinting the 1930 edition as a paperback, I readily assented.  The edition is fairly broad in outlook, surveying mounting international frictions many years before the war, and describes in detail the fatal diplomatic crisis of 1914.  Yet it is so condensed that the whole account is not unduly long.  It is based on strictly contemporary evidence, is as rigidly objective as possible, and avoids polemics and lengthy disputes about “guilt” and responsibility for the war.  On the basis of such new light as has appeared since 1930, historians no doubt will long continue to differ as to the exact effect of this or that action and as to the precise responsibility of each nation in causing the war.  My book, I hope, will prove a convenient spring-board for a deeper plunge into the controversies.

Cambridge, Mass. 1966


SINCE the publication of the first edition nearly two years ago, the stream of new documentary material on the origins of the war has continued to flow very freely.  Dr. G.P. Gooch and Professor H.W. Temperley have pushed forward with energy their admirable collection of British Documents, so that the sixth volume carries the story of Anglo-German relations through the failure of the Haldane Mission in 1912.  Austrian scholars took everyone by surprise last Christmas by presenting the world with eight closely packed volumes on Oesterreich-Ungarns Aussenpolitik, containing nearly 12,000 documents from their archives covering the years 1908 to 1914.  This collection runs parallel to the German Die Grosse Politik, and is of especial value for the additional light that it throws on Balkan problems in general and on Austro-Serbian relations in particular.  The French Government has published three initial volumes of Documents Diplomatiques Français, a monumental series which will eventually illuminate French foreign policy from 1871 to 1914 in the same detail as has been done for German policy in the same period by Die Grosse Politik.

In addition to these official publications there have also appeared many valuable private publications containing important new documents or based on unpublished first-hand material.  Dr. Bogitchevitch’s unofficial collection, Die Auswärtige Politik Serbiens 1908-1914, partly compensates for the Serbian Government’s persistent failure to follow the example of other states in disclosing fully and frankly their secret pre-war archives.  Interesting light on leading English personalities and their psychology is contained in charming biographies, like Lord Newton’s Lord Lansdowne, Mr. Harold Nicolson’s Lord Carnock (better known as Sir Arthur Nicolson), and in Lord Morley’s remarkable Memorandum on Resignation.  In La Politique Russe d’avant Guerre Baron Taube has stated in no uncertain terms what he knew of Izvolski and certain episodes in Russia’s pre-war policy.  The present writer has also been privileged to read the advance pages of the first volume of Professor B.E. Schmitt’s scholarly and detailed forthcoming work, The Coming of the War, 1914.

These and many other recent publications of source material, as well as innumerable secondary monographic studies, can usefully be drawn upon to add an infinite amount of new detail to the story of the main outline of the origins of the war which I have tried to give within the compass of two volumes.  But I do not find that they so essentially modify the chief thread of my narrative or my general conclusions that it is necessary in a revised edition to recast the whole form of the book.  I have therefore mainly confined the revision to rewriting several passages, to calling attention in the footnotes to important new material, and to adding a few supplementary notes at the end of the first volume.  This has made possible the retention of the paging of the first edition, which it is hoped will be a convenience to students.  Many of these revisions have already been made in the German and French editions.

Harvard University,
June 28, 1930.


WHEN the World War suddenly set Europe aflame and American public opinion, soon under the influence of propaganda and war prejudice, began to denounce Germany and the Kaiser as being guilty of causing it, the present writer refused to join in the chorus.  His historical sense told him that in this present case, as in the past, no one country or no one man was solely, or probably even mainly, to blame.  A little study of the documents in the Blue, Yellow and Orange Books which were early issued by the English, French and Russian Governments quickly convinced him that these documentary publications were by no means so complete and reliable (though more so than the White and Red Books, issued by Germany and Austria) that one could safely base sound and final conclusions upon them, as seemed to be believed by the millions of men and women who read such facile and superficial arguments as those of Mr. James M. Beck, and others who followed his cue.  Therefore the present writer during the War remained silent, except for his discussions of the subject in college class rooms.

When, however, the new socialist governments of Germany and Austria published in 1919 a very complete collection of documents from the secret archives relating to the diplomatic crisis of July, 1914, this seemed to provide material for reaching at last some tentative opinion about the immediate causes of the War.  These the present writer ventured to express in “New Light on the Origins of the War” published in the American Historical Review in 1920-1921.  This called to the attention of scholars in this country the desirability of reconsidering opinions formed during the heat of the battle as to the immediate responsibility of causing it.  With the publication of more documents, especially from the Russian sources, and with the refusal of the French and British Governments to issue any such convincingly complete documentary record of their conduct in July, 1914, there soon arose a group of writers who demanded a “revision” of that clause in the Treaty of Versailles declaring that Germany and her allies were solely responsible.  With some of these writers—especially with some of the anti-Poincaré revisionists in France—the pendulum of opinion has been in danger of swinging nearly as far away from the golden mean of historical truth as in the case of those who formerly followed in the propagandist path of Mr. Beck.

The present writer is no more inclined to accept the arguments of the former than of the latter.  In the pages which follow he has no political motive, either to justify the Treaty of Versailles or to demand its revision but simply to carry out what a great master has defined as the proper task of the historian—to tell how it really came about.  He has written, he hopes, sine ira ac studio.  If he has made infrequent citations from the mass of controversial literature which has grown up in regard to the origin of the wax, this is not because he has not read a very considerable part of it, but because he wishes to avoid controversy and reach his conclusions as far as possible from documentary evidence.  The mass of documentary and autobiographical material is now so great that it affords either of two possibilities.  On the one hand, a writer by centering attention on the acts of any one man or country, and by picking out passages in the documents to support his contention, can easily make a seemingly convincing argument for the uninitiated, that this or that man or country was altogether angelic or devilish in motives and methods.  On the other hand, a writer may conscientiously try to look fairly at all sides of the question, explain acts from the point of view of the actors themselves instead of from that of their champions or enemies, and try to reach an unbiassed judgment.  Needless to say it is the latter possibility which is attempted in the present volume.  With what success, the reader must judge.

In the troublesome matter of transliterating Slavic proper names the best practice of American libraries has been followed, so far as is possible, without the use of diacritical marks.  But in the case of some Russian names of German origin, like Schilling for Shilling, and in a few Serbo-Croat names, such as Princip for Printsip, popular usage has been allowed to prevail over proper practice.

Quotations from the documents and foreign works are usually made from direct translations from the original, rather than from translations into English which have been made by others.  This is because the latter are sometimes abridged, or because the present writer made his translation prior to the publication of other translations, or because he prefers his own rendering to that of others.  If the quotations from the documents are often tediously long, it is because he wishes to avoid as far as possible picking out phrases or sentences which might give a suggestio falsi or suppressio veri.  In some cases, for the sake of brevity, prolix phrases and titles have been curtailed or omitted;  “Austria,” for instance, has been commonly used in place of “Austria-Hungary.”

No formal bibliography is included in these volumes, because reference to all the more important recent literature of the subject has been made either in the List of Abbreviations, in the text, or in the numerous bibliographical footnotes in connection with each topic in the text;  most of those which contain several titles are cited in the Index under “Bibliography.”

Among the various bibliographies which include references to the less recent literature, the most helpful are the following:  G.W. Prothero, Subject Index of the Books relating to the European War, 1914-1918, acquired by the British Museum, 1914-1920 (London, 1922);  A. von Wegerer, Literatur zur Kriegsschuldfrage (Berlin, 1923, new ed., 1926);  J.L. Kunz, Bibliographie der Kriegsliteratur (Berlin, 1920);  Die Kriegssehuldfrage:  Ein Verzeichnis der Literatur des In- und Auslandes, hrsg. vom Börsenverein der Deutschen Buchhändler (Leipzig, 1925);  A. Lumbroso, Bibliografia ragionata della guerra delle nazioni (Roma, 1920);  H.H.B. Meyer, Check List of the Literature and Other Material in the Library of Congress on the European War (Washington, 1918);  and the valuable Catalogues Méthodiques (Paris, 1921 ff.), issued by the Bibliothèque et Musée de la Guerre, and edited by J. Dubois, C. Appuhn, C. Bloch, and others.

For keeping abreast with current literature on the origins of the War there are two excellent periodicals largely devoted to the subject:  Die Kriegsschuldfrage, edited by A. von Wegerer (Berlin, 1923 ff.);  and Revue d’Histoire de la Guerre Mondiale (Paris, 1923 ff.).  Articles, critical reviews, and titles of new books may be found in the various historical and political journals, such as the American Historical Review, English Historial Review, Slavonic Review, Historische Zeitschrift, Revue Historique, Krasnyi Arkhiv, Foreign Affairs, the New York Times Current History, Political Science Quarterly, European Economic and Political Survey, Archiv für Politik und Geschichte, Europäische Gespräche, L’Europe Nouvelle, Evolution, the Bulletin of the Central Commission for Neutral Investigation of the Causes of the World War, and many others.

To those who have kindly permitted the reproduction of many of the illustrations the writer wishes to express his gratitude—to Mr. Hamilton Fish Armstrong for the portrait of M. Pashitch and the facsimile of the Austrian Declaration of War;  to Mr. R.H. Lutz of the Hoover War Library for the Minutes of the Russian Council of Ministers;  to the editors of Current History for the portraits of MM. Sazonov and Sukhomlinov;  to the Frederick A. Stokes Company for the portraits of MM. Benckendorff, Cambon, Metternich, and Lichnowsky, which appeared in Viscount Grey’s Twenty-Five Years;  and to Herr A. von Wegerer for several of the German and Austrian portraits and for the material for the maps which appeared in Die Kriegsschuldfrage.

Finally, the author takes pleasure in acknowledging his indebtedness to Professor J.F. Jameson and the late Professor Coolidge, who first encouraged him to undertake this study;  to Professor B.E. Schmitt, who read parts of the manuscript;  and to Professors W.L. Langer and L.B. Packard, who read the proofs.  But they are in no way responsible for the errors or the views expressed.

S. B. F.
July 28, 1928.
Northampton, Mass.

to chapter 1


Citations from collections in which the documents antedate July, 1914 (like “Affaires Balkaniques,” “G.P.,” “Siebert-Schreiner,” and “Stieve”) are by volume and page, because the documents are often long despatches extending over many pages, and a page reference is therefore more precise.  But documents of July, 1914 (like those in “A.R.B.,” “B.D.,” etc.) are mostly short telegrams, and are cited by serial number of the publication in which they appear.

Affaires Balkaniques:  Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Les Affaires Balkaniques, 1912-1914, 3 vols., Paris, 1922.

A.R.B.: [Austrian Red Book of 1919]  Diplomatische Aktenstücke zur Vorgeschichte des Krieges, 1914, 3 vols., Wien, 1919.  (Eng. trans., 1920.)

B.B.B.: [British Blue Book]  Great Britain and the European Crisis, Correspondence, and Statements in Parliament, together with an Introductory Narrative of Events.  London, 1914. (Cd. 7467).

B.D.: British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914.  Edited by G.P. Gooch and Harold Temperley.  Vols. I-VI, XI. London, 1926-1930.  (Vol. XI, Foreign Office Documents, June 28th-August 4th, 1914, cited merely as “B.D.” and by serial number).

Bogitchevitch :  M. Boghitschewitsch, Kriegsursachen.  Zurich, 1919.  (Eng. trans., 1919; 2nd ed. in French, 1925.)

Bourgeois et Pagès:  E. Bourgeois et G. Pagès, Les Origines et les Responsabilités de la Grande Guerre.  Paris, 1921.

Brandenburg:  E. Brandenburg, Von Bismarck zum Welkriege, Berlin, 1924.  (Eng. trans. of 2nd ed., 1927.)

Conrad:  Feldmarschall Conrad von Hötzendorf, Aus meiner Dienstzeit.  5 vols., Wien, 1921-25.

D.D.F.:  Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Documents Diplomatiques Français, 1871-1914.  Paris, 1929 ff.

Deutschland Schuldig?:  Deutsches Weissbuch über die Verantwortlichkeit der Urheber des Krieges.  3rd ed., Berlin, 1919.  (Eng. trans., 1924.)

Dirr:  Dr. P. Dirr, Bayerische Dokumente zum Kriegsausbruch and zum Versailler Schuldspruch.  Dritte erweiterte Auflage.  Munich and Berlin, 1925.

Dobrorolski:  S. Dobrorolski, Die Mobilmachung der russischen Armee, 1914.  Berlin, 1921.

Frantz:  Gunther Frantz, Russlands Eintritt in den Weltkrieg.  Berlin, 1924.

F.Y.B.: [French Yellow Book]  Ministère des Affaires Étrangeres, La Guerre Européenne, 1914.  Paris, 1914.

Gooss:  Dr. Roderich Gooss, Das Wiener Kabinette and die Entstehung des Weltkrieges, Wien, 1919.

G.P.:  Die Grosse Politik der Europaischen Kabinette 1871-1914, Sammlung der Akten des Deutschen Auswärtigen Amts, 40 vols.  Berlin, 1922-27.

Grey:  Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Twenty-five Years, 1892-1916, 2 vols.  New York, 1925.

Investigating Commission:  Die Deutsch Nationalversammlung:  Beilagen. . . . uber die Oeffentliche Verhandlungen des [ersten]  Untersuchungsausschusses;  Heft I, Zur Vorgeschichte des Weltkrieges;  Heft II, Militärische Rüstungen and Mobilmachungen.  Berlin, 1920-21 (Eng. trans. of Heft I, 1923.)

Jevtitch :  B. Jevtitch, Sarajevski Atentat.  Sarajevo, 1922.

K.A.:  Kasnyi Arkhiv, 34 vols. Moskva, 1923-30.

K.D.: [Kautsky Documents]  Die deutschen Dokumente zum Kriegsausbruch, edited by Karl Kautsky, Graf Max Montgelas and Prof. Walter Schücking, 4 vols. Berlin, 1919;  new enlarged edition, 1927.  (Eng. trans., 1924.)

KSF.: Die Kriegsschuldfrage:  Berliner Monatshefte für internationale Aufklärung, hrsg. von der Zentralstelle für Erforschung der Kriegsursachen;  ed. by Alfred von Wegerer. 8 vols. Berlin, 1923 ff.

L.N.: Un Livre Noir:  Diplomatie d’avant-Guerre d’après les Documents des Archives Russes, 1910-1914; ed. R. Marchand, 2 vols. Paris, 1922-23.

Montgelas, Leitfaden:  Graf Max Montgelas, Leitfaden zur Kriegsschuldfrage, Berlin and Leipzig, 1923.  (Eng. trans., 1925.)

M.F.R.: [Materials for the History of Franco-Russian Relations]  Materialy po Istorii Franko-Russkikh Otnoshenii za 1910-1914.  Moskva, 1922.

Nicolson: Harold Nicolson, Sir Arthur Nicolson, Bart., First Lord Carnock.  London, 1930.

Oe.-U.A.: Oesterreich-Ungarns Aussenpolitik von der Bosnischen Krise 1908 bis zum Kriegsausbruch 1914.  Edited by L. Bittner, A.F. Pribram, H. Srbik and H. Uebersberger. 9 vols. Vienna and Leipzig, 1930.

Paléologue: M. Paléologue, La Russie des Tsars pendant la Grande Guerre, 3 vols. Paris, 1922. (Eng. trans., 1924-1925.)

Pharos: Professor Pharos [pseud.], Der Prozess gegen die Attentater von Sarajevo.  Berlin, 1918.

Poincaré:  R. Poincaré, Au Service de la France, 5 vols. Paris, 1926-28. (Abridged Eng. trans., 1927 f).

Pribram :  A.F. Pribram, Die politischen Geheimvertrage Oesterreich-Ungarns 1879-1914.  Wien, 1920.  (Eng. trans., 1920.)

Renouvin :  P. Renouvin, Les Origines Immédiates de la Guerre. 2nd ed. Paris, 1927.  (Eng. trans., 1928.)

R.O.B.: [Russian Orange Book]  Ministère des Affaires Étrangeres:  Recueil des Documents Diplomatiques, Négociations ayant précédé la Guerre, 10/23 Juillet-24 Juillet/6 Aout 1914.  Petrograde, 1914.

Romberg: G. von Romberg, Falsifications of the Russian Orange Book.  New York, 1923.

Schilling’s Diary:  How the War Began in 1914:  Being the Diary of the Russian Foreign Office . . . of July, 1914;  translated from the original Russian by Major W. Cyprian Bridge.  London, 1925.

Schwertfeger: Zur Europäischen Politik: Unveröffentlichte [Belgische] Dokumente, herausgegeben unter Leitung von Bernhard Schwertfeger, 5 vols. Berlin, 1919; 2nd ed., 6 vols., 1925.

Seton-Watson: R.W. Seton-Watson, Sarajevo: A study in the Origins of the Great War.  London, 1925.

Siebert-Schreiner:  G.A. Schreiner, Entente Diplomacy and the World.  New York, 1921.  (Eng. trans., rearranged with annotations of Diplomatische Aktenstücke zur Geschichte der Ententepolitik der Vorkriegsjahre, hrsg. B. von Siebert.  Berlin and Leipzig, 1921.  New enlarged ed., 3 vols. Berlin and Leipzig, 1928.)

S.B.B.: [Serbian Blue Book]  Les Pourparlers Diplomatiques 16/29 Juin-3/16 Aout.  Paris, 1914.

Stieve: F. Stieve, Der Diplomatische Schriftwechsel Iswolskis, 1911-1914, 4 vols.  Berlin, 1924.

Taube: Baron M. de Taube, La Politique Russe d’Avant Guerre et la Fin de l’Empire des Tsars, 1904-1917.  Paris, 1928. (Enlarged German edition, Berlin, 1929.)