Bid for World Power?: New Research on the Outbreak of the First World War

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Over fifty years ago the German historian Fritz Fischer published his famous book Germany's Aims in the First World War. It departed from the established consensus that many countries and governments had a shared responsibility for the outbreak of the war, and put the onus primarily on Germany. The book initiated a fierce international debate which Fischer seems to have mostly won. By the middle of the 1970s many of his controversial positions had become mainstream. More recent research, however, started to question this consensus again. Many scholars moved away from focusing on the responsibility of individual countries or politicians and turned to the complex structures and mechanisms of the international system. How does this 'systemic' perspective alter the importance Fischer's findings and interpretations?

This volume brings together the latest research by many of the most prominent historians of the First World War from a wide range of countries and it presents the most important trends and results of recent international scholarship, frequently based on new archival findings unavailable to Fischer at the time. By concentrating on key controversial areas of his arguments and asking which of his assumptions and interpretations still stand the test of new research, the essays in this book provide an excellent and focused overview of the complex history of the outbreak of the war. However, they also demonstrate that no clear new consensus has emerged so far regarding a comprehensive explanation for what still has to be seen as the 'great seminal catastrophe' of the twentieth century (G. F. Kennan).

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Oxford University Press
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