This text is copied from ‘The New Illustrated Universal Reference Book [Odhams Press]’ or ‘The Book of a Million Facts’, seemingly published in 1933. (Authors/editors unknown).
I will give more precise details of the reference book I am copying from in future parts of this series of posts. And I will try to discover who was involved in compiling this book I am studying:
It is not yet possible to do more than set down a few undisputed facts and point to some general tendencies in the history of the months immediately preceding the World War. The historian must work not with the rapid lens of the camera but with leisurely brush and palette in the studio. He must wait, for time alone can provide his truth of perspective and fullness of detail.
That Austria did not intend to keep the peace was at once evident. But for two facts the attack on Serbia would have come in 1913. Italy was unwilling to join in a war of aggression, and the preparation of Germany were incomplete. The new Army Bill of the spring of that year provided for a great increase in numbers and equipment. The work of deepening the Kiel Canal was not finished. The year 1914 was to see the German army and navy in a much stronger position. Russian finances, it was thought, could not long support the strain of a great war. In France attention was riveted to scandalous party strife. The army was weak and its equipment defective. The Act ordaining three years’ service provided for the future but not for present security.
British intervention in a great European War was not expected; in any case, Britain appeared to be sufficiently absorbed in her own problems. Civil war seemed imminent in Ireland. British assistance in land operations was negligible. There was a strong belief on the Continent that her Empire was a danger rather than a support. Moslem risings in India and Egypt, rebellion in South Africa, defensive weakness in Australasia and Canada would quickly prove that the British Colossus had feet of clay. Britain’s great naval strength was not disputed, but its power to deflect the rapid sweep of German arms in Europe was not so evident. If Germany wanted war, conditions could never again be so favourable to her.
Behind all this was the growing conviction of the German military aristocracy that the health and wealth of the nation could only be preserved and promoted by war. A democracy founded on wealth and the ever-increasing ranks of Socialism would challenge the Junker and military caste, and tarnish by disuse the brightness of warlike traditions. The diplomatic intercourse of the last days of July proved the true intention of Germany beyond all doubt. She refused every suggestion that might lead to peace. Her lot was cast for war.
On 28th June, 1914, the brutal murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Duel Monarchy, and his consort by two Serbs at Serajevo, was made the occasion of the outbreak of a war which, as we have seen, was bound to occur in the near future. All Europe sympathized with the aged Emperor upon whose dynasty one more tragic blow had fallen. But for three weeks Austria withheld her hand and made no sign. Then, on 23rd July, she presented an ultimatum to Serbia. The reply of the latter was respectful and submissive, but the Austrians were dissatisfied, and on the 28th declared war.
Russia appealed to France and Great Britain and the French replied that they would stand by her at last. The British, however, declared that they felt they ought not go to war over a Serbian question. On August 1st Germany declared war on Russia. Next day she demanded that Belgium should open her frontiers, and declared war on France. The violation of Belgian neutrality ensured the entry of Britain into the war. War was declared on August 4th.
The World War.-
The final, irrevocable step had been taken, and for four years the world was plunged into the most desperate struggle known to history. Sweeping over the plains of Belgium and France the Germans reached the very gates of Paris. It was the heart and centre of their plan to carry everything before them at the very first and end the war on the Western front in a few weeks. Then their whole attention could be turned to the East. But fate decreed otherwise, and the heroic resistance of the Allies turned the tide and for four years the combatants settled down to a form of warfare that was unprecedented in history- trench warfare. The events of the War are too well known to require recapitulation here.
The entry of the United States into the conflict was a triumph of diplomacy. Relations were subject to the same general conditions as in Napoleon’s time, but owing to wiser management and a better spirit, took an opposite turn. On both occasions the interests of Britain as the great blockading Power necessarily clashed with those of the neutral merchant Power desirous of sending her goods as usual to the European market. Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, sacrificed points of real military value in permitting the passage of cotton and other articles to the enemy in order to prevent an early explosion of American opinion against his country. Owing to the careful methods of the British blockade-diplomacy, the pro-Ally feeling in the States and the German submarine attack on American persons and shipping were given time to operate and draw the great neutral into the contest on the side of the Allies. The entry of the United States into the war turned the scale.
At the end of September, 1918, came the hardest fight of all, to break through what Allies called the Hindenburg Line, a series of lines or positions in some places ten miles in depth. On this line a whole series of attacks were made. But meantime the Allies had achieved decisive success elsewhere. The fall of Bulgaria resulted in the recovery of Serbia and the lines of communication between Turkey and Germany were completely and finally broken. The third success came in Italy. The Austrian army was soon in disorderly flight, revolutions broke out in various parts of the Empire, and by the beginning of November Austria-Hungary had ceased to be a factor in the war.
At 11 a.m. on November 11th the armistice came into operation. The Hundred Days’ offensive was over and Germany had fallen. The war was over. The Germans, Britain’s chief opponents, had fought throughout with extraordinary skill and tenacity and they had at time been near decisive success. The war which Germany had brought on Europe cost the European nations thousands of millions of pounds, and it left a long ribbon of completely devastated country from Verdun to the sea. But the most tragic features of the war were the loss to Europe of the best of her manhood, and the misery and unhappiness that the loss brought to millions of homes.
Until settlement is effected the root cause of war, the rivalry of nations, can never be exterminated.