Grã-Bretanha em 1914

Grã-Bretanha em 1914


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No início do século 20, o Império Britânico cobria mais de 11.400.000 milhas quadradas de território. Isso o tornou o maior império que o mundo já conheceu. As bases para o império foram lançadas entre 1750 e 1850, durante a qual a Grã-Bretanha adquiriu Índia, Austrália, Canadá, Nova Zelândia, África do Sul, Rodésia, Hong Kong, Gibraltar, várias ilhas nas Índias Ocidentais e várias colônias na costa africana. O final do século 19 viu a aquisição de novos territórios na África e em 1900 o rei britânico, Eduardo VII, reinava sobre 410 milhões de pessoas.

O Império Britânico era protegido por uma Marinha Real que incluía 18 encouraçados modernos, 29 navios de guerra (design pré-encouraçado), 10 cruzadores de batalha, 20 cruzadores de cidade, 15 cruzadores de reconhecimento, 200 destróieres e 150 cruzadores.

Em 1914, a Grã-Bretanha não era mais a potência econômica dominante na Europa. Ainda tinha a maior indústria de construção naval do mundo, mas em outras áreas, como carvão, ferro, produtos químicos e engenharia leve, a Grã-Bretanha foi superada pela Alemanha.

Em 1914, a Grã-Bretanha era uma monarquia constitucional sob George V. O governo era formado pelo partido majoritário da Câmara dos Comuns. Os membros deste parlamento foram eleitos por cerca de 8 milhões de eleitores masculinos registrados. A aristocrática Câmara dos Lordes tinha poderes limitados para vetar a legislação.

O Partido Liberal governou a Grã-Bretanha desde 1906. Membros seniores do governo incluíam Herbert Asquith (primeiro-ministro), Sir Edward Gray (ministro das Relações Exteriores) e David Lloyd George (chanceler do Tesouro). Ramsay MacDonald (Partido Trabalhista) e Andrew Bonar Law (Partido Conservador) lideraram os principais partidos da oposição na Câmara dos Comuns.

Desde o final do século 19, o governo britânico considerava a Alemanha a principal ameaça ao seu império. Isso foi reforçado pela decisão da Alemanha em 1882 de formar a Tríplice Aliança. Sob os termos dessa aliança militar, Alemanha, Áustria-Hungria e Itália concordaram em apoiar-se mutuamente se atacados pela França ou pela Rússia.

A França se sentiu ameaçada pela Tríplice Aliança. A Grã-Bretanha também estava preocupada com o crescimento da Marinha Alemã e em 1904 os dois países assinaram a Entente Cordiale (entendimento amigável). O objetivo da aliança era encorajar a cooperação contra a ameaça percebida da Alemanha. Três anos depois, a Rússia, que também temia o crescimento do Exército Alemão, juntou-se à Grã-Bretanha e à França para formar a Tríplice Entente.

Em agosto de 1914, a Grã-Bretanha tinha 247.432 soldados regulares. Cerca de 120.000 deles estavam no Exército Expedicionário Britânico e o resto estava estacionado no exterior. Havia soldados em todas as possessões ultramarinas da Grã-Bretanha, exceto nos domínios brancos da Austrália, Nova Zelândia e Canadá.

O Royal Flying Corps (RFC) foi estabelecido em maio de 1912. Em 1914, o RFC tinha 110 aeronaves (BE-2, Farman MF-7, Avro 504, Vickers FB5, Bristol Scout, F.E.2) e 6 aeronaves.


História das Ilhas Britânicas

As Ilhas Britânicas testemunharam períodos intermitentes de competição e cooperação entre as pessoas que ocupam as várias partes da Grã-Bretanha, a Ilha de Man, a Irlanda, o Bailiado de Guernsey, o Bailiado de Jersey e as ilhas menores adjacentes.

Hoje, as Ilhas Britânicas contêm dois Estados soberanos: a República da Irlanda e o Reino Unido. Existem também três dependências da Coroa: Guernsey, Jersey e a Ilha de Man. O Reino Unido compreende Inglaterra, Irlanda do Norte, Escócia e País de Gales, cada país com sua própria história, com todos, exceto a Irlanda do Norte, tendo sido estados independentes em um ponto. A história da formação do Reino Unido é muito complexa.

O monarca britânico foi chefe de estado de todos os países das Ilhas Britânicas desde a União das Coroas em 1603 até a promulgação da Lei da República da Irlanda em 1949, embora o termo "Ilhas Britânicas" não tenha sido usado em 1603. Além disso , desde a independência da maior parte da Irlanda, os historiadores da região costumam evitar o termo ilhas britânicas devido à complexidade das relações entre os povos do arquipélago (ver: Terminologia das Ilhas Britânicas).


Grã-Bretanha 1900-1914

"Hoje, o período antes da eclosão da Primeira Guerra Mundial é muitas vezes considerado idílico: o tempo antes da queda, os bons velhos tempos ... uma sociedade linda e intacta prestes a ser destruída pelas forças que a levam inexoravelmente ao desastre"

(Philip Blom, ‘The Vertigo Years’) (1)

Há seis anos, decidi aprender mais sobre a Grande Guerra. Foi quando eu peguei ‘Os anos de vertigem’ e fui forçado a perceber que teve vinha abrigando, se não a impressão exata descrita por Blom, uma impressão igualmente ridícula. A geração pré-guerra simplesmente não era real para mim. Eles não tinham esperanças, nem sonhos, nem talentos, nem mesmo problemas. Em minha mente, eles se sentaram, como pedras, esperando pela morte e destruição. Claro, tendo assistido à primeira série de Downton Abbey desde que fiz um monte de pesquisas sobre o assunto, vejo as coisas de forma diferente agora. Tanto os povos quanto os governos dos principais participantes da Primeira Guerra Mundial tiveram mais do que seu quinhão de questões para enfrentar nos primeiros anos do século XX, e mesmo se a ameaça de guerra (embora entre quem, ninguém realmente soubesse) foi sempre na consciência, não era algo que parecia uma ameaça presente avassaladoramente. Na verdade, muitos nesta era acreditavam que não apenas a guerra era improvável, mas simplesmente não poderia acontecer que "o progresso técnico da humanidade resultasse inevitavelmente em um aumento igualmente moral" (2).

Com meses pela frente, então, antes que o centenário da guerra realmente estourasse, parece sensato gastar algum tempo explorando cada um dos países envolvidos na iluminação do pavio, esperançosamente resultando em uma imagem geral de onde cada um estava consigo mesmo e em relação a outros países nos anos anteriores à guerra. Nenhuma dessas postagens fornecerá uma imagem completa, é claro que milhões de palavras foram escritas sobre cada país nos últimos cem anos, e ainda assim os assuntos não se esgotaram, enquanto eu estarei manicamente tentando espremer quatorze anos de história em algumas postagens no blog. Como afirmei no último post, porém, é simplesmente meu objetivo começar com uma visão geral interessante ... e se isso faz você querer ler mais sobre o assunto, então tanto melhor.

Embora, em retrospecto, pareça bastante claro que as mudanças no poder global logo levariam a um declínio no status do Império Britânico, a virada do século viu esse Império em seu auge, cobrindo um quinto da superfície terrestre do mundo, e com, de longe, a maior marinha do mundo (3). Foi em parte em defesa desse domínio que a Grã-Bretanha realmente começou o século como a única potência mundial envolvida em um conflito um conflito que, ironicamente, acabaria apenas aumentando suas inseguranças. A Guerra dos Bôeres, que durou de 1899 a 1902, foi uma vitória militar da Grã-Bretanha, mas uma derrota em quase todos os outros aspectos. Por uma série de razões, mas principalmente o expansionismo e a exploração de minas de ouro, a Grã-Bretanha procurou o que se esperava ser uma batalha relativamente simples e curta em duas repúblicas bôeres da África do Sul, apenas para se ver atolada em uma longa guerrilha guerra. Essa incapacidade de se livrar da resistência afrikaan foi, para dizer o mínimo, um constrangimento militar. No entanto, mais prejudicial à reputação britânica foi o uso de campos de concentração pelo exército e uma política de "terra arrasada" como auxílio para a vitória. Fazendas, cidades, gado, comida ... o que quer que eles pudessem destruir em uma tentativa de forçar a rendição, eles o fizeram. Além disso, eles cercaram mulheres, crianças e negros, forçando-os a acampamentos para diminuir o suprimento de alimentos e, no caso dos homens negros, para usar como mão de obra - tanto para a 'ascensão moral' daquela sociedade, direito? E fica pior. As condições terríveis nos campos acabaram levando à morte de quase 50.000 pessoas (4), quase metade das quais eram crianças. A opinião britânica, que parecia a favor da guerra, começou a mudar, mas o mais importante para o futuro do Império Britânico, ela também estava agora, com razão, em desgraça aos olhos do mundo.

Somando-se aos sentimentos de inquietação da Grã-Bretanha neste período, estava a morte da Rainha Vitória em 1901. Embora, nesta fase, o monarca fosse secundário em relação a um parlamento eleito na Grã-Bretanha, este não era o caso entre a maioria das outras potências europeias. Sem a influência estabilizadora de uma personalidade como a da "Avó da Europa" (5) Rainha Vitória, os caprichos e ambições dos monarcas individuais de repente pareciam, se não uma ameaça nesta fase, algo que precisava ser observado de perto. E foi essa insegurança, combinada com uma consciência crescente de sua baixa posição global pós-Boer, que forçaria uma mudança na política externa britânica que teria um impacto dramático na Europa pré-guerra.

A Grã-Bretanha, você vê, precisava de amigos. Eles haviam passado as últimas décadas do século XIX expandindo o Império e, por sua vez, incomodando as potências européias. Embora isso não fosse um problema importante na época - a Grã-Bretanha tinha, de fato, se deleitado com uma política de "isolamento esplêndido" desde que muitas pessoas se lembrassem - as coisas estavam mudando claramente e em um ritmo rápido. De repente, a Alemanha, já considerada a força mais poderosa da Europa por estranhos, mostrou claras intenções de desafiar o domínio naval da Grã-Bretanha. A França, antiga inimiga da Grã-Bretanha, ficou enfraquecida e envergonhada pela derrota na guerra com a Alemanha em 1870 e determinada a reconstruir seu status. A Rússia tinha um czar que, vivendo com medo constante da revolução social, buscava qualquer oportunidade de provar ao povo russo a necessidade de si mesmo e de sua dinastia. Adicione a isso o descontentamento da futura superpotência os EUA sobre as lutas dos bôeres, e a Grã-Bretanha de repente parecia estar em uma posição bastante desconfortável. Como diz Margaret McMillan:

‘... A Inglaterra estava realmente isolada, mas sua posição no mundo não era tão esplêndida. Não tinha amizades seguras na Europa ’. (6)

Era hora de uma mudança. Tendo quase entrado em guerra com a França em 1898 por causa de uma cidade no Sudão, e com temores sobre os movimentos da Rússia na Ásia (na verdade, as relações com esses países pareciam tão precárias que o War Office conduziu um relatório em 1901 sobre as 'Necessidades Militares de o Império na Guerra com a França e a Rússia '(7)), a Grã-Bretanha recorreu a um país que tinha sido, até recentemente, um bom amigo: a Alemanha. A Alemanha não estava particularmente infeliz com a perspectiva de se aliar à Grã-Bretanha, mas, ao mesmo tempo, não estava pronta para apressar as coisas. Não foi a mais útil das atitudes e, portanto, graças principalmente a esta "diplomacia alemã extraordinariamente desajeitada" (8), influenciada pela teoria de que a Grã-Bretanha precisava deles mais do que eles precisavam da Grã-Bretanha (9), as negociações foram interrompidas. A Grã-Bretanha seria forçada a procurar outro lugar.

O próximo na lista era o Japão, um país cuja influência nos assuntos mundiais aumentava em ritmo acelerado. Com interesses navais semelhantes e o incentivo adicional de usar um ao outro para manter a Rússia sob controle, os dois países logo encontraram o suficiente em comum para garantir uma parceria oficial e, em janeiro de 1902, a Grã-Bretanha rompeu com a tradição e assinou a Aliança Anglo-Japonesa. Foi uma amizade habilmente projetada - que mostraria a nova vontade da Grã-Bretanha de se envolver em assuntos globais, mas sem antagonizar fortemente seus rivais europeus - e com seu sucesso, a Grã-Bretanha foi capaz de mover-se com mais confiança através das pressões únicas da diplomacia internacional.

Foi apenas um ano depois que as coisas tomaram um rumo surpreendente, quando os franceses se encarregaram de abordar a ideia de uma amizade oficial com a Grã-Bretanha. Tendo chegado tão perto da guerra apenas alguns anos antes, estando ao lado de um sentimento aparentemente permanente de animosidade entre o público em geral dos dois países, esta foi realmente uma reviravolta bastante impressionante ... e talvez não seja surpreendente que a Alemanha não fosse apenas surpreso, mas alarmado com a ideia. A França, porém, efetivamente já havia aceitado a ideia de lutar contra a Alemanha no futuro - eles tinham, afinal, o que consideravam um assunto inacabado após a Guerra Franco-Prussiana (algo que discutirei em mais detalhes em alguns meses) -e já tendo garantido uma aliança de longo prazo com a Rússia, eles estavam determinados a cortejar a Grã-Bretanha também. Após meses de discussões e compartilhamento de territórios, o acordol’entente cordiale-foi assinado em abril de 1904.

Portanto, a Grã-Bretanha e a França eram oficialmente amigas, e a Alemanha ficou consternada. As complicações que acabariam por levar à guerra europeia estavam se encaixando. Poucas semanas antes de a Entente Cordiale ser assinada, a Rússia precipitou-se para uma guerra com o Japão que terminaria um ano depois em uma derrota embaraçosa, um movimento que, devido à nova aliança da Grã-Bretanha com o Japão, faria a desintegração de vários antigos russos-britânicos disputas possíveis ”(10). Com a crença da Rússia de que a Alemanha deveria ser temida e, portanto, boas relações com a França precisavam ser mantidas (11), um acordo com a Grã-Bretanha tornou-se uma conclusão perdida: em 1907, nasceu a Tríplice Entente.

Nos próximos anos, essas alianças significariam que a Grã-Bretanha estava inextricavelmente envolvida em uma série de crises cada vez mais acirradas entre seus vizinhos europeus (das quais, se você ficar comigo, você vai - novamente - ler mais nos próximos meses) ... o anos de isolamento logo pareceriam muito distantes.

Eu escrevi quase exclusivamente sobre política e política externa até este ponto, mas antes de terminar, quero apenas dizer um pouco mais sobre a sociedade eduardiana e as questões internas da época. A Grã-Bretanha, assim como todas as potências mundiais (estabelecidas e futuras) neste momento, estava passando por uma revolução social como ela raramente tinha visto antes. A Revolução Industrial trouxe mudanças significativas, desde onde a população vivia, como vivia, sua classe social, e foi nos primeiros anos do século XX que os novos desafios e questões decorrentes dessas mudanças começaram a surgir. à frente. O bem-estar, os direitos dos cidadãos e o papel do Estado em geral se tornariam o foco principal da política interna, resultando na rápida ascensão do Partido Trabalhista e do sindicalismo, bem como em reformas sociais massivas. Benefícios de saúde e desemprego, pensões e impostos mais altos para os mais ricos da sociedade foram introduzidos pelo Partido Liberal entre 1906 e 1914 - para grande desgosto de seus oponentes conservadores, que conseguiram forçar duas eleições gerais em um ano na tentativa de impedir as reformas em curso. Essas batalhas não foram as únicas enfrentadas pelos liberais. A luta pelo Home Rule irlandês esteve sempre presente na política britânica por mais de trinta anos e, em 1912 - em troca da ajuda irlandesa na vitória da segunda daquelas eleições de 1910 -, os liberais promulgaram um projeto de lei concedendo aos irlandeses um governo devolvido. Com a oposição massiva daqueles na região do Ulster (agora Irlanda do Norte), foi uma mudança que causou atrito massivo não apenas politicamente, mas em toda a sociedade, já que a população escolheu seu lado de fato, a perspectiva de uma guerra civil não parecia totalmente absurda neste momento . Ainda mais perto de casa, Londres era frequentemente prejudicada por greves - uma, nas docas de Londres em 1911, envolvia 20.000 trabalhadores e exigia que o exército intercedesse (12). E, finalmente, havia as sufragistas. Fundada em 1903 por Emmeline Pankhurst, a Women & # 8217s Social and Political Union passou a década seguinte ganhando cada vez mais força, desafiando políticos e os padrões da época a cada passo em suas tentativas de ganhar o sufrágio feminino na Grã-Bretanha. De 1912 em diante, suas táticas tornaram-se cada vez mais militantes, e a extensão em que forçaram radicalmente sua questão fica evidente nesta lista de abril de 1913:

'2 de abril: incêndio criminoso em uma igreja em Hampstead Garden 4 de abril: uma casa em Chorley Wood destruída pelo fogo, um ataque a bomba na Oxted Station, um trem vazio destruído por uma explosão em Devonport, pinturas famosas danificadas em Manchester 8 de abril: uma explosão no terreno do Dudley Castle, uma bomba encontrada no trem lotado Kingston 11 de abril: um pavilhão de críquete destruído em Tunbridge Wells 12 de abril: incêndio criminoso em escolas públicas em Gateshead 19 de abril: uma tentativa de sabotar o famoso farol de Eddystone 20 de abril: um tentativa de explodir os escritórios do York Herald 26 de abril: um vagão ferroviário em Teddington destruído pelo fogo. '(13)

Adicione o mais famoso - e, no caso de Emily Davison se jogando na frente do cavalo do rei, mais trágico - eventos do movimento e, combinado com tudo o mais, a ideia de que 'idílico', 'belo', a sociedade "intacta" mencionada no início parece mais risível do que nunca. Entre os anos 1900 e 1914, a Grã-Bretanha e seu povo foram prejudicados, orgulhosos, preocupados, determinados, agitados, tensos ... e eles não foram os únicos. Entrarei em detalhes sobre as possíveis causas da guerra em alguns meses (sim, sim, de novo ...), mas dada a perturbação que vimos em apenas um país ao longo desta era, acho que é apropriado terminar com esta citação:

"A guerra às vezes era vista como uma forma de superar as divisões e as antipatias e talvez fosse. Em 1914, em todas as nações beligerantes, falava-se da nação em armas ... onde as divisões, fossem de classe, região, etnia ou religião, foram esquecidas e a nação se uniu em um espírito de unidade e sacrifício. '(14)

Apenas uma coisinha para refletir ...

No próximo mês: Alemanha e seu indomável Kaiser Wilhelm II.

(1) Philipp Blom, The Vertigo Years: Change and Culture in the West, 1900-1914 (Londres: Weidenfeld & amp Nicolson, 2008), p. 1

(2) Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday [Kindle Edition] (Pushkin Press, 2011), loc. 188

(3) Charles More, Grã-Bretanha no Século XX (Harlow: Pearson Education, 2007), p. 2

(5) Geert Mak, In Europe: Travels through the Twentieth Century (Londres: Vintage, 2008), p. 21

(6) Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace [Kindle Edition] (Profile Books, 2013), loc. 900

(7) Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 [Kindle Edition] (Penguin, 2012), loc. 2742

(8) Michael Howard, The First World War: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: University Press, 2002), p. 12

(9) Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace [Kindle Edition] (Profile Books, 2013), loc. 1058

(10) Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire (London: Abacus, 2004), p. 315

(11) Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace [Kindle Edition] (Profile Books, 2013), loc. 3577

(12) Geert Mak, In Europe: Travels through the Twentieth Century (Londres: Vintage, 2008), p. 29

(13) Geert Mak, In Europe: Travels through the Twentieth Century (Londres: Vintage, 2008), p. 32

(14) Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace [Kindle Edition] (Profile Books, 2013), loc. 4371


A verdade por trás da corrida da Grã-Bretanha para a guerra, 1914 - Douglas Newton

Em todos os debates sobre qual país foi o mais responsável pelos horrores da Primeira Guerra Mundial, a Grã-Bretanha invariavelmente escapa de qualquer culpa séria. Isso é até agora. Douglas Newton escreveu o relato definitivo da corrida da Grã-Bretanha para a guerra no verão de 1914. É & # 039somente & # 039 um relato liberal anti-guerra, mas como tal um relato completo nunca foi escrito antes, ainda é extremamente útil. Este é o capítulo final de seu livro, The darkest days.

"Ainda acreditamos, com Morley e Burns, que a política de neutralidade estrita era a política adequada a ser adotada.
Francis Hirst ', 18 de agosto de 1914

Como era totalmente improvável! Seis semanas após o início da Grande Guerra, Norman Angell disse a uma reunião de apoiadores de sua antiga Liga da Neutralidade que, nos últimos dias de paz, "nenhum ônibus cheio de pessoas" poderia ter sido encontrado na Grã-Bretanha para apoiar "um acordo a ser feito o continente um milhão de pessoas em apoio à França por causa da eclosão de uma guerra em algum canto remoto como a Sérvia '. E ainda assim a Grã-Bretanha estava fazendo isso.

Cem anos depois, historiadores britânicos da escola da "extrema necessidade" ainda afirmam que a Grande Guerra da Grã-Bretanha deveria ser lembrada simplesmente como uma dura realidade que precisava ser enfrentada. Eles insistem que nada além de uma guerra justa contra o militarismo alemão era concebível em 1914. Eles defendem que as velhas verdades açucaradas sejam reafirmadas - que a Grã-Bretanha estava certa, que a Alemanha estava errada, que a causa era justa e que foi um momento de stand-up - imaginar que isso é lealdade aos mortos. Conscientes da magnitude do desastre, podemos nos consolar com tais simplicidades?

Comecemos com uma rápida recontagem da alegre história da decisão da Grã-Bretanha pela guerra, contada pelos crentes na "extrema necessidade". De acordo com esta história. A Grã-Bretanha fez o possível para evitar a guerra. Todos os seus líderes queriam mediação diplomática para resolver a crise. Mas a Alemanha não quis. Felizmente, a Grã-Bretanha há muito se preparou contra a possibilidade de uma agressão alemã e, por isso, agarrou-se a suas Ententes com a França e a Rússia. Somente quando a Alemanha invadiu a Bélgica na terça-feira, 4 de agosto, a Grã-Bretanha finalmente decidiu sobre a intervenção. A Grã-Bretanha foi à guerra por motivos morais elevados - essencialmente para proteger a Bélgica. O processo de escolha da guerra mostra como uma democracia parlamentar robusta tomou a difícil decisão de enfrentar o militarismo alemão. Felizmente, os britânicos foram praticamente unânimes em apoiar a decisão dos políticos pela guerra. Então, eles viram. Todos nós devemos estar orgulhosos.

Naturalmente, existe uma história paralela sobre o papel dos dissidentes britânicos que é incessantemente hostil a eles. De acordo com essa história, apenas um punhado de desprezíveis "pacifistas" se entregou a uma defesa inútil da neutralidade da Grã-Bretanha em 1914. Eles simplesmente se recusaram a encarar os fatos. Em um gesto auto-indulgente, dois ministros do Gabinete renunciaram. Se esses radicais tivessem tido sucesso em exigir a neutralidade da Grã-Bretanha, o resultado inevitável teria sido o triunfo da agressão alemã. Eles deveriam ter vergonha.

Este livro procurou demonstrar que este conto de fadas, exibindo a superioridade moral da Grã-Bretanha e repreendendo a futilidade dos radicais, é simplista, injusto e sem nuances e muitas vezes totalmente contradito pela evidência documental.

O que realmente aconteceu? O governo liberal estava profundamente dividido sobre como lidar com a crise de 1914. Havia forças significativas em ação na direita da política britânica, ansiosas por uma guerra com a Alemanha, pois acreditavam que era um momento favorável. Seções da imprensa conservadora rodopiaram seus rugidos para uma intervenção desde o início. A resposta do Gabinete Liberal à crise foi cautelosa. Gray esperava que uma política de mediação. Mas, em última análise, a Grã-Bretanha falhou em mediar com eficácia como uma potência genuinamente neutra. Sob pressão para mostrar solidariedade com a Entente. A Grã-Bretanha fez muito pouco para conter a França ou a Rússia. Em vez disso, os intervencionistas pró-Entente no Gabinete avançaram para fazer os primeiros preparativos para a guerra que aumentaram a confiança dos linha-dura na Rússia e na França dispostos a arriscar a guerra. Quando a guerra na Europa Oriental foi declarada na noite de domingo, 1º de agosto, os líderes britânicos cessaram seus esforços para manter a Grã-Bretanha fora de uma guerra mais ampla. A minoria de intervencionistas do Gabinete eventualmente 'manobrou' a maioria neutralista para uma escolha apressada para a guerra no domingo, 2 de agosto, sob a forma de uma promessa de assistência naval à França. A promessa prendeu a Grã-Bretanha em qualquer guerra antes da notícia do ultimato alemão à Bélgica. Quase destruiu o governo, provocando inicialmente quatro renúncias de gabinete. Gray então pregou dívidas de honra e medo do abandono dos aliados - e a camarilha do Gabinete precipitou-se para uma declaração de guerra. Ao longo da crise, os líderes proEntente do Gabinete foram manipuladores e enganadores. Eles tomaram decisões cruciais fora do Gabinete, o que levou a maioria neutralista à guerra. Não houve decisão democrática para a guerra.

Do outro lado da questão, os radicais e ativistas pela paz se esforçaram para evitar a catástrofe. No Partido Liberal, provavelmente contaram com o apoio da maioria. Eles argumentaram contra os primeiros passos militares que incitariam a Rússia e a França. Eles pressionaram por uma diplomacia de mediação credível e ativa - fortalecida por um compromisso com a neutralidade estrita e uma negociação genuinamente imparcial que não foi tentada. O grosso da imprensa liberal e trabalhista defendeu solidamente essa diplomacia neutra quando a crise estourou e manteve ferozmente a demanda por neutralidade até o fim. Os radicais foram pegos de surpresa na primeira semana da crise, enganados por garantias de que a Grã-Bretanha estava evitando todas as provocações e perseguindo uma diplomacia estritamente neutra. Ela não fez nenhum dos dois.

Somente no último suspiro, no fim de semana de 1 a 2 de agosto, as forças do internacionalismo na Grã-Bretanha - Radical, Trabalhista, pacifista e feminista se manifestaram ruidosamente e abertamente. Elas começaram a reunir a opinião pública, montando manifestações significativas. Houve profundo ressentimento e recriminação quando a decisão de declarar guerra foi tomada tão rapidamente na terça-feira, 4 de agosto. A velocidade da crise derrotou as tentativas de despertar uma grande campanha pública, mas um começo promissor foi feito. Com mais tempo, pode ter se tornado formidável. Mas a opinião pública mal teve tempo de se decidir quando a guerra foi declarada. Certamente não houve pressão pública avassaladora para a guerra.

E o que dizer da crítica radical ao modo como o governo está lidando com a crise? Os radicais estavam essencialmente corretos quando acusaram a minoria liberal imperialista de "sacudir" o gabinete e o parlamento. Eles estavam corretos ao denunciar a desonestidade do governo ao alardear a guerra como uma guerra forçada à Grã-Bretanha pela ação alemã na Bélgica na terça-feira, 4 de agosto. Eles viram que o governo havia determinado a guerra no domingo, 2 de agosto, em solidariedade à França, e que a Bélgica veio mais tarde como um presente aos propagandistas. Eles interpretaram corretamente a decisão da Grã-Bretanha pela guerra como um triunfo para Gray e a política da Entente. No final das contas, Gray conduziu seus colegas e a nação para a guerra, de acordo com sua própria convicção incessantemente repetida de que a fidelidade à Entente era indispensável. Por exemplo, em 1907, Gray expressou isso, quase como uma promessa, a seu embaixador Frank Lascelles em Berlim - sem "vacilar por um fio de cabelo de nossa lealdade à Entente".

Os radicais britânicos encorajaram os militares alemães?

Os cruzados pela guerra justa da Grã-Bretanha rejeitarão essa crítica radical. Eles respondem que aqueles que buscavam a neutralidade para a Grã-Bretanha em julho-agosto de 1914 estavam jogando nas mãos dos agressores militaristas alemães e, ironicamente, tornando a guerra mais provável. De acordo com um argumento antigo, Gray teve que adotar uma postura de "indecisão aparente" por medo dos radicais. Ele não foi capaz de dar um aviso claro à Alemanha, porque os radicais o impediram. Os neutralistas mancaram a dissuasão e, portanto, a Grã-Bretanha falhou em deter a guerra.?

O argumento para isso é fraco. Primeiro, Gray emitiu repetidas advertências à Alemanha, por meio de Lichnowsky, que as repassou, apoiando-as com a sua própria, Berlim, cenário de pânico e fanfarronice à medida que a crise se aprofundava., Não foi encorajado a escolher a guerra por qualquer falta de avisos de Londres. Em segundo lugar, Gray abraçou a política de 'indecisão aparente' como sua, não algo forçado sobre ele. Afinal, estava de acordo com sua crença de longa data de que a "política da Entente" poderia restringir a Rússia e a França pela própria natureza de sua ambigüidade?

Terceiro, não houve campanha radical de alto nível pela neutralidade na Câmara dos Comuns que pudesse ter fortalecido os selvagens em Berlim. Nem uma única pergunta foi feita, nem um único discurso foi proferido, pedindo neutralidade durante a semana que começou segunda-feira, 27 de julho - porque Gray havia implorado com sucesso pelo silêncio da bancada Radical. Quarto, não há vestígios de evidências nos documentos alemães de que a confiança no poder dos radicais britânicos para manter a neutralidade da Grã-Bretanha encorajou os militaristas alemães a arriscar a guerra. Poucas amostras da imprensa britânica chegaram ao Kaiser, mas as opiniões iam em direções diferentes. Suas notas marginais registraram um 'Bravo' para a opinião Radical no início da crise, mas ele reclamou mais tarde que isso não estava tendo impacto sobre sua posição inicialmente cautelosa, mas cada vez mais hostil. Quinto, se um fator acima de outros for detectado nos documentos alemães que sustentam a esperança na neutralidade britânica durante a crise, foi a fé do Kaiser nas palavras consoladoras de George V ao príncipe Heinrich no domingo, 26 de julho, indicando seu desejo de neutralidade.

Manter os dois lados na Europa na dúvida, citando a enigmática opinião pública britânica como árbitro final, era a tática diplomática preferida de Grey - não algo que fosse imposto a ele. Após o início da guerra, ao se misturar com amigos, Gray prontamente admitiu que, durante a crise, sentiu que não tinha escolha a não ser ser inescrutável e confiar na opinião pública. Ele não indiciou os radicais por impor isso a ele. Por exemplo, em maio de 1915, Gray disse a Francis e Eleanor Acland que:

"Um de seus sentimentos mais fortes nos dias imediatamente anteriores à guerra era que ele próprio não tinha poder para decidir a política e era apenas o porta-voz da Inglaterra. Lichnowsky por um lado e Sazonov e Cambon por outro sempre diziam - você vai ficar de fora? Em que termos você vai ficar de fora? E por outro lado, você definitivamente entrará? Mas tudo o que ele conseguiu dizer foi 'Não sei. Eu não sou a Inglaterra. '

Os que acreditam na necessidade absoluta da guerra da Grã-Bretanha apontam para o que poderia ter acontecido para encerrar seu caso. Se a Grã-Bretanha tivesse mantido sua neutralidade na terça-feira, 4 de agosto, eles insistem, um desastre para a França, Bélgica e Europa teria ocorrido: os exércitos alemães teriam alcançado Paris, a democracia europeia teria sido destruída e a hegemonia alemã estabelecida na Europa. Historiadores na correta tradição viril que celebra o esforço militar afirmam saber que somente a guerra poderia ter repelido o pesadelo da dominação alemã.

O que teria acontecido se a Grã-Bretanha tivesse permanecido neutra em 1914? A única resposta verdadeira para a pergunta é que não sabemos. Simplesmente não podemos saber. Aqueles que insistem que sim estão negociando com nossa credulidade - e nossa tendência de ser assustado por histórias de fantasmas. Podemos debater o que é concebível, mas não podemos provar coisas sobre caminhos não percorridos. É hora de a escolha da Grã-Bretanha pela guerra em 1914 perder o brilho dado por muitos historiadores que fraudulentamente afirmam que sabem que não houve outro resultado concebível - e nenhum resultado melhor. Eles não sabem disso.

Contra a visão fatalista de uma guerra irresistível contra a agressão alemã, vamos simplesmente levar em conta três famosos 'solavancos' ao longo do caminho para a guerra. First, on the evening of Wednesday 29 July a single telegram from William II to Tsar Nicholas caused him to rebel against his military advisers and seek a delay in general mobilisation. Second, early in the morning of Thursday 30 July, Viviani and Poincare sent a telegram to St Petersburg that leant toward caution. It urged Russia to avoid 'any measure which might offer Germany a pretext for a total or partial mobilisation of her forces'. But, sadly, it also included the usual assurances that 'France is resolved to fulfil all the obligations of the alliance' . The Russian leaders briefly paused in their preparations. Then they chose to trust the assurances - and decided upon general mobilisation chat afternoon. Third, on the evening of Saturday 1 August, when Lichnowsky’s famous cables arrived in Berlin, briefly reviving hope of British neutrality, the Kaiser also challenged his military advisers, As we saw, he cancelled orders for the occupation of Luxembourg, and sought to limit the scope of the impending war. Was war really inevitable? Perhaps war was entirely avoidable. The facts jostle. What slowing of the 'march of events' might have been achieved by other interventions? None can say.

Most of those who had struggled against war in July-August 1914 fiercely maintained their faith in neutrality for Britain as the better option. Francis Hirst wrote to his American friends at the Carnegie Endowment in mid-August:

‘A great many of us, with the support of Bryce and Loreburn, worked very hard in me short week we had to keep Britain at peace. We still hold with Morley and Burns that the policy of strict neutrality was the proper policy to adopt. [We believe] that the British Government could probably have secured not only the neutrality of Great Britain but the neutrality of Belgium and the neutrality of the Channel.’

Was he right? We shall never know. But certainly Britain's leaders might have done a great many things differently during the crisis if they had steadfastly pursued a neutral diplomacy. They might have refused Churchill's demands for early naval movements - as Harcourt had pleaded because of the risk of inciting Russia. They might have put the Russian and French ambassadors in London under real pressure on the matter of Russia's early mobilisation. Their diplomacy might have focused directly upon reversing this dangerous step. They might have delayed sending their own 'Warning Telegram' to the Empire, The leadership clique might have presented each crucial diplomatic and military step to the Cabinet beforehand - rather than pre-empting its decisions. Would all of this only have served to incite Germany, or might it have slowed the rush down the slope to catastrophe? We cannot tell. But often in history, the unforeseen - and even the unimagined - can intervene and carry the day.

The Essential Shield of German Perfidy

The fatalistic insistence that Britain's war was unavoidable is often rooted in a belief that the Germans' drive toward aggression was inexorable, and therefore any moderation on Britain's part would have only encouraged war. Believers point to what did happen in 1914: German aggression in Belgium and France, followed by toplevel planning for annexation in east and west - Bethmann Hollweg's 'September Memorandum' most memorably. But this is a dangerous argument. The Germans could also point to what did happen in 1914: the Russians did invade East Prussia, the British did seize German colonies, and the British did strangle Germany's seaborne commerce and starve the nation. The German Right pointed to all this as evidence of the Entente's hunger for aggression. No one can afford to confuse the results of war with causes.

The British certainly planned for the aggrandisement of Empire and the commercial ruin of Germany. Harcourt himself drew up in March 1915 a secret memorandum for the Cabinet, 'The Spoils', outlining sweeping plans for the newly inflated British Empire in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific. Many more plans followed. Any objective study of the war aims of all the Great Powers during the Great War reveals that all sides had shopping lists. Germany as never uniquely in thrall to believers in the old law of grab - the 'simple plan', as Wordsworth had put it,

‘That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can.’

The easy way out of all this is to reassert German perfidy as the complete explanation for the outbreak of war. To find the cause in the adversary comforts the conscience. If one can indict the Germans, one can absolve the war. Grey fed the hysteria on this throughout the war. He told me House of Commons in January 1916 that the war was 'a war forced upon Europe after every effort had been made to find a settlement without war, which could perfectly easily have been found (cheers) . by conference. as we suggested. Prussian militarism would not have any other settlement but war. Evils certainly Rowed from 'Prussian militarism' - and they could be diabolical. But German militarism was never a singular evil in militarised Europe before or during the Great War. The insistence upon German perfidy as a complete explanation for the cataclysm of 1914 has always served a reactionary purpose. It was indispensable in obscuring the great realities exposed by the resort to war.

First, the descent into war revealed the ignominious collapse of essential elements of the old order. The New Imperialism, the great cheap labour scam run to enrich fragments of the economy at the expense of the rest, had landed everyone in a bloodbath. The 'old diplomacy' - under which men from a half-dozen public schools presumed to manage competitive imperialism against a combustible backdrop of vast armaments and rival alliances - had failed to safeguard peace. The scramble for Dreadnoughts had failed to deter war. None of this could be admitted, so German evil was depicted as a new immoral dement that had upset the good old system.

Second, depicting Britain's war as a battle against German perfidy in Belgium helped blur diplomatic realities - mat Britain's choice for war was an absolute triumph for Russian and French diplomacy and a diplomatic disaster for Britain. After nine years of exquisite difficult)' for Liberal ministers as they tap-danced around me slippery claim that Britain was merely the 'partner' of Russia and France, every string was pulled by the Entente in July-August 1914 and Britain had dashed off to war like an ally. The war of solidarity with the Entente always a hard sell - had to be repackaged, at the last moment, as a war for moral righteousness in Belgium.

Third, German perfidy could be relied upon to eclipse reactionary Russia. With all eyes focused on the battles to throw back German militarism in the west, Liberals could ignore the east. Germany's scarlet sins, so near and so visible, outshone all. Liberals could suppress their gnawing doubts that Russia's leaders - reactionaries, such as Nicholas II, Goremykin, Sazonov, Izvolsky, and Sukhomlinov - were fit partners in a crusade for the rights of small nations against despotism.

Fourth, German perfidy enabled at least half the Cabinet ministers to stifle their knowledge that the sad-eyed and sensitive Grey - a man without languages or drive or imagination - had been hopelessly ineffectual. For years past, Lloyd George had told friends in confidence that Grey was just putty in the hands of his advisers: 'He simply carries out Harding[e]'s instructions.' Grey was 'immoveable', 'stolid, unimaginative', with only 'the appearance of weight and wisdom'. The struggle against lying Germans transformed him into the very button of British moral superiority - that inexhaustible, self-approving moral force that was so 'adorably irresponsible' for the war, as critics satirised it.

In a sense, those in London who chose war in August 1914 could count themselves lucky that the first months of fighting did not expose their gambles as utterly reckless. Nobody knew for certain what kind of a nightmare was avoided - or unleashed - by Britain's choice for war. In choosing to back Russia and France, no one knew how the battles would play out in the first months. The Russian armies might have been victorious in East Prussia. German cities such as Allenstein, Konigsberg and Breslau might have fallen to the advancing Russians - as they would 'have done if the Russian armies had advanced 300 kilometres into Germany, as they did into Austrian Galicia. As events turned out, the fortuitous 'war map' produced by late 1914, with great chunks of France and Belgium in German hands while the Russians were tossed out of East Prussia, helped the British claim to have intervened against aggression, But how would the British decision to back France and Russia have looked if the French armies invading AIsace and Lorraine had got to Freiburg, and the Russians had reached Breslau? Let no one imagine that those who support war are always realists, and those who oppose it are always sentimentalists. Hatred is also a sentiment.

Once the choice was made in Britain, the sentimentalism of war - Thomas Hardy's 'faith and fire within us' and Cecil Spring-Rice's 'love that asks no question' - swept through the political leadership and was carried to the people. All the usual justifications for war did good service - self-defence, last resort, safety first, 'dire necessity', and no alternative. If only it were so.

This book is very much a top-down study - necessarily so, because those at the top launch wars. But let us pause briefly to recall me savagery that was unleashed on ordinary people when the industrialised kill-chain whirred into action in 1914. The impressions preserved in the diary of Caroline Playne, an observant friend of both Quakers and military men in London during the Great War. must suffice to give us glimpses into the charnel house. In July 1916 she spoke to a friend nursing at King George's Hospital in London, 'full of men with part of [their] face blown away . not able to take solid food. What will these men's further lives be?' Playne's friend 'hoped the worst cases would not survive.' Playne spoke with a woman who saw each soldier's death as 'a splendid sacrifice like the death of Christ' - 'it was so fine, so glorious, it was better than if they had lived'. She attended sermons repudiating the idea that one should love one's enemies, because 'if we had been more ready to kill Germans and to kill more of them - we might have saved Belgian women from outrage.' A lady from the right-wing Navy League told Playne it would be best for humanity if the Germans 'could all be killed'. She heard a Russian officer dismissing the Belgian atrocities in light of the wholesale massacres he had witnessed in Hungarian villages during the Russian retreat of 1915. '''What about the inhabitants?" he was asked. "Oh they all went to the devil." , Playne soon learned that the daily atrocities of normal military operations dwarfed these horrific incidents behind the lines. A British officer told her his soldiers routinely 'killed the wounded Germans'. The men heard their Colonel's complaints, and then 'as soon as the Colonel was gone they said they would do as they had done'. Playne listened to British officers describing the 'horrible heaped-up slaughter', and sights in the stinking ooze that would make a butcher retch. She marvelled at 'the coolness and the calmness of it, all told in a pretty drawing room under a reproduction of Botticelli's Venus - this was the nightmare.' Eventually she grew inured to tales of 'slaughtered youth'. Then her own young nephew, Leslie Playne, asked her just before being sent to France, 'What was Armageddon?

On the British side, the commitment to this ever-widening imperial conflict in August 1914 eventually cost the lives of approximately three-quarters of a million British servicemen - or closer to a million if military and civilian deaths across the Empire are added. The war began a frantic pillaging of the public coffers, present and future. Only two weeks into the fighting, Lloyd George told the Cabinet he was 'much distressed as to expenditure'. 'We may have to borrow one thousand millions before the war is over' , Churchill replied. As some ministers laughed, Churchill declared, 'It is time we got something out of posterity.' E assim fizeram. By July 1916, Britain's average daily spending on the war exceeded £6 million by May 1917 it reached £7.9 million per day. When it was over, British war expenditure had reached the staggering total of £9,593 million, and the national debt stood at £8,000 million. These figures take on real meaning when it is recalled that the last peacetime British budget of May 1914 proposed a total annual expenditure of only £207 million. The choice for war in 1914 was a choice for mechanised slaughter at stupendous cost in the words of one soldier-novelist, a 'crowning imbecility', a 'cosmic murder', a war of 'lunatic waste'. Its prolongation incubated the future horrors of Fascism and Communism.

Nations going to war are very like each other. Britain's descent into war was marked, as elsewhere, by panic, manipulation, deception, recklessness, high-handedness, and low political calculation - and decisions made at a tearing pace. The Radical MP Percy Molteno captured it neatly in the first, the last, and the only House of Commons debate granted on the choice for war, on the evening Monday 3 August. The people and the parliament were being stampeded, Molteno alleged. 'I feel very strongly on this subject', he explained, fighting hard to contain his emotions. The parliamentarians should have been granted a 'a fair and straight opportunity of considering, discussing, and deciding on this question'. It was vital, he argued that we 'should give the people of this country a chance to decide'. Instead, the nation was witnessing 'a continuation of that old and disastrous system where a few men in charge of the state, wielding the whole force of the State, make secret engagements and secret arrangements, carefully veiled from the knowledge of the people, who are as dumb driven cattle without a voice on the question'.

How should Britain's Great War be remembered after a century? In a 'national spirit'? Perhaps the idea that for Britain there was no alternative to war, no error in her handling of the crisis, and no deed left undone in pursuit of peace is an essential consolation. But it is fairy dust. There is really only one story worth telling about the Great War: it was a common European tragedy - a filthy, disgusting and hideous episode of industrialised killing. Not the first, and not the last. It was unredeemed by victory. The uplifting element of the story lies in the struggle to avert it.


1914: Why Britain had to go to War

Every great historical event becomes shrouded in myths and legends, and few more so than those of the summer of 1914, whose sunlit brilliance mocked mankind by providing the setting for the onset of the first of the 20th-century’s human calamities – what was then called the Great War.

The year 2014 will mark the centenary of that conflict, and already a controversy about how it should be commemorated has erupted in Britain. I have a special interest, because I have spent the past three years writing a book about how the war came about and what took place on the battlefields.

There is a widespread delusion that the two world wars belong to different moral orders, that the conflict of 1939–45 was entirely worth fighting – a ‘good’ war – whereas that of 1914–18 was a ‘bad’ one. The British people have always held to the belief that until 1941 we defied the vast evil of Nazism alone, then defeated Hitler (albeit with some reluctant Russian and American help). The second struggle was nothing like as bloody as its predecessor, so people fool themselves, because we had better generals who would not make futile sacrifices of our soldiers. The nation looks upon 1939–45 as its finest hour.

But our ideas about the First World War are much more confused. Few Britons have much idea why Europe took to arms, though they may know that a Ruritanian bigwig with an extravagant moustache got shot. The most widely held belief is that the war was simply a ghastly mistake – an exercise in futility for which all of the powers involved shared blame, its folly compounded by the murderous incompetence of the generals.

This is the ‘poets’ view’, first articulated by the likes of Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Wilfred Owen. Amid the mud and blood, they felt that no discernible cause was worth the ghastly slaughter that was taking place – that it would be better to end it on any terms rather than continue to pursue a meaningless victory.

Today, many British people – and, arguably, our government – feel almost embarrassed that we finished up on the winning side. There is a real prospect that the country and its leaders will treat next year’s centenary as an occasion for parading mere regret, even apology. Yet we have the chance to offer a very different message: that, though the war was indeed a vast tragedy, there was a cause at stake that had to be defended – that Britain could not credibly have remained neutral while Germany secured hegemony over the continent.

In 1914 Germany’s Kaiserreich was a highly militarised autocracy whose victory would have been a disaster for freedom and democracy. Civilisation has as much reason for gratitude that the allies prevailed in 1918 as in 1945, even if victory in the first clash proved shockingly impermanent because only a generation later Germany, under Hitler, had to be fought again.

Consider a precis of what happened in 1914. On 28 June Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was shot dead by a young Bosnian Serb terrorist in Sarajevo. The men in charge of Austria felt no special sorrow for Franz Ferdinand, whom they disliked, but they saw in the outrage a pretext for settling accounts with Serbia, a chronically troublesome neighbour who incited Austrian minorities to revolt. Serbian army officers had provided the weapons and perhaps also the impetus for the assassination plot.

One aspect of 1914 that to our generation seems bizarre – indeed, incomprehensible – is that European governments then regarded conflict not as a supreme horror, but as an acceptable instrument for pursuing policy objectives. Many interpretations of events are possible, but one that is untenable is that war happened accidentally. Every European government believed that it acted rationally.

In the first days of July, Austria decided to invade and then dissolve Serbia. Russia regarded this little Slavic nation as under its protection, so Vienna dispatched an envoy to Berlin to ensure the kaiser’s backing should the Russians interfere. On 5 July, Wilhelm and his chancellor gave the Austrians what historians call ‘the blank cheque’– an unqualified promise of German support.

This was incredibly reckless. Some modern historians offer elaborate arguments to shift blame, but it is impossible to escape the simple fact that the German government endorsed Austria’s decision to unleash a Balkan war, and did so before the allies – the Triple Entente of France, Britain and Russia – had lifted a finger.

Some scholars, including several German ones, are convinced that the kaiser’s regime always intended to precipitate a general European war. I would not go as far as that. I think that the Germans would have been content with a local war – for Austria to crush Serbia without anybody else getting involved – but they were willing to accept the huge risk that a general European conflagration would follow. Porque?

Germany was profoundly unstable. It was ruled not quite as an absolute monarchy, but as an autocracy in which a partially unhinged emperor loved to posture as a warrior. Wilhelm II’s generals planned from the premise that war had served their country well, with three great victories in the previous half-century – against Denmark, Austria and France. They also recognised that democracy threatened their control of their own country. There was now a socialist majority in the German parliament that was vehemently hostile to militarism and promised to soon end the kaiser’s dysfunctional personal rule.

Conservative leaders believed that a triumph abroad could check the socialist tide. They also made a critical mistake, typical of their age: they underrated the dominance that their country was achieving over Europe through industrial prowess, without firing a shot. Germany was powering ahead of Britain, France and Russia by every economic indicator, but the kaiser and his generals measured power by counting soldiers and were fixated by Russia’s growing military strength. Their calculations showed that, as early as 1916, the Russians would achieve a decisive strategic advantage.

It was this prospect that caused Moltke, Germany’s army chief of staff, to growl at a secret strategy meeting in December 1912, chaired by the kaiser: “War, and the sooner the better.” In 1914, the Germans were confident that they could achieve victory over Russia and its ally, France. They discounted Britain, third party in the so-called Entente, because its army was tiny and, as Wilhelm cleverly observed of its navy, “dreadnoughts have no wheels”.

When in July 1914 Russia made it plain that they would not stand by and watch while the Austrians crushed Serbia, Germany did three things that provide further circumstantial evidence of its irresponsibility, if nothing worse. First, it began jamming wireless communications between St Petersburg and Paris. It also persistently lied to every European government, denying prior knowledge of the contents of Austria’s ultimatum, and claiming that its ally had no designs for territorial gains at the expense of a defeated Serbia. Finally, Germany rejected out of hand a British proposal to address the Balkan crisis through a four-power conference, because they recognised that this would be almost bound to condemn Austria-Hungary. None of these actions suggests a nation aiming for a peaceful diplomatic outcome.

The Austrians declared war on Serbia on 28 July, and started bombarding Belgrade. The Russians mobilised three days later. Apologists for Germany point out that the tsar’s armies thus moved a few hours before the kaiser’s did. But the Russian government saw no choice: the vast distances of their country meant that it must take longer for their forces to concentrate and they were terrified the Germans would literally steal a march on them.

The mood of triumphalism that now overtook Berlin’s corridors of power scarcely indicated the behaviour of a responsible German government, eager to preserve European peace. After Kaiser Wilhelm signed Germany’s mobilisation order at 5pm on 1 August, with his unfailing instinct for the wrong gesture he ordered champagne to be served to his suite. A Bavarian general was visiting the Berlin war ministry when news of Russian mobilisation came through, and wrote in his diary: “Everywhere beaming faces, people shaking hands in the corridors, congratulating one another on having cleared the ditch.”

Russia had acted in accordance with the freely avowed hopes of Germany’s military leadership they now simply expressed fears that France, Russia’s ally in the Entente, might decline to follow suit, fail to ‘enter the trap’. Wilhelm despised the French as “a feminine race, not manly like the Anglo-Saxons or Teutons,” and this undoubtedly influenced his lack of apprehension about fighting them.

The French knew that the German war plan required a swift and crushing defeat of their own army before turning on Russia. Sure enough, Berlin sent a message to Paris, saying that unless France surrendered its frontier fortresses as a guarantee, its neutrality would not be accepted. Instead – and inevitably – France mobilised.

As for Britain, even at this late hour a clear majority of its government as well as its people still opposed involvement in a European war. They had no sympathy for either Serbia or Russia. Many felt a real fellow feeling towards Germany. Old Lady Londesborough, the first Duke of Wellington’s great-niece, told Osbert Sitwell: “It’s not the Germans but the French I’m frightened of.”

But then, suddenly, everything changed. Berlin made a huge blunder. The Schlieffen plan demanded an assault on France through Belgium, of whose neutrality Britain was a guarantor. Berlin formally notified London of its intention to invade Belgium. It was this decision that caused the British government to send an ultimatum to Germany, committing the country to war unless the invaders drew back – as of course they did not.

It is sometimes said that Belgian neutrality was a mere pretext rather than the real reason for Britain joining the war. I disagree. Although Herbert Asquith, the prime minister, Winston Churchill, the first lord of the Admiralty, and Edward Grey, the foreign secretary, wanted to fight in support of France to preserve the European balance of power, much of their Liberal party was firmly opposed – until the Germans invaded Belgium. On 4 August, Britain became the last major European power to enter the struggle.

What followed was so appalling that some people profess to believe that Germany’s 1914 triumph on the battlefield would have been a lesser evil. Yet the Kaiserreich’s record abroad was barbarous even by contemporary standards. It mandated in advance, and applauded after the event, the 1904–07 genocide of the Herero and Namaqua peoples of German South-West Africa, a far greater enormity than any British colonial misdeed, and responsible for at least 100,000 deaths. The kaiser decorated the senior officers who carried it out.

During the 1914 invasion of Belgium and France, the German army committed systematic massacres of 6,000 innocent civilians, most executed as hostages in reprisal for guerrilla activity, which was a figment of German imagination. The killings were mandated at the highest level in Berlin.

Germany’s 1914–18 conduct cannot be directly compared with later Nazi behaviour, because there was no genocidal intent. But it conveys a disturbing image of the character of the regime that aspired to rule Europe. A few historians today argue that Britain could have remained neutral. I cannot agree. The dominating instincts of Germany’s leadership would hardly have been moderated by the conquest of the continent that would almost certainly have resulted from British neutrality. The kaiser’s regime did not enter the war with a grand plan for world domination, but its leaders swiftly identified massive rewards they wanted, as the price for halting their armies.

On 9 September 1914, when Berlin saw victory within its grasp, Germany’s chancellor drafted a shopping list. France was to cede to Germany its iron ore deposits the frontier region of Belfort a coastal strip from Dunkirk to Boulogne and the western slope of the Vosges mountains. Her strategic fortresses would be demolished. Just as after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, cash reparations would be exacted sufficient to ensure that, in the words of Germany’s chancellor, “France is incapable of spending considerable sums on armaments for the next 18 to 20 years”.

Elsewhere Luxembourg would be annexed Belgium and Holland transformed into vassal states Russia’s borders drastically shrunken a vast colonial empire created in central Africa and a German economic union extending from Scandinavia to Turkey.

Sir Michael Howard points out that Germany’s war aims in the First World War fell not far short of its objectives in the Second. Had it vanquished its only important continental rivals in 1914, it is wildly unlikely that Berlin would have offered a friendly accommodation to a neutral Britain, or acquiesced in the global status quo, dominated by British naval and financial power. Could any responsible allied government have granted Germany such a peace as the kaiser, together with his generals and ministers, sought and continued to seek until 1918?

The ‘poets’ view’ – that the merits of the cause became meaningless amid the horrors of the struggle and brutish incompetence of commanders – has been allowed to distort modern perceptions. Many other British veterans deplored the idea that Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon spoke for their generation. One such revisionist was an old soldier named Henry Mellersh. He wrote in 1978 that he rejected the notion “that the war was one vast, useless, futile tragedy, worthy to be remembered only as a pitiable mistake”. Instead, said Mellersh: “I and my like entered the war expecting an heroic adventure and believing implicitly in the rightness of our cause we ended greatly disillusioned as to the nature of the adventure, but still believing that our cause was right and we had not fought in vain.”

Mellersh’s view was far more widely held by his contemporaries than the ‘futility’ vision of Owen, Sassoon and their kin, none of whom ever outlined a diplomatic process whereby the nightmare they so vividly depicted might be ended. The majority of combatants recoiled from the miseries of the battlefield. But their sentiments should not be misread to suggest that this meant that they wished to acquiesce in the triumph of their enemies.

George Orwell wrote 30 years later that the only way to end a war quickly is to lose it. Almost every modern military scholar of 1914–18 agrees that it is an illusion to suppose that there was ever an easy path towards winning the struggle, even had a commander of Napoleonic gifts led the allied armies. In any clash between great 20th-century industrialised nations, an enormous amount of dying had to be done to prevail. What was different in 1939–45 was not that Britain and America had better or more humane commanders than in the earlier conflict, but that the Russians accepted almost all the sacrifice necessary to destroy Hitler – 27 million dead – and killed 92 per cent of the German army’s total war dead. In 1914–18, by contrast, though the Russians and Serbs suffered enormous loss of lives, the peoples of Britain and France also paid a terrible forfeit, double that of 1939–45 for us, up to treble for the French.

The historian Kenneth Morgan, neither a conservative nor a revisionist, delivered a powerful 1996 lecture about the cultural legacy of the two great conflicts, in which he argued that “the history of the First World War was hijacked in the 1920s by the critics”. These were led by the economist John Maynard Keynes, an impassioned German sympathiser. He castigated the supposed injustice and folly of the 1919 Versailles Treaty, without devoting a moment to speculating about what sort of peace Europe would have had if a victorious Germany had been making it.

No sane person could suggest that next year – the centenary of the outbreak of war – should become an occasion for celebration. But our government and the media should break free from the weary, sterile ‘futility’ clichés, and acknowledge that Britain played a necessary and honourable part in the First World War.

We should feel no embarrassment about the sensitivities of our foremost modern EU partner in acknowledging that the kaiser’s Germany represented a malign force, whose triumph had to be frustrated. More than 800,000 British servicemen who perished between 1914 and 1918 did not die ‘for nothing’. Their sacrifice represented the first of two dreadful blood-payments made by the democracies in the 20th century to secure Europe from German domination.

Sir Max Hastings is a former editor of The Daily Telegraph e Evening Standard. Seu último livro, Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914, was recently published by HarperCollins


The memory of the war

The Irish President and the Queen open the Island of Ireland Peace Park, Messines, 1998 © The 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising was remembered with great celebrations across independent and nationalist Ireland. Similarly the sacrifices of the Ulster Division on the Somme were commemorated in Northern Ireland. By this stage the great mass of Catholic, nationalist Irishmen who had volunteered and served in the war had virtually been forgotten, in a sort of Irish 'national amnesia'. Their history and their experiences did not fit in with either the republican legacy of southern Ireland or the unionist tradition of the North.

. nationalist Irishmen who had volunteered and served in the war had virtually been forgotten.

But 30 years later, on the 80th anniversary of the armistice, 11 November 1918, the President of Ireland and Queen Elizabeth II together dedicated a memorial at Messines to all the Irish people who had fallen in World War One. This 'Island of Ireland Peace Tower' was conceived as a device to assist political and social reconciliation.

The hope is that, by recovering the memory of the common suffering of all sorts of Irish - Protestant and Catholic, unionist and nationalist - in World War One, the peace process in contemporary Northern Ireland, aiming to heal its equivalent shared suffering, might markedly be advanced. And if it does this, then surely the Irish fallen of World War One may not have died in vain.


Increasing Threats to British Control

From 1936 onward, Britain's dominance in the Middle East was increasingly threatened from within and without. Mussolini's determination to create an Italian empire around the Mediterranean and the Italian conquest of Ethiopia in 1935 posed a sudden danger to Britain. The powerful Italian broadcasting station on the island of Bari began broadcasting anti-British propaganda to the Middle East. The Italian dictator wooed Ibn Sa ʿ ud and other Middle Eastern rulers and gave covert support to anti-British elements in the region, including the anti-British leader of the Palestine Arab nationalist movement, Hajj Amin al-Husayni. The Palestine Arab Revolt between 1936 and 1939 tied down large numbers of British troops at a time when, with the Nazi threat looming in Europe, the British could ill afford such a diversion.

Conscious of their limited resources, particularly of military manpower, the British faced unpalatable policymaking dilemmas in the final months of the peace and felt compelled to subordinate all other considerations to the imperatives of imperial security: hence, the White Papers on Palestine of May 1939, which reversed the Balfour Declaration policy of support for a national home for the Jewish people and restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine at a time of mounting danger to Jews in Europe.


Why Britain was right to go to war in 1914

Following on from Niall Ferguson's argument that Britain should not have entered the First World War, we asked six expert historians for their views on the decision. They all came to a similar conclusion

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Published: February 1, 2014 at 5:00 am

Margaret MacMillan: “Even if Britain had stayed out of the war in August 1914, it would have been difficult for it to stay on the sidelines”

We can never know for certain what would have happened if Britain had stayed out of the First World War, but we can guess. If Germany’s war plans against France had succeeded – and, without the British Expeditionary Force, they might well have – Paris would have been surrounded again.

Although the French might well have surrendered, this is a big question mark: we should not make the mistake of assuming that the France of 1914 was the same as the France of 1940. The country then was far more united, with better forces and leadership than it had in the Second World War. France might well have fought on, and it would have become increasingly difficult for Britain to stay on the sidelines.

Think, as British statesmen did at the time, about what a German victory might have meant. German demands would have been drastic: France would lose part of its northern coast, and Belgium and Luxembourg would have been gobbled up.

A Europe dominated by such a Germany would have been an unhappy place: it would have been disastrous for Britain economically and in every other way. So, yes, I think Britain was probably right to enter the war.

Margaret MacMillan is the author of The War that Ended Peace: How Europe Abandoned Peace for the First World War (Profile, 2013)

Peter Hart: “The challenges that Britain faced could only have been answered with war”

British foreign policy had long been worked out based on the necessity of maintaining the status quo on mainland Europe by acting to contain the expansion of any wayward power appearing to be threatening domination. Traditionally, this had involved creating coalitions while contributing only a small army on the continent. Meanwhile, as an aggressive imperial power, Britain had used its naval strength to harvest new colonies, protect maritime trade and concentrate troops at key locations.

Since its defeat of France in 1871, Germany had threatened domination of Europe while also challenging the supremacy of the Royal Navy through a provocative naval race. During the July Crisis of 1914, Britain was not central to events and initially favoured a negotiated settlement. Yet the invasion of Belgium, the possibility of outright defeat for France and the threat to the Channel ports were challenges that, given the sensibilities of the age, could only be answered by war.

Britain was perfectly well equipped for the traditional maritime role that had served it well. Unfortunately, the war would demand an enormous British military commitment on the western front, for which the army was ill-prepared. This tragedy is one that we cannot seem to forgive or forget.

Peter Hart is the author of The Great War: 1914–1918 (Profile, 2013)

Nigel Jones: “The German invasion of Belgium persuaded the British government that war was necessary”

Britain’s government was divided in August 1914, with a clutch of ministers threatening to resign in protest at the war and bring down the government. However the event that changed their minds, and swung not only the cabinet but the vast majority of the country behind the war, was Germany’s brutal, unprovoked and unnecessary invasion of Belgium, whose neutrality both she and Britain had guaranteed.

In spirit, if not in scale, this was a bestial action similar to that of the Nazis 20 years later. Some 6,000 Belgian civilians were murdered in cold blood, and the prospect that such a barbarous militarist power could dominate Europe and threaten Britain’s vital sea links concentrated British minds wonderfully.

Hindsight is a great thing, and the war’s horrendous casualty toll tends to make pacifists of us all. But there are worse things than battles: as the French resistance writer Jean Dutourd put it in the Second World War: “War is less costly than slavery.”

Nigel Jones is the author of Peace and War: Britain in 1914 (Head of Zeus, 2014), reviewed in our March 2014 issue

Gary Sheffield: “It is now difficult to capture the sense of moral outrage at Germany’s actions”

When Germany invaded Belgium in August 1914, British entry into the war became inevitable. The sense of moral outrage at Germany’s flagrant flouting of an international treaty to which the country was a signatory is difficult to capture in this more cynical age, but it was real enough.

Even more importantly, a fundamental tenet of British security had, for centuries, been to keep the Low Countries out of the hands of a hostile power. In this respect, Britain went to war against Germany in 1914 for the same basic reason that it had fought against expansionist Revolutionary France in 1793.

For centuries British leaders had been concerned with the maintenance of the balance of power. For Britain to stand by while its fellow democracy, France, was defeated, and an authoritarian, aggressive Germany gained hegemony in Europe would have been a strategic catastrophe. While Britain was protected by the battleships of the Royal Navy and thus all but invulnerable to invasion, German domination of the European continent would have been as much a threat as Napoleon’s had been a century before.

If Britain had stayed out in 1914 it is all too likely it would have found itself at war with Germany in the not-too-distant future, except – having betrayed its friends in their moment of deepest need – without allies.

As was well understood at the time, the world faced worse things than war in August 1914.

Gary Sheffield is professor of war studies at the University of Wolverhampton. His most recent book is The First World War in 100 Objects (Carlton, 2013)

David Reynolds: “To understand Britain’s decision, we must look at its historical ties with Europe”

In the circumstances that Britain faced in August 1914, I think that going to war was an understandable decision. The Germans had invaded Belgium and were threatening France, and historically Britain has never felt comfortable with a hostile power occupying the ports just across the English Channel. So although there was no immediate threat to British territory, it seems to me that, in terms of Britain’s historical tradition, this choice made sense.

It was a difficult decision for the Liberal cabinet, particularly David Lloyd George, who was a radical but had anti-war roots. Deeply sceptical at the end of July, he became convinced by the invasion of Belgium and, in September, gave a big speech in which he called the Prussians the “roadhogs of Europe”, bulldozing their way over – as he put it – five foot five nations who had to stand up against the storming Prussian Junker.

His evolution over those few weeks is a very striking indication of the way in which British opinion developed.

David Reynolds is the author of The Long Shadow (Simon & Schuster, 2013)

Heather Jones: “The cabinet delayed involving Britain in the war for as long as it possibly could”

The decisions made by the British cabinet in the first days of August 1914 had truly devastating consequences. Yet the reality was that, by the time the British cabinet agonised over the decision
to go to war, they had little choice.

The cabinet’s decisions on 2 August were based on the facts as they knew them. They expected a short war. They also initially expected that Britain would only provide naval and financial support to France rather than sending in a land army. Britain’s army was tiny compared to its French, German and Russian counterparts – few could have imagined how it would expand, the length of the war, or the scale of British casualties.

By 2 August, most of the major decisions that caused the war had already been taken in Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia and elsewhere. The British government had, in fact, delayed getting involved for as long as possible: the foreign secretary, Edward Grey, had proposed a conference to find a peaceful solution to the crisis only to be rebuffed.

The cabinet had even privately discussed turning a blind eye and not entering the war if Germany only breached a small corner of Belgium, but it rapidly became clear that its army was intent on invading the whole country with a view to ruthlessly occupying it.

Could Britain have stayed out of the war? The reality was that even those states that remained neutral at the outset – such as Italy or the US – ultimately found themselves forced to take sides and enter the conflict. Based on what they knew in those early August days, the British cabinet believed entering the war was the right decision.

Heather Jones is a specialist in First World War Studies at the London School of Economics


“The Triple Entente” – 1907

Another agreement was reached in August 1907, this time including Britain and Russia, thereby firming their stance against The Triple Alliance. But in reality, there was no Triple Entente – the 1907 treaty was specifically between Britain and Russia to stop their rivalry in Central Asia, and there was no three way agreement as there was with the Triple Alliance.

Mesmo após o assassinato de Francisco Ferdinando e a crise de julho, nenhum dos acordos da Grã-Bretanha com a França ou a Rússia garantiu que ela se aliaria aos países em caso de uma guerra europeia. No entanto, quando a Alemanha executou o Plano Schlieffen em 3 de agosto de 1914 e cruzou a fronteira com a Bélgica, a Grã-Bretanha decidiu agir contra a violação da neutralidade da Bélgica.

Este mapa da Europa mostra claramente os arredores das Potências Centrais pelos Aliados.


Assista o vídeo: 20 Coisas Absurdas Que Eram Absolutamente Normais no Passado


Comentários:

  1. Gann

    desculpe, pensei e apaguei a mensagem

  2. Leodegan

    Estranhamente assim

  3. Ann

    Sinto muito, mas, em minha opinião, você está enganado. Eu posso defender a posição. Escreva para mim em PM.

  4. Rexley

    Parabéns, que palavras você precisa ..., uma ótima idéia

  5. Tojale

    É uma pena que eu não possa me expressar agora - não há lazer. Voltarei - vou absolutamente expressar a opinião sobre esse assunto.

  6. Kajigrel

    Eu não tenho dúvidas sobre isso.

  7. Voisttitoevetz

    É simplesmente fantástico :)



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