Will we ever agree on what caused the First World War?

It took six weeks, but I have now finished viewing the box set of the 26-part BBC television series on “The Great War” which was bought for me as a birthday present by a good friend. It was a utterly fascinating series, informative and balanced and very, very moving. This was a war the like of which the world had never seen, resulting in over 37 million military and civilian casualties.

The BBC series was broadcast in 1964 to mark the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of this horrendous conflict. Next year, we will see a host of television programmes, books, articles and exhibitions to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the war. I am particuarly interested in seeing the new sections of the Imperial War Museum in London.

However, in a recent article, Richard Norton-Taylor opined:

“… the government seems intent on avoiding any serious debate about the war and its causes, ducking responsibility, apparently fearful of getting embroiled in a blame game.”

He refers to the work of Cambridge historian Christopher Clark and writes:

“The conflict began in the Balkans but a catalyst, he says, was Italy’s seizure of the Ottoman province of Libya in 1911 – 100 years before Britain and France launched air strikes against the country. Italy’s attack whetted appetites and Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece grabbed Turkish territory in Macedonia and Albania. Nationalistic and ethnic divisions erupted in a region which formed part of the Austro-Hungarian empire as well as the Ottoman.”


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