The question of the origins of the first world war, who is to blame for it, and why it happened have been a constant subject of debate among historians since the war began. In Martel's the origins of the First World War (1996) these questions are examined, and different historians views are taken into account. The assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in June 1914 initiated conflict, that some believe lead to the beginning of war. Others believe that this may have been an immediate instigator to a war that was well on its way to beginning.
Austria felt that Serbia was responsible for the assassination. This did turn out to be fact, the assassins were Serbian nationalists, belonging to the 'Black Hand' a terrorist group. In response to this, in July 1914 the Austrians presented Serbia with an ultimatum, the Serbians were not expected to comply. The ultimatum was intended to end Serbia's existence as a sovereign state. By August of 1914 the war had begun, with Austria-Hungary, Germany, Serbia, Russia, France and Great Britain. Martel (1996) states that this overview of the causes of WWI is very superficial, and that most believe that there were much deeper underlying causes of the war.
Martel believes that the answer to many of the questions regarding WWI and why it happened can be traced back to the alliance systems that were in place, and the nationalism that bound the countries of the time. The underlying causes of WWI may be attributed to three concepts, nationalism, militarism, and imperialism. Historians have brought many ideas forth, however the ideas of nationalism, militarism, and imperialism seem to be the most plausible. Martel believes that the question of how World War One began, while addressed by many scholars of the time can more accurately be answered by looking back at The Origins 3 history. People of the time answering the question were more inclined to look at who was responsible than at how it actually happened, and why. This was most evident in Germany where the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 produced the 'war guilt' question.
Originally the responsibility of the war was placed on Germany, and Germany was asked to pay for all damages done. The result of the 'war guilt' controversy showed that all the great powers were to blame. Before 1914 they all had militaristic and imperialistic intentions to aid their allies. This became a subject of controversy again after the Second World War, when it was clear that Hitler, and therefore Germany was responsible. This provoked people to ask once again if Germany should be to blame for both wars. A German historian by the name of Fritz Fischer published an argument in 1961 translated into English as "Germany's Aims in the First World War." Fischer presented a lot of evidence supporting the idea that Germany aimed to establish itself as a world power prior to the First World War, therefore leading to conflict with Britain and Russia.
Fischer made it believable that German expansionism was at the root of both World Wars. German historians criticized Fischer for this, however many historians examined Fischer's debate, and have agreed with his findings. When examining the events leading up to World War One historians take different approaches. Some look only at the summer of 1914, attributing these immediate events as the beginnings of war, while others focus on the underlying causes that were present long before July 1914.
The most convincing arguments today focus mostly on the underlying causes. The Origins 4 Martel (1996) focuses on the unbiased retelling of the story beginning in 1900, and focusing on the alliances, looking at the reasons for these alliances, and how their formation contributed to conflict in Europe, therefore leading up to World War One. Martel pays much attention to foreign policy within different nations, and how policies changed and moulded the states of the time. The Origins 5 References Martel, G. The Origins of The First World War. Longman Group U.