tv Catastrophe of World War I CSPAN December 22, 2014 4:07pm-5:04pm EST
reading habits. and on american history tv on c-span3 at 8:00 a.m. eastern, the fall of the berlin wall with c-span footage of president george bush and bob dole. with speeches from president's john kennedy and ronald reagan. at noon, fashion experts on first ladies fashion choices and how they represented the styles of the times in which they lived. and then at 10:00, former nbc news anchor tom brokaw on his more than 50 years of reporting on world events. that's this christmas day on the c-span networks. for a complete schedule go to c-span.org. american history tv visited the mcarthur memorial in norfolk, virginia, which was hosting a symposium marking the world war i centennial. author sean mcmeekin talks about the events in 1914 that led to war, and how it might have turned out differently. he argues against the idea that
an arms race between germany and britain provoked the war. instead, he describes a series of decisions made by heads of state that had a domino effect. this is about 50 minutes. >> professor sean mcmeekin did his ph.d. at uc berkeley and he talked at many universities before beginning at professor of history of russian and eurasian studies at bard college in new york. among his recent books are the russian origins of the first world war, july 1914, and the berlin baghdad express, the ottoman empire and germany's bid for world power. his research languages include
russian, turkish, german and french. his talk today is the war of 1914, an avoidable catastrophe. >> thank you for that kind introduction. we'll see if i can get the clicker to work before we get going. there we are. it's true, i did one book with the german bid for world power in the title. i did another book called the russian origins of the first world war. some people have been a bit confused by this. i blame the russians in one book and the germans in the other. now, for which i can only say that i'm not responsible for the titles. but what i'll try to do today is lay out some of where my own
thinking has come from and also i think to explain a little bit or maybe even the future generation stands, that is scholarship on the war. like many of you i assume i grew up on what we might call the cold war historiography on the conflict touchstones for america's tuchman's guns of august, and war by timetable i suppose in the german tradition, fritz fisher's book, or somebody inaccurately translated into english, germany's aims in the first world war. the thing all these accounts had in common that we can date to the high cold war era was their emphasis on what we might call structural factors. you had an arms race. you had an alliance system. you had a kind of buildup of tensions. something like a bilateral system of alliances. the war being eventually somehow somehow kind of set in stone in the cards, there was a burgeoning inevitability about it. this arms race between britain and germany people used to focus on the naval race that is the building race. this tradition lingered on really into the '90s even with some works. i'm thinking of one by robert
massey who is a fantastic writer who's very much in the barbara tuchman tradition in his book called elegantly and simply enough, dreadnaught. and his book was kind of about this story. britain and germany drifting apart and then eventually producing this kind of cataclysmic thing. it's a very, very stubborn tradition to dislodge. there are some serious problems with it, however. to begin with, it just doesn't really fit the facts. to take the british german naval race in particular.h
he said, well that's because that's when the press war ended. the british admiralty didn't take them seriously. the press war kind of ramped up partly to just sell newspapers and so on and then it kind of subsided. the german chancellor in power in 1914 had, in fact, devoted nearly hess entire foreign policy to improving relations with great britain. and in fact they were getting much better in 1914. i think you saw just the tail end of a letter between georgie and nikki this morning in which there was this odd, one of you asked about this, about his allusion to persia, an unsatisfactory state of affairs. that was putting it mildly. in fact there was a major surge in tensions between britain and russia in 1914. the so-called accord between britain and russia dating back to 1907 which had divided asia, particularly persia or iran, up into spheres of influence had essentially broken by 1914. the russians are basically installing kind of imperial pro-consuls in the north carving up the land, they have troops on the ground, the persians are hearing no end of this. they're complaining to the british. the british are saying you're violating the treaty. it's not quite got to the state
of war but things are pretty serious. britain and russia were at loggerheads. in fact i discovered in my own work in the archives there was another side to that story which is that britain was selling to the ottoman empire, russia's greatest enemy, hereditary enemy going back centuries state-of-the-art dreadnaughts. it would be like at the height of the cold war britain had been selling nuclear weapons to the soviet union. that is to say the so-called alliance between britain and russia was anything but. to go back to barbara tuchman. now not to pick on her because i'm quite fond of her. i've drawn a lot of inspiration from her books. it's a fascinating thing you notice if you read the guns of august. she tells you what she's going to do right at the beginning. she says, i'm going to leave austria, hungary and serbia out
of the story, she says. it's a bit like writing the history of the second world war without mentioning poland. when she actually gets to the outbreak of the war everyone thinks this book is about the outbreak of the war. it's not! there's one line on sarajevo. there's one of paragraph on the entire july crisis. it's just not there. the geography isn't there. there are the plans. there are the great powers then poof, war breaks out. interesting story. there's no context. and to a certain extent, there's no story. now i like to think we i1ú understand things a little better today in part because the wars of basically in the former yugoslavia, taught us a bit more about the balkans. some of us have rediscovered turkey. in my own case just because i went to live there. these places back of beyond the cold war, turkey was, if nothing better really than a bit player in the cold war and the cuban missile crisis, otherwise largely forgotten. the balkans were, of course, behind the iron curtain. so i'd like to bring you back a little bit like, what we might have called after 9/11 the world of 9/10. i'll call it the world of june 27th. now some of the more latter-day
historians have i think taken the before and after effect a little bit too far. it is true the war came as a shock to most europeans. neil ferguson showed us it wasn't priced into the bond market. mike myberg and others have shown us that order near people came just as a bolt from the blue. no one was expecting it. however, those like david fromekin, he wrote a book about a decade ago called europe's last summer. an interesting metaphor of what he called clear air turbulence. that is the airplane is going along and it's so calm that, you know, the seat belt sign is off and so you're wandering around the plane and unluckily you find your head bouncing off the ceiling because of clear air turbulence. that's what he said happened in 1914. well, yes, maybe if you were new york or london or paris that's how things might have looked. but not in this part of the world. this part of the world had seen three wars in three years. 1911. italy invades the ottoman empire. why? well because france sent troops to morocco. don't ask me why that gave italy
the right to send troops to tripoli but that's the way they saw things. so italy sent troops into tripoli and there was a ferocious war there which in fact saw the first use of air power in modern warfare, the dropping of bombs from dirigibles. in some ways the last of the colonial wars, first of the post-colonial wars. bogs down around the suburbs of interestingly enough benghazi saw the most ferocious fighting when must after fa, later attaturk saw his first action, later pasha. the turks discovered they had no way of getting to tripoli. literally mustafa, kamal and envir went there in disguise as civilians. they couldn't get there because italy had a more powerful fleet and the ottomans could not get troops across the eastern mediterranean. in the course of that war, before it was even over, a couple of important things happen. someone that the ottomans close the straits right here the dardanelles, thus cutting russia
off from any access to warm water markets, including the mediterranean, and all oceans beyond. russia, of course, being mostly an ice-bound country in the winter but for vladivostok which is 11 time zones away from europe. the other thing that happened was that the balkan league teamed up and invaded turkey. serbia, bulgaria, greece and montenegro. piggybacking on the italian conflict. in that war the turks discovered to their further horror that @co because of greek naval strength they couldn't even get troops across the aegean. oddly enough the turks actually did make one amphibious landing in this war, wry was on the gallipoli peninsula, which was actually to get at the bulgarians from behind, because the bulgarians nearly conquered the city. they made it to about here. the turks actually tried to get them from behind. so this is actually the world of june 27th. a world of warfare in southeastern europe. a world in which, in fact, the riding expectation, you know, a
little bit like if you had woken up on the morning of 9/11, you wouldn't have been hearing about osama bin laden. if you were in new york like me you would have been hearing about shark attacks in florida and scandal involving a little league baseball pitcher who falsified this age documents. you wouldn't have been hearing about the naval race between britain and germany. you might have been hearing, however, about a naval race in the eastern mediterranean, basically a tripartheid naval race pitting greece, the ottoman empire and russia. because the ottomans had ordered state-of-the-art dreadnaughts from britain. russia was watching this with
trepidation and terror but so were the greeks. in the course of the balkan wars, huge wave of refugees are pouring into the ottoman empire, mostly muslims coming from the balkans, a few christians fleeing in the other direction. greek christians are being displaced from their homes particularly in and around smirnoff, today's ismere. what everyone is expecting on june 27th and the morning of
tune 27th and the morning of third balkan war to break out between turkey and greece. now it's interesting that that is not, as we know how the first world war began. it is, however, how it ended. ten years later. and it is not entirely an accident that that is so. because this is actually where, of course, the first world war began. didn't begin in london. didn't begin in flanders. began in the balkans. technically speaking, i suppose you want to look at the spark, began in sarajevo. as to what happened on that morning of the 28th of june? well of course the arch duke franz ferdinand woke up. he had no idea what was in store. he dashed off a note to his children, poppy and mommy can't wait to see you on tuesday. his children were actually in another town. mine are actually just staying in the hotel next door so it was a little more difficult for him. he was expecting to see them on tuesday. he just had one last stupid little morning of like photo-ops in his royal progress and then frank god the whole bosnian tour, which he didn't want to do in the first place, would be over. little beknown to him however there were seven assassins lined up along the quay. you can see the numbers here. there are more than several numbers. because several of the assassins actually moved positions. now it is true that despite the
fact this does seem a bit overdetermined, you might say, plot being hatched as we know in belgrade, by subjects of austria-hungary of serbian nationality although they did recreate one muslim, kind of window dressing, interesting we note today, because there's no longer any doubt about it, that the head of serbian military intelligence not only organized the saying, but of course he gave the final go-ahead. he helped make sure everyone had guns and weapons and training and so on. princip was only one of the assassins. we generally know him by his code name, historians generally agree that he was if not the only mastermind, the key mastermind of the affair, after all he said so in a confession several years later. what not everyone remembers about the afis confession is that he also said that the russians gave him the green late. and they provided funds. now we don't know if that's true. we do know, however, that he said it. so afis green lights this expedition, overdetermined possibly, not necessarily. because of the assassins, the first two in fact didn't lift a finger. the first to had been trained in belgrade. he lit the fuse bomb, threw it at the arch duke and hit him in a cheek. bounced off of his face. it grazed him. he was wounded, not seriously. it wife was wound, as well. detonated behind the staff car behind and luckily nothing else happened. everyone else survived, they dusted themselves off and the 20th century proceeded along its course. the third balkan war broke out
between turkey and greece, the russians desperate to keep the straits from being closed again, cut off greece, brought the war to an end, the concert of europe was effectively revived. wait a minute. that's not what happened. what did happen? well, what did happen is they actually proceeded along i keep hitting the wrong button here. we have to go back. here we are. they proceeded along to the town hall, they went along with the program. franz ferdinand gave his own remarks, the mayor welcomed him and said as you can see, we citizens of sarajevo salute you and welcome you with your great warmth of heart, and he said they just threw a bomb at me. what are you talking about! he was in a little bit of a pissy mood. but interestingly enough he was still in charge of things. the reason this matters is because, he actually altered the route. now originally they were
supposed to go to the museum, which was up here. unfortunately wasn't right here. wasn't next door. they would have had to go through the town, up here to the museum. everyone else is saying look that's too risky. there are all these assassins around here. we don't want to go through there again. no let's go through the muslim quarters, much safer than the serbian neighborhoods. everyone will be on their way. franz ferdinand says no. i want to visit the wounded man from the morning bombing. ] unfortunately the garrison hospital happened to be located so close to the museum that this meant they went according to the original route plan. however they said no, no, no, that's too risky so we'll run our cars at full speed along the apple kay. that is what was supposed to happen. right about here about 250, 300 meters distant they should have been shifting into fourth gear hitting the gas driving on into safety. however, the driver of the first
car in the motorcade forgot, or wasn't told, not entirely clear on this, made the turn. second car made the turn. third car in which franz ferdinand was traveling with his wife, with a bodyguard on the running board, which turned out to be the wrong side because princip had crossed the street. hmm, interesting. bodyguard on the wrong side, the car turns, military governor barks out wrong turn, turn around of course then they try to activate the reverse gear, the car stalls, and in those five, six, seven seconds, two shots were fired, and i think altered the course of world history. now why did it matter? who was franz ferdinand? so just briefly, franz ferdinand was not simply the heir to the hapsburg throne of austria-hungary. he was the heir to a throne held by an octogenarian expected to pass away. he had already begun running military policy. he had his own kind of pseudo
government in belvedere palace. he was already in all but name running military affairs for the empire. there's no figurehead we're talking about. part of the reason it mattered aside from his importance and the fact he was shortly expected to ascend to the throne was that he was also an important voice, if not for peace exactly, then a voice arguing for caution in the balkans. there are already legends about him. we have this great plan. he didn't have a plan at his desk for a greater south slav, yugoslavia type state. that's kind of a myth. it is true that he had concluded that war with serbia would be a chief of staff was of a very different view. famously had proposed going to war with serbia something like 25 times in the year 1913 alone. opposed all 25 times by franz ferdinand. who was now dead. second reason this mattered. in berlin we've all heard about the war party. i'll tell you a little bit more about the chancellor. the kaiser was volatile. everyone knew this. he was kind of a wild card. but he was not seen as a war monger not by those who knew him the best. in fact, recently, during the
second balkan war the kaiser had taken a position against austria-hungary and even said and i quote that a war with slavdom, that is a war to say a war on behalf of you against the slavs would leave us quite cold. he in fact took serbia's position in the major question of the balkan wars whether serbia would have access. he said anything else would be nonsense. he did not take a pro-austrian line. he was, however, probably alone among europe's royal houses in actually liking franz ferdinand. he was not a very popular man but the kaiser actually was quite fond of him. they had recently visited,
talked about all kinds of affairs of state and now the kaiser was angry. his blood was up. that was the first trick for the austrians. there was no mystery there was a war party in vienna. now the war party is gearing up. conrad wants a war right now. of course he has to reckon with the fact that austria-hungary is about to send its army on harvest leave which is going to slow things down a bit. that's why he wants to go right away. in the end he doesn't get his way. the foreign minister is only slightly less gung ho. he is opposed by a hungarian. so things are a little bit complicated. the main thing the austrians have to figure out is what germany will do. now the original plan was to corner the kaiser at the funeral while he was still angry and emotional. unfortunately he didn't come to
the funeral. that's partly because no one else came to the funeral either because the emperor didn't like his nephew and didn't want anyone to come there. it was also because the kaiser had supposedly been attacked with a lower back pain. privately the germans in fact said that he shouldn't go to vienna because they weren't sure the austrians could secure their own funeral from terrorism. austria-hungary was kind of a laughing stock. copy of the mobilization plan had been sold to the russians. various plans had been sold to the russians by the same man. so it wasn't really expected that they would be particularly competent but that's what the germans wanted. that was the first real serious problem. not miscommunication so much as misunderstanding. when the austrians finally corner the kaiser back in berlin and just badgered him, and at first he actually said no. at first he said no, no, no, i fear european complications, then he finally said yes, we will stand with you come what may. in essence the blank check so cold. still what the germans thought they were agreeing to is the austrians would make some kind of a move against serbia. didn't quite work out that way. four weeks passed the austrians are dithering and delaying. finally on the 19th of july they hold the war council, this is in berthold's residents in vienna. the strudelhoff, yes that actually means the house of strudel, where they got together to plan the war, the staging of the war. by then they'd taken so long they were coming up against the fact that a presidential sim mitt was about to take place at st. petersburg with the president of france along with
viviani who was premier and foreign minister and they didn't really want the french and russians to be able to coordinate a response while they were toasting champagne so they waited until after they left and sent telegrams to petersburg asking about details. unfortunately the russians had broken the austrian code so they were reading these telegrams. in the end they didn't even learn from this. the russians learned about the ultimatum, oddly enough, because berthold the foreign minister of austria-hungary blabbed it to a friend who was a retired diplomat who frequently had lunch with the british country to russian ambassador. that's how the russians learned about the ultimatum. the reason this is an important part of the story. russia's often neglected the story, as is france incidentally but all this mattered greatly. if you look at the mobilization plans, and various versions of this plan are quite well known along with the french mobilization plan.
the russian mobilization plan say little bit less known. what we do know, however, is that the russians wanted to get a head start because they didn't mobilize as quickly as the germans and they knew that. so they wanted to get going early. so they wanted to make sure that they had french support. now it just so happened that the president and foreign minister and premier of france, in the second two cases the same man, were actually in st. petersberg between the 20th and 23rd of july. so happened the french ambassador was able to basically green light everything the russians were doing for the next week. because he had just spoken with the president. i have no smoking gun proof of what he was told him. but the french stance was just as hard line as the russian stance. without boring you of all the details i do want to hone in on several days. not the best known days of the crisis but to my mind the most interesting.
so i'm going to start on a sunday, july 26th, the ultimatum has already gone out. serbia, austria, hungary have already begun mobilizing after serbia rejected the ultimatum advised to do so incidentally ì% they reject one clause unequivocally, fudge the rest. yes we are sorry that you accused us of a crime. serbia rejects the ultimatum, they mobilize even before austria hungry does but things haven't been declared yet. the austria hungarians up against the fact they're so incompetent they're that going to be ready to invade serbia until august 12th. that's nearly a month and a half after sarajevo. that's what they tell the germans. the germans have been telling them no you have to go quickly invade now. they say no on august 12th. okay. that was on the sunday. monday the kaiser returns from his cruise, the kaiser, there's
doesn't trust him but he makes up in the morning of the 28th, tuesday, july 28th, 1914 he goes for a staff ride. unfortunately he waited until after he got back from his horse ride to read serbia's reply to the ultimatum which he actually misread. he thought it constituted acceptance more or less. he then said oh, god this is brilliant. diplomatic victory. we must convince the austrians to negotiate and at the very least have some kind of symbolic occupation of belgrade, make sure the serbs behave, et cetera. but he doesn't pick up the telephone because he doesn't like using the telephone. and he thought it was such a critical document that he shouldn't send it by telegram either so he sent it by private courier and by the time this message reached berlin, let alone vienna, austria-hungary had declared war on serbia. by telegram in french. a language which the serbian prime minister did not know. he sent an urgent inquiry to petersburg asking about this strange telegram. please help me explain what this
stupid thing is because austria-hungary hasn't done anything yet. this is about as bad as you can get getting your carrots and sticks backwards. the war won't come for two weeks but the declaration is here now. why? the chief of staff doesn't want a declaration of war. japan didn't declare war on russia 1904 she just attacked. the balkan powers didn't declare war they just attacked. why are we shooting ourselves in the foot. i have a theory which i can't prove, berthold, foreign minister of austria-hungary everyone is bombarding him with what today would be kind of e-mails and text messages. in that day it was telegrams and a few phone calls. he was sick of hearing about it. and now, that he had declared war, he didn'td
the telephone. brilliant, stupid but also brilliant. next day, 29th of july. it's interesting that when things are beginning to get serious the germans, even though they're the ones who have been egging the austrians along with beginning to get cold feet. the kaiser gets cold feet, and he doesn't get cold feet quite soon enough on the 29th this is now a wednesday, at about 10:00 p.m., the british ambassador is called in by the german chancellor. by now he realizes war is possibly on the hoar susan so he wants to know what britain will do. he wants a pledge of neutrality. he's so desperate for british neutrality the day before he offered to give britain germany's high seas fleet as a gift. the kaiser didn't like the idea and neither did the naval minister. but he did offer this. that's how desperate he was. he now began doling out inside information. as kind of a diplomatic strip you know the british guy didn't realize he had a live one on his
hands. are you saying if there's a war will you invade holland? no, no, no, i can assure you of that. thank god he's thinking because in the original plan they were going to invade holland, too. but so then he gets to belgium and all they can do is hem and how about more or less well, i can assure you that so long as france doesn't violate belgium first we will respect belgian territorial integrity at the end of the war. oops. you have the deepest darkest secret of the german war plan revealed to the british. a few minutes later, a telegram tells him sir edward gray an opaque man at the best of the times has issued a warning of sorts, in his language of something to the effect of like if things do come to a pass on the continent, it will not do to stand aside and wait. which is about as close as he could possibly come to threatening that britain might join france and russia in war. he is so panicked by this he's gone into an uproar. he already hasn't been sleeping. his wife died in may.
the man is a miserable wreck. so he composes an urgent message to vienna. the night of wednesday, july 29th. now about 2:00 in the morning. saying that we refuse as we germans refuse to let ourselves be dragged wantonly and without regard to our advice into a world conflagration. he rescinded the blank check to austria. about ten hours too late because austria-hungary that afternoon had begun shelling belgrade. mostly ineffectually but there x you are. that same night, wednesday, july 29th, interesting barbara tuchman has this great scene in the guns of august, you know, the russians are just they're they're in a panic, what will france today? will you stand with us? they wake up the french in the middle of the night. oh, god damn these russians they're worse insomniacs than drinkers. great scene she puts it on friday, july 31st. happened on wednesday, july
29th. not friday july 31st. and here's why it happened. it happened because russia's ambassador to paris receives a telegram from russia's foreign minister, who had learned earlier that evening that austria-hungary had begun shelling belgrade. he then got the czar to sign the order for general mobilization on wednesday july 29th, he then sent off a telegram to paris saying in rather elliptical language due to germany's desire that we cease mobilizing we must now regard war as imminent and that is why on the same night that he was panicking and trying to rescind the blank check france and russia resolved on war. could it have been averted is the question? obviously the chancellor and kaiser would have had to have been more forthright sooner on. probably they should have called the military to account about this idiotic plan to invade france by way of belgium, which
was potentially a casus belli for the british. i think that's quite possibly true. still it is interesting, that the timing mattered greatly. it was not all written as lawrence would have put in lawrence of arabia. it was not necessarily in the cards. even to the last minute there were decisions to be made there were always alternatives. and i think i will stop there and open the floor for questions. >> sean could i start with a quick reference to the historic
russian interests and the protection of christians in the ottoman empire? >> sure. >> how serious is that notion? i think of it as going back to the 18th century as something very serious. how serious is it still in the early 20th century? >> it's quite serious. if you go back to the treaty of 1774, the first of the great russian turkish wars of modern times there had been a clause pertaining to the rights of christians or the rights of protection. the russians later misinterpreted this. in fact it referred literally in the document to the right to protect a certain church still to be built. in constantinople or istanbul. a church that was never built. this was effective the casus belli of the 1850s. if you fast forward to the 20th
century this is quite serious. among other questions it opened the question of crete and the kind of the powers decided that after this conflict they would send well they called them gendarmes, today we call them peacekeepers. they did the same thing in 1903. they were on the point of doing the same thing in 1914 in the eastern provinces of turkey known to western diplomats as the armenian provinces of eastern turkey. a reform plan was signed in february 1914, pursuant to the six eastern provinces. now with the russians had wanted was international gendarmes in eastern turkey, full recognition of some kind of autonomous status recognized as armenian provinces. they did not actually get it. the germans watered down many of these provisions. the germans kind of playing añ might say for the ottomans. but still the flag had been planted, so to speak. and so this was definitely at
issue. the way the ottomans are seeing this of course is you have trojan horses in both directions. potentially you have the greek, bulgarian minority in western turkey and the armenians in the east. it's a very explosive question and it does have a lot to do with the tensions. and that is how the story ends. the first world war doesn't really end in the treaty of lausanne. and of course we christians sent in the other direction. most were actually gone by then. then of course, armenians most of them of course were either expelled or deported or killed or murdered in 1915. although some of them actually did come back after the war. >> it's been fascinating listening to how the now that i'm beginning to actually change my mind that there were indeed junctures in which in many of
these interlocking alliances, and many of these situations, that indeed possibly war could have been averted? i never contemplated it until. now. but in a larger sense, what to you are some of the lessons should they, you know, stop to consider of politicians today, what could politicians today what lessons could they draw from some of the missteps, and steps not taken? >> well it's a great question. it's a difficult one to answer. i mean history never repeats itself. sometimes it rhymes. but i think we could sa>táuy say that there are perils in brinkmanship. i mean this is i suppose the most obvious conclusion. and maybe both in kind of the air of nuclear weapons and today there maybe is a greater cognizance of the risks of an
outright great power of war. something about how theorists are debating right now. the rise in china. if you read tragedy of great power politics he sees it as inevitable. i think he makes a very persuasive case. i don't necessarily agree with it simply because when i look at history, or even just recent history, i see how little we can actually foresee even the near future. to give an example of this. i've been giving these lectures all year. one of them i gave in australia and i still remember because it was in kuala lumpur i was on a malaysian airlines flight several days before the first of the two malaysian airlines went missing. i had no inkling that was about to happen obviously. so i'm sitting there in the lounge in kuala lumpur and the conference organizer in australia was asking me this kind of question. can you explain for our audience
some of the contemporary parallels, maybe this island dispute, the senkaku islands between china and japan, south china sea or this or that. it's interesting that in between getting this e-mail, and then actually sitting on the panel five days later, russia sent troops into the crimea. he hadn't even said anything about russia or ukraine or crimea in this e-mail about current events. which is to say if you're looking at the world in this period, sure if you were a diplomatic professional, you probably would have known something about the balkan wars and third balkan crisis. yes. you would have known something about those. but most people wouldn't have had the quaintest clue about it and they wouldn't have been talking about it. they would have been talking about what we usually talk about which is whatever we think is going on right now. but things can change on a dime. they can change very quickly. now that's not to say the mobilization plans and the alliances didn't matter. when people talk about the alliances they forget all kinds of things. italy is the great example. i was actually just looking at this map i think in the memorial, you know, across the way, about the powers, and they
left italy out of it because, of course, italy doesn't make sense. italy was on the central power side. they had a formal treaty of alliance of germany, austria and äc!;3ie9ñ not only did they not join them they went over t. other side. bulgaria was kind of listed on the central powers, with turkey, bulgaria had, in fact, fought turkey in both 1912 and 1913 and they more or less quarrelled at the end of the war. one of the little known aspects of the end of the first world war is that in some ways the decisive breakthrough actually mapped in macedonia. again to get back to this map you look at the military history of this thing it was a little bit accidental. they sent troops there because nothing was going on at hñ gallipoli. they were trying to impress the greeks into joining the war.
it didn't work. they had to send troops to greece and basically depose the king and put in a puppet government so that greece would join the war. then basically around september 1918 the bulgarians who have something like 200,000 troops pinning down you know defending all of central europe, against this allied expeditionary force in macedonia, they get screwed over by their allies, where they don't get the territory they thought had been promised to them. they get angry at the turks and the germans. and they more or less just give up the fight. and they don't surrender immediately. bulgaria is a little bit like in the second war, bulgaria, romania, to some extent bat for both teams. it was a bit like that with bull yeah in the first world war. when you really look at it you couldn't have predicted a lot of what happened. italy according to again the treaty of alliance a lot of diplomatic professionals knew she really wasn't very close to austria-hungary. but the outcomes that is whether or not they're preventable by some kind of, you know, some different vision of statesmanship the fact is we just don't know what's going to happen. i think the historians who treat all this as inevitable it's not really an accurate depiction of the events as they happened. it's an attempt to make sense of them later.
maybe we need to make sense of them or else we'd go mad. or maybe we need to make sense of them so that we can prevent it from happening again. but in fact the history is far more complicated. great question. >> my question follows similar in line with that. had an appeasement been made and this war avoided, given the history of the region, given the tensions among all the various players, particularly in the balkans, would there have been another war, maybe a shorter war? or would there have been continuous numerous other minor wars and not have the one great war?
>> maybe somewhere in between minor and major. i think there would have been a war between turkey and greece. that's how the first world war ended in 1922. essentially with the burning of smirna at the last expulsion of the greek armies. where they were expected to go in 1914. in some ways it was just an interregnum. that is to say, this is what was likely. a war here. the other war was in many ways becoming less likely in 1914. that it had been even several years previously. you know there had been a major war scare in 1912. war didn't happen then. you know in some ways if you look at kind of like the dynamics inside the great powers things were actually moving against greater tensions. i talked about britain and russia becoming more tense. british and german relations were improving. inside france, i mean there was a major political battle going on. and it's in part because of a sex scandal. i mean literally joseph kaio was supposed to take over as prime minister. he would end the war basically you know being strung up for treason because he was kind of the german's man in france. he would have become premier in may of 1914 except that his wife was on trial for murder.s
because she murdered a journalist who was printing various things. the trial was actually ongoing in july 1914. and that's what most of france was talking about. there's a likely scenario in french politics was kaio and possibly jarez were going to come to power and jettison the russian alliance because russia was seen as the most reactionary anti-labor country in europe not without good reason. the left hated russia in france. the left hated russia and france. he was being accused in a lot of the press of taking russian subsidies. there was a lot of heat in france. german planning i'm a particular expert on, but it was a bad scenario in 1914. it might have gotten even worse in the coming years and i think that's all true, but it might have gotten better for reasons that didn't come to pass. that is to say the germans could have easily fielded a larger peacetime arming and they weren't paying the money to do it. in part because the way i understand it, the generals
mistrusted raw recruits and didn't want too many socialists in the army and they were paying too much for the navy. but all the calculations are 19. that's not to say war might not have broken out. it might have. it might have broken out under different circumstances. it might have broken out between britain and russia. it's not unthinkable. >> could you talk a little bit about the popular reaction of austria, hungary, from the assassination? i think you said that franz joseph and his entourage weren't too sad. >> no. >> so can you -- what was the popular reaction? was there a big uprising? >> well, it's a very good question, in part because as you might expect, there's this huge popular fury against the serbs. that does come eventually. ferdinand wasn't particularly well loved. it was more like a parlor game,
whodunit thing first. through the bowl house plots, that is to say, the government, you know, is a little bit more like cold steel. that is to say, they were angry not because they liked franz ferdinand that much, but because they really didn't like the serbs. i mean, what really ratcheted things up a little bit later was partly that the serbian press was going gangbusters against the austrian hung arians. we shouldn'tjnc serbs. they just this year established a national hero. when the russian minister to belgrade went to the austrian legation a little late, to con dole the officials, he actually died about 10 or 15 minutes later, they accused the austrians of murdering him. him. in vienna, i think it's the viennaese in general were a little bit jaded.
it wasn't that you saw it so much in the society circles in vienna, but certainly in the serbs was strong. the drum beat was very strong. even the hungarian minister president who was initially quite cold to the idea of any punitive war on serbia, seems to be largely won over, i think, by partly the kind of craziness coming from theave belgrade newspapers. but also by the upsurge of, i think, anti-serb sentiment. the hungarians weren't following the serbs either. they thought they would just have more of them if they went to war with them. they had their own minority issues. they were not terribly nice to their own minorities, shall we say.l bñ even italians and other peoples that were part of the hungarian half of the monarchy. but yeah, it's hard to say there was a huge upsurge of
popularism. pause he wasn't really loved. soft s the kaiser, and people who respected him, but he certainly wasn't loved. he also didn't have particularly good artistic taste, but that's another matter. [ laughter ] >> especially in germany and england, was there a sizeable faction that was of the attitude of better now than later if we're going to fight the germans, try and do it before they've industrialized even more? or if you're the germans, let's try to do it before the russians become a moderate power? >> that's an interesting speculation. i certainly haven't seen any evidence of it. but you're right, there would have been a kind of logic to that. german power -- this is the thing, again, the usual kind of east, they see russia, russia's getting stronger by the year. this is/z.ç why we must strike .
and you do see that. that's quite clear. that's the way conrad talks in vienna. incidentally, tiza was saying, no, no, the central powers are getting stronger every year. not everyone agreed on this. on the british side, i think that part of what is so fascinating, it's so difficult to crack the nettle on the british side, is that so much of britain's actual foreign policy was being conducted in secret, despite the fact that it was theoretically, again, this very advanced kind of liberal empire. gray, with churchill in the cabinet, along with henry wilson among the generals, they're committed to this pseudoalliance with france. but it hasn't been cleared with the rest of the cabinet. they kept fudging things. when they made an agreement with france to split up naval coverage, france is supposed to cover the mediterranean, britain basically the channel, they had told the cabinet that this did
not commit britain and tie its hands in case of war. with the germans, they're definitely thinking that way. that's just the way people thought, kind of the general staff. to some extent, holtveg shared the concerns or the general view. he was a little less gung ho about it, because he had a very pessimistic nature. on the british side, i'm not sure anyone made that particular argument. that is to say, we have to go to war now as opposed to later. certainly there were people like krur chill and gregg who thought the german threat was serious and had to be dealt with. that'sb)(uup&ly a really good question. i'll have to think about that. >> why was serbia so important to russia? >> that's a goodb:ñ question. you'll really have to ask the imáárp's about that. i have a little bit of personal experience of this. i was actually in moscow during the kosovo war, 1999, after nato started bombi ining bellgrad.
i was in a bar. let's say some punches were thrown. and it didn't go particularly well. i remember hearing something about serbian blood brothers in kosovo. i guess part of it is at least some of these myth i cal ties of blood and religion. bulgaria was forged by a state with russian arms. in serbia, the independent serbia, which came out of the berlin of 1878, in that sense was also formed by russian arms, when russia invaded turkey in 1877. all that said, in the balkan wars, in belgrade, it was definitely -- to some extent he was conducting a rogue foreign policy. that is to say, sozonick was not onboard during the balkan wars.
hartfig gave the serbians a green light. in the second war when everyone ganged up on bulgaria, the russians left the bulgarians essentially out to dry. that's why they went the other way in the world war. i think it's mostly a matter of prestige. for the russians, you have here status as a great power or something. my own argument, which i make in the russian origins, that russia's real interests were here. the straits question was the real biting interest of russian foreign policy. that's why russia was in a panic in 1914 because they were about to float these dread knots. originally expected to arrive in march. they actually protested this with the british. they were quite livid about it. the british brushed themyf4 off. they said, well, we can't interfere with private business contracts. it's not our fault if whitfield
sells dreadknots to the russian army. serbia, it is curious, because serbia they understood that the russians weren't advocating for a larger serbia. they didn't want them to have access to the adriatic. a the kaiser actually took a pro-serb position. so it's a little bit confusing. in the end, i suppose the assassination in syria, and the wild card, we can't figure out for some reason, no one has really been interested in this half of the afis confession. everybody knows about the first half. in the second half of his confession, he said quite openly, that the russians gave him the green light and that they gave him money. may very well have been conducting a rogue foreign policy. there may have been no support from higher channels in st. petersburg. that was often true in this era, diplomats were on a longer leash
in this day. they were given more leeway in making policy. hartfig in the balkans, he literally made policy, and more or less created the first balkan war. that's a great question. frankly, i think in the end you'd have to ask the russians. because i just don't know. yeah? >> one more here. >> to continue in the same area that you're discussing, i would be interested to know, what's the end game of the assassination? was it to provoke war? was that the assassin's objective? >> if you're talking about prinsip, he's not very well traveled or well educated man. he washed out of military training, 20 years old, minor, not even eligible for the death penalty. probably he was something of a sacrificial lamb. there was this anarchist tradition where the act itself was the deed. the idea and the deed.
the assassination itself was the act. as far as his backers, you know, again, that's -- what's going on in belgrade, partly where i'm sympathetic to the dilemma of the prime minister, not necessarily afis, because passich his hands are really tied in the crisis. there is a political assassination in serbia. it's a rich tradition. what they're literally doing on 28th of june, they're reenacting of the battle of 1389, and extinguished as a nation, they were reenacting this with austrian hungarian costumes when the actual assassination happened. that's part of what was tying his hands. he spun the ultimatum that he made it sound like he was going to comply, mostly so they could
run political interference. in fact he knew he could not accept the ultimatum in its entirety. because he may well have been assassinated if he did so. so the serbs are in this -- i mean, the prime minister, he's in a real pickle. it's not an easy situation for him. after what afis wanted to achieve, you have to ask him. it's confession, he doesn't really talk about objectives very well. he talks about the thing itself. >> i trust you'll have a better time in norfolk this evening than in serbia years ago. we have eight minutes now. until the next presentation. thank you so much, sean mcmeekin. [ applause ] here on c-span3, we're featuring "american history tv" programming. we'd like to get your thoughts on our shows. e-mail us at american history firstname.lastname@example.org to leave your comments and suggestions.
we'd like to tell you about some of our other "american history tv" programs. join us us every saturday for "history bookshelf." writers of the decade talk about their books. "history bookshelf" every saturday 4:00 p.m. eastern here on "american history tv" on c-span3. here's a look at some of the programs you'll find christmas day on the c-span networks. holiday festivities start at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span with the lighting of the national christmas tree, followed by the white house christmas decorations with first lady michelle obama, and the lighting of the capitol christmas tree. after 12:30 p.m., celebrity activists talk about their causes. at 8:00, samuel alito, and former florida governor jeb bush. and venture into the art of good writing, with steve pinker.
at 12:30, see the feminist side of a superhero as jill la por seeks the history of wonder woman. pamela paul and others talk about their reading habits. on c-span3 at 8:00 a.m. eastern, the fall of the berlin wall witt c-span footage with president george bush and bob dole and ronald reagan. fashion choices and how they represented the styles of the times. at 10:00, former nbc news anchor tom brokaw on his more than 50 years of reporting on world events. that's this christmas day on the c-span networks. for a complete schedule go to c-span.org. "american history tv" visited the macarthur memorial in norfolk, virginia, which was hosting a symposium marking the