tv Europe Goes to War CSPAN November 10, 2013 2:00pm-3:01pm EST
hastings presents a history of the first year of world war i. next on book tv. the author examines the diplomatic failings that led to the onset of the war and recalls the early battles. this is about an hour. [applause] >> thanks so much for that. it's such a pleasure to be here at politics and prose. when i was talking to my wife about the program here, i said the great pleasure coming here, you guys read books and buy books. nothing every author loves more than that. every great historical event is shrouded in myths and legend. few more so than 1914, that summer whose brilliance mocked
mankind by providing the setting of the outbreak of the 20th 20th century's first huge calamity, what was then called the great war. those days aren't quite as distant as some suppose, when we remember that a few people still alive today lived through them. albeit as children. 2014 will mark the send ten -- centenary. i spend the past three years writing a book describing both how the war came about and what happened on the battlefields during it first months before the fronts lapsed into stalemate. that's a wildly held view, a delusion is a argue, that the two world wars belong to different moral order in 1939-45 was good war. 1914-18 was a bad one. the first complex was so horrendous that the merits of the two sides' causes scarcely
mounted. the british and american peoples have always had a vivid idea what they think happened in world war ii. until 1941, britain defied the vast evil of naziism alone. then russia and the united states took the strain, encompassing the destruction of hitler. the struggle was nothing as bloody as it predecessor so some people kid themselves because the allies had better generals that understood that our soldiers should not become futile sacrifices. but our ideas about the first world war are much cloudier and indeed thoroughly confused, even month educated people. few have much idea why europe exploded, to the they may know that a big wig with an extravagant mustache got shot in
sarajevo. some believe it was a gastly mistake and it's compounded be the brutish incompetence of military commanders. i characterize it as the poet's view, articulateed by robert graves amid the modern blood, they felt that no cause could be worth the slaughter. today, some british people, and maybe also some americans, feel almost embarrassed that we finished our form i winning side. but my own opinion is what different. while the war was a colassal tragedy there was a cause at stake. britain could not have remained neutral, while germany moved over the continent. neil ferguson wrote a few years ago that a german victory in world war i would simply have created something like european
union, half a century earlier. that we, the british, not to mention the united states, could have remained rich and unblooded bystanders. more serious stories, including some of the best german ones, see the 1914 kaiser reich as a -- military whose victory would have been a disaster. i suggest that western civilization has as much reason to be grateful that the german amibitions were frustrated, despite the appalling cost and even if the outcome of the first clash proved to have a tragic impermanentance because germany fought all over again a generation later, under hitler. i won't detail events in the summer of 1914 but offer a quick proceed. on the 2nd of june, ferdinand,
heir to the hungarian throne, was shot dead by a terrorist. the men in charge of austria felt no special sorrow for prince ferdinand. they say in the outrage an ideal pretext for settling accounts with serbia, a cronk cohn -- some army officers provided the weapons and perhaps also the elm tuesday for the assassination plot, although personally i think it's unlikely the belgrade government was involved. one aspect of 1914 seems to our generation incomprehensible. most european nations regarded war not as the supreme horror but as a usable instrument of politics. many interpretations of how the
conflict came about are possible. but the one that is untenable is that it was accidental. every government believe it acted rationally in pursuit of its national interests. austria decided in the first days of july to invade and then break up serbia. because everybody knew that russia regarded the slavic nation as under the czar's protection. vienna dispatched an envoy to berlin to assure german backing if the the russians interview. on the 6th effigial, kaiser will helm gave historians -- what historians call a blank check. a promise of military support for crushing serbia. this was incredibly reckless, some historians produced elaborate arguments to deflect blame from germany for what followed but it is induty
special. the kaiser unleashed a balkan war. some historians suggest the kaiser's ridgetime, intend to precipitate a general european conflict. i don't buy that in jewel 1914 i think the germans wantedded their us a trian ally to crush serbia without anybody else getting involved. they saw only a local war. but they were amazingly willing to accept the risk and the general european conflagration would follow. germany was not ruled -- as an -- in which the emperor postured and the generals planned for the premise that war served prussia well with three great victories over austria and
france and denmark. they also recognized that democracy, now threatened their control of their own country. it was a socialist majority in the german parliament which was opposed to militarism, and promised to end the kaiser's rule. more than a few politicians and soldiers believed a triumph abroad could halt the advance of the socialist tide. they also made a mistake typical of their age. they underestimated the dominance their country was achieving through its industrial prowess without firing a shot on any battlefield. germany was plowing ahead of britain, france, russia, by every economic indicator, but the keiser and his generals measured strength by counting soldiers. they were fixated by russia's
growing military might. they're calculatees showed that as earlas 1916 the russians would achieve a decisive advantage. it was this prospect that caused malta, germany's army's chief of staff to growl, war, and the sooner the better. in 1914, the germans were confident they could achieve victory over russia and its ally, france. they discounted britain, third party in the so-called -- because its army was tiny, and because the kaiser cleverly remarked, dread naughts have no wheels. the austrians, declared war on serbia on the 28th of july and started bombarding belgrade. the russians mobilized three days later. apologies for germany point out that the sr. others -- the czar's armies moved before the
germans. the russian government so no choice. the vast distanceses of their country meant it took longer for their forces to concentrate. there's an argument which some historian whom i respect advanced, which we should acknowledge, that the russians ought to have left the austrians to crush serbia, rather than widen the conflict, but i'm personally unpersuaded by it. a bizarre triumph overtook berlin's cardinals of power on the 31st of july, after the kaiser signed germany's mobilization order with his unfailing i. stinks for the wrong gesture, he ordered champagne to his suite. a general noted, everywhere beaming faces, people shaking hands in the corridors, congratulatings one another.
russia had acted in accordance with the avowed hopes of germany's military leadership. the kaiser's generals now expressed fears that france might decline to follow suit. will helm despised the french as a feminine race north manly like they anglosaxons. the french knew that the german war plan required a swift, smashing defeat of their own army before turning on russia. sure enough, berlin sent a message to paris saying that unless france surrendered its frontier forces to germany as a guarantee, it's neutrality would not be accepted. instead, inevitably the french mobilized. as for britain, even at this very late hour, most of its government and people opposed
involvement in europe's war. they had no sympathy for either serbia or russia. some instead had a real feeling towards germany and its culture. in july, old lady, the first duke of willington's great niece, told us -- echoed widespread sentiment. it's not the germans but the french that i'm frightened of. but then, suddenly, everything changed. germany bulb deader. -- blundered. the war plan demand an assault of france threwthrough belgium berlin, formally notified london of its intention to invade. malka was so sure that britain would enter the war that he decided that marching through belgium would change nothing. he could not have been more
wrong. that decision caused the british government to send an ultimatum to germany, committing the country to fight unless the invaders drew back, as of course they did not. on the 4th of august, britain was the last major european power to enter the struggle. it must be wrong to attribute exclusive responsibility for what happenin' 1914 to any one nation. but in considering what happened, i am drawn back again and again to the simple truth. scarcely any decent historian thinks the british, french, or russians wanted a european conflict. the mayor indians -- the germans, though they didn't want the big war they got, certainly willed a balkan won which they could have prevented at any moment by telling the austrians to stop and that's why they seem
the most blameworthy. what followed in the ensuing four years was so appalling for mankind that some people suggest that germany's triumph would have been a lesser evil. but the kaiser's record abroad was barberrous. berlin applauded after the event the 1904 to 07 genocide of the peoples of german southwest africa, an enormity beyond the scope of any british colonial misdeed and responsible for 100,000 deaths. though some german socialists denounce the slaughter, the kaiser deck rated the senior officers who carried it out during their german's 1914 invasion of belgium, their army committed systemic massacres of some 6,400 civilians, about which i'll speak later. a few historians argue that
britain could have stayed neutral in 1914. but the dominating instincts of germany's leadership would scarcely have been moderated by the victory on the continent but would have been the consequence of british neutrality. the kaiser's regime did not go war with a grand plan. on the 9th of september, 1914, when berlin saw victory looming, germany's chancellor drafted a shopping list. france was to surrender its entire deposits, the frontier region of ballfour, a -- the western slopes of the mountains. strategic fortresses would be demolished and huge repairations
made. belgium and hole loaned transformed into battle states. russian's borders shrunken. a vast colonial empire in africa together with a german economic unjob extending from scandanavia to turkey, and other leader proposed different demand, some even more draconian, took for granted they should not stop fighting until their nation should ensure victory over europe. had the kaiser reich vanquished its only important continental rivals it seems to me fansful to imagine its rulers were afterwards offered a generous -- or acquiesced in a global status quo dominated by british financial interests. machiavelli observe etched that wars begin when you will but do
not end when you please. could any responsible ally government between 1914 and '18 have groaned such a peace as germany south and such also it did impose on the russians after it secured victory over them in 1917. it remains very hard to see how allied statesmen could have distracted themselves once the battle began until there was a decision. the poets view the cause became meaningless has been allowed to distort modern perceptions. many veterans in their lifetimes deplored the notion that they spoke for their generation. one of this was an old british soldier named henry. he wrote in 1978, that he utterly rejected the notion that the war was one vast useless,
futile tragedy, worthy to remember only acknowledge a pitiable mistake. instead, he wrote, i and my like entered the war expecting a 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 our cause was right and we have not fought in vain. almost every sane competent recoiled from the miseries of the battlefield. didn't mean they thought their e their countries should acquiesce in the triumph of their enemy. it was written 30 years later the only way to end the war quickly was to lose it. it's a myth that europeans welcomed the outbreak in 1914. most were appalled. but some romantics and nationalists did enthuse, among
them an austrian house wife who wrote about the grand tour of the time. the superb spectacle of the world bursting into flames. elsewhere there was a terrible dismay, not only on the eastern side of the atlantic but an indiana newspaper wrote with a disdain widely shared across the american continent, we never appreciated so keenly as now the foresight exercised by our forefathers in emigrating from europe. raftlift. >> in one community of france, two police often carried the order to the church square at 4:30 on the afternoon of the 1st of august. immediately the local bell ringer summoned the population. the village teacher described the affect. it seemed that suddenly the old futile toxin had returned to haunt us. nobody spoke for a long while.
some were out of breath. others dumb with shock. many still carried pitchforks in their hands. when asked, what can it mean? what's going to happen to us. wives, children, husbands, all were overcome by anguish and emotion. the wives clung to the arms of their husbands. the childrens seeing their mothers weeping started to cry, too. most of the men resorted to the cafe to discuss the practical issue of how the harvest was to be got in. then the young and even the not so ongoing boarded their trains and went to join the armies. winston churchill wrote, after it was all over, no part of the great war compared in interest with its opening. the measured silent drawing together of gigantic forces, the uncertainty of their movements and positions, the number of unknown and unknowable facts, made the first collision a drama
never century -- surpassed. and when the slaughter was so swift for stakes so high. moreover in the beginning, our faculties over wonder, horror, and excitement, have not been cauterized and deadened by the furnace fires of years. all this was so, though few of churchill's fellow participants regarded those vast events with such eager appetite. many british people were at first uncertain whether they had entered the war on the right side, but opinions hardened when reports emerged about the conduct of the german invaders of belgium. some of the stories were fictions-of maimed babies, clear propaganda. but the most modern scholarly research shows that beyond burning a town, self 0 ooh towns
and villages, the germans shot in cold blood some 6,400 perfectly innocent belgium and french civilians of all ages and both sexes. one among many germans, an officer named count kessler, wrote on the 27th of august, thin lab tenants attacked our pier ins billing a bridge, killing to 20 of them, as a punishment 200 it? s were court-martials and shot. the executions were cold fact. it's unnecessary to persist in detailing such episoded. the latest research catalogues 129 major atrocities during the first week of the war, 6,427 civilians were known to have been deliberately killed by the german army during the 1914 operation. witswhile it's mistaken to compare the kaiser's regime to
that of the nazi, its conflict 1914 scarcely assaults its victory would have been a triumph for european civilization. as for the way the war was fought, once it began, almost every modern scholar agrees that it's an illusion to imagine it was every an easy path towards winning it, even had commanders of napoleonic gifts led the army. in any struggle between great 20th century industrial nations, an enormous amount of dying and killing had to happen before one side or the other prevailed. one distinguished the second world war from the first was not that the allies had better or more humane commanders in the later conflict, but that between 1941 and 1945, the russians accepted almost all the sacrifice necessary to beat the nazis. 27 million dead. and responsible for 92% of the german army's total war loss.
it didn't seem so to those around at the time, the western allies paid only a small fraction of the blood price of winning world war ii. by contrast, in 1914-18, the british and french peoples paid a much heavier forfeit, double that of 1939-1945, for us. more treble for france. in the early weeks of the first war, battles were fought utterly unlike those that came later, and indeed more like the clash of napoleon's era than of the 20th century. every nation lost almost immediate offensives except the british whose little ex-bed dictionary force was in transit win the armies of france first crashed with germany. the most costly day was the 22nd of august, when the french lost 27,000 dead.
many people associate 1914-18 were trenches, war, and tin hats. yet the early battles were not remotely like that in 1914, france's army advanced to the take across virgin countryside, wearing red terrorists and blue overcoats led by bands playing, and flags flying, and wearing white gloves and waving swords. in one clash, on the morning of the 22nd of august in thick fog, french columns march north through a village just inside belgium. cavalry trotting ahead, approached a farm atop a steep hill amid heavy enemy fire. a day of chaos and blood followed. the germans started to advance,
ordering the officers to identify themselves in the merck murk by singing national songs, and suddenly, dramatically, the mist lifted. the french infantry, cavalry, artillery batteries were exposed in fuel view of german gunners on the hilltop. a slaughter followed. the infantry tried to move uphill. french service regulation assume nat 20 seconds attackers could run 50 yards before an enemy could reload his rifle. they were wrong. a survivor observed bitterly, the people who wrote those regulations had simply forgotten the existence of such things as machine guns. we could distinctly hear two of those coffee grinders at work. everytime our men got up to advance the line got thinner. finally our captain gave the order, fix bay onets and charge.
our men's in full kits started running up the slope, drums beating, bugles sounding the charge we were all shot down. i was hit later and until i was picked up later. that evening, a survivor, stunned by his experiences, stood motionless, muttering again and again, monda, monda. further north on the same dreadful 22nd of august, another french force advanced up a forrest road in the arden. france always planned to exploit to make good at shortage of white manpower against germany. in 1910, a general wrote a deplorable book entitled, in which he said about france's black soldiers, in future
battles these primitives for whom life cares so little and whose young blood flows so ardently is eager to be shed, will attain the old french fury. now war had coming algerians and such like were indeed held foremost into the flame. by 1918, france's african troops suffered a death rate shockingly higher than that of their white comrades because they were so often selected for suicidal tasks. one of the first in the third colonial infantry division on the 22nd of august. its unit through the village and then suffered narrow road into a for- -- the french had know
german troops unleashed a torment of fire which within minutes shattered the formation. trapped on the narrow track. horses, men, carts, guns, milling chaos, until the lucky ones contrived to surrender. the division in an an hour and a half lost 10,000 rank, including 3,800 made prisoners. in 1918, a memorial was erected on the site and the father of one of the dead, an officer, the grieving parent in the forgave him because he had responded to his son's prewar sowing of wild oats by insisting he should join the army to sort him out in such a fashion in a dozen battles along the frontiers of france, did 20,000 young frenchmen perish on the 22nd of august without gaining a yard of
ground. one general wrote to the commander in chief, on the whole, results hardly satisfactory. next day, the british endured their own first action on the canal just inside belgium. they fought gallantly enough but heavily outnumbered, no choice but to retreat that night. three days later, they staged another rear-guard action which resembled the battle of the napoleonic war. nobody had trenches. the germans advanced across corn fields against british infantry and artillery deployed in full view to meet them. the slaughter was nothing like as severe as the french faced but british losses were as heavy as they suffered a war later on the 6th of june 1944, d-day and normandy, and germans found when they did the attacking, they suffered just as heavily as their enemies.
then the british and french alike found themselves retreating, retreating, southwards across france, towards paris, under a blazing sun and occasional thunderstorms in the face of apparently invincible german masses. the last days of august seemed overwhelmingly likely not least of the kaiser and its generals that germany was on the brink. it wasn't easy for the ally armies to hold together amid a retreat that threatened to become a rout. desertions became a big problem. on the evening -- a man was wrote, i was shocked to find that two bat tallons and british infantry lying exhausted, waiting too be taken prisoner by the germans. incredibly the leaders had given the town's mayor a written surrender to be given to the
enemy to spare the town. this paper was retrieved and somehow herded the infantrymen back on to their retreat and rejoin the army. three weeks later they colonels were cashiered for, quote, conduct unbecoming officers and gentlemen. one of them, john elkington, age 49, responded by enlisting as a private in the french foreign legion with which he lost a leg and won an award. after the war king george line recognized his gal -- gallant tri. but the colonel lived out the rest of his life as a recluse, refusing to ever way his medal. humble soldiers who cracked suffered even harsher fates. the british and french resorted to drastic sanctions against
though who decided it was too much for them. one such was private thomas highgate from the royal west kemp. on the afternoon of the sixth of september, the day the french launched a massive counteroffensive which drove back the germans from the gatess of pear an english gamekeeper surprised highgate in the shed. the soldier made a personal decision that the glories were not for him and was wearing stolen civilian clothes which damned hilt. highgate was shot by firing squad on the 8th of september, ceremony watched by two companies of comrades following an order from the commander. that over said he wanted the execution to have the maximum deterrent effect and specified that highgate should be killed, quote, as publicly as possible, and so he was. today, such punishments are thought to have been barbaric,
and victims received posthumous pardons from the british government to me this is a touch of moral conceit to pretend we can retrospectively impose on our forefathers the hugh -- humane values of the 21 independent -- 21st century. what is forgotten is that men run away in wars deserve our sympathy and also put at risk a host of their mates who must do double duty and often make double sacrifice to compensate for those who flinch. i won't be so cruel as to say that thomas highgate and his kin deserved their fate but i will say if i'd been the commander in that distant era, i might have thought about making the same decision on the 8th of september, 1914. if soldiers are to believe it was an acceptable way to get out of that gastly clash of arms,
who would not have taken it? the predicament of women in the early months of the war they're war was grotesquely constricted. some female patriots decided it was insufficient young many were volunteering for military service, women could do their bet by shaming them into it. a young man was playing golf with a friend and just congratulating himself on a fine tee shot when two girls came out of the nearby clubhouse and one said sharply, that was a good shot, wasn't it? i hope you will be making gas a shot against the germans before presenting both over them will white feathers. the players then identified themselves as officers in the london rifle brigade on embark indication leave. he said the young females were crest fallen and made excuses. many women across europe felt a
profound sense of frustration they're own contribution to the war effort was initially confined to knitting for the troops. the fruits of their labors were sometimes cynically received. a corporal catalogud a con -- don sign signment and reached ice unit. warm underwear, neilly embroideres gloved, mittens to fit baby elephants, knee pads for storks. corp he was greatful but said he would have preferred cigarettes. that genteel british magazine "the lady" strove to help women address unexpected social problems. in it's daily difficulty column, it raised the dilemma facing a cat-owning woman who takes care of a dog. when the dog starts killing cats what should she. she had responsibility 'oensure the dog
was properly quarted but might seek another home for it. i have ended my narrative in 1914 with a story of the first battle in october and november. and western corner of belgium, the french and british held the line against huge and apparently endless german attacks. the cost of leaving most of their men, the old sweats of britain's professional army to repose forever in cemeteries. the allied victory, for victory it was, frustrated the germans' last attempt to achieve a war-winning breakthrough in the west in 1914. it was purchased at such cost and n suffering and sacrifice that nobody felt like celebrating. it was the first true trench battle of the war. fought amid mud and blood and sometimes' waist-high water. those who took part thought it impossible to imagine that such a struggle could continue for
many more weeks. for less for four years. we're today sometimes tempted to look upon those words, rest in peace, carved on so many gravestones, as mere cliche. yet to those who experienced the battle, of all the gastly battle that follows, those words have a real and profound meaning. an officer wrote about a friend and comrade killed in november. when i think of poor bernard's utter weariness -- i left him in his trench and wished i could take his place he was so don. he is now at peace, away from the noise and misery. it must be terrible for his wife, it can't be bad for him. it must comfort her to know he can rest at last. words of that sort had a profound meaning for millions of men, who experienced the horrors
of -- the first world war was an unspeak catastrophe of europe. in the summer of 1918 the allies, now including the united states, belated he achieved a great victory on the western front which led to the armistice germ enough was obliged to accept in november. no sane person could suggest that next year, 2014, should become an occasion for celebration of the conflict or indeed of that victory. but i should like to hope that our respective societies can break free from the weary sterile futility cliches that if allied victory led to a most imperfect peace as do most conflicts next argumentses for welcoming the outcome of the first world war is to consider
the alternative consequences of a german victory. 1914, germany, as ruled by the kaiser and his generals and ministers, represented a force who had to be frustrated. all deathness all wars are caution for lamentation, but the only -- the mayoran military dictatorship prevailed, whose arbitration of europe would have been vastly more draconian than the admittedly flawed treaty signed at versailles in june, 1919. thank you very much. [applause] >> i'm very happy to take some questions. have we got roving mics or what's the story?
don't worry. immutably deaf so if you shot like mad. >> in your talk, you made the observation that inex-orallable, inevitable expansion into global war could have been stopped by germany saying to astoria, forget it. don't worry about it. and d could you elaborates on that? what was the relationship between germany and austria. >> germany was the senior partner. >> what -- >> no possibility, -- that's why the austrians sent representatives from vienna to berlin to make sure they had german support before they attacked serbia. they were terrified of the russians coming against them. there was one moment on the 28th of july when the keiser and his chancellor suddenly did have a crisis of nerve about what they were gifting into. and they cabled vienna,
suggesting vienna should think about stopping. but on that same day, the head of the german army who was running things, sent another cable to vienna. telling the austrians to hurry up and get on with invading serbia, which provoked the austrian ambassador to sigh who rules in berlin, and the answer was malka. [inaudible] [inaudible question] >> air power became much more important later in the war, especially for directing artillery fire in 1914 its key importance was reconnaissance. you couldn't sneak up on an army
from behind and hope not to be noticed. when commanders used the air craft right they were hugely important. for instance, aircraft showed they were getting themselves in a mess an the germans approached. on the other hand, when then julian army was approaching the first british battle of the war, and the pilot went to the british commander, and told him that he had seen these masses of germans coming down, that french simply disbelieved the pilots and started quizzing about how he made his airplane work, and it all depended -- they were all learning in 1914 how to use air craft. but they war hugely important in making it far, far more difficult. in these -- on the eastern front, the russians and the germans and us a tran -- austrians were able to get away with more because the distances
were huge. but air craft were transformational. yes? >> you said early about the germans used belgium as a gateway to go to paris, but you also said very early that they positioned a central african -- and could it be that they went after belgium's african -- >> they were mostly everybody the french colonies. i think i've simply forgotten whether or not they intended to incorporate the belgium congo. i think it's hype highly unlikely. it's was at the french colonies they had their eyes on. yes. >> i recently finished reading sleepwalkers. and -- culpability -- >> i can -- the first thing to be said about 1914, the evidence
is so confusing and contradictory that you can use it to advance a range of theories. and one thing i would always say myself about this, i have a take on this, which is different from christopher clark. but i'm not going stand here and say, oh, i think christopher clark's completely wrong, because it's possible that -- what i do think christopher clark goes too far. he argued in his extremely well-written book last year that, arm, serbia was effectively a rogue state and arizona that the russians were come miss sit in the assassination -- complicit in the assassination plot. >> you in your -- [inaudible] >> the fir draft of my book, i would show it to the british historian i regard as the most
distinguished living historian. he said when he read the first draft of the book, he said you're not writing book reviews of everyone else's book and persuaded me i cut out all direct reverends to chris clark or the rest of them because in the end, all one can do it offer one0s own take. the sort-thing that makes things difficult for historians is that, for instance, we know that whereas in 19 45, after the allied victory, there were the allies in berlin, or -- and the americans were able to ship off to washington. most of the german archives. by contrast, 1918, the germans were still running things in berlin and soon as the question of war became an issue, we know that the germans had a terrific bonfire of documents which might conceivably have been -- but the problem for historians is we
know there was a bonfire but we don't know exactly what was burned, and so you can -- you always weighing probabilities, and i need to give you one more example about this. chris clark thought that the belgrade government, serbian government, was complicit in the plot to kill ferdinand. no evidence of that. matter of common sense i say to myself, since the army officer who was behind the plot had tried to seriously consider assassinating the serbian prime minister a few months earlier, i'm not persuade the civilian government was on good terms and collaborated in a plot, and by the same token, the suggestion that the russians -- when you consider again as a matter of common sense could the russians have wanted a war in 1914? the russians were in the midst
of a huge rearmament program. they were building railways like crazy. if they waited until 1916 vis-a-vis germany it would have been stronger than not 1914, so as a matter of common sense is it likely the russians secretly wanted a war in '14 but fun of this is susceptible to objective proof. all i can say is in the case of all view, you place your money and you takes your choice. towards the back there. >> could -- could you say a word about trench warfare, and was it true that the chinese people played a role in the workers digging the trenches? >> trenches only -- from the autumn, everybody literally disappeared into the earth.
in sort of october, november, 1914, and they stayed invisiblement from october, november, on wards. it was almost inpossible for a man to raise his head above the edge without getting shot. these huge battles in which the french lotter a quarter million casualties, everybody was visible. just like then 19th century, and whereas from then on, suddenly everybody burrows into the earth and you look on the battlefield and it appears to be empty and nobody appears except during the attack. and the other thing they all discovered, was that almost all serious fighting from november onward took place in the northern section, northern france and belgium, because anywhere south the ground was not favorable for attacks, and
they had little attacks. but not until 1916 did you get big action further south when the germans made this terrific push. >> we could manage two or three more questions. >> the decision to go through belgium, wasn't that based on the plan -- >> the plan -- i personal he argued in my book that he was a fantyist and a lot of germans went on arguing after the war that if only he had executed the plan properly, which included a huge sweep to envelope the french, they could have wouldn't. the big problem was that this was still an age when,ey, there were primitive motor cars but these armies had to march on their feet and the hoofs of their horses and to take them 400 miles across france, 3 million men, it was fantastic -- it was beyond -- of
course, -- by the beginning of september, it was taking 20 hours to find out where some of these force hats go to. i think the german view right up into the 1930s and after it was only the loss of nerve that stopped the concept -- the plan was never detailed. that i think this idea that it was lack of execution, i think the plan exercised the disastrous influence on german policy. he convinced the kaiser and a lot of other people who -- that it was possible for germany to wage a victorious war, and if had not hat that delusion, many things were possible. >> made the point early on that the germans looked forward to the war because the socialists were gaining power. the same argument about england
and france, russia, domestic issues rising that made them more eager to go to war -- other. >> i'm not trying to -- i'm trying to sell you a book but i have gone into this in considerable detail in the book. certainly in the case of the british, the british were overwhelmingly preoccupied with their own domestic crisis and it's very striking that when the times on the 26th of july about the king and the crisis, they war not talking about the european crisis. they war talking about the ulster crisis, and one problem, don't actually think the british were ever the british -- whatever the british had done was going to influence what happened on the continent at that stage. but certainly the british government was not paying proper attention to what was unfolding in europe-because it was totally preoccupied -- not only had the irish crisis on its handwhich genuinery threatened a civil war, but also had huge industrial labor problems with
widespread strikes and many people really thought england was on the verge of revolution, and again, michael howard, my hero, he always says, we must always remember there was a time when events now in the past were still in the future. and the fact that -- and although we know now that there was not a civil war over ireland, seemed to the british people of that time a real prospect it would happen. >> i wonder if you can -- [inaudible] -- the mentality of the people that surrendered -- >> outside the scope of my book. the stab in the back for those who don't know was the idea that germans advanced after the war that german soldiers -- that germany could have won if it hadn't been for wicked ol' politics who staged a revolution in germany and signed the
surrender. the army was fought to standstill and nobody was in the mood to celebrate. the german army was beaten. but part of the trouble is, that brilliant war correspondent allen morehead wrote about germany in 1945. he said he found in germany no great sense of guilt but a huge sense of defeat because the country had been flattened, most live by bombing. that was not true in 1918. this was part of the trouble. germany was almost unscarred, untorch touched by the war. i'm not a here making the argument they should have flat 'ed germany but it made a difference in german attitude it was hard to believe they suffered total defeat in the war when -- in 19 45, kid yourself how you will, they knew they'd lost. i think one more.
over there. earlier question, you -- [inaudible] -- apprehension about the rise of -- [inaudible] [inaudible question] >> the only country in which i think one can say fairly confidently, because the evidence is there, that a good many german army officers and some conservative politicians did put it on record that they thought that they could push back the socialist tied.
germany had the largest socialist party in europe in 1914. it's more difficult to quantify. i don't think for a moment -- never heard anybody suggest who the british may have been in many respects in 1914. i think everyone suggests they thought the war was a good means of sorting out the left. on the other hand, what is amazing is that several senior politicians in britain did say publicly -- and i again quote it in the book -- that at least the european war was going to take everybody's minds off the prospect of civil war in ireland, which in hindsight is a fantastic thing to say. but they said it in russia, by contrast, nobody thought the czar -- the reason the czar was reluctant to get into the war, there was aim led revolution in russia. he was terrified that it would be the end of the family. on the other hand the austrians were very strongly motivated by
a belief that a small war in the balkans -- they did not want a big war but willed a small war in the balkans because they thought could solve their problems. i have to say one has learned -- those of you who don't know too much about 1914, will begin to get the message that i attended an academic conference and i heard a german historian say the crisis in 1914 was the most come flex series of eventsness the human history. i have learned nothing in the last three years to suggest he was wrong. thank you all so much for coming. [applause]
and what we fought a revolution aboutment the fourth amendment was a big deal. the principle was a big deal for the founders and those who rebelled against the king because they didn't want their homes and their papers searched without a proper warrant, and yet today that's irrelevant. so, if you can do that, because they sense the people are frightened and that of course is when people are more likely to give up their liberties, that's exactly what they did. those individuals who wanted to do this anyway saw this as an opportunity. if you read carefully, i could show you some documentation and quotes and even used them on the house floor, people actually saying that opportunities like this are beneficial, and we have to use them. we lad some pretty good evidence that peel right -- people right after 9/11 expressed a little cheer not because they indoorsed
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