Professor John Merriman: Let's go.
Oh, Charles rocks. Wasn't that good the other day,
Charles Keith, you liked that lecture?
He's excellent. He did a seminar on imperialism
last year, which was very good. Before I start I just wanted
to--just to give you a visual idea of the new imperialism,
that is the period he was talking about,
from the mid 1880s, let's say 1884,
1885 to 1914. So, what to focus on is
just--when you're looking at this thing, is there's Africa.
So, you got a few little splotches, and there weren't
even maps of much of the internal part of Africa.
So, that's 1880. And now look at this.
That's 1914. So, something just happened in
between which is that the scramble for colonies has
literally eaten up the entire continent,
and the places that Charles was talking about was obviously West
Africa, basically, here West Africa,
and now Mali, and Senegal,
and Algeria, obviously Morocco,
and Tunisia, and that sort of thing.
And then the rest you just see. But it's an extraordinary
contrast in there. And there's Fashoda which is
where the two expeditionary forces stumble into each other,
and there's a thought of war, and they settle it there with a
few drinks, but then the foreign ministers go wild and it's all
that. So, just to remind you of the
context. So, that's what I'm going to
talk about today. I don't know if you're
recording yet but we can--yes, okay, allez.
So, just to put this in context of the diplomatic origins of
World War One, because the traditional image
of all this isn't a bad one. It's the entangling alliances
that create this kind of house of cards that when war first
breaks out, or for that matter when the
Russian Empire declares mobilization of its armies,
that the house of cards will collapse and the great powers,
minus Italy which will wait for the highest bidder in 1915,
go to war. So, how does this all happen;
briefly, in forty-five minutes, how does this happen?
And towards the end of the hour, towards the end of the
forty-five minutes I'll talk a little bit about one specific
affair that kind of demonstrates the intensity of what had
happened, and the shift away from England
being perceived as arguably France's greatest enemy,
despite Alsace-Lorraine, to that of Germany,
and that's the Saverne Affair, Saverne, s-a-v-e-r-n-e or,
in German, Zabern, z-a-b-e-r-n.
But, of course lots of the diplomatic history of this
period at first revolves around the enmity between France and
Germany and specifically, as you've heard over and over
again, Alsace-Lorraine. And one can debate,
as historians have, to what extent revenge
permeated the ranks of French society,
thoughts of taking back Alsace-Lorraine through the
whole period. And, as I said a few minutes
ago, if you'd asked people in the 1890s who France would go to
war against, if they had polls in those
days, most people would've said Britain--more about that in
awhile. But it was always there,
it was always there for Otto von Bismarck as he's trying to
assure that if Germany does go to war it won't have to fight
his worst nightmare, that is a war on two fronts;
and that's exactly what happens when the French and the Russians
get together. And, so, that's a major issue
in Western Europe--is obviously the relationship between these
folks and Alsace, and the parts of Lorraine that
had been annexed into the German Empire;
annexed rather uncomfortably, as we'll see in awhile.
And the other--I just have to dodge these peripherally,
but it's important to at least, and I'm sure you know about
them anyway--but the other thing that it's going to hinge on is
really the hatred between Russia and Austria-Hungary,
and the fact that the Russians see themselves as the protector
of the Slavic peoples, in the Balkans,
and the fact that the Austro-Hungarian Empire is a
polyglot empire, that is you've got at least,
depending how you count them, fifteen major nationalities
within the Empire, and that although German is the
language of the Empire that Austria-Hungary,
these ethnic minorities and their claims for national
independence exist as a perpetual destabilizing factor
in Austria-Hungarian politics, particularly when Russia,
which has always dreamt of Constantinople and controlling
the access to the Black Sea, is fanning the flames of
nationalism, of pan-Slavism, but also of nationalism within
these various states, which destabilizes,
potentially, the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
And the Austro-Hungarian Empire became the dual monarchy,
before this course starts, but in 1867.
It's run out of Vienna, which is that city which is
left by the Treaty of Versailles and the other treaties after
World War One, is this enormous capital of a
tiny country, when the Empire disappears.
But that is rushing the story, rushing to the end of the
story. But by 1900 Russia is fanning
the flames of pan-Slav fervor in the mountainous territories of
Bosnia-Herzegovina, which include,
as you know, from the tragedies of the
ethnic cleansing of the 1990s, Serbs, Muslims,
and Catholic Croats. Now, the alliance system of the
late nineteenth century, which in its own way helps--is
one of the causes of World War One--there are others,
too, that I'll discuss in awhile--but it hinges on German
and French antagonism, and it hinges on the competing
interests of Austro-Hungary and Russia in the Balkans,
and--here I'm summarizing--Germany's fear of
being attacked from both east and west by Russia and France.
So, at the beginning you've got--those are three--there are
five big powers, and Bismarck once said,
and uses a French phrase, which is interesting,
because French was always the language of diplomacy,
he says the most important thing is to be "à
trios," to be three. If there are five you want to
be three. But what you have basically is
two potential free agents, free agents with a big appetite
but very bad teeth, as some wag once put it--Italy,
here, which would go to the highest bidder in 1915,
and Great Britain. Now, Great Britain,
it's not a natural given that Great Britain was going to ally
with France, its great enemy for centuries,
or ally with Russia, because Britain and Russia have
been fighting for a very long time what some,
another wag once called the Great Game, which is for control
along places we hear much about these days such as Northern
India, Pakistan, all the way along
into South Asia. So, they are rivals for
influence in all sorts of different parts of this huge
mass of Asia, in the largest sense of the
word. So, one thing you have to ask,
if you're just thinking about it from the point of France,
is how does it happen that in 1914 that France finds itself
allied with Great Britain and with Great Britain's sometimes
enemy, that is Russia.
And also from the point of view, if you were a French
Republican or you were a French socialist who's a believer in
the Republic, and most of them were,
how do you explain how a Republican state is allied with
the czar, a czarist regime,
an autocracy, repressor of all of the peoples
and among other things orchestrator,
encourager, facilitator, enabler of vicious pogroms
against the Jews? So, how this happens is
extremely interesting and it means that these powers are on
the search for allies who are going to give them an advantage
should Europe go to war. Now, later on I will make the
case, and it's an obvious one to make, is that most people who
followed such things expected a war in their lifetimes.
There had not been a major, major conflagration since
Waterloo, basically. You had wars,
you had fighting after the 1848 revolutions, the intervention of
the Russian army, you have the Crimean War,
off in Crimea appropriately enough, 1853,1856.
You have Prussia fighting Austria in 1866.
You have the Franco-Prussian war, as you know,
in 1870/71. But basically this period is
sometimes referred to in textbooks-- I don't know if in
mine it is or not--but as the Pax Britannica because
England rules the waves, et cetera, et cetera.
But most people thought there would be a war in their
lifetime, because of these antagonisms.
More than that, many people,
how many it's difficult to say, wanted a war--more about that
later. They expected a war but nobody
expected a war that would carry away four empires and millions
of lives, and would last way over four
years, and would, as I've said before,
unleash the demons of the twentieth century.
So, in 1879 Bismarck forges the cornerstone alliance between
Germany and Austria-Hungary. And it's predicated on German
support for Austria, Hungary, and Hungarian
resistance against Russia's activities in the Balkans.
And, so, that's a key alliance. And one of the continuities of
this entire period, from 1879 to 1914,
is this alliance, which will become more
formalized later. And this explains why it was in
July of 1914 the Germans give the famous blank check,
and that's a good way of putting it, a blank check to
Austria-Hungary after the assassination of the Archduke
Francis-Ferdinand in Sarajevo, on the 28th of June, 1914.
And they say, "you can do whatever you want
to Serbia and we will back you all the way";
and back you all the way, that's a big statement because
that means we will back you even if it involves eventually going
to war with these guys, with the Russian army,
the Russian masses, the Russian nationality.
And nobody really knew; the Russian army had been
defeated, and navy as well, humiliated by the Japanese in
the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and 1905.
So, nobody really knows what this is going to be like but
they all know it's going to take two weeks for Russia to mobilize
its armies. How do you get all these people
from here to there? You got one railroad line
running--which would cost them in 1904/1905,
running to Vladivostok, the port on the Pacific Ocean;
or I don't know if it's on the Yellow Sea or the Pacific Ocean,
but it's way, way far away.
I've never been to Vladivostok. But anyway this is the key,
the first chip, or the first part,
or the first block of this alliance, and it's 1879.
Now, a year later Italy allies itself also with Austro-Hungary
and with Germany but there are all sorts of what-if,
what-if, but-if, but-ifs attached to that
alliance and Italy basically is a freelance,
a loose cannon, during the entire period.
Now, the last thing that Bismarck wants--and remember
Bismarck's out of there; you may not know this,
but he's out of there in about 1894, isn't that--?
He dies, I think in 1894, if I remember right.
So, he's not around. But his nightmare is Germany
being encircled. And the last thing that he
wanted to see happen in his lifetime or in the lifetimes of
his somewhat hapless successors--at the very end the
man with so much authority over foreign policy is this
lugubrious, sad man called Bethmann
Hollweg, whose name you can forget, who was convinced--he
once tells his son, "don't plant a lot of trees on
our estates because the Russians eventually will come and take
these estates and they won't do any good."
And he had this sort of fatalism that he was convinced
that there would have to be a war,
and he once says that necessity--a chilling phrase
that is echoed in our own time, indeed in own country
sometimes--"necessity knows no law."
But, anyway, all of the successors of
Bismarck, the last thing they want to do is to see France ally
with these guys here. Now how does that happen?
If you go to Paris and you go to one of the more beautiful
bridges in Paris, from the end of the nineteenth
century, is the Pont Alexandre III, the Bridge of Alexander
III, which is sort of beautiful;
it has art nouveau touches. And here was this odd scene of
the czar, repressor of all the peoples, showing up and having
to teach the French Marine Band how to play the theme song of
the Czar, whatever that is,
and the Russian Military Band learning the Marseillaise;
how incongruous since the last thing that the Russian Czar
would ever contemplate was the kind of government that France
has. How does that happen?
That is really extraordinary. Well, it has to do with fear of
Germany, but there are other things that I should mention
just briefly that drive these two improbable powers together
and-- besides the cultural factor,
because lots of people, lots of the Russian elite,
some spoke German, depending on where they live.
In Konigsburg and places like that they spoke German.
But lots of them spoke French and you had these sort of
cultural ties. My mother, who grew up in
Battle Creek, Michigan, of all places,
Kellogg's of Battle Creek, she was taught French,
though not very well, by a Russian--a member of the
Russian Royal Family who--all these people when they--and they
have to go after the Russian, the Bolshevik Revolution,
they come to the United States and lots of them (I have a
student working on this now)--and of being taxi drivers
in Paris, and some of them come to the
United States, and the more well-heeled ones,
some are getting jobs teaching French.
But that enough is the old cultural connection,
it isn't all that important, and that's not going to drive
them together at all. But there are other forces
besides after 1879 a potential common enemy,
particularly this one. And one of them is economic
investment, is that one of those things I mentioned before about
French investors is that those with capital to invest are
frequently investing outside of France,
and they invest heavily in Russia.
There is still some suit somewhere in which some French
company is trying to get from the Russia of Putin money back
lost in 1917. It is still going on.
And, so, lots of money was invested in Russia,
particularly in Russian railroads;
they invest in Spanish railroads, and in Italian
railroads, and in other things as well.
But there is this conduit; and money has a big influence
in diplomatic matters, and if you're trying to explain
why it is that the French ambassador,
a totally forgettable guy called Maurice
Paléologue, is chasing around in the garden
representatives of the czar, trying to firm up the details
that Russia will, if France is invaded by
Germany, move its armies in this
direction and attack Russia--you have to go back to that
fundamental fact; it is that these economic ties
help solidify the sort of great power arrangements that are
being made. And, so, in 1889,
the year of the centenary of the French Revolution,
here is the Czar of Russia showing up in Paris and being
welcomed enthusiastically. And of course the socialists
don't like it all because of--and this wasn't even--this
was before the pogrom in 1905 in,
particularly in Crimea but in other places as well.
And, so, in 1892 France and Russia sign a military treaty by
which each pledge a military response if the other were
attacked by Germany or by one or more of its allies.
And there's a formal alliance in 1894.
Now, formal alliances are not published in Figaro or in
Le Temps, in newspapers;
but, everybody knows the rough outlines of this,
everybody knows. Nobody has any illusions,
in London, in Vienna, in Berlin about what this
treaty means. And what this does is it ends
what Bismarck had intended, the diplomatic isolation of
France, and now these guys are surrounded.
Now, how did Britain get into this?
Briefly, well Britain gets into this in the following way,
that Germany basically becomes a much bigger economic rival
than anyone else, that the German economy,
particularly industrial economy, grows rapidly.
They, virtually they're nipping at the British heels in terms of
steel production, they're cranking out huge
battleships, which are called dreadnought battleships,
or that's just the size of the ship, and its advantage in the
military thing is to have the latest guns and the latest ships
as opposed to ones made older, and that sort of thing.
So, they're nipping at their heels and in some aspects even
in steel production increasing. And they go way ahead in
chemistry; the Germans are without any
question the leading power in chemical production and chemical
experimentation, and the universities play a
major role in that. So, and that with this economic
rivalry is--which has things, is involved in Africa,
imperial rivalry there, et cetera, et cetera--goes the
naval rivalry that heats up after the turn of the century.
And in both Germany and in Britain, as in France,
you've got these naval leagues, you've got these groups of
citizens who invite admirals to dinner, they give thundering
speeches about defeating the perfidious Albion or defeating
whomever, they all-- but what they really
want to do is to get their countries to build more big
ships; and, of course,
industrialists just love that. And the stuff that Charles was
talking about the other day, bring an explorer to lunch,
and then have him talk about how awful the horrible Huns are,
that is the Germans, the borschts and
all that, in the French case. And it all--and so they have
this big, big rivalry going on because Britain's control of the
seas has basically been for centuries.
In World War One there was only one naval battle of any
consequence, which was basically a draw,
but in which the British navy forces the Germans back--this is
in the next war--will force the Germans back into port,
a battle up here. So, the last thing they do,
that the British think that they can do is lose control of
the seas, and all these big German ships
in kind of an aggressive way, that they're inaugurated by
this--Nicholas or by the Kaiser, Wilhelm II banging bottles of
German champagne over these ships, and giving more heated
speeches about Germany's destiny and place in the world,
et cetera, et cetera. And, so, what happens is that
basically the British government, which has for a long
time, has said, "well,
we're not going to, we don't need to make an
alliance with anyone else, with anyone at all," now as
tension, economic tension, followed by political and naval
tension between Germany and Britain increase,
they begin looking across the channel to zee French.
And, I said earlier, that in the 1890s--and the
Fashoda incident is in what? 1898 or '99,
I can't remember, it doesn't matter--if you ask
people in Paris or Lyon or some big city,
or Bordeaux, where the next war was going to
be they would say it's against the British.
Well, let me give you an example of that.
There were--and since lots of people expected wars,
there are these folks writing future war novels,
and it's just Jules Verne and all of that, and there were
these sort of science inspired novels and writing that
reflected electricity and sort of space wars kind of stuff,
but there were also future war novels.
And one of the more ridiculous ones, the author of which
escapes me, was a novel published that had some success
in England in the 1890s, and it involves a future war
against whom? Not the Germans but against the
French. And the novel goes something
like this--one would never want to read such a thing--is that
the people in Dover, down here, the white cliffs of
Dover, one day they wake up on Sunday morning and,
"my God, the French have arrived," and in their sneaky
ways they had been digging a tunnel under the English
Channel. Now, Napoleon wanted to dig a
tunnel under the English Channel.
We now have a tunnel under the English Channel.
I was in there again about five weeks ago or six weeks ago,
very rapidly, the fast train,
that finally after all these years the British finally did
their part and now the train actually runs fairly fast after
it arrives at Dover, instead of just sort of
slinking along in the mud until it gets to London.
But, so these folks go out to have their greasy eggs,
and chips, and all this kind of stuff on a Sunday morning and
they suddenly see zee French are there,
and they are armed. And they have been--they have
snuck through this tunnel that's been being built underneath,
in their sneaky ways, and then they pop up with their
guns. And the thing that's so
ludicrous, talk about national stereotypes, is that in this
novel the soldiers, at least the avant-garde,
the first people arriving, are dressed as French waiters
and under their large dirty napkins--again,
this is the British image of the French, those large--are
sneaky weapons that they have been building and then hiding.
And, of course, they rush out,
they seize Dover, and then the British people
rally, and of course they call out the
constables and they drive them back into the tunnel and plug up
the tunnel, and that's the end of that.
But of course it's a call for more military preparation,
et cetera. There's another similar novel
written in about 1904 or 1905 and it's simply--it doesn't
involve people in Dover, it involves people up in Whitby
and Scarborough in the northeastern coast,
where the wind is always horizontal and the rain is
pounding on you from every conceivable direction.
And they wake up and what they see are these huge dreadnought
battleships, lobbing enormous shells,
and destroying British homes and British people with big
guns. And the point of the novel,
outside of putting people to sleep, was to get to encourage
yet more military preparations to fight a war,
not against the French anymore, but against the Germans.
And events in 1905, the first Moroccan crisis,
which you can read about in Chip Sowerwine's book,
followed inevitably in 1911 by the second Moroccan crisis.
What this has to do with is German saber rattling in
Morocco, in Tangiers specifically,
in the second case, and in which the Kaiser himself
shows up. And what this does is it
convinces the British that maybe allying with the French isn't
such a dumb idea after all. And, so, they begin to have
informal military talks that become formal military talks
that become an entente, same word in English,
an understanding, that's a formal understanding,
where they're sitting down and saying the obvious things:
"you, the British Navy,
will take care of the English Channel, you'll take care of the
North Sea; we, the French Navy,
in Toulon, down here, we will be responsible for the
defense of the Mediterranean." And this is of course
more--this is, because of the influence of
Germany in Turkey, and Turkey will finally come
in, as you know, in the war, on the German side;
thus Gallipoli where the British officers send all the
Australians and New Zealanders to die this certain death,
up a hill that couldn't possibly be conquered.
They sent British soldiers too, they sent everybody.
But, anyway, so it's more--there was a
reason, also because Austro-Hungry then did have a
port. So, this is no mere gesture
toward the French. But this explains how it was
that these two also fairly unlikely powers come together.
Moreover, remember what I've come back to two or three times,
the birthrate. The French realized that if the
war, if it's more than just a short encounter,
and Lord knows it would become that--more about this during
World War One--that their birthrate is so miniscule,
compared to the rest of Europe, that you better have allies;
if you're going to be fighting the Germans you better have
allies. And everybody knew what the
birthrates were. Here are just some examples.
This is live births per 1,000 inhabitants, 1908,1913,
so a key period: France, 19.5;
England, 24.9; Germany, 29.5;
European Russia, 45.6; and Italy, 32.4.
So, military planners know this stuff, they know that exactly.
And that means it's all that more important for the French,
if they're contemplating this war,
to take that space back to count on all of these people.
But it will take these people, as I said, two weeks to
mobilize, and that's why the act of mobilization,
the decree of the Czar, is tantamount to an act of war.
Because what this does is--this is leaping ahead and I'll come
back to it, but it's important enough that it's worth coming
back to--this tells the Germans they have two weeks in order to
defeat France--they're sure they can do it--and then you better
stop because this big bear is going to have mobilized all of
these people in Central Asia and other parts,
and they're going to be lumbering towards you.
So, you better stop them, in two weeks.
How are you going to do that? The French have big forts,
all along here, here and there and everywhere,
the way--and you know they're going to want to move
immediately into Alsace-Lorraine--more about this
again later. So, the way to do it,
and not for the last time, they are willing to violate
Belgian neutrality, and Dutch neutrality,
though that disappears from the plan.
The Schlieffen Plan, which I'll come back to,
written in 1905, is predicated on the fact that
the French are going to invade Alsace-Lorraine,
and so you'll just sweep into a neutral country,
Belgium, neutral since 1831. Now, what does that do?
That guarantees that without any question at all,
guarantees that the British will go to war.
Why? For the British it seemed bad
enough to have the French across the channel, but what if you
have the Germans in Belgium, in Austen, which is a short hop
across the channel, and really is the shortest way
or one of the two shortest ways to get across.
So, that's impossible, you can't have that,
so you're going to go to war. Now, was that a risk--why was
that a risk that Germans were willing to take?
Because the English, the British do not have a
conscript army. They have a tiny army,
it's called an expeditionary force, and will take them a long
time, months and maybe longer,
to raise the kind of army that could make any difference in the
long run here in France and in Belgium.
So, these cards, this house of cards is there,
these entangling lines are sort of there.
And, so, that's basically what happens in 1914 is when--and I
remember going to Sarajevo before it was destroyed,
in the '90s, and I remember putting my feet
where the sixteen-year-old gunner,
Princip, put his feet as he--when Archduke
Francis-Ferdinand-- the driver had the bad idea of backing up
after having missed a turn, after they tried to kill him
once, and then Princip suddenly finds himself with the Archduke
and his wife there, and he blows them away,
right there. This leads to the blank check
and it's going to-- and you can read about this,
you already know it from high school history--it brings Europe
into this dreadful war. Now, some more things,
some more things.
Let me just give you--do I have time for that?
Yes. Let me give you an example of
how the stakes get--the tension gets heated up.
Now, again, like revolutions, wars don't necessarily break
out according to the hydraulic model where things are awful in
1910; in 1911 it's even more tense;
in 1912, "oh my God"; 1913,1914, it's got to come--it
doesn't work like that. You have the Balkan Wars going
on down in the Balkans, appropriately enough,
a couple of years before World War One and all of that.
But there are these moments, like 1905 the first Moroccan
affair, in 1911 the second Moroccan affair,
that raise the tensions between these countries and make it
possible for the popular press, and sort of the culture of war
to target the "enemy," the enemy for the future war.
And in this incident, Saverne, is at least
interesting enough to--no, in German, in French,
to discuss because it leads to this increase in tension.
And this is 1913. Now, Alsace and parts of
Lorraine are annexed in 1871. But the German government
doesn't really trust Alsatians; in fact, they don't have the
same statute within the Empire as the other parts of Germany,
such as Bavaria, or Vienenburg,
or Hanover, that they have, or Pomerania,
or Brandenburg, or any of the other states.
They are part of the empire but they don't have all the rights.
As a matter of fact the representatives in the Reichstag
from Alsace and Lorraine cannot vote on certain key foreign
policy matters and all of that. So, there's a lot of tension
there. But again, showing the sort of
people can have multiple identities.
To be sure, many people left Alsace and Lorraine and moved to
Paris, and moved to Belfort, and all sorts of--Nancy,
and all sorts of places after 1871, because they didn't want
to be German. But Alsace is basically--and
Lorraine is basically German speaking, in 1913.
The total, just to give you an example, of the number of
communes in--administrative units in 1913:
385 spoke French, where French is the majority
language in 385; 1,225 are German speaking;
and eighty-six, no one has a majority.
So, in other words seventy-seven percent of the
communes in Alsace and the parts of Lorraine that were annexed
are German speaking. Yet many people,
not all but many people, and we don't know how many,
consider themselves French, even though they spoke German.
Well, why not? There were lots of people who
had multiple identities; we've talked about--who were
Basques who feel that they're French, or Gascon,
or Provençal, or Flemish, et cetera,
et cetera. So, you've got this sort
of--that situation. Alsace is terribly important
because when you go up to the border between Alsace,
old French Alsace and German Alsace, you've got this
crêtes, or these--what do you say?;
crêtes, I can't even think what it is.
In English you have these mountains, these summits really,
and you've got this road, a military road all along the
top, and so it's an important frontier point.
And, so, for the point of view of the German military,
in particular, they don't trust the Alsatians,
even though they speak German, they speak the same German that
is spoken across the Rhine River in Freiberg,
for example. And what this incident that
takes place in 1913 does is it confirms the image of German
aggressiveness. And there's a chance it
could've brought war; it doesn't.
But here are other reasons, too, why Berlin does not trust
One reason is that remember Bismarck was totally
anti-Catholic, and he wages this war on the
Catholics called the kulturkampf,
or the cultural war against the Catholics.
And within the German Empire you've got Catholics in the
Rhineland, you've got Catholics dominant in Bavaria,
and you've got Catholics where? In Alsace.
And this is part of the problem, too.
So, you've got these tensions between German officers and
Alsatian citizens. And finally in 1911
Alsace-Lorraine is recognized as a federal state but they still
have to abstain on issues of war,
treaties, and constitutional amendments.
So, you've got this little town called Saverne,
which is a very pretty place, 8,000 people,
with a canal running through it.
You've got your basic German officers with their dueling
scars and lots of tension between civilians and soldiers.
And the tension was made worse when a German officer,
indeed speaking to some Alsatian soldiers who were
there--they tried to bring the soldiers from other parts of the
Empire to be soldiers there, the way that you would never
find Castilian, or you'd never find the Catalan
soldiers guarding Barcelona, you'd find Castilian
soldiers--he refers to all Alsatians in an extraordinarily
scatological and pejorative term,
in German slang. And people don't like that,
there's a lot of tension, and that word spreads.
And then an officer says, "I don't care if you kill these
bastards, what a good thing that would be," or something like
that. And, so, word spreads.
And it turned out there was a junior officer who had had the
very bad idea of sleeping with a fourteen-year-old Alsatian
woman, and so some of the Alsatian
guys get a little drunked up, and then they pull him out of
the room and beat the hell out of him.
And, so, things get--it was probably a good idea,
but they shouldn't have done that.
But it goes from there; going from there,
and then the German High Command and the newspapers get
involved in this, and they make it seem like
there have been insults to the German flag, to the German
emperor, by these people who cannot be
trusted because they are who they are, et cetera.
And, of course, the French say well these are
real French people who are being attacked,
and indeed molested, in one case,
child rape essentially, at least legally,
by these horrible Huns. And everything just--the
tension level goes up. Now, they don't go to war,
but it confirms these kinds of stereotypes that you would see
by the way in the first year of the war too,
where the images of the brutal German--and there were
atrocities, there were atrocities committed by Germans,
more than were committed by other people on the western
front, that's without question; and all these rumors that kind
of confirmed this image that is in many ways false,
but there was enough of a grain of truth in it that it goes back
to this incident. So, this minor incident,
what's essentially a shouting match and a fight,
in a small town in Alsace has huge implications.
And what it does is it helps confirm not only the image of
the Other, but it confirms these military plans that for the
French it's going to be very, very important,
for the home front particularly,
that you better, when the war starts get
yourself into Alsace and Lorraine,
and take Alsace-Lorraine back. Some of them think,
"well, we can't really--they're not going to really go through
Belgium, are they?" They think that maybe they're
going to be fighting them here; of course, that all will happen
later. But, so, in 1914 there really
aren't any surprises, the way it--and the people who
tried to stop the war, like Sir Edward Grey,
who said "the lights are going out all over Europe,
they will not be lit again in our lifetime."
Man, did he ever have that right, absolutely right,
because the war--1914 to 1944 is basically one continuous
poisonous war, a new, terrible Thirty Years
War. But once this had all been set
up there wasn't much could happen to stop it,
and the way the war, the way the military planning
goes is it helps explain--and I will explain next Monday--how it
was that this war that was supposed to be over before the
leaves fall, over before Christmas,
home before Christmas, et cetera, et cetera;
not Berlin, not Paris, à Berlin,
goes on for years and years, and carries away an entire
generation of people, of young men,
an entire generation. It's built into the planning,
and we will see how that happens.
It's a terribly important story. And then certainly there is no
event in the twentieth century in which there was so much been
written on this, on how the war started.
I remember my uncle, my great-uncle,
who fought for America, he was American,
and he fought in 1917,1918 and all that.
I remember, and I was a little teeny guy when he died.
But they gave me the book of the documents showing that the
Germans started it all. But the Germans didn't start it
all, and that would have a huge impact on what happens in
Germany in the '20s and '30s, and thus be very important.
But that's why this is an important subject.
And just in conclusion, what else can we say?
Obviously, it's not only these diplomatic factors and not only
this military planning that brings about this war,
there's more to it than that. And Charles alluded very
effectively, very cleverly, to some of the other factors
the other day, and I barely need to repeat
them, but that the imperial rivalry helps create this
culture of popular imperialism which feeds into this culture of
popular aggressive nationalism that--in which the Other,
whether it be an indigenous person who dares stand up for
his or her rights in Mali, or somewhere like that;
the next stage is identifying the Other, the dangerous Other,
as being one's enemy, traditional enemy in some--in
the case of Germany and France, on the continent.
And we call this jingoism, from kind of a poem that was in
a British newspaper--I think that's where it started--"by
jingo we'll get them," et cetera, et cetera,
"by jingo we get them." And jingoism basically means
aggressive nationalism. And it's this expectation that
war will come, which not only the
military--Joffre said, one of the high command in
France, he said he anticipated--every day he dreamt
of the next war, of what it would be like,
that it would be wonderful, thrilling.
And the whole--and the Social Darwinist idea that you got the
survival of the fittest. But if you're going to show
you're the fittest, what a better way to do it than
instead of just dueling with some guy in your own national
team, getting a dueling scar on some
general that you quarreled with over a woman in a tavern
sometime, now you're going to show that
you feel a nationality--the British, the French,
the Germans, the Russians,
you name it--that you're the best and you're going to show
them, and you're going to show them
on the battlefield. And, so, the point of view of
the French, what one has to keep in mind is the French were
invaded; the French did not invade
Germany, the Germans invaded France, c'est tout,
quoi. But nonetheless there was this
expectation of war and the way it fits into these,
the equivalent of Boys Life magazines and popular
novels about the future war, painting the map of the world
the color of your particular country, red in the case of
Britain, et cetera, et cetera.
All of this comes together and it helps us try to explain this
great enthusiasm, at least in the big cities,
at the Bonhoeffer in Berlin, or at the Gare de l'est in
Paris, for this war.
Now, whether people in other parts of France and Germany and
other places were enthusiastic about the war,
it's a very moot question that's been hotly debated,
and in many places obviously they had better things to do.
They had to get the harvest in, which would be one problem on
the home front and every place, because the war starts in the
summer. But the expectation of war and
the culture of war closely tied to the culture of nationalism,
aggressive nationalism, tied to imperialism and
economic rivalry and everything else,
helps explain how this war came about.
And the idea of how people accepted the war is more
complicated, and dependent on where the armies were,
and all of this. And that's a remarkable story,
and it's to that I'll turn in the second lecture next week,
the home front. The first lecture next week
will be how we ended up with this trench warfare that has
been so dominant in the visual images of the war,
in the museums about the war, and in that great literature
about the war, some of which you'll be reading
when you read Barbusse. Allez.