Molly Guinness

‘We believe Germany made the war’

The 1914 editions of The Spectator in the days surrounding the declaration of war give a sense of bewilderment. At first they couldn’t believe it would happen. After Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Serbian nationalists on 28th June 1914, Austria-Hungary’s handed Serbia a list of demands, which looked like a provocation of war:

It is hard to see how Servia could acquiesce in them without in effect making an admission of guiltiness which she must naturally feel it impossible to make.

But even now, on the 25th July 1914, the magazine was optimistic:

Though it is difficult to regard Austria-Hungary as politically a wise Power or to look upon the statesmen who control her destinies just now as men of foresight, we cannot think it possible that she is intent upon attacking Servia. Hostilities begun on these terms would be almost certain to involve first the rest of the Balkan peninsula and then Europe as a whole. No doubt nations sometimes go mad, but, distracted as Austria-Hungary no doubt is, both by her home and her foreign policy, there is no reason to think that insanity or anything approaching it has fallen on her…We cannot believe that the Emperor Francis Joseph, who, even if his statesmen are wanting in foresight and ability, has plenty of these qualities, will agree to so mad an adventure at the very end of his life. He may let his Government threaten the Servians with war, but we do not believe that he will let them go to war. Even if things look blacker than they do now, we shall feel confident that in the last resort he will intervene in favour of a peaceful solution. We shall not, then, believe in an Austro-Hungarian attack upon Servia, or in the likelihood of Austria-Hungary making diplomatic demands of a kind which the Servians could not possibly agree to, until such an attack and such demands have actually been made.

A week later, though, it seemed more sinister, because Austria

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