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- A Short History of the Great War - 1/63 -


A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR

BY

A. F. POLLARD M.A., Litt.D.

FELLOW OF ALL SOULS COLLEGE, OXFORD PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH HISTORY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON

WITH NINETEEN MAPS

METHUEN & CO. LTD. 36 ESSEX STREET W.C. LONDON

First Published in 1920

CONTENTS

CHAP. I. THE BREACH OF THE PEACE II. THE GERMAN INVASION III. RUSSIA MOVES IV. THE WAR ON AND BEYOND THE SEAS V. ESTABLISHING THE WESTERN FRONT VI. THE FIRST WINTER OF THE WAR VII. THE FAILURE OF THE ALLIED OFFENSIVE VIII. THE DEFEAT OF RUSSIA IX. THE CLIMAX OF GERMAN SUCCESS X. THE SECOND WINTER OF THE WAR XI. THE SECOND GERMAN OFFENSIVE IN THE WEST XII. THE ALLIED COUNTER-OFFENSIVE XIII. THE BALKANS AND POLITICAL REACTIONS XIV. THE TURN OF THE TIDE XV. HOPE DEFERRED XVI. THE BALANCE OF POWER XVII. THE EVE OF THE FINAL STRUGGLE XVIII. THE LAST GERMAN OFFENSIVE XIX. THE VICTORY OF THE ENTENTE XX. THE FOUNDATIONS OF PEACE INDEX

LIST OF MAPS

1. THE GERMAN INVASION OF FRANCE 2. THE BATTLES OF THE AISNE 3. THE CAMPAIGNS IN ARTOIS 4. THE DARDANELLES 5. THE RUSSIAN FRONT 6. THE BALKANS 7. MESOPOTAMIA 8. THE CAUCASUS 9. THE ATTACK ON VERDUN 10. THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 11. THE RUMANIAN CAMPAIGN 12. THE CONQUEST OF EAST AFRICA 13. THE BALTIC CAMPAIGNS 14. THE BATTLES IN FLANDERS 15. THE ITALIAN FRONT 16. THE BATTLES OF ARRAS AND CAMBRAI 17. THE LAST GERMAN OFFENSIVE 18. THE CONQUEST OF SYRIA 19. FOCH'S CAMPAIGN

NOTE

The manuscript of this book, except the last chapter, was finished on 21 May 1919, and the revision of the last chapter was completed in October. It may be some relief to a public, distracted by the apologetic deluge which has followed on the peace, to find how little the broad and familiar outlines of the war have thereby been affected.

A. F. P.

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR

CHAPTER I

THE BREACH OF THE PEACE

On 28 June 1914 the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir-presumptive to the Hapsburg throne, was shot in the streets of Serajevo, the capital of the Austrian province of Bosnia. Redeemed by the Russo-Turkish war of 1876-7 from Ottoman rule, Bosnia had by the Congress of Berlin in 1878 been entrusted to Austrian administration; but in 1908, fearing lest a Turkey rejuvenated by the Young Turk revolution should seek to revive its claims on Bosnia, the Austrian Government annexed on its own authority a province confided to its care by a European mandate. This arbitrary act was only challenged on paper at the time; but the striking success of Serbia in the Balkan wars of 1912-13 brought out the dangers and defects of Austrian policy. For the Serbs were kin to the great majority of the Bosnian people and to millions of other South Slavs who were subject to the Austrian crown and discontented with its repressive government; and the growing prestige of Serbia bred hopes and feelings of Slav nationality on both sides of the Hapsburg frontier. The would-be and the real assassins of the Archduke, while technically Austrian subjects, were Slavs by birth, and the murder brought to a head the antagonism between a race becoming conscious of its possibilities and a government determined to repress them. The crime gave a moral advantage to the oppressor, but the guilt has yet to be apportioned, and instigation may have come from secret sources within the Hapsburg empire; for the Archduke was hated by dominant cliques on account of his alleged pro-Slav sympathies and his suspected intention of admitting his future Slav subjects to a share in political power.

For some weeks after the murder it bade fair to pass without a European crisis, for the public was unaware of what happened at a secret conclave held at Potsdam on 5 July. It was there decided that Germany should support to the uttermost whatever claims Austria might think fit to make on Serbia for redress, and she was encouraged to put them so high as either to ensure the domination of the Balkans by the Central Empires through Serbian submission, or to provoke a war by which alone the German militarists thought that German aims could be achieved. That was the purport of the demands presented to Serbia on 23 July: acceptance would have reduced her to a dependence less formal but little less real than that of Bosnia, while the delay in presenting the demands was used to complete the preparations for war which rejection would provoke. It was not, however, against Serbia that the German moves were planned. She could be left to Austria, while Germany dealt with the Powers which would certainly be involved by the attack on Serbian independence.

The great Power immediately concerned was Russia, which had long aspired to an outlet into European waters not blocked by winter ice or controlled by Baltic States. For that and for the less interested reasons of religion and racial sympathy she had fought scores of campaigns against the Turks which culminated in the liberation of most of the Balkans in 1878; and she could not stand idle while the fruits of her age-long efforts were gathered by the Central Empires and she herself was cut off from the Mediterranean by an obstacle more fatal than Turkish dominion in the form of a Teutonic corridor from Berlin to Baghdad. Serbia, too, Orthodox in religion and Slav in race, was more closely bound to Russia than was any other Balkan State; and an attack on Serbia was a deadly affront to the Russian Empire. It was not intended as anything else. Russia was slowly recovering from her defeat in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5 and from the revolutionary outbreaks which had followed; and there was little doubt that sooner or later she would seek compensation for the rebuffs she had suffered from the mailed fist during her impotence. Conscience made Germany sensitive to the Slav peril, and her militarist philosophy taught her that the best defence was to get her blow in first. Her diplomacy in July was directed towards combining this advantage with the appearance, needed to bemuse her people and the world at large, of acting in self-defence.

But Russia was the object of Germany's diplomatic activity rather than of her military preparations. It was thought that Russia could not mobilize in less than six weeks or strike effectively in less than two or three months, and that that interval would suffice for the crushing of France, who was bound by treaty to intervene if Russia were attacked. The German mobilization was therefore directed first against France, defence against Russia being left to second-line German troops and to an Austrian offensive. The defeat of France was not, however, regarded by Germans as a mere incident in a war against Russia; for it was a cardinal point in the programme of the militarists, whose mind was indiscreetly revealed by Bernhardi, that France must be so completely crushed that she could never again cross Germany's path. To Frenchmen the war appeared to be mainly a continuation of the national duel which had been waged since the sixteenth century. To Great Britain it appeared, on the other hand, as the forcible culmination of a new rivalry for colonial empire and the dominion of the seas. But these were in truth but local aspects of a comprehensive German ambition expressed in the antithesis Weltmacht oder Niedergang. Bismarck had made the German Empire and raised it to the first place as a European Power. Europe, it was discovered, was a small portion of the globe; and Bismarck's successful methods were now to be used on a wider scale to raise Germany to a similar predominance in the world. The Serbian plot was merely the lever to set the whole machinery working, and German activities all the world over from Belgrade and Petrograd to Constantinople, Ulster, and Mexico were parts in a comprehensive piece.

But while the German sword was pointed everywhere, its hilt was in Berlin. Prussia supplied the mind which conceived the policy and controlled its execution; and in the circumstances of the Prussian Government must be sought the mainspring of the war. The cause of the war was not the Serbian imbroglio nor even German rivalry with Russia, France, or Britain. These were the occasions of its outbreak and extension; but national rivalries always exist and occasions for war are never wanting. They only result in war when one of the parties to the dispute wants to break the peace; and the Prussian will-to-war was due to the domestic situation of a Prussian government which had been made by the sword and had realized before 1914 that it could not be maintained without a further use of the sword. That government was the work of Bismarck, who had been called to power in 1863 to save the Hohenzollerns from subjection to Parliament and had found in the Danish and Austrian wars of 1864 and 1866 the means of solving the constitutional issue at Berlin. The cannon of Königgratz proved more convincing than Liberal arguments; and the methods of blood and iron, by which Bismarck, Moltke, and Roon conquered Denmark, Austria, and France and annexed to Prussia the greater part of German soil, impressed upon Germany a constitution in which the rule of the sword was merely concealed behind a skilfully emasculated parliamentary system. The Reichstag with its universal suffrage was the scabbard of


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