Kaiser Wilhelm II Autocrat Or Pacifist In World War I?

Kaiser Wilhelm II Autocrat Or Pacifist In World War I?

Was World War I inevitable?  If so, when did it become so, and why?  Contrary to general belief, the war could have been averted or prevented altogether had two of the crowned heads involved had more rather than less power over their own governments: the German Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicolas II of Russia, both of whom were intent on avoiding war.     

Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicolas II (German Federal Archives / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Cause and effect are the lifeblood of history, but there is still no consensus on the cause or causes of World War I.  The verdict of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George was that “The nations slithered over the brink into the boiling cauldron of war…”   This may be labelled the accidental theory.  Inevitability is another popular explanation---or non-explanation. In Decisions for War 1914 (1995) Martin Wright put it like this: “War is inevitable, though particular wars can be avoided.”  Professor Sir Harry Hinsley, for example, opined that “the First World War is far from being unique among the wars of modern history” since 1494. The 19th-century British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury opined that “Europe would avoid another great war only if it became a federation.” For someone who had lived through the bloody American Civil War of 1861-65 this is a remarkably obtuse prediction.  Why, after all, should a federal Europe be any more immune from war than a federal United States? 

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