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The Outbreak of the First World War


  • 3 b/w illus. 3 tables
  • Page extent: 324 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.6 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 940.3/11
  • Dewey version: 23
  • LC Classification: D511 .O84 2014
  • LC Subject headings:
    • World War, 1914-1918--Causes

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9781107042452)

The First World War had profound consequences both for the evolution of the international system and for domestic political systems. How and why did the war start? Offering a unique interdisciplinary perspective, this volume brings together a distinguished group of diplomatic historians and international relations scholars to debate the causes of the war. Organized around several theoretically based questions, it shows how power, alliances, historical rivalries, militarism, nationalism, public opinion, internal politics, and powerful personalities shaped decision-making in each of the major countries in the lead up to war. The emphasis on the interplay of theory and history is a significant contribution to the dialogue between historians and political scientists, and will contribute to a better understanding of the war in both disciplines.

• Contributions from both historians and political scientists expose students to the values of an interdisciplinary collection and the advantages of the interplay of theory and history • Includes applications of the different theoretical models underlying different historical interpretations of the First World War, and how these can be tested against available evidence • Features a central theme of debates about the relative causal role of Germany in the outbreak of the First World War - a contentious issue that is central to debates about the war


Part I. Overview of Debates about the Causes of the First World War: 1. Introduction: historians, political scientists, and the causes of the First World War Jack S. Levy and John A. Vasquez; 2. July 1914 revisited and revised: the erosion of the German paradigm Samuel R. Williamson, Jr; Part II. Structure and Agency: 3. Strategic rivalries and complex causality in 1914 Karen Rasler and William R. Thompson; 4. 'A formidable factor in European politics': views of Russia in 1914 T. G. Otte; Part III. The Question of Preventive War: 5. Restraints on preventive war before 1914 William Mulligan; 6. The sources of preventive logic in German decision-making in 1914 Jack S. Levy; 7. International relations theory and the three great puzzles of the First World War Dale C. Copeland; 8. Was the First World War a preventive war? Concepts, criteria, and evidence John A. Vasquez; Part IV. The Role of the Other Powers: 9. War accepted but unsought: Russia's growing militancy and the July Crisis, 1914 Ronald P. Bobroff; 10. France's unreadiness for war in 1914 and its implications for French decision-making in the July Crisis J. F. V. Keiger.


'The First World War is a dominant event for subfields in both history and political science. This interdisciplinary revisiting of the causes of the conflict focuses on several enduring and important questions, including the impact of situational and dispositional factors, whether Germany or other states bear primary responsibility, and why the war began in 1914. These serious, scholarly, and timely essays are a valuable addition to multiple research traditions, including international relations theory, security studies, and diplomatic history.' Colin Elman, Maxwell School of Syracuse University

'This important collection of essays offers new perspectives on a century-old controversy that shows no sign of abating. It is a unique volume which advances original and thought-provoking interpretations by leading historians and political scientists.' Annika Mombauer, The Open University

'World War I continues to command attention even after a century both because of the immense destruction it caused and the still worse conflict and war it helped produce. That it also remains highly instructive on fundamental questions of war, peace, and international politics is convincingly proved by this well organized and expertly edited collection of original essays by leading historians and political scientists.' Paul W. Schroeder, Professor (emeritus), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

'The editors are to be congratulated for assembling a closely reasoned volume of essays of outstanding quality. Blending insights from international history and from political science, this book provides an indispensable update that forcefully represents both sides in the continuing debate.' David Stevenson, London School of Economics and Political Science

'A fruitful collaboration of historians and political scientists that contains much high class scholarship.' Wall Street Journal

'This collection of essays by historians and political scientists from across the English-speaking world examine various aspects of the political and diplomatic institutions and decisions that had immediate influence on the outbreak of the Great War. … The essays are all well-documented and thoughtful … An excellent work, this is primarily for the serious scholar of the Great War and of decision-making in times of crisis.' NYMAS Review


Jack S. Levy, John A. Vasquez, Samuel R. Williamson, Jr, Karen Rasler, William R. Thompson, T. G. Otte, William Mulligan, Dale C. Copeland, Ronald P. Bobroff, J. F. V. Keiger

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