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w 20 | Focus cnrs I international magazine Weltmacht2 (Germany’s Aims in the First World War), an iconoclastic book met with harsh criticism from his peers. After consulting new archives, the author concluded that Germany did indeed bear most of the responsibility. “According to Fischer, Germany decided to risk war to further expand its territorial and economic power in Europe,” explains Offenstadt. “The historian then draws a parallel between Wilhelm II’s ‘Weltpolitik’ (a foreign policy championed by the Kaiser and aimed at developing a colonial empire proportional to Germany’s economic power) and Hitler’s Pan-Germanism (which aims to unite all of Europe’s German speakers in one ‘Greater Germany’).” In France, interest in the origins of the Great War gradually faded “as the research focus shifted from diplomatic history to the social and cultural evolutions of the period,” says Beaupré. But in the UK and the US, it remained a significant issue, as testified by the 25,000 books and articles published by the end of the 20th century. Today, interest continues unabated: in 2012 and 2013, three major essays were published on the mechanisms that led to World War I3 — all shifting the blame to the Entente countries: Russia and Serbia, but also France. Published in March 2013, The Sleepwalkers, by Australian historian Christopher Clark, is possibly the most widely hailed of the three. “Clark is a polyglot who can read German, Russian, and also the Balkan languages. This enabled him to consult a number of previously unexamined sources,” Beaupré points out. Clark’s exhaustive study rehabilitates the theory of shared responsibility: “The outbreak of war in 1914 is not an Agatha Christie drama at the end of which we will discover the culprit standing over a corpse in the conservatory with a smoking pistol,” he writes. “There is no smoking gun in this story; or, rather, there is one in the hands of every major character. Viewed in this light, the outbreak of war was a tragedy, not a crime.” In other words, there is not just one, but many responsible parties, the first of which is Serbia, Clark believes. an assassination On June 28, 1914, while on a visit to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia- Herzegovina recently annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, is assassinated by the young terrorist Gavrilo Princip. Far from trivializing it as a relatively minor incident that served as a pretext for Austria-Hungary and Germany to declare war, Clark sees the assassination as the culmination of decades of aggression by a country obsessed with the unification of “Greater Serbia” and heavily infiltrated by terrorists. In the run-up to World War I, Serbia had doubled its territory following the two Balkan Wars (1912-1913) and its president, Nikola Pašić, had no control over the most influential extremist group, the “Black Hand,” whose Pan- Serb views he adhered to. 03 June 28, 1914. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife leaving the hotel in Sarajevo, moments before his assassination. 03 © Roger-Viollet


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