Wwi Histiography

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1918–1930s

Louis P. Bénézet's map of "Europe As It Should Be" (1918), depicting nations based on ethnic and linguistic criteria. Bénézet's book The World War and What was Behind It (1918) blamed on German aggression combined with perceived threats to the traditional social order from radicals and ethnic nationalists. Straight after the war Allied historians argued that Germany was solely responsible for the start of the war; a view influenced by the inclusion of 'war guilt' clauses within the Treaty of Versailles. In 1916 Prince Lichnowsky had also circulated his views within Germany on the mishandling of the situation in July 1914. In 1919, the German diplomat Bernhard von Bülow (not to be confused with his more famous uncle, the former Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow) went through the German archives to suppress any documents that might show that Germany was responsible for the war and to ensure that only documents that were exculpatory might be seen by historians.[1] As a result of Bülow's efforts, between 1923–27 the German Foreign Ministry published forty volumes of documents, which as the German-Canadian historian Holger Herwig noted were carefully edited to promote the idea that the war was not the fault of one nation but were rather the result of the break-down of international relations.[1] Certain documents such as some of the papers of the Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, which did not support this interpretation were destroyed.[1] The few German historians in the 1920s such as Hermann Kantorowicz, who argued that Germany was responsible for the war, found that the Foreign Ministry went out of its way to stop their work from being published and tried to have him fired from his post at Kiel University.[1] After 1933, Kantorowicz who as a Jewish German would have been banned from publishing anyhow, was forced to leave Germany for his "unpatriotic" writings.[1] With the exceptions of the work of scholars such Kantorowicz, Herwig has concluded that the majority of the work published on the subject of World War I's origins in Germany prior to Fritz Fischer's book Griff nach der Weltmacht was little more than a pseudo-historical "sham".[1] Academic work in the English-speaking world in the later 1920s and 1930s blamed the participants more or less equally. In the early-1920s, several American historians opposed to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles such as Sidney Bradshaw Fay, Tyler Barchek, Charles A. Beard and Harry Elmer Barnes produced works that claimed that Germany was not responsible for war so Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles, which had seemingly assigned all responsibility for the war to Germany and thus justified the Allied claim to reparations, was invalid.[1] A feature of American "revisionist" historians of the 1920s was a tendency to treat Germany as a victim of the war and the Allies as the aggressors[2] The objective of Fay and Barnes was to put an end to reparations imposed on Germany by attempting to prove what they regarded as the moral invalidity of Article 231. The exiled Wilhelm praised Barnes upon meeting him in 1926. According to Barnes, Wilhelm "was happy to know that I did not blame him for starting the war in 1914. He disagreed with my view that Russia and France were chiefly responsible. He held that the villains of 1914 were the international Jews and Free Masons, who he alleged, desired to destroy national states and the Christian religion"[3] The German Foreign Ministry lavished special "care" upon the efforts of both Fay and Barnes with generous use of the German archives and in the case of Barnes, research funds provided by the German government.[1] The German government liked Fay's The Origin of the War so much that it purchased hundreds of copies in various languages to hand out for free at German embassies and consulates.[1] The German government allowed books that were pro-German in their interpretation such as Barnes's The Genesis of the World War to be...
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